Friday, November 4, 2011

People over Projects

Our Visit to Zehra

Effective Cross-Cultural Servant

I still smile as I remember 60 year old Roy, a gray haired gringo in jeans, cowboy boots and plaid shirts in Monterrey, Mexico.  He spoke Spanish with a strong American accent, and he looked more like a Texas rancher than like the Mexican professionals he worked with. I was back in America after two years in the Middle East, and Roy invited me to speak on Middle Eastern culture and Islm to his young professionals group. I’m ashamed to admit it now, but with youthful zeal and ignorance, I judged Roy at first glance.  He looked and sounded just like an American. Surely he hadn’t had much cross-cultural training. 

I was wrong.  It didn’t take long to see how much the Mexican young people in his group loved him. A young woman told me “Oh, I just love Roy. He’s like a second father.  He’s one of us.  Anytime I stop by his office, he’s ready to set aside his word and talk to me.  He never says, ‘I’m busy.’  He just puts aside his work and smiles.” To her his accent and cowboy clothes didn’t matter.  What mattered was that he had time for her.

Roy was probably one of the most effective cross-cultural servants I’ve ever seen. His example encourages me now that I’m back in the Middle East where time with people is always more important than time on projects.

My Project Vs. People Dilemma

I just finished teaching a five week seminar on Spiritual Growth.   I loved having a chance to invest in my students’ lives. I enjoy studying and writing, but it was challenging to prepare a weekly two hour class on top of homeschooling and other ministry responsibilities.  The extra responsibility fed my task driven tendencies, especially on weekends because I had to make time for preparing student handouts and power point presentations for my Monday class.

Last weekend I was feeling pressured, but I took the time to call my friend Zehra, who’d had a serious car accident the week before.  Truthfully, I felt guilty the whole week over not going to see her, but I didn’t have time. As we talked, I was horrified to realize that she was still in bed.   I hung up thinking, “It’s too bad I can’t go visit her.   I’ve got to prepare my class.”  

Then my conscience pricked me.  Zehra had been in bed all week. Her car was totaled. How could I stand up before my Spiritual Growth class and teach on the fruit of the spirit when I couldn’t take the time to visit her?

I felt torn because I really was behind on preparing for my class, but I ended up taking my daughter along to Zehra’s house. Two other sisters in the Lord joined us, and we had a sweet time of fellowship, gathering around to pray for our friend before we left. (I found time for handouts and power point later, and my class went fine on Monday night.)

Zehra’s accident made me stop and think about being flexible and open to interruptions, being willing to lay aside my projects in order to respond to people’s needs. My tendency is to grasp onto my plans and focus on getting my work done.  How available am I when my daughter wants to show me her American Girl catalogue or my son wants to tell me something? Am I available to lay aside what I’m doing and focus on them for a few minutes?  That’s usually all it takes.  I want to be available if my husband wants to talk or if a friend calls. I want to make time for kindness.

What about you? Do you encounter challenges like these?


Linda said...

This is a beautiful vignette. It's so precious that God brought Roy into your life years ago, and that his example and legacy live on to help you with a current situation. Bless you for your willing, servant's heart! I've learned from you today as well as from Roy.


us5 said...

oh yes, i struggle when other things interrupt my plans! in the past few months i've intentionally carved more 'margin' into my week so that i have time for a friend who stops by needing encouragement, or to spontaneously babysit for a young mom. but i still need to pray for the grace to say 'yes' with joy to those interruptions!

Stephanie said...

Oh man!, yes, can i relate?!! I love plans and structure. I am very time and task oriented. That said, flexibility (and people) are not always my natural strong point!! And... the learning curve just keeps on going up and up! I have been learning to pray, "Lord, you order my day" with a surrendered heart, especially on "pressure days" where much needs to be done. I am asking Him to bring His interruptions and make me ready to receive them. Thanks for this post!

OliveTree said...

I pray the same prayer, Stephanie: "Lord, YOU order my schedule." I can relate to an increasing learning curve too.

Linda, I'm constantly reminded of Roy because a Mexican couple he discipled has now been serving on our field for 20 years!