Summer months in Thailand fall in a different place on the calendar than in the US, (March-May), but it carries the same implications. Freedom!
Students put away their books and forget about schedules, due-dates, and test. Teachers file away syllabi and fill their calendars as they choose.
For most LTC faculty, this means trips to village churches and participation in outreach efforts. But for the LTC staff and administrator (translation, myself, 2 secretaries and a maintenance man)? Well, we get to stay behind and do all the backstage tasks necessary to keep a school running.
I don't mind this, really. It's just part of an administrator's job description, right? But, this year, as we started the list of needed repairs, the longer we talked, the longer the list got. Our campus needed more than just a good scrubbing. It truly needed an face lift.
Then I realized: there was just not enough money to cover every thing. Sitting at my desk pondering the situation, the Lord prompted me with this message.."you don't have because you don't ask" "Hmm, Okay Lord, I'll ask." I sent out an appeal letter. And slowly as the summer progressed, funds came in.
We painted, plugged holes in ceilings, rebuilt the rice barn, put in sidewalks, put down new gravel on the driveway, and cleaned, cleaned and cleaned some more. Praise the Lord, the campus is looking better. Students returned and were truly surprised. It may not seem like a big deal, but the results from all of our hard work created an atmosphere of excitement.... ....andan opportunity to teach an important lesson. Just like a well-timed curtain call, all the back stage efforts made a path to Center Stage, and a spiritual lesson was given tangible, new meaning.
Our students were able to learn something first hand: good leadership is more than doing what is seen. It is more than preaching or teaching, church planting, counseling, organizing camps and conferences. It also includes the little things, the hidden tasks, the stuff that happens off-stage and backstage. Even that may not seem like a big deal. All young people need to learn that responsibility usually includes cleaning, repairing, making sure things are used correctly, put away and cared for. It's just part of working with youth. But here, culture adds a complicated twist.
This culture is based entirely on hierarchical relationships of power and control. Ownership and responsibility lies solely with the one at the very top. Those who are below are not given - or even expected- to carry any responsibility. They are not even obligated to tell the "leader" if there is a problem....it is just simply not their role in society to be responsible for stuff. There are no words for accountability or integrity in this language. And without those words, it is hard for new new believers, in this hierarchical culture, to fully grasp the concept that we are each accountable and responsible to care for all that God gives us, both corporately and individually.
Yet, developing accountability and integrity in our students is a critical part of our mission at LTC in preparing Leaders for God's Church. These attributes are basic tenants of a Christian World View and key principles in Christian culture. We believe it is important for them to learn. But it's not easy.
Like all of us, our student's secular culture has helped shaped their values, beliefs and perspectives. Becoming part of a Christian culture does not spontaneously override that. Our students are faced with a difficult process of sorting out how their two cultures--secular and Christian--marry and are acted out.
All of us face this challenge, but one has to remember that Western culture was in part birthed in Christianity and therefore retains many key principles. But here, Christian culture is new and there still remains some powerful strongholds on some of these basic tenants of a Christian World View.
As missionaries, we constantly look for ways to break through, we earnestly pray for a strong Christian world view to take root. We preach and teach on it, but sometimes it seems to no avail.
Then, unexpectedly, out of the blue, God provides. A moment, an event, even something seemingly as simple as a summer's worth of repair work brings life to the truth we have been trying to communicate and a breakthrough occurs. For that we will shine windows and paint walls with a smile!
Some of you may be busy backstage and feel "hidden" from view and relevance. Let me reassure you.... your contribution is powerful and meaningful. And we never know just what God is going to use to create those "teachable moments."
Carmen Filbeck is Director of Lanna Theological Center.