For most of us who have worked at the grassroots with an organization like MCC, reflecting on our experience as it transpires is something that occurs haphazardly. When I was in Guatemala my ad hoc methodology for reflection was three-fold:
1) Scavenge for whatever reading material I could find and read on buses. Every time I came into Guatemala City for a team function I would fill up my backpack with books from MCC’s library and then slowly read them through during my long bus trips across the mystical highlands. Often I would get on a bus thinking one way, read an entire book during the journey, step off the bus again and find myself thinking another way.
2) Use my “free-day” to write and process. Besides Sunday, very rarely would I take a day off. However, when I did, there was nothing I enjoyed more than riding my motorcycle down the mountain to where the cool air turned warm to find a spot under a tree and write out all my jumbled thoughts.
3) Sort it all out with a friend. For the entirety of my MCC stint in Central America, I was blessed to have had a good friend – another wide-eyed and curious dupe from the Midwest – with whom to process all that I was experiencing. At sporadic moments over the course of nearly six years – during hiking excursions, road trips, and regular team meetings – my buddy and I would hash out the meaning of life together.
These three ingredients of “reflection” were essential to my personal growth and well-being, and are what we try to intentionally offer as part of the Seed program. We do this primarily through a curriculum that consists of nine modules, each of which tackles a theme relevant to what the Seed participants are engaging. In very general terms, to unpack each theme as a cohort, we read, do field exercises, write and discuss it all, both in a virtual forum and when we are physically together.
The first module of our Seed curriculum – “Getting to Know the Community” – began in early December when the Seeders first arrived to their service sites and concluded during our team retreat at the end of March. As part of this module, we asked the Seeders to be deliberate about getting to know the distinctiveness of their new corner of the world. We asked them to learn about their community’s history, culture and even ecology. We asked them to keep a field diary, to conduct interviews, and to create maps. Most importantly, we asked them to be fully present in their communities and to let go of the compulsion to “do” things.
Why do we ask the Seeders to spend so much time, energy and resources in order to become acquainted with the particularities of their new context? We do this because we believe the work of a Seeder is much less a science than it is a craft. It requires discernment, creativity, patience and respect. It’s about adapting to the needs and opportunities of a specific culture, economy and microclimate at a particular moment in time. It’s about valuing and building upon existing local resources, such as traditional knowledge, exceptional leadership, and indigenous forms of organization. Ultimately, we do this because we recognize the complexity of God’s Creation and thus the complexity of our role as accompaniers. We hope you enjoy getting to know a little bit about our communities.