Team meetings. How many of us inwardly groan a little bit when we hear those two words? I know I went through a period of time when I definitely did more groaning and dreading than I care to think of. You usually don’t get to choose your teammates. You get thrown together with a group of people from various backgrounds, experiences and personalities and are told that this is to be your main community. You need to work together to display Christ’s love to those around you and [big breath here] you need to work out the Gospel daily with each other.
If I’m going to be completely honest, team can hurt and stink like nothing else. Seven years ago, I ran away from team. Literally. After a hard year filled with rejection and confusion in Cambodia, my husband Vandenn and I moved to China. We were still going to be on a team in our new location, but we would not have the added pressure and scrutiny of being in leadership. I was weary. The recent experiences and turmoil with team had left me feeling battle worn. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it again. I doubted whether we even needed to be on a team.
After a couple months of getting settled into our new home, I started to take the bus once or twice a week to my teammate Rebecca’s apartment in town. After I plopped myself down on her comfy recliner, she would hand me a Diet Pepsi and we would watch recorded American TV shows. No pressure. Just a Diet Pepsi and some leftovers. She would make me laugh and feel comfortable. It was exactly what I needed. After a year of feeling like no one wanted to get to know me, she welcomed me and let me just be. Her kindness swept over me and started healing some sore and bitter areas of my life—and all she did was hand me a Diet Pepsi.
During the course of that year, Vandenn and I realized that we needed to head back to Cambodia. God had drawn us away to find a renewed vision for team life. We had been broken because of team, but it’s also through team that our hearts were covered in a rich and thick salve that allowed us to grow and heal. I still carried some hurts and fears back with me, but I was keenly aware that running away was not the answer. I had to go back and allow God to refine me through the work of team.
Team can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes, especially after we’ve been hurt. It can also be what we need the most. A year ago I had to have my thyroid taken out completely. After the surgery, I remember how much it hurt to move my neck or swallow. The nurse came in with these huge calcium pills that she said I needed to take. I stared at these pills for the longest time.
I could barely swallow my own spit!
How could this nurse expect me to take these pills that were obviously meant for a horse. I waited hours. Finally, I placed one delicately on my tongue, took a gulp of water and swallowed. It felt like needles going down my throat. I knew I needed to take them. My face was twitching from the lack of calcium post surgery, so I finished the other pills. And the next day, it hurt a little less. And a little less. Until I could swallow those pills and move normally.
Yes, it may be easier in some ways to do life overseas without team. But I know I would not be who I am now without the ones God has blessed me to work with. He has taught me so much about Himself through them. They have served my family and me in extremely sacrificial ways. My kids had aunts and uncles away from home. I had friends who stopped by with a Frappuccino and a hug. They helped us mop out our flooded house and gave us comfort when our house was robbed. They pointed us in the right direction when we started to doubt or brought thoughtful critique to areas that we were weak in.
They understood more clearly than anyone else what it meant to be doing the work we’d been called to do overseas.
Maybe today you find yourself wanting to run away from team. Perhaps you see someone who needs to be handed a Diet Pepsi and given some space to rest and heal. How can you move towards your team today instead of away from?