Sometimes opportunities come and you just can't say no.
On our last trip to West Africa, John and I met with a few Christian lawyers. They were very interested in the teaching I do on conflict resolution. The Christian lawyers in this town have a heart to start a mediation center. They asked if I would come and teach. This area has a history of heavy religious persecution, so the need was real and urgent.
When John & I returned the following year to teach, I had hoped for maybe 20 students. However, the interest grew. We were informed we should expect over 100 lawyers, judges, and other leaders in the community. We packed 6 suitcases to take with us, 4 filled with books and other teaching materials.
Thankfully they all arrived, despite cancelled flights, long delays, rerouting flights, and one suitcase temporarily missing.
Words cannot begin to describe this teaching opportunity. What do you say when a woman tells you story of bringing someone into her home to help flee from an attack, and then when she leaves to go get some food and returns, she discovers this person has killed her children? Or what do you say to the wife who's husband has never said he is sorry because the culture does not encourage that kind of communication? What do you say to someone who doesn't want to shop in a certain area for fear of being poisoned? What do you say to someone who decides to avenge a loved ones' death by killing the murderer and eating their organs in order to gain power?
These are very real problems facing very real people on a day to day basis. What could this white woman from America possibly do to help them? Share with them what I've learned about a peaceful approach to responding to conflict.
What did I teach? I started with the anatomy of conflict, explaining our tendency in responding to conflict (fight or flight) and how those responses can actually escalate conflict. Then I explained another way of responding, a peacemaker's way. It requires a new way of thinking, learning to see conflict as an opportunity. Then we dived into how we must examine ourselves first in conflict. It is so easy for us to see what everyone else has done wrong, but do we take the time to look at ourselves first? If we honestly look at ourselves first and deal with our own wrongs, it helps us to see others more clearly. It helps us to respond to the wrongs of others more compassionately. We talked about how to talk to others respectfully, lovingly, and kindly to show them their errors. We talked a lot about confession and forgiveness. People who call themselves Christians are the most forgiven people in the world, so they should be the most forgiving people in the world. It is not easy to breathe grace naturally into the lives of others, but we can learn. We can change. We can do better.
The group has asked me to come back and teach conflict coaching and mediation. I am eager to return.