Tonight was the night for our annual review. Both Ann and I had to review our job descriptions, fill out self-assessments, and then complete a “stress survey.” I accidentally tore the stress survey into a thousand pieces, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t need to take it anyway.
In all seriousness, these are really useful exercises. Living outside your home country, in a place where the language, culture, and work practices are unfamiliar, is really stressful. Researchers have found that levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, rise abruptly just by looking at a roadside sign in a foreign language. Being immersed in a culture not your own creates a constant low level of stress, that needs to be acknowledged and dealt with.
Bethany is our amazing Serge team leader. I think most people’s first impression of her would be that she is a kind, gentle person, probably suited to counseling or teaching. Which is exactly what she does! And she is amazing at it. We are blessed to have her as our team leader, as she combines great leadership and organizational skills with the compassionate heart of a counselor.
Having a team leader, and being accountable to an organization, might seem a bit odd, but is an integral part of the work here. Nothing we do is independent: everything is interdependent, and all of it is dependent on God’s grace and mercy to sustain us.
Our Serge team here fills the role that an extended family might have filled in more traditional societies. We all fall down, look silly, fail at our appointed assignments. But we have a group of people who know us at our best and at our worst, and for some reason still love and support us. Our team is an amazing group of individuals, couples, and families, who we can trust to be there when we just need support and someone to be with.
We meet with our team for dinner every Thursday, and get together on a Friday for a discussion every 6 to 8 weeks. We look forward to these times, to learning how everyone’s week has gone, what joys and successes, disappointments and frustrations have punctuated the days since we last sat down together.
These dinners have a sacramental quality. We get together at someone’s house, relax, and break bread together. It’s fun just to catch up, get up to date on each other’s work, follow up on some concern or problem. We share a casual dinner, prepared by the host, and then sit down for a time of prayer together. It really feels like the early church must have felt, and how church could ideally work now. No big ceremony, just people who love God getting together to be friends and support each other.
So we spent the evening discussing with Bethany our roles here, what has gone well, what has been frustrating, and what changes we could put in place to help things go more smoothly. It’s encouraging to be part of such a great team.