If You Want To Go Far

african proverb
African Proverb

I was waiting in the airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. The words in the picture above were emblazoned in large script across a wall within the terminal. I was two days in a two-week journey. I would have to go much farther to reach the intended destination, with two more airplane trips before reaching our place in  Zambia.

I reached my destination. And the proverb proved true. I managed quite well because I didn’t travel alone.

Perhaps the most difficult part of doing non-profit work abroad is working with other people, whether that be with other expatriates or nationals. I think it’s harder than language acquisition, cultural understanding, or raising funds.

I never lived in Africa, but I like the quote. I did live in Honduras a number of years. Building relationship with the locals who helped me in my work was probably the most important thing I ever accomplished.

When the ladies who started off with a broom or a cleaning rag realized they were a valued part of a team, the work began to take a life of its own. It wasn’t dependent on the crazed zeal of a white woman  – me! – from the States who wanted to feed and educate their children. The staff began to see that it was their choices and work that was changing the community around them.

I know that everyone tired of hearing me preach and screech about the importance of el equipo, the team. Somehow, someway, during the years I was there, we changed the dynamic from boss and underlings to a group of ladies who had taken ownership of the ministry.

Now, I have some perspective on my time in Honduras. I can see that teamwork both between persons differing cultures as well as those within the national culture is hard but fruitful work. Even short-term trips require lots of teamwork on everyone’s part for a successful trip.

Traveling far can mean traveling home, too. That’s where I am in my personal journey. I hope I can remember that I want to travel far, not fast; with others, not alone.

This post is linked to Velvet Ashes, a website devoted to encouragement for women serving overseas.

 
Velvet Ashes: encouragement for women serving overseas

8 thoughts on “If You Want To Go Far

  1. When I saw that quote, I knew it was something that would help keep our team focused on that particular trip to Africa. It’s been a good adage to dust off and remember from time to time when we are tempted to return to our insular, US lives.

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  2. Agree with Felipe – COMPANIONSHIP and sharing one’s life seems to be an exponentially better situation – in my experience in any case. COMPROMISE AND COMMITMENT are the other ‘C’s’ components. However one cannot fault your good intentions.

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  3. Having a team, a church, a small group is part of doing a work together. Doing life – well, that means more intimate connections. I would welcome that sort of thing, but if not, I still need to focus on doing life with others, not alone.

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  4. Thanks for saying that “traveling far can mean traveling home…” – I don’t tend to think of it that way, but it’s true – in fact – sometimes traveling home is the farthest you can travel.

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    1. I didn’t think to write that phrase until I was in the midst of writing the post. Yeah, for me, it’s been a tough and long journey home. I am afraid that I have doing much of it alone, far too long.

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