Management, Ocean Sunsets. Pappa, Crabs, Light…

The volume of our work at Cavango has grown to the point of needed management changes.  Decisions made after a discussion with a few people can no longer sustain the work, so I’ve taken advantage of my time away this month to develop a management structure that we will implement on my return.  

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While considering so many options and structures, I have been reminded of the reality that a work, organization, machine or living thing that functions well does so because of the contribution of its many parts, seen and unseen, known and unknown.  Betsy and I sat for hours over two weeks near crashing waves on a beach (doing very little other than watching waves and whales) and I thought of the innumerable drops of water that formed that which I was so appreciating.  We watched glorious, cloudless African ocean sunsets, made spectacularly colorful by the millions of dust particles in the atmosphere, suspended because of months without rain.  I type on this keyboard only because cells transmit material-less information from one uniquely designed collection of cells, through more crazy-organized, interacting cells, to even another collection of cells in my finger.  Cultures and countries prosper because of the integrity of individuals far more than political decisions that affect the whole. Beautiful, forgotten people in Cavango are healed of unseen illnesses because hundreds of largely unknown and caring people send hard-earned resources to the other side of the world where they are transformed into medication and instruments.

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In Cavango, the floor cleaner, the maintenance worker, the one registering patients, and the worker in the pharmacy are all as essential as the one making clinical decisions.  As I consider renovating our management structure, I am encouraged by this Jesus model, which emphasizes the importance of those who perform the “honorable” work and that of those who never receive honor or gratitude.

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Another consideration in my management decisions is that of ownership and responsibility.  As each part of the whole assumes responsibility for excellence, the whole performs with excellence, and the result is healthy. If any part neglects their responsibility, the resulting work is less than what it could be.  Paul describes the Church of Jesus as a body of many parts, those seen and unseen, those who receive “honor” and those who don’t.  A finger seeking to be an eye cannot perform well the function for which it was designed, and the whole body suffers. But if each finger, blood cell, neuron and eye performs its function well, the result is health for the whole body. We are each called to be what and who we uniquely are, and to serve our “Head” in fulfilling His purposes in those He loves…

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I will seek to instill these principles as we introduce a management structure to people who have never been exposed to the same and who have lived in a socialistic system all their lives where “pappa” (the government) is responsible for all decisions re the well-being of the populace.  The result has not been pretty in this wealthy country where very few have prospered and the majority have no freedom to develop, and suffer horribly. 

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I wonder this morning about the history of the world without Jesus and his principles and emphasis that we are made in our Father’s image, that all have value, that serving another is honorable and that prioritizing another (love) is a worthy endeavor. I think the world would look largely like the region in which we live and, as the US as a whole abandons Jesus and His ways, one might be able to visit us in Cavango and see the endpoint of the abandonment of Jesus and His ways. In the US, we are abandoning reasoned wisdom and surrender to our Designer as we glorify animalistic behavior based on self-serving “instincts”, appetites and desires. No community or culture can survive such. We are “living for today” and “looking out for #1”, while abandoning tomorrow and future generations as we gorge ourselves on pleasure and comfort just like the wicked kings we mock in our children’s stories.

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In our prosperous-like-no-other-culture-before-us arrogance, we criticize anything less than our idea of ideal and lack gratitude for the simple joys that our Father has put all around and in us, leading to discontentment that might also rival the greatest in history.

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I hope that we, in the US, abandon our pursuit of the me-satisfaction pursuit of today and reconsider Jesus and His teachings before we end up hungry and destitute under a few wealthy rulers. I long to see a return, even just in the church that claims to follow Jesus, to priority given to serving others over our own well-being…

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In the analogy above, we are a simple drop of water in the ocean, and we can live to serve ourselves or we can “taint” and impact the other drops we contact. Sacrifice of personal comfort/security/privilege, or “one for many”, has been a Kingdom principle that has been replaced with an emphasis on “you are a child of God and deserve more”… Jesus never promoted political or societal change/reform, but put the emphasis on each to decide whether to follow or reject Him. He said that we will impact the field in which we grow either way, as wheat or weeds. It seems to me that this emphasis has transformed the world in the last 2000 years, while places like Cavango and other Jesus-less cultures remain exactly as they were when Jesus washed the feet of Peter, Judas and His other flawed followers before sending them out with His message of light in a world so immersed in darkness that it murdered its Maker. We must remove the baskets of security and comfort under which our light remains useless…

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Jesus indicated that “the world” and its philosophies would always conflict with Him and those who are His. Jesus was continually confronting leaders who promoted darkness (see Mt 23). He confronted more than once, even His followers who embraced the world’s “me, first” philosophies, “How long shall I put up with you?” His emphasis to His followers of “less of me” did not immediately sit well with them, but they saw Jesus model it to the point of His death, and this became their message that transformed the world as Jesus-followers placed the lives of others in priority, even to the point of their death. I’m reminded of the radical church growth during the plagues of antiquity, when Jesus people served the sick, knowing they were putting themselves at risk…

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The light and darkness analogy still fits 2000 years later and light entering darkness always causes conflict, as light isn’t light if it doesn’t transform darkness to light. We continually face conflict in our work, far beyond just the battles against the unseen illnesses in those who seek our help and many of these conflicts have been chronicled in previous posts.  As I’ve mentioned, the people with whom we work see themselves as “subjects”, subservient to the centralized, government leaders (“pappa”) who alone have value.  The people live in fear and do nothing without pappa’s “permission”, which pappa requires and is almost impossible to obtain, as the government restricts freedom to experiment and develop products via risk, trial and error, as has occurred greatly in the rest of the “free” world over the past 500 years. The populace remains tightly reigned and dependent, usually under a government mantra of “for your good and safety”.  We challenge (confront) this world view in those with whom we work, encouraging them to be light, both spiritually and physically, and we are often misunderstood and maligned, both within and outside the “church” .  Our new management system will emphasize the input, sacrifice and responsibility of the individual parts.

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We emphasize the importance of embracing conflict and abandoning world and cultural norms, as illustrated by the “crabs in a bucket” analogy, which is as much evident in human beings as it is in crabs.  When one crab tries to crawl out of the bucket, it is pulled back in by the “whole”. None are permitted to escape the “group” of the majority to embrace the risk of escaping from the bucket.  We each must evaluate if we are embracing the comfortable “norm” or abandoning the same to follow Jesus into the darkness with His confrontational light, whether anyone joins us or not…

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An example of darkness in Cavango is that the mission property on which we live has 15,000 acres and 80% or so is burned to the ground every year in the dry season because leaders in the past have encouraged this practice, rendering the land incapable of development which could improve the health of the people and give them a means of economic growth.  Historically, community health and physical health of a culture is consistently proportional to its economic health.  I have emphasized this for eight years and this year the beautiful trees, grass and flowers were burned again.  The whole of rural Angola burns every year.  A team from National Geographic with a goal of preserving the Okavango Delta in Botswana traveled the three main river systems in Angola that feed the delta several years ago.  One of the things that stupefied them was how all of the land around these rivers was burned every year and they canoed through charred and smoking wilderness for much of their journey which covered thousands of miles. Our new management system will encourage a sense of ownership and a vision for development.

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Our friend and neighbor in Cavango, Eduardo, lost his dearly loved and respected sister to Covid this week.  Marilia has served Jesus in Senegal as a missionary for many years and died in this African country which, like Angola, has little advanced medical care. Eduardo will travel to be with his family in Brazil this week.  Please pray for him and his family as they both rejoice for Marilia’s homecoming and grieve their loss of her beauty in their lives.

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Betsy and I return to Cavango today, dreading our a 10-12hr drive.  About half of the trip is on dirt and about ¼ of the dirt road had been somewhat graded, so we hope the day isn’t as grueling as it can be.  We are in the middle of winter and dry season, so no threat of rain and slick mud will help.  We have two cars loaded and look like the Beverly Hillbillies and three guests will travel back with us to see our work in Cavango for a few days or a few weeks. Rosalina is a medical student from Holland, Laurel is a nurse practitioner from the US who moved to Angola a few months ago and is exploring areas to serve, and a friend visiting the DeSouzas. I will return to work in the clinic tomorrow.

3 comments

  1. Always great reading from you Tim and Betsy. Praying that the new management structure and system will enhance your service to our beloved people. Welcome home.

  2. Praying for you as you travel back to Cavango (today?) and continue your work there. I look forward to hearing how you implement your management ideas.

  3. The crab analogy is of course difficult and true . You and Betsy are always in our prayers as you begin a new season in Angola.

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