I just got back from Holland 30 minutes ago. Yeah, you might not have known I was in Holland since I was just in Italy. Actually I was home for 3 days before it was time to go to Holland. Does it all sound crazy to you diary followers? Well, yes it is--and this week I just kind of finally hit the wall.
The missionary life can be stressful. It is a life filled with unique blessings and unique challenges. There is the odd, and often unpredictable schedule, there is the added factor of cultural adjustments and the unique issues of raising kids overseas. As Regional Coordinators, it means that the journeys of our missionaries become our journey too. And on top of all of that---we are trying something very different in this region: Three Worlds. It's a new system and strategy for doing ministry and working cross-culturally and it has been working marvelously.
I'm happy with the great teamwork and synergy.
I'm happy with the team unity.
I'm happy with the response of the countries throughout our region who have graciously embraced 3W.
I'm happy with the systems of transparency that we have set up and are setting up in this region.
I'm happy about our de-centralized approach which is allowing our missionaries to add more value not just to their assigned country but to the whole region.
And I'm happy and thankful for all the supporters and friends of Three Worlds out there making it all possible.
But all of this success has come at a cost. It's been an exhausting 18 months. We've had a pretty crazy travel schedule. We've added a new family to the team and are receiving more requests for personnel and internships than we can possibly process. That's all good. But I realized a few weeks ago, I work 30 out of 31 days. A "day off" usually involves a plane trip from location A, B, or C, back to Berlin.
This past weekend was our first 3W Seminar in Holland. I love visiting Holland and I've known a lot of the Holland friends since 2005 (long before becoming RC). It is always great to see them. Unlike other 3W Seminars, this one I did completely alone--and on 3 topics that are very easy for me to speak about. The turn out was great and enthusiasm was high. But...
I did a lousy job. The subjects were so important, but I wasn't able to pull it together. This is not like me. A few things happened here: 1) I'm just exhausted. 2) We continue to struggle with issues relating to Marco's school and this was probably the worst week we've had in that regard. 3) I dealt with laryngitis while in Italy and have been taking some medication that makes me completely loopy (I can be pretty sensitive to medicine). I wasn't thinking straight at all.
So it was--in my mind--a truly disappointing experience. I know we all make mistakes, but this felt like multiple mistakes on multiple levels and I was really furious at myself for dropping the ball this badly. On Sunday I preached at our new Congolese church in Holland and that went well. And then I came home.
And so the moment has arrived to re-group and regain some equilibrium. It's been exciting to see Three Worlds flourish and be accepted across the region and back in North America--but it has been exhausting. It's been like starting a business with myriad things to think about, prepare, present, and promote. It really has been a start-up.
Jamie and I work really hard, but neither of us are the kind of people that are workaholics or people who let family life disappear in favor of work. We both grew up in hard working families that still made family time a very important part of life. We schedule family time, we take breaks, and we know that our kids shouldn't pay the price for our work. But it seems like, at the very least, the next 18 months can't be like the last 18 months.
We made some changes when we took this job:
-No emails after 6PM (that's a hard one considering we deal with people in multiple time-zones).
-Take regular vacations instead of feeling guilty and avoiding them.
-Make sure to really take a sabbath day off in the week (I've been bad about this one).
-Be available for family time, reading, games etc.
All of that has been helpful, but we're going to have to add more to the list. Like:
Lessening the schedule: Every Feb/March we have a very important meeting in Russia, but I've decided to cancel my attendance to it this year. Thank you to our friends in Russia for being so understanding and thank you to 3W teammates Kelley and Rhonda for attending it. We have a mandatory trip to Greece coming up that all 3 of us have to go on, but at least we will all go together (hopefully there won't be violent riots like this week). My next "long" trip without Marco and Jamie is not until May--which is very good.
Overall, 3W Year 2 has had a lot more time set aside for being at home than year 1. I managed to work in two separate times of being at home with Marco 6 weeks in a row during this year. But with other things going on, it's still not enough.
My hope is that as we add to the team, more and more of what I do will be done by the incoming team members. This is very likely, but getting there can't just be done overnight. People have to be carefully selected, they have to raise funds, and then they have to be integrated. It all takes time. It's been great having the Oldhams join the team and they are already doing so much that makes things easier for us.
Saying "No": I also feel such guilt turning down offers to speak, but I'll have to start doing that more.
Taking a break from Diary More: The last 2 years, I've taken a 4 week holiday from the Three Worlds Diary. That's a regular thing I am doing now and I think it's a good idea once or twice a year. I'd like to have a guest diary writer in this upcoming year--someone who will keep the diary going with lots of interesting things while I'm away.
Delegating more: The 3W team was made for delegation and de-centralization and already we have been able to pass things off to teammates to assist us since they are just as competent if not more so than we are. The Simpsons, for instance, will soon be going to Liverpool, England. A trip I would otherwise have to make. The Philips are already our 3W reps to Russia, and the Varners are busy doing all the massive, logistical things for the 3W Care-a-Van which is our big event in April. Thanks guys.
"More Prayer/Meditation:" I tried having solid blocks of silence and meditation recently (Marco joined me) and it was amazing the relaxing power it has on the brain. There have now been a lot of studies that show the brain expects and really wants a minimum of 30 uninterrupted minutes of relaxation without analyzing or computing---just relaxing. Interesting that the brain is being proven to be hardwired for prayer.
"Less News/More Fiction: I'm a non-fiction junkie and a news junkie. But I recently read how fiction relaxes the mind considerably more than non-fiction because it provides escapism and the story is not written by your mind--but rather your mind follows someone else's thinking into a story where you don't know the ending. That kind of interactive, yet passive mode of thinking is very good for the brain. I've changed the kind of books I read this year (on a test run) and it's been nice. Reading a novel is more relaxing than reading non-fiction projections for world-wide environmental water table damage, as it turns out.
"More Excercise: This one is the hardest one for me. I've lost a lot of weight this year because I eat better, but the excercise stuff is hard for me. I like team sports, and really don't feel like being cremated in football by a bunch of Germans. When I am not on the road, I just want to be in my house with my family. Even going to the corner store feels like a huge chore. So an exercise machine is in the near future.
"More Board Games:" Marco is now at a great age for playing board games and they are apparently a great idea for relaxation and for families. He's ruthless at Monopoly. These games always include a lot of laughter and the whole family faces each other the whole time--instead of the TV or something.
Well sometimes it takes hitting a wall in order to get our attention. I'm disappointed that the church in Holland had to feel the effects of my crash. They were very gracious and patient with me. But hopefully I can take some time in the next 2 to 3 weeks and really gain some equillibrium.
And now, to find that equilibrium....