We’re in our 4th week over here in Chiquilá and have a significantly different dynamic this week than the past three. First, we have a great team from Massachusetts with us. They are serving the town in various capacities, but most specifically through a morning VBS and interacting with our participants (allowing for continued English practice and camaraderie).
In addition, we have two very different themes this week. The first is music – the students are latching on to this as expected. Each day they have classes in voice and each student picked an instrument – piano, bass, guitar, or drums – to learn this week. The goal is that they, as a team, will be able to perform a song together at our concert on Saturday. Second, we’re beginning to expose them to business skills and acumen. We did this during the first week on one level, but now as they move toward their projects, it becomes increasingly important to have clear vision for how to do the work – not just the idea.
Now, on to my topic. I’ve watched several amazing people over the years start stuff and tell really amazing stories about their work. The pictures are incredible, the progress is noticeable. It’s remarkable. It’s also really difficult to talk about the “behind the curtain” parts of leadership and entrepreneurship.
I’m not going to bore you with the idiosyncrasies of my emotional journey thus far, but I do think it’s important for those who are considering the beginning of something to hear a little bit of the messy side.
Every day, every week requires your 100%. I woke up this morning aware that it was Tuesday. I had to check in with the kitchen if they needed anything, ensure that “La Gorda” (the bizarre name of the woman who has the key to the school) was ready for us, and be ready to go and caring for the trainers who have come to give of their time and expertise. I have had to do this or some version of this every day for the last 4 weeks. And every single day it demands that I’m kind, considerate, attentive, and persistent. This constancy is true for every single person on my team. Each of us have a daily regularity that requires just as much energy as yesterday. And sometimes, guys, it’s just not easy and you drop the ball.
Patience, but persistence. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve run up against this wall in my lifetime and even more so now. It is hard to be patient in persistence. Persistence can easily be confused with bullish demands. That is why it has been critical for me to have people around me to keep me in check as well as a constant prayer life as I walk the streets. I will never settle for subpar – ever – but there are times when stern conversations are necessary and there are times when it’s better to be still.
Seeking out the unobvious drains you. Before we left, I asked our team to be praying for God to help reveal the reasons, callings, contextual components that are not as clear to us. As an example, many of our students struggle with being late to class. There have been times (today was one of them) where they just messed up. They lost track of time and needed the kick in the booty. But there have been other times when the whole purpose of the interaction is getting at the heart of the matter – understanding that someone might just have a problem with prioritizing. So then, the conversation becomes less about the tardiness and more about the skill that needs to be learned. Taking that posture requires a continual heightened sense of awareness that can only come with rest, prayer and frequent reminders to oneself about not going bonkers over small things.
Conflict will not be king. This final piece is one that I’m grateful to have learned early on in my career. Passive aggressive behavior, upset, or division, is just not acceptable in what we are doing. We have had to push hard through this sometimes, guys. It takes a lot out of you – it requires you to be viscerally committed to being open, honest, available, and postured toward resolution. There is no “quitting option” here. This commitment is good and profound, but it takes focus, prayer and a great team of advisors around you.
So when people ask me, “How is it going?” – it is going great. But don’t be fooled, this is not a simple volunteer trip that happens to be longer than most. This is an investment in 12 young people who are doing their best to break out of what they have known to be men and women who will change their culture, community and country. And that requires all of you all of the time.