Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How do you do it?

Letters and communication. Ok, now because of what I do, I can't have a blog to keep up with people. (yeah, I have one, but not for that.)

So how do you keep up? I found when we were fresh out, it was easier. More people knew us then, and I knew them, and it was easy to write letters. Now we are gone so long, and while we have been gone our church divided. It was a peaceful divide, more like a plant, but apparently it didn't go smoothly. Church divisions of any sort are hard for missionaries. Sort of like a divorce - half of your family moves away, and most of the time they never talk to you again. We feel ... dropped... alienated. Do we contact them? It has been so long, and we only have so much time at home. Do we not? We used to be friends, and they are just gone. Now we are left in a church where we do have support and we do have friends, but most of them are older people left. The young families, the ones we hung out with, are gone. New families are there, and we hope to get to know them - yeah, for two weeks every few years. So keeping up, keeping in touch is harder.

I used to have two or three women who were my spokespeople. I communicated with them above and beyond the every few months newsletter, and they shared with the women's groups. Now I don't have that. I feel this huge disconnect.

In its place is a need to write more news to more people. And people don't like only newsletters. I need to communicate with them - how is the new grandbaby? Have you left for the south yet this year? How are your kids in college doing?

I am a little overwhelmed. Maybe it doesn't help that I was never a people person. I mean, I like people. I like having good, deep relationships with people. But I was never a superficial person, never one to be friends with a hundred or so. I can't remember names enough for that.

Now I have to not only remember names, but be able to communicate with people from over ten different churches. I struggle there - not sure if there is enough of me to spread around. I am not built for that many relationships, and I find communicating with such a group difficult. Hard to build relationships with so many. My comfort zone is to only talk to people I know, and when I have reached my quota for the amount of relationships I want, I stop.

Doesn't help that I've been through a lot of stress the last three years. Stress that is not all over. (It is improving - thanks for your prayers!) I close my group in times of stress, not wanting to let more people in.

But this week, I have been working on communication. Picking up the pieces. I used to be a good communicator, I think. I think it is that I have lost my contact people in most churches. In one, I have still a great contact person - our "go to person" for all news, questions, friendly chat. We stay there when we go. I can talk openly with them, and they share with their church as needed. That church is easy. But the others....

How do you do it?

I think another thing with my change of work from primarily caring for kids and logistics of team issues to primarily writing is that at the end of a long day of putting thoughts into words and writing dialog - I really don't feel like talking to people, don't feel like writing. I also live in the world of my two series of dramas - being the people, thinking like they would think, questioning, discussing. That takes up some of my available mental space for relationships. Ok, perhaps I am strange and perhaps I have conversations with my imaginary friends.... but it helps me write dialog!

This week, I've been going through 700 emails that I had largely ignored. Now to be honest, most if it is stuff I can ignore - been cc'd on team issues, junk mail, stuff. But in there are letters I should have been answering - answers to our newsletters, thank-you notes to supporters.... requests for information....

How do you do it? How do you keep on top of all the communicating you need to do? How do you maintain or try to maintain a personal relationship with all the churches and individuals who require that of you when you see them so seldom?

But, at the end of all that ranting... when someone writes me, I smile. Hey, someone did read! Someone did listen! I love mail.


Shilo said...

The question of all time! :) I used to just sit down a few nights in a row and whack out about 50 -75 letters. Now that doesn't work with my little boys needing more 'regular' attention. So I'm trying to write 2 letters a day, like before I do my blogging. The number 50 is overwhelming to me now, but 2...yeah, I can handle 2! I think it might work. :)
Good luck! And blessings,

Karis said...

I have been thinking about how to tackle the 547 emails in my inbox all week, but I haven't just done the first one and realized that was better than doing nothing. :-) I used to answer 5 emails a day, and I loved it. It's so different from when I was a kid and only knew missionaries from their letters that they mailed to us and from their visit every 4 years. People comment so much how close contact with a missionary has changed their prayer life and perspective of missions.

But somewhere in the last 3 months, I got so occupied with other things that I haven't done any replying so they've just piled up and now I feel overwhelmed too. Sigh...

Interesting to read about how communication changes after you've been a missionary for several years as the churches themselves change.

Ellie said...

For me, it is a headache just keeping up with people's address changes! I did that for about an hour this morning. (ugh, another delivery failure just came in - more changes!)

Sometimes, I will write a paragraph or two that is generic, and then cut and paste that into e-mails and then just write the beginning and ending personally - saves time, but I feel a little guilty.