Wait, listen and learn (part 2)

Staff_team_2015 Posted by Roger Cooke on Sat, 19 Dec 2015 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

Central to CMSI’s ‘partnership approach’ is a belief that we, as the Church in Ireland, have as much to learn and receive from the Global Church as we have to contribute to them and their ministry. Many of our Global Partners certainly have much to teach us about waiting, listening and learning!

As I wrote one of the recent blogs, I was reminded of a story shared by David, one of my former CMSI colleagues.

David had been working with one of our partner dioceses, in what is now South Sudan, as they sought to make some important decisions about their mission strategy and some funding from Ireland. The discussions had only gone so far – and things had reached something of an impasse. So, David invited Ronnie Briggs to join him for a two-day gathering in South Sudan, to try to break the deadlock and arrive at a positive outcome for everyone.

I remember David telling me how exasperated he was at the end of the main, first day of discussions. He said that it had been a long day of protracted speeches around the table, with no decisions reached and very little input from Ronnie. But he said that Ronnie was confident that the morning would see some progress.

Ronnie was right! The next morning, everything was resolved quickly and amicably, with clear unity of vision and purpose and a sense of shared commitment to the projects being considered.

I’m thankful for David’s candour in sharing this story and for recognising the value of Ronnie’s experience of living in East Africa. The experience taught David, and all of us, some valuable lessons:

1. Partners listen.
When we, as CMSI, behave like ‘donors’ (rather than ‘partners’), we tend to be treated like donors by our Global Partners. They’re more likely to acquiesce to our suggestions without sharing what they really want or think and this, ultimately, doesn’t help anyone. We need to learn to listen and wait.

2. In discussions and decision-making, every voice matters.
For many of our African partners, the lively ‘tat-a-tat’ that characterises our discussions is alien. Interruptions are seen as rude and disrespectful. Instead, everyone around the table has a voice and their input is to be heard and valued. When we listen, we show respect for others.

3. Waiting and listening can bear fruit.
This is a lesson I need to keep learning! It’s easy to believe that we have to be loud and assertive if we want to get our point across. But, there’s little point in having the loudest voice or a persuasive argument if others feel unheard or overlooked. And when we deny others the chance to speak, we miss potential insights that can further our own thinking and bring a better outcome. It’s worth remembering that God often speaks to us through others – we’d do well not to miss His voice!

As I said in my previous post, Advent is a good time to develop our skills of waiting and listening when we’re conversing with others. As, we’re reminded in Proverbs, there’s wisdom to be found if we nurture these skills:

Let the wise listen and add to their learning (1:5).

Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honour. To answer before listening – that is folly and shame (8:12-13).

Thanks to those who’ve recently shared how helpful they’ve found these reflections. And thanks for your patience – you’re waiting well!

One more reflection on waiting to come, and then a few other thoughts on ‘God With Us’ and ‘Light in Darkness.’

(Roger Cooke is CMSI’s Mission Resource Coordinator)

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