As we were eighty percent of the way through our training for this trip, pastor Joe Valenti told me that, “This team has trainwreck potential.” It was the boldest, most accurate, and the most helpful thing he could have said.
Allow me to back up a bit and explain what this is all about. In July of 2017, I was asked to recruit and co-lead a mission team to Mexico. Our team would work alongside the Kramers in April of 2018. Upon saying yes I only knew two things: 1) I was not cut out for this position and 2) I wanted to bless the Kramers in any way possible.
As a trip leader for the first time, I faced the expected managerial aspects: recruiting, team building, finances, travel, infield dynamics, and missionary exposure. By far the most difficult aspect for myself was “team building”. That’s what we’ll take a myopic look at from here on.
When I say “I was not cut out for this position”, I mean that I felt zero ability to carry out, communicate, motivate, or enforce those ideas with others. However, that obstacle was pegged against a greater desire. The desire to see the body of Christ serve the Kramer family.
Thankfully, my team was motivated and committed to serving in order to benefit someone else. Their lives reflected a yearning for full submission to Jesus. Unfortunately, when you bring thirteen people together and do not have a single voice to be accountable to. You will get tension, inefficiency, and a lack of clear direction. Or as Joe Valenti summed it up: Trainwreck Potential.
Our fourth pre-trip meeting out of five had reached that point. Tensions came to a head, and we were nearly all acting within our weaknesses whether that was to bulldoze, manipulate, or withdraw.
My goal was to be the facilitator, the catalyst to stir up crosstalk, and discuss the culture link material. I was passive: If we went off tangent, to redirect felt more like to interrupt. If homework was not done, to be strict felt more like being inflexible. When a group is over eight to ten people, passive leadership does not work.
Eric Kramer had a team of people praying continuously for us, and he provided a lot of information to help us know what to expect when we got there. However, I continued to shy away from the only variable left that I felt was most necessary for the team – leading. Being the authoritative voice was the most uncomfortable thing I could think of. Excuses aside, and consequences at hand, it was time to step out of character.
In the following meeting, I let the group know that I was to be held accountable for the group not meeting their potential thus far. I asked if they would help me lead, in that they would defer to Frank and me as leaders and the decisive voice on group matters. If you asked the team, this was most likely not a monumental moment. For me, it was because it was a step that I have resisted taking most of my life.
I wish I could say that was a turning point, that God had grown me in an instant that day. However, God is not just involved in some short-term, quick-fix mission trip in my life; He’s in it for the full, long, and slow process. What I can tell you is despite my current earthly ability, God was clearly presiding over all facets of the trip. He responded directly to our prayers in multiple instances, and the prayers of the team committed to interceding for us.
At the end of everything that led up to the trip, God used a team on the brink of “trainwreck” to provide what the Mexico Medical directors have repeatedly called “the best team they’ve ever had.” This coming from directors who literally have no policy for short-term missions teams. Even in the shortcomings of this trip leader, success was owed to A LOT of prayers, and a little faith in a sovereign God.
Lest I discredit the team, I’d like to step out of the scope of focus of my role as leader and move onto the mission field. Not much had changed from our meetings to the field, but the team understood how to go from regular season to playoff mode, and really humbled themselves to be the hands of Christ. Whether it was: the 12 hour days the construction team had put in (Doug, Mike, and Tim), the gigantic task the medical bodega team had taken on (Amy, Kyle, and Frank) , the skilled BCLS training and drone video capture Kyle provided, the filling in wherever was needed (Andy, Joe, and Joannie), the constant cooking Cindy had served through back pain, the “community care” via Rene, and devotions by all; everyone worked selflessly in obedience to Christ and for the relief of the saints.
Through all of the challenges, pre-trip struggles, travel delays, and desperate prayers. The Lord took this potential “trainwreck” of a team and used it for our good and His glory.
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