Our Triune God Loves His People to Work in Community Just as He Does.

The Story
On Sunday morning, the tinkling of teaspoons in teacups was the signal for me to slip out of bed and join the fun in my parents’ bedroom. Settled between them with a cup of tea and some Maria biscuits in my saucer, I joined them to sip, dip and nibble. After fifteen minutes of joy, my Mom would leave us to make breakfast, and the story would begin.

The stories usually were about a young man going out into the world to “seek his fortune.” I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but as he walked along the road, he would meet someone who had a special ability. One could swing his sword so fast he could use it as an umbrella during a rainstorm. The two would decide to seek their fortune together. Soon they would meet others with different special talents, and they would join the group.

Eventually, they would meet a problem, a princess held by a giant, for instance, and the young man and his group would devise a plan to defeat the giant and rescue the princess, each member using his unique skill. The result was often measured in bags of gold for each of them.

The Impression
Each story my dad told was different, but each had that same theme, and they made a profound impression on me. I make up similar stories to tell my children and grandchildren. When my wife and I went to Brazil as linguists, teachers, and Bible translators, I saw myself as the young man going out to gather a group of people with compensating talents to work together to “seek our fortune.” Wycliffe was a good fit for us since the agency values people with a wide variety of skills, but all of whom see themselves as a vital part of every translation team.

Working Together: It's the Right Thing to Do

Working Together: It’s the Right Thing to Do

The Result
As Jo and I lived with the Canela people, God led us to connect with men and women who had a natural gifting in various areas. We helped them develop these talents. One young man became very skilled at extracting rotten teeth. Others loved teaching people to read. An artist illustrated the translated Scriptures with sketches of Canela life. Several learned to type, and one had the knack of making sentences flow smoothly. At times, a dozen people worked together on various aspects of the translation work.

This way of working together interdependently fitted right in with the Canela culture. Together we accomplished things so massive, difficult and complicated, no single one of us could have achieved them as an individual.

The Contrast
Unfortunately, our North American culture glorifies independence. Our hero is the lone pioneer, conquering the wild west, building a log house for his family with his own hands, and clearing the land with his own axe.

Businesses, and even churches, in North America, spend much time and money teaching people to work together as a team. It doesn’t come naturally to us. We have a cultural bias against the concept. Only in sports like hockey or football do we value the team.

The Trinity
In that respect, Canela culture is far more godly than North American culture. Here’s why. God said, “Let Us make man in Our own likeness.” God is a community of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They made human beings in Their likeness, to be people with the same need to live and work together in community as They had.

This kind of working community is a far cry from the military and industrial model of exploiting the labour of individuals to accomplish objectives set by generals or executives. The strength of the interdependent community lies in its people, not in its bosses. The more people grow in a deep appreciation for the variety of contributions from others in the community, the more productive the community becomes.

The Questions
So, is yours a godly (god-like) family? That is, does your family work together, as the Holy Trinity does?

What about your church? Are all the members engaged in ministry, each contributing to the whole with their own talents and abilities?

 

God’s Preferred Way of Working

When I was a little boy, the tinkling of teaspoons and teacups coming from my parents’ bedroom on Sunday mornings was the signal it was time to jump out of bed and join the fun. Once I was properly settled between them, they would hand me my cup of tea and my saucer of maria biscuits and the sipping, dipping and nibbling would begin. I can’t remember what else we did during that fifteen minutes of togetherness, but I certainly do remember what came next. When my mom had finished her tea she would go downstairs to make breakfast, my dad would pour some more tea and tell me a story.

Many of the stories involved a young man going out into the world to seek his fortune. Invariably he would meet someone along the road who had a special talent, like swinging his sword so fast he could use it as an umbrella during a rainstorm. The two would decide to seek their fortune together. Soon they would meet others with special abilities and they would join the group. Eventually they would meet a problem, a princess being held by a giant, for instance, and the young man and his group would devise a plan to defeat the giant and rescue the princess, each member using his unique skill. The end result was often measured in bags of gold for each of them.

Each story my dad told was different, but each had that same theme and they made a profound impression on me. Not only did I make up similar stories to tell my children, and later my grandchildren, but when I became a missionary, I saw myself as the young man going out to gather a group of people with compensating talents to work together to “seek our fortune.” That is why my wife and I joined Wycliffe, a mission agency that values people with a wide variety of skills, people who consider themselves part of every translation team.

TypingAs Jo and I began living with Brazil’s Canela people, we prayed that God would help us find Canelas who were teachable and had natural gifting in various areas. We built into the lives and minds of the villagers we worked with by teaching them, strengthening their self-confidence, stretching their minds with new ideas, and expanding their lives with new skills.

 

30 years later he still pulls teeth

30 years later he still pulls teeth

One became very skilled at extracting rotten teeth. Several had the skill and patience to teach others to read. Another illustrated the Scriptures with his drawings of Canela life. Some were typists, some proofreaders. One was very good at making sentences flow smoothly. For some time we had seventeen Canela men and women working together with us. Canelas already were used to working together as an interdependent group in their own culture. We fitted in and were able to accomplish things so difficult and complicated, no single one of us could possibly have achieved them as an individual.

In North America when I talk about interdependent team building, working together in community and developing partnerships, I have to overcome a cultural bias against this concept. American cultural heroes are not about a tightly knit group with each member depending on the other, but about a lone pioneer family, going out to conquer the wild west, building a log house with their own hands in the middle of the wilderness, and clearing the farm land with their own axe. The cooperative harvesting and barn building came a generation or two later.

In that respect Canela culture is far more godly than North American culture. Here’s why. God said, “Let Us make man in Our own likeness.” God is a community of three: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They made human beings in Their likeness, to be people with the same need to live and work together in community as They had.

BuildingThis kind of working community is a far cry from the military and industrial model of exploiting the labour of people to accomplish objectives set by generals or executives. The strength of the interdependent community lies not in its bosses but in its people. The more people grow in skill, high motivation and positive attitude, the more effective the community becomes.

What does your family look like? Your college? Your workplace? Your church?

Are people exploited and used, or strengthened and built into an effective community?

Ten Actions That Will Save Your Life

In the last INsights & OUTbursts I listed ten actions that will ruin your life. Here are ten actions that will do the opposite; they will save your life.

  1. Respect God, love Him and trust in what He has said about Himself.
  2. Love people, not just yourself. Act to meet the needs of others and think of ways you can help them attain their goals, not just how they can meet your needs and goals. Don’t treat people as things to be used.
  3. Speak the truth about yourself, about others and about situations. Don’t present yourself as better, or worse, than you are.
  4. Recognize you are human and that you will sometimes mess up. Forgive yourself. If your error hurt others or you messed things up for them, admit to them you behaved badly, doing or saying the wrong thing, and ask for forgiveness. You cannot apologize your way out of a problem you behaved yourself into. If possible, clean up, pay back, or straighten out the mess you made.
  5. God designed us to live and work interdependently with others. Be thankful, therefore, for everything you receive from them and God.
  6. Enjoy your relationship with God, enjoy your family, interacting with the people around you, and find things to enjoy in your daily work.
  7. Set your life goal to accomplish something that involves God, something that is bigger than you and that will last beyond your lifetime. Work in the areas of your strengths and interests. Develop these through study, discipline and practice to become a skilled expert. Remember that the harder you work the luckier you get.
  8. When you fail in some aspect of life, don’t say, “If only . . . .” Instead say, “Next time . . . .” and formulate a plan to succeed.
  9. Have an accountability partner, someone who loves you and wants the best for you, whom you invite to critique your work, your behavior and your relationships. List some penetrating questions and ask your partner to ask you those questions regularly. Learn to listen to criticism from others, there just may be some truth in what they tell you.
  10. Develop a sense of humour. See the funny things in life. Take your service for God seriously, but never take yourself too seriously. Be fun to live with. Check with your spouse or friends occasionally to make sure you still are.

God gave each of us the power to choose and we use that power hundreds of times a day. Most of the choices we make are trivial. The ten in this list are not. They will save your life from ruin.

If you received this post via email, or if you read it on the blog but want to comment privately, please email your comments to me: jack_popjes@wycliffe.ca

© 2011 Jack D Popjes

Ph: 780 948-0082

Website: www.thewordman.ca