How Many Turns?
By Russ Cantu Posted on August 16 2010
After a long and grueling week serving the great sunny city of Ensenada, Mexico, our misson team packed up the vans and headed for the border. Oh how I love the border; it’s one of my favorite places. There’s such a beautiful clash of culture that just stares back at you as you go across. I guess one of my favorite parts of the journey to get there is the drive. It’s only two or so hours from Ensenada to the crossing (minus the wait time of course), so you have to make the drive a little more fun than normal. So why not hand over the navigating to the intern, right?
Being the lead car has its advantages, including being “Master Driver, Sir”. Knowing full well how to get there on my own, and also knowing full well we’re all in trouble if we listen to this guy’s directions, I hand over the navigation responsibility to the intern. We notify the rest of the cars in the caravan and we’re off - and it becomes a game.
“How many turns?” The question is asked aloud in our own van as one of our students turns into a bookie of sorts, taking bets of candy and drinks as to how many wrong turns it will take our intern before he picks the correct way to get us safely across the border. My guess, nine. The correct number? A little higher. But first the story.
Being in Tijuana is always an experience, especially for those who were barely awake the first time we crossed into it. Car bumpers and hubcaps litter the road. Armed military personnel are at the ready, keeping watch from high above. It’s a whole different world, and it’s the place that the counting for our “How Many Turns?” game really gets going.
Wrong turn: Hooker Villa. We notice a scantily clad young lady ready to give undivided attention for a fee. On the right, the same thing... just much, much older. We continue on.
Wrong turn: The Barrio. Guys dressed up in colors waiting to see what all these white vans are all about. “Dude. We’re just a group of Americans here to work with a church. We don’t want what you’ve got and we would really like to live. Thank you.”
This wrong turn game was getting scary. Wrong turn number three took us around, and around, and around the town center so many times I lost count of all the farmacias (pharmacies) along the way. This was getting brutal.
We all lost count a few times, and after passing the entrance to the highway to cross the border twice, I took over and got us to where we needed to be. Sure, we thought the game was a blast. We got to see all sorts of sights that often go unnoticed throughout the city, especially by a bunch of churched kids and their friends.
Really though, beyond a fun game, what did it accomplish? We embarrassed an intern who just went along with the game. We took forever on the adventure. We put ourselves in bad places. Ultimately, we dropped the ball.
This happened on a mission trip. But this kind of mistake happens all the time right here in our own hometowns. As leaders, we place our volunteers in situations for which they are totally unprepared to succeed, expecting that they’ll get to where we want them to be. Progress, especially in the right direction, doesn’t happen accidentally. It happens through intentional training, and from you, their leader, being the one who first goes the distance with them. We, as leaders, need to give them direction and guide them back when they’ve missed a turn. Instead of “How Many Turns?”, I guess I should have had him asking me, “What’s the Next Turn?” Because in ministry, it’s a lot about going the distance.