December 5, 2010

Ministering in Culture Shock

Over the weekend, we had scheduled a service retreat for college aged kids to come, serve, and pitch in by helping some people in the barrio.



This was to be my first sponsored program, my first gig on staff. I wouldn't really be running the show, but it was still a big deal because I hadn't seen us put on a retreat yet.

The week leading up to it, I asked Teresa if we knew how many people would come, but nobody had RSVP'd yet. That's typical, she told me, people usually don't RSVP but they show up anyway. So we made our preparations - booked a band, assigned times to speak, lined up some projects in the barrio. The cooks bought food. And Friday came.

From whenst this feedback came, I'm not sure, but I think it was largely through Facebook and word of mouth that we discovered "Lots of people have finals can't make it. A few said next weekend would be better."

Oh really. Huh. How many do we know for sure are planning on coming?

One. For sure. And the band.

Sooooo.... We maaaaay have a lot of people, we may not. Our team put our ears to the ground, er, phone, and did some digging. Lots of calls were made and a conveniently consistent picture was painted that if we moved the retreat to next weekend, people would come. And maybe bring friends. Hopefully bring friends.


We decided to hold off. We made more phone calls, sent a Facebook message (how did anyone get the word out about anything before Facebook?) and an email. We canceled with the band, and put off the work projects. As for anyone who didn't get the memo and showed up anyway, they would learn a valuable lesson about the importance of RSVPing, particularly for service retreats.

In the end, one person came that night (not the one we knew about before), took the news pretty well as I understand it, and just went home with a little extra free time. We lost our band, and we need to find a new one, and soon. There will still be yards in need of cleanup and fences in need of painting this weekend. And we'll be there, ready to serve.

On Friday, when this whole thing went down, I wasn't really shaken by it. I'm usually pretty steady and chill, unless there's a microphone in front of me. I assume that displacing a retreat in the states would probably take an awful lot more string-pulling and rearranging. People plan more. College kids have too much going on. High school kids - actually, all kids - have soccer and ballet and band and debate and winter ball and theater and tutors and all kinds of other stuff. They have some of that here in Puerto Rico. But there are far fewer pieces to rearrange here. It's more laid back, more chill. Like me. In that sense, we fit each other quite nicely. People tend to deal with things as they arise, which means they often wait until the last second for things, as well. I'm guilty on that one, too.

And yet, this poses some serious challenges for long-term as well as short-term planning. Not every retreat will be so easy to reschedule. We can't always allow our plans to align with the uncommitted, and we can't always hope the plans of the uncommitted fall our way. This is one of the clear challenges of ministering in culture shock.

When I figure out how to handle that, I'll let you know.

Tonight's sunset, put to two different musical styles:

No comments: