Be Patient with Your Coworkers

A Missionary's Relationship with His Coworkers—Part 2

This is part two of this article. Please click here to read part one.

We once had what we called “general cleaning” at our Bible college. Everything on the property was thoroughly cleaned. Some of the students did “general cleaning” on what little grass, plants, and flowers we had. As I was leaving the building, I saw a group of students pulling up all the grass and flowers. For some unknown reason they thought the bare earth was more attractive than plants. It drove me crazy!

When I walked over, everyone looked up and smiled. They thought I would be so happy with the “general cleaning” they were doing by removing everything green in sight and leaving bare dirt. Needless to say, we stopped having “general cleaning.” We cleaned, but I taught our staff that those two words were very bad words to say. Anytime I mention “general cleaning” at staff meeting, the older staff members laugh.

It Will Be Easy to Get Frustrated with Your Coworkers

This is just as true for your coworkers as you. It is easy for any leader to get frustrated; but becoming frustrated is especially easy when you go to another country and culture.

For instance, you may ask a coworker to make an important purchase. Frustration comes when the worker misunderstands and returns with something that you did not want! Your frustration may worsen when you learn that the wrong item cannot be exchanged!

Many times deadlines are not understood the same way in foreign countries as they are in the United States. It might take many reminders for a worker to realize you need something done by a certain time.

Coworkers Usually Do Not Have the Same Background As the Missionary

Growing up in a pastor’s home was very valuable to me in understanding the ministry and the importance of good character. My father was such a great example in honesty, hard work, and morality. My dad pastored the same church from the time I was born until the time I left for Bible college. I was trained under Dr. Jack Hyles and had the privilege of being a part of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.

When I think of many of my co-laborers and see what they have had to overcome to be used of God, I am humbled. My background and experience should help me be a little more patient with my coworkers, especially since they are patient with me.

You will probably have more advantages in your background and training than your coworkers do, so be thankful for what your coworkers have overcome.

Younger, Inexperienced Missionaries Are Not Usually Experienced in Dealing with People

Older, veteran missionaries may not be experts, but usually an older missionary will at least recognize that fact. A new missionary should realize he has much to learn, and he should be patient with future young leaders he is training.

Americans are characterized by their frankness and aggressiveness in working on a task. An inexperienced missionary will greatly improve his relationship with his coworkers if he learns to be easy going in his dealings with them. He should, however, be very aggressive in his approach to his ministry. In others words, he should try to set forth an ambitious vision of reaching his area, but he should not be as aggressive in his one-on-one relationships. To be sure a little pushing is necessary at times, but it should not be the main thrust of leadership on a foreign field.

Your Coworker Is Probably More Frustrated Than You Are

If you were a new convert in a foreign country and a foreigner was trying to lead you, you might get frustrated with him. Just as you do not understand your coworker’s ways, he does not understand many of your ways! Followers can get just as frustrated as leaders because it is much harder for a follower to point out or try to change a leader’s mistakes than it is for a leader to change a follower’s mistake.

If You Are Not Patient, You Will Not Be Able to Keep Coworkers

Years ago I decided to be very careful about ever asking a coworker to leave except for cases of disloyalty or immorality. There are other times a worker might be asked to leave, but usually it is best to exercise extreme caution in asking people to leave. Coworkers will pick up on your gracious spirit which will be a stabilizing factor in your ministry.

This is part two of this article. Please click here to read part three.

If this article was a help to you, consider sharing it with your friends.