I didn't post about this for several weeks because I found it hard to handle and didn't know how to talk about it. I came away very discouraged.
Our group here recently had a weekend conference/retreat for the whole area. We all gathered at one place for meetings, rest, and relationship building. I was looking forward to it.
When we arrived, we were greeted by different people. I guess I'd have to admit that I have been puzzled over the last few months that while our mission leader for this country lives only two hours away from us and he was aware of the situation last fall from the beginning, I never heard from him or his wife. What made it even more confusing is that two years ago, I made the trip alone to their house to ask for help about the growing problem, and was told that they would be praying. I never heard back from them then either. Not even a phone call to ask how things were. Never a visit.
So we greeted our other workers and smiled at everyone. Then walking the paths alone, I bumped into our leader, and he and his wife met me with a cheery, "Hi Ellie! Nice to see you!" Nothing more. No questions about how things are. No word that they've been concerned or praying. Nothing. The evening of the next day, I mentioned to them that I hadn't heard from them for a long time, and they looked a bit surprised. "Heard from us? Hmm... are you on facebook? If you are on there, you'll hear more when we put out little updates."
Yeah. Facebook is not exactly what I was talking about. I mean, when you have a missionary that you are directly responsible for living only two hours away from you and their marriage is in such a state that they are temporarily separated, I'd think it was time for slightly more communication than facebook.
Smiling through this retreat would have been difficult enough in the situation, but then we were doing a book/video series on top of it. The topic? Being real with each other. Putting down our masks so we can really help each other.
I sat through the series and the discussions afterwards slightly bewildered. Why are we saying this is such a great idea and we don't do it? Or is this just for others and not for ourselves?
On the last day, I asked to speak with another person in the main office who I know slightly better since we have some location history in common. He also knew that there were problems, so I asked for a minute. He was concerned, saying that as he watched me that weekend, he knew that things were not good. So I asked him simply if we do have member care in our central location and who am I supposed to talk to about that. (Maybe I had picked the wrong person when I talked to the leader.) He said that it was the leader and also he is just beginning to join that responsibility. I told him I was disappointed in any member care since in nine months since the crisis when my husband was out of the house, I have not heard once from the office there. Not so much as a phone call to ask how we are doing.
He understood that. He said, "Obviously we have failed; and what makes it even worse is that your expectations of us were pretty low to start off with, and we abysmally failed even that." He promised to check in on it and get back to me.
I felt encouraged by that. I didn't expect them to do much, but at least a call to see if things are ok.
A few days later, I got an e-mail. It briefly said that their position is that the "here" pastor was working with us, so they saw no reason to get involved or take control over from him. In the interest of discretion, they did not want to discuss it or to get involved and felt that silence was the best option, but that I should feel assured that their prayers and concern are with me.
I wrote them back that I felt that a phone call to ask, "how are things and are things working out working with the pastor or do you need anything else from us?" would not be taking things out of the hands of the pastor, but an appropriate way of expressing concern.
I heard back from them a few days later with a two sentence e-mail where they again expressed their concern and said that they are in regular contact with the pastor - except that they got his name wrong, not a little wrong, but totally wrong.
What do you say? I just felt discouraged to the point of throwing in the towel. At times, I feel like phoning up our old support base in this mission - where we used to be connected to. At least there, we had a person who was responsible for us who took that responsibility seriously. She would phone regularly just to see how we were - and that was when things were good!
But I am discouraged. Is this the Christianity we are preaching? If it is, I am not sure I want to have any part in it. Is this the love that we want to teach others? I feel like a hypocrite to tell people to come to Jesus - that there is real love and care in the church. Is there?
At this point, I would not recommend to anyone that they join our mission. Well - let me qualify that - not this location, not this team. Our other location was very different. I'm burned. And I was pretty loyal - having grown up not exactly in this mission, but seconded to it, working closely with it all my life. We are/were "lifers". But I feel betrayed.
It is not really that hard to express real concern in a phone call - at least once in nine months.... or even once in the two years you knew there were problems.
I left the retreat broken. Hurt. Not even sure how to understand that or express it.
I still hurt when I think about it. I've gotten to the place where it doesn't doesn't fill my head as much right now, but it still hurts my heart.
My son's teacher gave me a book to read recently about forgiveness. It is a secular book, but still good. It was God's timing, because the truths in that book helped me deal with this weekend. It talks about "unenforceable rules" that we have which cause us pain, and teaches us to change those into "hopes".
I looked at the situation and was able to say to myself that I had an unenforceable rule. It was "mission leaders should really care about those who they are responsible for and should take steps to show that care in practical ways." It didn't happen. I can't make it happen. I think it would be a great rule, but I can't enforce it. So I can change it into a hope. "I had hoped that the mission leaders would care about those under their care and show it in practical ways." It didn't happen. I can accept that I feel hurt about it. I can also accept that their actions were a result of their flaws (for lack of a more politically correct word) and not directly aimed at me to hurt me. Those actions likely have hurt others before me and will hurt others after me, too. I am not alone in this. Because of this, I can forgive them. They did not mean harm to me, but they are flawed individuals. And I can survive, and learn from this, and perhaps even make a difference in life from what I have learned. I can also feel hurt from it, but I do not need to let the hurt consume me nor focus on it most of the time.
So I don't. But when I do think about the hurt from that weekend, I think about it in the terms of how to fix it. Part of who I am is that I love to teach. I love to see things, share them with others, and together figure out ways to improve, and teach those ways. Another part of me is that I love to stand up for the hurt and mistreated. So when I do let myself think on the hurt, I think about ways to stop this from happening to others. Ways to answer the question, "How can we really care about each other on the field?" and "Where can we really be real and help each other?"
In reality, I am surprised at how little it really does take to show real concern. I've had a few people do it, and it doesn't take much. A simple question while really looking at someone, "How are things really going?" Or a, "I've been praying often for you the last month or two, are things any better?" I know because a few people in my "here" church have done that. A few in my school have done that.
It is only my mission which has been conspicuously silent.