During the 1990s
Along with our traveling and oversight of work abroad, there was the work I needed to attend to in the office.
I am not by nature an “office person,” being used to a more flexible schedule—often working 50 to 60 hours a week, but at my own schedule. Even my work as a teacher did not rule all my time. But here I was expected to be at work at 8:30 and to be in the office every day, all day; so I complied.
Near the end of my years of working in the office, I took the Meyers-Briggs test. The results described someone quite different than I knew myself to be. When I questioned this, the evaluator told me that it was because I’d unconsciously adapted to the requirements of my work environment, changing my natural responses to those needed at the moment to do my job well. She added that I would most likely revert to my normal personality when I exited my present work situation. And so it proved to be.
God has made us in marvelous ways and equips us to function in whatever situation He puts us in, whether it be within our area of gifting or the opposite. We only need to be willing to whole-heartedly embrace the work He brings us, appropriating the grace He provides.
At the last men’s conference I attended before we left Turkey, a very charismatic friend of mine stood up and said, “I have a word from the Lord for Steve Wibberley and his team.”
I cringed. Was this going to be a public rebuke? Such pronouncements weren’t something that we were used to within our conservative, non-charismatic group.
“God is pleased with what you and your group are doing!” My friend proclaimed and then sat down.
“Well, that was good to hear, thank you, Lord!” I thought, relieved and pleased.
After the meeting my friend came to me and said, “There is more to this word from the Lord, but I thought it best not to share it publically.” I was glad for his discretion, whatever this word was going to be. “This is a prophecy for you. The Lord is going to take you back to your home office and use you like a hammer!”
I cringed again. Was this really a “word from the Lord,” or was it just something this guy felt? I was not sure. He certainly didn’t know anything about our home office. Nor did I, for that matter.
In an attempt not to fall into any trap that Satan might have for me, I sought to avoid fulfilling this prophecy on my own. However, relationships within the home office were tumultuous so I finally asked our President if I could do a survey of the personnel to find out what was going on.
After getting his permission, I talked with every single person, and it was no surprise to find that the secretaries and workers had a long list of issues that disturbed them, while some of the leaders responded with, “Problems? What problems?”
The fact was that every one of us was contributing to the turmoil whether we realized it or not. We newcomers just went along with what was considered the norm, without challenging or questioning it. This prolonged the dysfunction that already existed.
I collated the responses to my survey and took them to the President. “There are fifty-two distinct problems in seven major areas,” I began.
He raised his hand. “How about if I put you in charge of the office and have you solve these problems? I’ve already tried and haven’t been successful. I’m an evangelist, not a counselor. I’ve sought to confront but when people don’t respond to that, I don’t know what else to do!”
After praying and thinking about it, I agreed to help him. This basically meant that I became the “field leader” for the office and that the President was putting me in a position over him—a big responsibility which was in addition to what I already had on my plate. This drove me to pray more.
The Lord answered those prayers swiftly. Within a few weeks, the three most problematic people, through their own actions, were forced to resign. This brought about a huge and positive transformation.
Next came a “clean up” of the debris left over from years of difficult and unhealthy relationships. One serious problem was the lack of communication, so we worked at getting the minutes from council and staff meetings sent out to everyone on the same day the meetings took place. People then felt included and saw that their concerns were being addressed.
The President himself had certain ways of interacting that, unbeknownst to him, created some of the turmoil. The truth is, we all have our blind spots and need help in seeing them. Fortunately he was a wise and teachable man, ready to change when he saw the need.
He wisely told me how I should confront him: “Use Paul’s sandwich method,” he said. “Tell me what I’m doing right, confront me about one thing, and then tell me more of what I’m doing right.”
In my talk with him about where he needed to change, I came with two written lists of things he was doing well. After going over the first one, I told him a joke. “One night the radar operator on an aircraft carrier reported to the captain that there was a smaller ship directly ahead of them. The captain radioed the small ship and requested that it change course, as it was easier for a smaller ship to turn than an aircraft carrier.
‘The answer came back, ‘No sir, I suggest that you change course.’
“After two such exchanges, the Admiral, who happened to be on board, took over, ‘This is the Admiral of the Pacific fleet, now in charge of this aircraft carrier. I command you to change course!’
“The answer came back, ‘This is seaman first class, in command of this lighthouse. I suggest that you change your course, and quickly!’”
The President looked at me, “So you are saying that I need to change course? That I am doing something wrong?”
“That’s right,” I answered. “Do you want to hear what it is?”
He looked down for a moment, “Of course, if I can make things better in the office then I want to hear how I can do that.”
“Well, first you need to stop using the ‘sandwich method’ with people in the office. Whenever you compliment someone, they cringe, waiting for the correction. Instead, compliment people regularly, without correcting them.”
I mentioned a few other points, then got out my second list of positives and commended him for the good work he was doing. As I left, I handed him both sheets of paper full of the constructive things he was doing so he could remind himself of my positive words.
His glad and willing acceptance of correction himself, which brought further positive change in the office. By the time we left to return overseas, the new US Director inherited a reasonably well-cleared field where he could do his work with a minimum of conflict.
Picture: Barbara at this time with our cat Obur