This past week at MTI we touched on the following topics: cultural differences, conflict, transition, spiritual vitality, stress, and Sabbath. The MTI instructors do a wonderful job of keeping us on our toes by switching up both the schedule and the teaching methods. For instance, we’ve had team-building exercises, role-playing, and simulations sprinkled in between short lectures and class discussions. No day is the same. And this week we even had a blizzard thrown in for good measure. The combination of snow and high winds shut down highways and airports. It also shut in a majority of the MTI instructors for the night. Thankfully God kept the power on for us and we made it through the storm no worse for wear.
Our week began with a simulation meant to expose how we respond to differences or unknowns. This involved being put into a darkened and messy room, being spoken to in a foreign language, and filling out confusing forms. While it was true that we were deliberately set-up to make wrong assumptions, it certainly was effective in making us suspend judgment before declaring something different as wrong. The airport official who sounds funny speaking in broken English might actually speak five other languages fluently, for example.
We also tackled the subject of conflict and its effect on the mission field. After some introspection, we separated into five groups depending on our conflict handling style. And so it was a morning when Owls, Foxes, Lions, Turtles, and Teddy Bears all had the opportunity to “confront” each other. The aim of the exercise was to learn more about the pros and cons of each style and to grow in our conflict management.
Perhaps the most intense day of our time here was Thursday, when we were put through another simulation. This one involved hiding from a rebel army in a small, stuffy room and making rapid decisions about escape plans and hostages. The whole exercise was meant to reveal who we are under stress: Task-oriented? Domineering? Passive? Hopeless? Analytical? Confrontational? The debrief session after the simulation helped unpack how we dealt with the stress and made us more self-aware of who we become in stressful situations.
The intensity of Thursday was intentionally followed by the Sabbath rest of Friday. Essentially, we were given most of the day to practice taking “Sabbath” while also taking time to discuss the benefits and Biblical mandate to rest. So we spent the day walking in the sun, reading Scripture, listening to music, praying, and napping. And it was wonderful. You would think that setting aside one day in seven for rest and renewal would be easy to do, yet many of us struggle to break from to-do-lists, deadlines, and the constant pull of social media. Others, tending to the legalistic side of the spectrum, struggle to see the Sabbath as a gift from God wherein we get to cease working and rest in His provision. God commands us to take a Sabbath because it is good for us. And our Friday Sabbath sure felt like a good gift after an intense week of training.