November 25, 2014

What's the Goal: Productivity or Relationship?

Blog Archives:

As part of our current Sponsorship Campaign to recruit 50 new Sponsors by December 5th, we'll be doing a series of posts that explore the world of development and what transformation REALLY looks like - past our own perceptions and misconceptions and into the lives of those who have been working for change around the world.

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Today we'll be sharing a testimony from Randy Lodder, who serves as Director of Adoration Christian Centre - a project of Word & Deed - in Port au Prince, Haiti. His story shares his struggle with seeing a need and wanting to fix it right away. He found he was placing the goal of productivity on a pedestal at the cost of finding time to develop relationships with those around him.  Reading this will likely give many of us pause to reevaluate ourselves:

Those things which we hold up as strengths in Canada are actually weaknesses on the field.  For example: I love to be productive and get things done.  In fact, I have a hard time sitting still.  This definitely is a struggle in Haiti because a value here is spending time with people, which is more important than getting things done.  One of the teachers at the Adoration Christian Centre pointed out to me a few years ago that she thought I was funny, because she would watch me and I would never sit down, as I would always be running from solving one problem to the next. I was here, then there, then there.  She thought that was quite comical, as well as somewhat distressing as I put a lot of value on solving problems and getting things done.  These things were important – fixing desk and benches, building cabinets and basketball nets, looking over tests, etc., but I was missing out a lot by not just spending time with people. 

I still struggle with this.  It is so important to spend time with people and build relationships while at the same time seeing so much work that needs to get done.  But what is necessary and what is of value to the people I am serving?

Another thing that Canadians prize highly is timeliness.  The contrast between my sense of time and Haitian sense of time has resulted in conflict and a loss of trust on both sides. The earthquake taught me many lessons, but one important one was to not focus on building buildings, but to focus on building relationships.  My ability to be patient and show love to others has been tested to the max as I sat in a traffic jam for an hour because a few people are driving down the wrong side of the road and on the sidewalk, blocking all traffic, and refuse to move out of the way.  Or as I wait in line at a restaurant, government office, etc., which is not a line, but a push to see who will get served next, and then wait for 30 minutes as you move to the next line because you cannot ever do anything in just a single line.  Or you set a meeting to be from 9:00 – 10:00, but the people don’t actually show up until 10.  And then they have the nerve to answer their cell phones in the middle of meetings.

These types of situations, when viewed from a Canadian perspective of efficiency, productivity, and timeliness, can result in conflict and a loss of trust on both sides.  If the people you have come to serve don’t trust you, they won’t listen to you.  Focus on building trust.   This involves a lot of listening. I came to Haiti with the attitude “I am going to teach”. I repented, and learned that I need to listen and be taught and understand. 

As we repent, the truth shines out that the Gospel message that we share is not ourselves, but how Christ can love even me, and how His grace is sufficient for sinners.  As we work, may they see a lot of Christ, and a lot less of us.” 

It is so important to remember that people are more than numbers - that projects often aren't as much about the end result as the journey to get there. This is such a common struggle in the lives of all of us who want to make a difference that counts in the world, valuing time and efficiency but forgetting about the people who "get in the way" as we try to accomplish a goal.

That's why our theme this year is More Than a Number - reminding us that each person is created in the image of God. Our Sponsorship Program helps us focus on this truth by sharing stories of teachers, students and their families who are impacted as we support our partner's efforts to promote quality, Christ-centred education in their communities.

Become Part of the Equation - enroll as a Sponsor today!

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