Thursday, May 31, 2012

Turtle vs. Owl

During our second week of MTI (Mission Training International), we spent time discussing our different conflict management styles. As we all know, conflict in life in inevitable! When we move to Austria, we know we will encounter conflict in relationships, in our marriage, on our WorldVenture team, and with others that we work with and encounter. And when that happens (not if), it is helpful to understand how we naturally approach conflict, how others do and how we can grow. 

Each of the conflict styles is represented by an animal, as seen in the photo.
  • A shark is competitive in conflicts, very intent on achieving their desired outcome and sometimes sacrificing harmony in the relationship in order to do so. 
  • A teddy bear is an accomodator who places the relationship above their own agenda in the conflict. Because they favor relational harmony (and tend to be "people pleasers"), they will set their own opinions aside to resolve the conflict. 
  • The fox is the compromisor, persuading each party to give up part of their goals so that a mutually agreeable solution can be reached. They work for the common good and see compromise as a "win-win".
  • The turtle tends to withdraw or avoid conflict by staying away from situations where it could arise or giving up their personal goals and relationships to avoid it. They believe it's easier to withdraw from conflict than to confront it.
  • Finally, the owl is the collaborator who highly values both relationships and their own goals. They enjoy solving problems and in conflict, will invest a lot of time in to finding a solution that achieves both their goals and others'.
Can you guess which animals Nate and I most identified with? Nate realized that he is an owl most of the time. He cares a lot about relationships, but also loves solving problems. The collaboration process is very enjoyable for him, so he doesn't mind if it takes a long time to come to a mutually-agreeable solution. On the other hand, Bethany tends to be a turtle. She shies away from conflict, unless it's something that can be worked out calmly or if it's with someone with whom she's very comfortable.

As we head to the mission field and prepare to work in teams, we recognize the importance of understanding ours and others' conflict styles. We also discussed the importance of growing beyond our "natural style" and how the ability to operate in other styles shows our maturity as we grow.

What style do you gravitate towards?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mission Training International Week 1

Bethany and I have been at Mission Training International in Palmer Lake, CO for the last week. We have made it through dehydration (we are up at 7,000 ft or so), new people, and full days of discussing challenging issues we will face as we go about the process of crossing cultural barriers.

We have been talking about different metaphors to help us process through the changes that we have and will experience. We talked about two ducks. The first is our "yay" duck. These are times in our life where we have things to celebrate; these are the things we are excited about and thankful for. The other is our "yuck" duck. That duck is the times in our life that are hard and the challenges and struggles we face.

The hard part about transition, including going to the mission field, is that the two ducks travel together. When we experience change, we have things that we look forward to and things that will be hard. And we can't separate them - they move together. This is the paradox (pair-of-ducks) of transition.

We will continue to share what we're learning as the weeks progress. For now, here are some pictures from our time here. Enjoy!

Nate was a visual aid for how we are all affected by expectations

The mountain behind the MTI building

The sun setting behind the mountains

This is our part of the valley

The MTI building

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Church Partnership

We recently sat down with Landon Reesor, pastor of Encounter Church in Darien, CT, to discuss his vision for the church and their partnership in our ministry. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Case for Europe

We attended my brother's church in Atlanta this morning and during the service, we heard from longtime missionaries to France. They shared briefly about the needs in Western Europe and the challenging field of France in particular. It reminded me, once again, why we are headed to Austria.

A research periodical we recently came across describes Europe like this...

"A high degree of nominalism, increasing secularization and growing influece of liberal theology, and disillusionment and cynicism following two world wars led to massive decline in church attendance. Increasing pluralism (as a result of immigration and experimentation with new religious ideas), growth of Islam at a time when the Church was discouraged and divided, and rejection of absolutes in a society under the banner of "tolerance" resulted in the marginalization of Christianity. By 2050, Christians will make up less than 50% of the population, with most being nominal in their adherence."

Wow. There is a lot in that paragraph, but what stands out to me are words like "nominalism", "tolerance", "cynicism" and "decline". While the Evangelical church is growing rapidly in other parts of the world (like Africa and Asia), it is on the decline in Europe. Missiologists are increasingly describing Europe as "post-Christian", as if it has moved beyond the need for faith.

If you are considering heading to the mission field, I hope you will consider Europe. And if you are considering being involved in missions through short term teams, financial support and prayer, please consider Europe. The continent and it's missionaries are in desperate need of your support.

To close out my thoughts, here are some visual aids to support the case for Europe.

Some of the Countries with the Smallest Population of Evangelical Believers:

The Decline of Christianity and Rise of Islam & Non-Religious Populations in Europe

 The Top 20 Evangelical Countries in the World (Major Decline in Europe)

The Evangelical Population in Europe (year: 2000)
 (Austria - 0.5%)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Where are you from?

Photo credit: clarita from

It's getting harder to respond. How should I answer? Do they really want to know the complexities of our life right now...or are they just being polite? Should I just say Chicago or Connecticut because it's easier? Or should I delve into our whole, long story and our nomadic lifestyle?

Nowadays, when I meet someone new and they ask me, "Where are you from?", I pause. And the monologue above runs through my head. As time goes on and we become more and more nomadic, I recognize that this common, polite question is becoming more difficult to answer. Sometimes, I feel like I'm still from Chicago, because I spent the last 10 years living there and that is the only place where Nate and I have had a home together. But then after moving back to Connecticut for the last 5 months, I've reconnected with my feelings of home in New England. I would love to say that Vienna is home, but of course, that won't be a reality for quite some time.

In reality, none of these places can be called "home", at least in the traditional sense of the word. Until we settle and make a home for ourselves, we will continue to live in limbo. This can be a difficult "land between" to experience, but there are also great blessings. For one, when someone asks me that question, it immediately opens the door for me to share with them about the step Nate and I are taking. And God has used that conversation in many exciting ways, from opportunities to share the gospel to opportunities to connect with fellow believers about missions. Secondly, being without a home helps me identify with others who share this experience. There are many refugees living in this country and in Vienna that have been displaced, are in transition, and don't have a home. For the first time, I know what that feels like, at least in some small way. And many MKs (missionary kids) I know feel the same way, being torn between the country they grew up in and the country of their ethnic origin. These questions are hard to answer for them, too.

I may not know where I'm from anymore, but I do know where I am going. I will continue to live in the "land between", eagerly anticipating the day when we will have a home and thanking God for all of the temporary homes He is providing along the way!

Note: This post was inspired by Sheryl O'Bryan and her post here.