In late 2021 we had to replace a wall between the church, and neighboring property. This was done because the person who built the original wall didn’t put in any steel rods (or rebar).
On the day the work started, we had to tear down a large section of the wall so that it could then be built back stronger.
And as always when dealing with two separate properties, tensions were very high.
I took a friend in my car to grab a tool from a nearby house, and returned to find the neighbor who lived on the other side of the wall shouting at the workmen at the top of her lungs!
I immediately stopped the car, and put out the fire
Of course I am not talking about literal fire! Instead there will be conflict on the mission field no matter how hard we try to avoid it. Thankfully I was able to use some important lessons learned through missions to put that fire out quickly.
Step One: Understand the Real Problem
In stressful situations like construction of a wall small things can cause serious problems. In this situation some of the neighbors plants (which she cared about deeply) had been uprooted because they were too close to the wall.
Unfortunately she was not there when this uprooting took place. She just heard from a family member that we were “pulling up plants” so she came down already very angry. The neighbor understandably was upset she wasn’t given a chance to cut some limbs from the tree so that it could be replanted.
Understanding what had taken place meant I had to get myself between her and the workmen. Then ask questions till her source of frustration was clear.
Step Two: Own the Problem
To be honest I wasn’t outside while the plants were being uprooted. However some workers told me that her own son was helping them with the process, and didn’t say anything about her wanting to save limbs first.
here is the important thing
that doesn’t matter!
No matter who started (or helped with) the pulling of plants, the truth is we should have made sure of two things before starting
- She was present and watching what happened
- She was clear on exactly what would happen
So I calmly apologized for not having here there.
Step Three: Fix the Problem
Finally, I gave her my word that two things would happen
- I’d remove the limbs from her yard myself (something she was concerned about)
- And I would purchase new plants from my own pocket
The only thing I asked was that that wall needed to be finished first. Reminding her that we were building it so her grandchildren would be safe.
A week after the wall was finished I’d removed all the brush and sat down to ask what kind of plants she wanted in return. She laughed softly and told me it wouldn’t be necessary.
Friends I don’t claim for these lessons to be revolutionary (we have heard them many times) but just share a reminder they work.
Countless fires blaze out of control that can be fixed by three simple phrases:
- “What’s wrong?”
- “I am so sorry”
- “And let me make this right”