We develop each other:
Many years ago my wife started traveling to Uganda as part of a medical mission group which focused on nurse education in the developing world. As a nurse educator, it was a perfect match for her. She accompanied US nursing students on a trip to a teaching hospital in the small town of Gulu where she taught both groups about labor and delivery. Her actions inspired me to search out an area where I could help, unfortunately there aren’t many developing countries looking for experienced arbitrators.
My background is actually in Theology, only by a strange turn of events did I end up in the Insurance Industry. You would think that this would be a no-brainer – take my theology and convert the world, but that’s not me. You see, Theology is the study of God – not religion. I very much believe in God, but believe that what is important is not a belief in a religion, but an individual relationship with God. So – run out into the world converting people to a religious ideology is not my style.
For years I thought about how I could help outside of my community. What skills can I offer those in need. For those same number of years – nothing came across as a match, until 6 months ago. I was asked by a friend if I would join a group of men on a trip to Honduras. You see, Honduras has one of the highest refugee rates in the western hemisphere. It is suffering from a tragic crisis of gang and cartel violence. Gangs in Honduras target young boys and draw them into the gang life. This life encourages a cycle of violence in the community, addiction, and a lack of continued education. One of the ways to break this cycle is to encourage male involvement in the family, community, and to attract youth away from the gangs. The purpose of this trip was to go to Honduras and work hand in hand with local men’s organizations during a Honduran National Service Week. I signed up thinking I have a masters degree in Human Resource Development – I’m perfectly trained to help develop these Honduran Men. So American of me to think that, or I should say so “North American” of me.
When we arrived in country we had planned service days with three different groups. Group 1: Build a drainage ditch in the small rural town of El Obraje. Group 2: Build a parking lot at a mission facility in the capital of Tegucigalpa. Group 3: School repairs in Ciudad Espana. These projects are Honduran’s ideas of “light construction.”
Let me set the scene for you. The ground was so hard I broke the shovel handle in less than 5 minutes of my digging attempt. My “North American” self immediately asked where the nearest hardware store was to replace the shovel. Believe it or not – there was one in town, but before I could go buy a new shovel the Honduran team had cut down a tree, whittled the trunk, and replaced the handle – good as new! We spent the rest of the day digging the trench, unearthing a 700 lbs boulder, and troubleshooting how to move the boulder out of the 3 foot deep trench. We started as foreigners with a foreign mentality – and ended the day as a team of men solving a very heavy problem.
Parking on a Mountain
Tegucigalpa is a city of nearly 2 million people with space for about 50% of the population. It sits snug in a valley surrounded by mountains. Extreme poor live intermixed with extreme wealth. Look one way and you see Beverly Hills style homes built into the mountainside. Look the other and see wood huts with tin roofs. The mission house sits on a hillside in a very poor part of town, requiring a gated compound setup for security purposes. Given the space available and the slope of the hillside – there was very little space for parking. Project 2 required more digging and a lot of dirt moving. The first day we individually averaged over 12 miles of walking, half of which involved pushing a wheelbarrow full of dirt down into the residential dirt road and “repaving” the street with the dirt.
Is this wire live?
The last day of work took us up to a school in Ciudad Espana where our team of mixed nationality men split into three groups. I landed myself with what I thought would be a light day of labor given the past week of shoveling and moving dirt. I signed up to wire electricity for a new computer lab at the school. Unfortunately, electrical code is, well very “unregulated” in Honduras and at one point our Honduran counterpart showed us how they test to see if the wire was live or not. Yes – it was a bit of a shock. We spent that entire day without a translator and I learned more about my Honduran colleague than language would ever had allowed. Hopefully he learned a little about electrical safety!
Over the week in Honduras I never lectured on interpersonal relationships. I didn’t give a talk on developing men into family and community role models. That was my North American perception of how to develop the men of Honduras. No, in fact I would argue I likely grew more than they did. I did dig several ditches, moved a lot of dirt, watched my home town American Football team win the Super bowl in a room full of men who had for the most part never seen American Football in their life. While in country I learned humility on a scale I’ve never imagined. I learned communication – without a common language. To Listen Openly with more than my ears. I learned to trust others and to start with positive intent. I could go through a list of good adult development traits and comment on how each of these tenants were present, but I won’t. I have to say of them all – the one that impacted me the most was – We Develop Each Other.
Don’t be afraid to go out and develop someone… but even more importantly, don’t be afraid to let others develop you.