Ten Rules of Engagement in Ministry with People in Eastern Europe

I have written today to an American colleague who is new in her engagement in our region.

Please find below the ‘ten rules of engagement’ that I have suggested to her. I publish them in the hope that some Western Christians working in Eastern Europe could learn something from it, if, indeed, they think they can learn something from east Europeans, which, my experience tells me, should not be necessarily taken from granted (being known that, in fact, we have ‘dropped a little bit later from the trees’). Forgive my cynicism. I can show you my scars. 😦

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1. love us – we may not be too lovable, but love us anyway, as Christ loved us;
2. put your heart, not just your head to it – if there is anything we hate it is cold, dry, disheartened engagement;
3. be open and direct – I know this may be tough for an American, but we will deal with you in this manner anyway; so, you better do that too – we love having serious sparring partners; there is nothing like a good fight, among friends;
4. keep standards high, but realistic – we tend to be imaginative, but also somewhat sloppy and disorganised sometimes – pragmatism never had or will ever have a ‘good press’ with us – if we wanted to be successful, we could have tried drugs or weapon smuggling, but we cannot, because we are idealistic humanitarians; there is nothing more destructive than imposing on us unrealistic expectations – we are survivors; so, if you constantly demand too much, you will finally get something that may not be the best, and you will have no way of knowing that;
5. we love understanding and we love dialogue, even if we are not too good at it (given our recent history) – talk to us; explain your reasons; if we understand and are convinced, we will go with you to the end of the earth;
6. build trust (but verify, anyway) – and you will receive trust (but we will verify too);
7. beware of the destructive potential of power – we know you hold money in your hands and this is power; but we also know, from long experience, that power corrupts, especially when associated with money; because of our past communist experience, we tend to be overly suspicious of power, so, please tread carefully on this territory; it is quite mined; 😦
8. please treat us as subjects/genuine partners in ministry – not in the sense of being ‘subjected to’, but as the opposite of objects of your work; we are ready to die for our friends, but we can easily and naturally become subversive if we feel we are manipulated;
9. avoid oversimplification – our region is awfully complex; some of our national offices are more complex than some whole regions in WV; try to understand; ask questions; listen; and, if you want to really get it, spend time with us as humans, not as WV ‘machines’; eat with us, drink our wine, listen to our music and dance our dances; you will get intuitively through what you can never read in books; and, finally,
10. pray with us and trust God for us – we are literally fighting the many faces and manifestations of the ‘evil one’ in many of our contexts; nurturing a soul is not like digging a well; most important things in life cannot be measured and numbered (except, maybe, through proxies); I cannot tell my wife, or God for that matter, that I love her 10% more than last year – my wife would kill me, as I guess you would do too, as a woman, hearing this. Spiritual processes take more time than other types of processes an activities; so, let us engage together in this adventure, and we will rejoice in the ‘labour of our souls’, seeing the changed lives of girls and boys in our most troubled region.

So help us God!

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NOTE; Your comments, if you care to do it, are more than welcome.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

3 thoughts on “Ten Rules of Engagement in Ministry with People in Eastern Europe”

  1. Good advice and free of charge, what a deal.
    Thinking of savings, when can we expect “Ten Rules of Engagement in Middle East – Free advice for the next (Republican) President”? We can save a buck or two, I mean one or two trillions unless we’ll shoot again from the hip,Texas style.

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  2. Interesting and useful, Danut – and could with some minor modifications be adapted for almost anywhere. I would say that relationships are key – even if no ‘work’ seems to get done, spend time on relationships and eventually you will find yourself working with those who have similar vision. And mission partners should remember that it has to be their vision, not just ours!

    And also, patience … for all those times when Romanians assure us that they are really keen on something and really do want it … and then don’t show up 😉

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