Monday, April 24, 2017

Power Up Conference

Every few years WorldVenture, our missions organization, plans a regional conference for everyone working in Europe. We missed the last one, because it was just a few days before Ellie was born. That conference took place over New Years with child care so that families could attend without school issues and bring their kids along. This time around, they chose a different model that we are really excited about. They are putting the exact same conference on twice, once in the spring and again in the fall so that families with small kids can attend, with the parents taking turns. Bethany is looking forward to having Maya weaned and having a new gal arrive on our field so that they can go together in the fall, so the spring time was my turn.

The conference was called Power Up and took place in Vilnus, Lithuania. For those that think this sounds like a really exotic location, remember that A) This is still EU, which means easier travel for most of us who already have EU visas and B) it is a lot cheaper than having something like this in a place like Switzerland or France, where everything would be more expensive from food to lodging. It was a really pretty city and a place that would be fun to go back and visit. There was an interesting mix of old world monarchical history and the recent soviet influences. It is still a country stuck between and influenced by both Moscow and Europe. The old city was a great place to just wander around and find little corners and shops.
the view of the city from our hotel
evening wandering in the city

The conference itself was on interpersonal communication. This is a topic near and dear to my heart and something I find very important. Here were a few key takeaways that I gleaned from our time.

1. The first thing I wanted to share was from a session called "Loving Listening." They talked about how we can show people we love them by making them feel truly heard. There was a quote from David Augsberger: "Being heard is so close to being loved, that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable." We often don't realize the power that we hold, simply by listening to people. Life can be so hectic and full of running from thing to thing, that there is a huge relational power in stopping what we are doing and truly listening to what another person has to say. Not just hearing them, or trying to break in and make our point, but listening to them and understanding where they are coming from. This can help all of our relationships from casual acquaintances all the way to the people that are dearest to us. How can we show the people around us we care for them by listening to them?

2.  Another key group of sessions was about the book Crucial Conversations. They defined a "crucial conversation" not necessarily as conflict, but just like the subtitle of the book says "when things are at stake." When we disagree and decisions need to be made, we get into the realm of a crucial conversation. One of my main take-aways was a pretty simple observation. It is the idea that when we are in a conversation and someone says something we don't understand or it seems to be negative or critical, we create a narrative in our own minds about what that could mean. We set their statement in a context which answers the question "why would someone say something like that?" Often the answer can be something like: "They think I am stupid" or "they don't believe I am capable of succeeding here." We then go forward with that internal story and begin to believe it is true. But what happens if that isn't true? Do we really take time to expose those underlying stories to the light of day and check if that person really believes that? There are often totally reasonable explanations that also fit the facts of a situation, and it is our personal fears or insecurities that drive it forward.

There were many other key takeaways from the time there from personal soul care and rest, building trust in relationships, and personal moral purity; just to name a few. I am very excited for Bethany to be able to go to the same conference in the fall so that we can debrief and compare notes.

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