Ever have an adventure where you had no idea what was coming next? Did you embrace it? Did you make any of those “I should have known better” mistakes? On adventures, we are in different environments; we can let our instincts help us or, sometimes, harm us.
To say that my last week in Poland was an adventure would be an understatement. The fun part was that I had signed up for a mission trip with my Las Vegas church, Verve. I did not know exactly what was in store, but they were going to be in Poland a week after I was there, and I felt that was a sign that I should join them. I did.
I had so much going on during the first two weeks on the road, twelve cities in fifteen days, that I didn’t have much time to think about the mission trip. I didn’t need to. We were just going to help launch a new church and help paint a home for kids without parents as community outreach. I was actually looking forward to being a follower and not being the decision-maker for a week.
On the last day of the month on the road, my new friend, Nathan, asked me if I was ready to be home after a month of traveling. Hmmm. I had to think about it. Though I had never been gone for that long before, somehow I was okay and not dwelling on being home. It surprised me, because a week before, I had been ready to get back. What was different? I was in a foreign country, but I was surrounded by new friends, people with whom I had a common belief. That made it an adventure.
Usually when I travel, I’m alone, and it does get lonely at times. I had a shared interest with those people, and that made it more fun. This was a revelation for me.
This would be my first trip to Poland, which was even more exciting to me because my mother’s grandparents were from Poland. Before leaving on the trip, my pastor asked me if I would be willing to do some presentations while I was there to help the church reach out to the community. I said, “Sure, use me!” Rafal, the pastor of the Polish church, had heard that I had done some presentation coaching with my pastors, as well as with the staff at my church. In all honesty, my first thoughts were to be of service in any way I could. My second thoughts were, “Cool, if they would rather I teach than paint, then who am I to say no to that!”
Rafal put me to work. I gave four presentations. I was a bit concerned about how pastors who did not speak English would take to my teachings. With no experience as a pastor, I could understand if they were a bit skeptical. I confronted that right up front, asking them to be open to my ideas and at the end to use whatever they wanted. I even used Patricia Fripp’s premise formula to create my premise: Every pastor can create a life-changing sermon. My premise was set up with these ideas: If you want to build your church, the key, a better sermon. If you want to help your people, the key, a better sermon.
I knew this experience would challenge me, but I welcomed it. I was hoping it would be helpful, but I was not quite sure how my secular ideas would translate to pastors who did not even speak English. Somehow it worked. I also spoke to a group of leaders from non-profit organizations and another group comprised of pastors, youth leaders and church leaders. Those also went better than I anticipated.
So, what was my adventurous mistake? Rafal also asked me to speak to two youth audiences. I told him that probably was not a good idea. Kids are not my audience. My message was not designed for them, especially not in another language. I did not want to embarrass my church or myself, but I remembered doing a career day at a Las Vegas school, so I used what had worked then with the younger group of Polish children. It was just okay, but I did it.
I politely backed out of speaking to the second group, the teens. Rafal understood and respected my wish. We met with the youth group, and my friend, Nathan, presented to them. He was well-prepared and did great. The kids liked him. As he presented I realized, “Looking good isn’t being brave.”
Yikes! This is what I teach! I could have done it. I still could have told my story. They are just little people. There was no expectation except in my ego. Unless my intention had been off, I really would not have failed. I’m ashamed to say, “How dare I not take the opportunity to influence youth.” My bad. My very bad. Ouch.
As they closed the meeting I began to beat myself up. I regret not doing that presentation. That was a big mistake. As I try to let go, I will use it as a positive motivator that I never make that mistake again. Have you ever needed a dose of your own medicine?
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