Last fall I was putting together some advice to give people about living and surviving in a team. After living for two years as a team, I figured that we as the McCropders had probably learned a few lessons to share with people. The talk never materialized but I found myself thinking back to the notes I jotted down as our team met with a potential teacher/new teammate (more on this later as things develop). She was asking good questions about who we are as a team, what we value, lessons learned, conflict management, etc. We have been blessed, so blessed, to have minimal team conflict. I can't say it's all because of us or our conflict management (avoidance) skills, but I can say a big part of it is knowing that God has brought us into this community together. It was not of our own making. Aside from that, here are a few ideas about how to live (mostly) peacefully in community.
1. Sharing a Garden (small things): Let the small things go
We have blogged before about the McCropder shamba. There were 5 garden plots behind our apartment, and the McCropders took over four of them. We jointly hired a gardener, Robert, who planted whatever fancy struck him and we sometimes ended up with a small forest of basil. But seriously, most of the time we had some nice produce growing: pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatos, broccoli, lettuce. Sometimes Robert would harvest things and bring them to Jess. Sometimes he would bring them to all of us. Sometimes we would go up and take what we needed. Rarely did we take the harvest and split it into three equal portions. Rarely did anyone complain because someone else had gotten more broccoli than they did. Heck, most of the time we were harvesting it to bring to a McCropder potluck. :) The point is, we didn't make a big deal out of it. I'm sure that some people got more veggies than others relative to what we contributed financially. But it wasn't a big deal. And it shouldn't have been a big deal.
2. Sharing a Vehicle (medium things): Be flexible/be organized
Oh, Jolly Green Giant, you were a great van. All three families purchased an equal share of our faithful van. Jess then put together a Google calendar with "van reservations." Once in awhile, all the families would go somewhere together in the van, but usually one family at a time was taking it. Almost every weekend, the van was out with one of us, in Nairobi, the Mara, etc. We signed up with a first come-first served policy, and once in awhile there were two families that needed the van the same weekend. We always worked it out though--someone would try to find a ride with another family, or we occasionally hired a vehicle. Sometimes trips could be rescheduled for a different weekend or weekday. Usually, we talked over scheduling conflicts and came to an easy decision, instead of falling back on a "well, I signed up first so too bad for you." I never counted up the weekends we all took the van, but I would guess it worked out pretty evenly in the end.
3. Sharing a Calling (big things): Unity
The hardest decision we ever made as a group (so far) was, where to next? As you may remember from following our blog, we had three main options: Burundi, Madagascar, and Liberia. All had their plusses and minuses. And in the beginning, people had some pretty strong feelings about which country should be our new home. We were not all on the same page. But it was very, very important to us not to just put this to a vote. If, for example, the vote ended up being 4-2 in favor of Burundi, what about the two no votes? Had God called THEM to Burundi? In the tough times would they look back and say, "Well, I didn't vote to come here..." Did it take longer? Sure. It required a lot of patience and a lot of communication. But ultimately, we all reached the same conclusion. Whatever our individual desires, it seemed clear that God had called us into this community. And God was calling the team to Burundi. We were willing to lay down our individual wants for the team.
Do we have all the answers? No. Will there be team conflict among the McCropders? Probably. But has it all been worth it? Absolutely. I would highly recommend going as a team to any missionaries out there.