Monday, June 9, 2014

The Reality of Conflict

"What have we gotten ourselves into?" was a phrase that was running through my head as I sat in my living room during my first ever team meeting on the mission field.

Nov 2009- ready to leave for Congo
We had arrived in Impfondo a few days earlier, and we were still adjusting.  This was our first chance to meet the team all together, and it quickly became apparent that there was some major conflict.  I couldn't even leave, because the team meetings were held in our house!

I would like to tell you that I handled this with grace and maturity, but it wouldn't be true.  I chose sides- I was sure who was right and who was wrong.  I gossiped about the "problem people."  I became resentful and suspicious of certain people's behavior.

Fortunately, God quickly brought my attention to my lack of love.  A few months after our arrival, we had a CMA Congo Field Forum in Brazzaville.  The morning devotionals were on love- starting with 1 Corinthians 13.

Love suffers long and is kind:
love does not envy;
love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
does not behave rudely,
does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
thinks no evil;
does not rejoice in iniquity,
but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

This did not describe my behavior at all.  I was able to talk about my problems with some experienced missionaries from our CMA team.  I knew what I had to do.
When we returned to Impfondo, I had to apologize for my behavior, and I had to change.

I also learned that conflict with other missionaries is quite common.  
March 2014- same airport, same trip
According to, 49% of missionaries who leave the field do so because of personal conflict.

 I don't want to be part of that statistic- the one leaving or the one causing others to leave.

I'm still learning how to do this, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.  I've come up with my own personal way of approaching conflict now.
If we were to sit down together to talk about how to deal with conflict, this is what I would say.

1. Be the right kind of sensitive.
The wrong kind of sensitive: Don't be sensitive to what others say to you or quick to take offense.  There are many things you can just let go.

The right kinds of sensitive: Think about what you say, and be sensitive to how it will affect others.

2. Keep short accounts.
If there is something that needs to be addressed with another person, do it as soon as you can.  Sometimes, a simple conversation can clear up the problem.
Don't let resentment and frustration build.  It only becomes more difficult over time.

3. Don't gossip.
You need to have someone that you can talk to about your problems, but this is different than gossiping.  Think before you speak about other people, especially those in the same circles of interaction.

4. Remember your limitations.
There will be times when your best efforts aren't enough.  Realize that you can not change the other person; that is God's responsibility.
You can ask God to teach you through the situation, and ask Him to reveal ways that you can change.
I've learned so much this way! 

For more information check out these resources from

What Missionaries Need to Know About Relationships

What Missionaries Need to Know About Conflict

1 comment:

Melanie Dexter said...

Great post! Thanks for being honest.