One of my richest memories from childhood was gathering around my grandparent’s table for some dinner, birthday, holiday, event, etc. Gathered in as well was usually a whole host of people, including cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends. Having grown up in a divorced family meant I had four different grandparent homes within which to make these memories. Each one was unique and continues to hold a special place in my heart.
Particularly on my mom’s side of the family, my uncles, aunts, and cousins all gathered in nightly for good ole stove perked coffee and store-boxed dessert after dinner. My grandparent’s home was continually a hub of activity and constantly filled with the aroma of coffee and the sounds of chatter and laughter.
If you walked into their single-wide trailer on any given night, you would look to the right and see gathered around the kitchen table all of the adults in the family, circled around their coffee and dessert. If you looked to the left, you would see all the children (and teens) gathered around the television in the living room. And, if we were lucky, you would see us with some of that night’s dessert as well.
There were not many “rules” to follow when it came to these regular, family gatherings, but there were a couple that I still remember today. One in particularly was the old phrase, “children are meant to be seen and not heard.” In other words, no matter how loud the adults got in the kitchen, we were not allowed to raise our level of talking, nor the television.
The other “rule” I remember quite fondly is “children do not belong in the kitchen because that is where the adults talk.” I still probably do not know everything that implied, but my take, then and now, is that children talked about childish things while adults talked about grown-up things; things which children had no business knowing about nor needing to be concerned with.
Why do I share such a memory with you? I know you did not come to this blog to hear about my childhood. You came looking for some nugget of truth pertaining to our GP strategy. The good news is that you have come to the right place. I am actually already doing that because during a recent conversation with one of our national leaders I was brought right back to my grandparent’s trailer and that second unwritten rule, “…this is where the adults talk.”
In the midst of this recent conversation, I was asked what I knew about the apparent lack of missionaries in the two Areas of Ibero-America and Africa. A rough paraphrase of their concern was that compared to years ago, there seems to be hardly any GP missionaries left in these fields. Mind you, being relatively “new” to the field (honestly, I am not sure where 6 years on the field actually ranks, but it seems short), I went into this part of the conversation having a certain impression. I was under the impression that in the same way that we as GP missionaries have been inundated with the “5 Phases” and all the nuances therein, our national leaders have also been a part of this same conversation all along.
Imagine my surprise when I started talking about the “5 Phases” and I had to be interrupted to explain what even that meant. As I shared to the best of my ability the vision behind the strategy, a description of each phase, and eventually why there are now seemingly less GP missionaries in these two Areas, imagine again my surprise when instead of what I shared being received with enthusiasm and acceptance, it was met with shock and concern. Perhaps that reaction was due to a poor level on my part of understanding the nuances of the “5 Phases”, or an inability to adequately articulate them in my second language. Or, perhaps the shock came from this being the first time this national leader had ever heard of the “5 Phases” or that GP had a specific strategy to reduce/eliminate the need for GP missionaries in any given field. While it could definitely be some of the first, I believe their response was largely due to the novelty of the “5 Phases” to them.
So, there I sat at the table with my friend having “adult talk,” and all I could think about was how long this national leader had gone being relegated to the living room with all the other “children”, while all the “adults” had been gathering at the kitchen table having “grown-up” talk.
As much as I am aware that there could have been many factors that led to my specific take-away from this conversation, I am also aware that this one conversation is not meant to be an indictment nor meant to be exhaustive in the sense that it is speaking for every leader in every country in which GP is actively engaged. But, this conversation does raise certain questions for me that I am not sure I have the answers for. What say you?
- Do/should we share our “5 Phase” strategy with our national leadership? If so, at what point and how do we begin doing that?
- How could we get to a Phase 5 field and still have national leadership thinking that they are “losing” missionaries instead of seeing their work as having been naturally transitioned to national leadership? What went wrong and how do we “fix” it?
- Do our national leaders see our strategy through the same healthy and life-giving lens that we do? If not, whose perspective needs to change and how?
Thanks for taking the time to read this and for contributing your thoughts to the above questions. I am not claiming to have all the answers, nor any for that matter. I just believe it is time to make sure that everyone is at the kitchen table together.