Cairo Update

I have ten minutes before I head out the door to lead a training from 10-3:30. I have virtually no idea what I’m going to do, besides the obvious: wing it.

Of course I have notes, but to get a good flow you have to be the riverbed. You have to find a way to become lower so others can move like a river to the ocean. That’s not a new metaphor for me in my work, but I certainly get to explore it at a new level today.

This will be my first attempt to teach coaching methodology entirely through an interpreter. I have no idea what the education level of my trainees is, how much of my English they will understand before it gets translated.

It will be important for me to establish for them why coaching is a Biblical model for leadership development. It’s not listed in Scriptures, only hinted at. But they are a group of Christians, so putting it in a context where they can embrace it is very important. Once I’ve done that I’m going to go with my gut about what to teach next, picking exercises out of the old hat that is my memory. The thrill of spur of the moment decisions.

As soon as I’m done I head off to Alexandria for two days. Now that I’ve seen the Nile, I’m excited to follow  the river down the highway, through the cradle of the Civil War… oops, slipped into Paul Simon there for a minute.

Alexandria sounds cool to me. The place where the world’s largest library once existed, a sort of World Wide Web in one place, a place where learning has been cherished. I’m excited to see what I will learn there.

It looks like I will do another one of these trainings on the 9th, again from 10-3 or so. It’s fun to be invited for stuff like that after meeting people once.

The meetings I had yesterday were amazing, but I’ll have to save that update for another time.

Sorry no pics, I’m posting them to Facebook and Instagram but I don’t have a good way to move them to my tablet.


Coach training, Congo update

Monday I spoke with Jacques Luwaku, one of the trainees from a class I led in Kinshasa last September with Charles Buller and Jeannette Buller Slater. Jacques (pictured, in the middle of three men seated behind the table) works with Leonard Kiswangi (pictured, seated to my immediate left) at the Kinshasa office of African Enterprise, an international organization based in South Africa, and also pastors a congregation in Kinshasa.

Jacques said, “I’m going to give you a coaching testimony. Recently, I got a call from a young husband in my church (and he filled me in on their positions, the wife is in the women’s council, I missed what the husband’s position is, but these things are culturally important in Congo, everyone has some position or title) and the man said ‘No, pastor, my wife and I, it’s not working out, we are just going to get a divorce.’ (Jacques did not say what their dispute was about.) So I called the husband back, and I called the wife, too, and I said, ‘No, I don’t have any counsel to give you. But I have a question for you. If I asked you to give counsel to another young couple who was thinking about getting a divorce, what would it be? What should they do? Get divorced? Or stay together? Please reflect on that together, then you tell me.’ and they called me back later and said, ‘No, pastor, really, we’ve thought about what advice we would give; we’re going to stay together.’ They solved their own problem, they have walked away from the door of divorce. When I am coaching, I am second, and they are in charge.” Jacques went on to say that he hadn’t had to stress out about it and was glad to see the couple find their own solution.

I felt excited for him. I told him, “But Jacques, you didn’t even use the Panic Technique.”

“What? The Panic Technique? Oh, no,” he laughed, “I did not use the Panic Technique.”

It’s gratifying, and that’s an understatement, to see that the training we did in Congo last fall is bearing fruit in very real ways. Coaching saves marriages.

This story is shared with Pastor Jacques’s permission.

I continue to coach Jacques occasionally, pro bono, with your support. It seems like a good time to remind my readers that if you’d like to support our work in developing nations, training leaders like Jacques Luwaku to use coaching techniques, you can do so at Evergreen Leaders. All contributions are tax-deductible.


Who’s in your house?

How much community can you handle? Back when I was a young man our church identified the Biblical or Greek concept of oikos, a word which means, more or less, household. It annoys me to use Bible-sounding language when unnecessary, so I’ll just say house in italics to represent this concept of close relationships. I remember that the magic number for how many people you can reasonably have close relationships with at a time was 30.

We like to think we can handle more, but count out how many people you’ve had significant conversations within the last 21 days (since the beginning of the year, post-holidays).  Now look at how many of that group you have a significant conversation with on at least a monthly basis for the last year, or solid, tangible plans to do so this year. The number shrinks rapidly.

My house includes a wife and four kids. They are a sixth of my close community. After that, I had a meeting with my non-profit’s board chair (6). A small group that meets by phone, five more people (11). A significant conversation with one member of our congregation I talk to pretty regularly, on a deep level, oh, but he’s in the aforementioned small group. Nine coaching clients (most of these count as work relationships to some extent, but on another level my job is to provide a significant relationship in other peoples’ houses.) (20). Even though it is my job, I can still only participate in a limited number of deep relationships. I can build a bigger house by having this sort of “relationship hosting” as my livelihood, the money allows me the time for more than 30. At most, if I retain any sense of balance, the number doubles to 60. If i was meeting with three times more coaching clients per month, not only would I be maxed time-wise, I’d be falling over with relational exhaustion. And I’m an extrovert!

I have 899 Facebook friends. As if it is some sort of badge of honor, popularity, or marketing reach. It is, in fact, to some extent all of these things. But it should not be mistaken as part of my house.  

Think critically about who’s in your house. You need some who give something to you, a few you give to, and many who give a relatively even relational value exchange. If you get out of whack you start complaining on social media, because you’ve forgotten that the virtual world isn’t your house. It’s not pretty. Sometimes there are people like Goldy Locks Who are in your house breaking your furniture and eating your gruel. Get them out, unless you intentionally invited them and have some boundaries (Ok, you can eat the gruel, but no going into the parlor and breaking my china). Does this mean you can’t find a measure of community online? Of course not.

Think about it this way: coaches use a Wheel of Life to help you chart your satisfaction in a variety of areas, usually 8-12 areas like work, spiritual life, family, finances, health, marriage, and hobbies. Having at least one person you can share authentically with about your progress or failure in each area is critical. Perhaps your spouse is a great sounding board for work, your spiritual life, but tunes out when you bring up golfing. OK, find somebody else in your house to talk to about that. This is where the internet can prove handy, especially when you’re a Scrabble geek, or you like lengthy discussions about … community. Thanks for reading!













Congo: Day One, May you please have a try.

Here I am at MPH Guesthouse. When our family first arrived in 1987 we stayed here. The drive in from the airport is long and crowded, and the city is full of hustle even at 9 PM. On my bed is a towel, a bar of soap in a box. The box says Beauty Soap Juliet TM Floral Bouquet, Lingering Freshness, New and Improved, and has a picture of a very attractive Indonesian woman on it. The soap is made in Indonesia, marketed from Malaysia, and imported in Algeria by SARI Far East Marketing. Somehow it’s here in Congo. It’s pretty good soap, it really does smell nice, leaves you feeling clean, rinses off well. I also get a complimentary roll of crepe paper, apparently for when I need to go take a crepe. Seriously the paper looks like a dull lavender version of that streamer stuff you decorate for your birthday with. This reminds me of the t.p. we had long ago which was made in China and said “BAMBOO Toilet Paper. may you please have a try.”

My bags didn’t arrive with me, I barely had time to catch my flight in Brussels. I had to run to my gate, and when I asked the gate attendant if I had time to use the restroom before boarding she said “TWO minutes” so I am just glad I made my flight. But since we arrived in Brussels late from Chicago, my bags didn’t get on the plane. I’m very glad I observed Travel Tip #1, which is to always carry an extra pair of underwear and socks in your carry-on luggage. I probably won’t have my suitcase until tomorrow afternoon, so it looks like I’ll be in my favorite pair of jeans for 4 days straight, and borrow shirts from Bill Frisbie and Charles Buller. Fortunately they are both bigger than I am.

I don’t have photos for you yet because the cable that connects my camera to my laptop is in my suitcase.

On the drive in from the airport, the night was breezy and cool. It’s dry season, so even as it gets warm this afternoon it will be a dry warm and I doubt very much that we’ll ever get seriously sweaty. The air is full of smog, fumes from cars and motos that don’t have proper exhaust systems, plus charcoal fires. I exit the airplane and the first thing i notice is the smell: heat wafting off the asphalt. I catch a whiff of barbecuing meat. I smell diesel rolling off trucks. People carry cartons of eggs on their heads, sometimes a couple hundred eggs. You could buy one right off their head, a hard-boiled egg. People are carrying anything you might want to buy on their heads. They drift through traffic, hanging on the sides of minibuses, harassing drivers who’ve done everyone a disservice by trying to cut around a line of traffic — if you can call it a line. One intersection has a “robot”, a sculpture designed by an art student which has alternating red and green lights. Apparently because this thing has arms it gets more recognition as a legitimate traffic director, and when the light goes red people actually stop. Aside from this one intersection, it’s go when you can and stop when you must. Charles orders pizza while we are still driving in.

We arrived and our driver was tired.  They started out for the airport at 3:30 PM, it took them over two hours to get there, through rush hour, and an hour or so to get back, so he’s been driving quite a while. I would not want to drive here, it’s stressful. If you hit a pedestrian you’d be likely to suffer mob justice: a beating or worse. We passed a hospital I am almost positive I saw on the documentary “Kinshasa Symphony” a few months ago.

Pizza arrives. It is wood-fired, and the crust is delicious. There is “tropical” which is onions, mushrooms, chicken and pineapple, and “o poeto” with green pepper, burger and sausage. I haven’t eaten pizza for so long … we put piment on it too. That’s a bright red pepper paste, which I ate for the first time at this very establishment 28 years ago. It’s hot. REAL hot. But does have a certain flavor enhancing property. I ate piment on my first two slices, and then I noticed my eyes were leaking for some odd reason, and didn’t put any on my third piece.

Showing up at a guesthouse where our family stayed for a week and a half in 1987 is bizarre to say the least. My brother would remember playing ping-pong with me here. The place is dilapidated to be sure, the tennis court, which was beginning to be overgrown in ’87, is now completely unusable. But the interior is still comfortable, with clean sheets and comfortable cots, a clean bathroom with hot water, fans that keep the air moving, and though I didn’t have a mosquito net, I didn’t need one. Dry season means no mosquitoes this week. As far as jet-lag goes, I fell asleep at 11:30 local time and woke up naturally at 6:45. I’ll probably be drowsy this afternoon and might need a nap, but because I didn’t sleep too well on the airplanes I’ll probably adjust faster because I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night and slept almost eight hours straight.

In 27 years many things have not changed. Old buildings are older, but what is noticeable is the ubiquity of cell phones. Huge billboards advertise free Facebook all the time with a certain cell-phone plan.

A tailor showed up to deliver a shirt for Charles this morning. On spec he brought a second one, and Charles bought it. I liked the fabric so I ordered one as well, and in three or four days, he said, he’ll show up before lunch time to deliver it.

Bill Frisbie felt affirmed when I noticed at breakfast that he said “tell me more.” I told him that was an old standard coaching hymn. He said, “that doesn’t make it any less special,” and I said, “no, of course not, it’s like singing Amazing Grace.” Bill is off for Kikwit this morning, he was supposed to go yesterday but that fell through. We were glad to see each other. He’ll be back in next Saturday and we’ll go to the airport together as we come home (though on different flights, we depart within an hour of each other).

We’re just getting started, but for those who are praying for me here are two things to pray for: 1) Pray that my stomach tolerates the unusual amounts of gluten I’m consuming. 2) Pray that my bags will arrive intact today and that we can pick them up without a hitch tomorrow.