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What Guatemala has taught me

August 7, 2017


Buenos dias! Good morning! My name is Karli and I’m guest writing this week for my sister Rachel. I’m currently living and working in Guatemala with a Christian missionary organization called InnerCHANGE. I have the privilege of serving here on a team with 6 other people and my team leaders are a Guatemalan couple that grew up here and started the team 11 years ago. Today I will be touching on how I have learned from them, the importance of taking the time to invest in relationships and not just focus on results.  
When I first arrived my priority was learning Spanish, but I also had to learn different nuances of the culture. The biggest difference from our American culture is related to time, planning, and productivity.  InnerCHANGE works in poor communities and with the marginalized of society by focusing on building relationships rather than solely doing projects. It is a different focus than we tend to have in the States where we measure success by numbers and how much we get accomplished.

An example of this cultural clash is from a team “planning” retreat we had 3 months ago. I was excited because I like seeing the big picture, I’m a goal-oriented person and I like the challenge of working towards something as a team. However, we barely had time to touch on planning, visioning or goal setting. Instead we had meals together, times of reflection and team building activities. During our team de-brief our team leaders felt, while we could’ve used more time, it was a success because in their eyes relationally we got to know each other better and that was enough.

It was tough for me to feel like we “got anything done” at our retreat, but I had to change my perspective. Relationally we got a lot done just not as “planned”. We shared some of our experiences, we built trust, we got to know each other better, our strengths and weakness and gained some team self awareness.

What this retreat and other experiences have taught me is that taking the time to build relationships is important and it is ok if it takes precedent over other things. In the states we value good work ethic, getting things accomplished and being efficient, but at the cost of really knowing the people we work with. The truth is we need both because if we we aren’t investing relationally, we are treating people like machines, but we can’t only focus on people otherwise nothing would get done. However, putting relationships/people first, at times is just as necessary, productive and successful as focusing on outcomes.

The challenge for this week is to intentionally take some time to invest relationally over solely focusing on getting the task accomplished. Get to know a co-worker better, celebrate someone on your team, or start a meeting with an unexpected fun icebreaker. 

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