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  • Writer's pictureTim Robinson

Leading Beyond the (Blizzard) Harmattan.

The article link below has been sent to me by multiple people over the past few weeks. You should take a read!

“Winter is coming” was going to be my catchy pop culture title for the thoughts below, but actually as leaders, we need to recognise that it has already came, is here and we are still trying to learn what this winter even is.

Harmattan is the seasonal dust that gets blown off the dessert and makes its way down Africa. It makes where we live surprisingly cold (because the sun can’t get through the dust) and all our surfaces very dusty, more than normal, like you can’t leave anything out, you have to clean the kitchen BEFORE you make anything. It is inconvenient, we have to adjust some things that we do, but it does pass. Harmattan seems a more appropriate metaphor for our location, however, the article is all about winter and ice – BRRRRR!

Tim’s desk at home

Life here is already radically different than is was a few weeks ago. There is no escape from it. One example for us is how having no house help has dramatically reduced our expected work productivity. It is a lot of effort to keep a household functioning here with all the idiosyncrasies of how things do or don’t function. I reckoned I am operating at about 60% of normal office productivity. I find the calls and zoom meetings exhausting. It is great to connect with people, but video doesn’t often hold up here and hearing is really not the same as seeing! I’m really missing being able to wander down the corridor and greet people. In 5 minutes you can help a team with an issue, but now it can take 30 – 45 minutes on a call without a whiteboard to help! Thank GOD for the technology to be able to connect, but it is exhausting.

From today onward, most leaders must recognize that the business they were in no longer exists. This applies not just to for-profit businesses, but to nonprofits, and even in certain important respects to churches.

It is an interesting statement from the article. What if this does all just blow ever in a few weeks? Well, given that the article is over 4 weeks old, I guess it isn’t ‘just going to blow over’. IT is still going on. If we are wrong, then the worst case is that we have renegotiate a few goals and maybe we have learnt, hopefully, how to use some different tools to aid our ministry. If it doesn’t blow over, we simply can’t ignore the need to change. Now.

What does that mean for us in Nigeria, in our Bible Translation ministry? I think it means we really need to remember we are dealing with whole people in whole communities and right now, maybe our focus should be on covid-19 related materials rather than trying to meet our translation goals. We would need to renegotiate with funders and get agreements, and find the materials to translate and new ways of distributing them because printing isn’t going to be possible. We already have a huge arsenal of technological possibilities that we haven’t been pushing, but mostly because the communities we serve don’t have the means to access them. (Side note – check out the project we HAVE been involved in, if YOUR language is missing – let me know!)

What does it mean in terms of working with our partners here? Do we even know what our partners are wanting to do or how we can help them?

Winter is coming and we aren’t ever going back to the way things were. We aren’t. We really need to stop saying “when things get back to normal” or we are NEVER going to stop believing it! We HAVE to stop believing it if we are ever going think about our response to the covid-19 mess and change how we do things. We have GOT (see what I did there) to adapt, we can’t simply sit and wait it out. The sit and wait pattern of working is unsustainable and will burn people out and develop hugely un-productive habits and even more problems.

Those language communities are not going to disappear, the need for scripture isn’t going to disappear, I doubt we will pivot our business model coming out of this at this time in our existence, but could we tweak it given the current situation?   Probably.

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