|Meeting in progress|
The first week of November the Evangelical Lutheran Church of CAR (EEL-RCA) and its met to consider the past year and plan for the next. There were about 20 people from the church’s central administration and various projects. In addition, there were about 15 people from other countries – missionaries who work here, ELCA’s regional representative, pastors from 2 synods in the US that support project here, and people representing 4-5 other organizations that provide various kinds and levels of support for the church. It all seemed so natural to me. That’s what we do – meet, evaluate, plan, discuss…
It turns out this is only the third year that this consultation has taken place formally. Before, different organizations met with members of the church separately, and, maybe, they occasionally talked to each other along the way. I am took, too, that this year was the most cooperative and collaborative that the meeting has ever been.
In addition, this year, EEL-RCA has been actively involved in strategic planning at all levels of the church. Again, having been involved in a public school system for years, this is automatic and expected for me, but the people here have not done it. Starting in May, they began analysis of the current situation and have involved all stake holders from the National President down to members on congregations in various towns. The summary document is an impressive and accurate description of strengths, weakness, threats, and problems to address. The next step is to send the information and documents back to local levels so that action plans can be developed and later implemented. They have to decide what actions, who will do them, what resources are needed, what indicators will be used to measure success, and a timeline for action and evaluation. Sound familiar??? I bet it does! The vocabulary used here is not the same as within the PPS, but certainly the planning is the same!
So, during three days of meetings, people talked about programs, discussed problems, brainstormed solutions, and then picked some actions to address immediately. As with most schools, churches, and other organizations, finances were a huge topic.
I was one of about five people who helped to do simultaneous interpretation so that those from the US could follow the French (and, occasionally, Sango) discussion. We traded off every 20 minutes. The part I had trouble with was the report of the external audit. I don’t know a lot of those words in English – so it’s not surprising I didn’t know them in French either. Still, we got buy and were able to help the visitors understand.
This meeting was also a good time for me to get an overview of programs and how they fit together within the organization. I am grateful to have this view as I now begin local work.
During Liturgy, 2 pastors from Bouar and the National President
knowledge for people sent by their congregations), the Theological School, also in Baboua (a three-year training program for pastors), a food security program (designed to help people – mostly women – find ways to make a little money and better take care of crops so that they have food
to feed their families year-round), the clinic and medical programs in Gallo (45 min. from my town) and, of course, a couple of churches. There are many programs that EEL-RCA runs, but these are some of the ones we saw recently. A great overview of what is and how it is working.
Pastor Paul Schaur, North Dakota, Floribert Ngare (CA administrator who showed us around), Pastor Alan Kethan, Texas
Floribert Ngare – center; Betty and Gordon Olson of LPGM, Minneapolis, MN
I am very glad to have met the partners and they all felt the time very worthwhile to establish and deepen contacts and friendships so that the work of the church can move forward.
Maybe you haven’t thought about this aspect of the consultation: how do you house and feed the people when motels are rare and restaurants rarer? The church administration had a few meals prepared and, then, much of the burden of housing and feeding international visitors fell to the two missionaries who live in Bouar. I stayed at Pr. Jackie’s house – as did up to 10 people on some days. She hired some help, but did the organizing and preparing of lots of our meals. Francois, newly arrived from France, had people at his house and cooked for even more. The rest who didn’t cook, pitched in with dishes and general clean up.
I look forward to seeing how things work next year – when I have more of a sense of being here in my job and to find ways to get greater cooperation and collaboration with the national church as the planning is done.