Each time we meet we read the rules for the group and rule number four is about safety and says:
Remember that each of us are responsible for building trust and safety. Who attends The Haven or what is shared in our small group is confidential, and this information needs to stay within the walls of The Haven. Do not share what others have discussed, without their permission; even if it is in the form of a 'prayer request'. This is how we maintain safety.
And yet we noticed that it was hard for people to share in the small groups.
Over the holiday break I had a brief conversation with a pastor's wife in the area. After I described our work to her I learned that what we are doing is desperately needed but that people here have a hard time trusting that what they share in private will be kept confidential.
"People here dey ben burn. Erryone dey gossip" she told me.
This is a small town. Every knows everyone. Everyone thinks they know everything about everybody.
And the gossip flies at lightening speed over the coconut wire.
We decided to make a few changes to our format to see if that would help to loosen people up, break the ice and make them feel more comfortable. The short refreshment time after Tom's message was new...it had worked beautifully in Russia and we thought it would help here. It had people laughing and gave them a brief time to fellowship with one another. The other change was discussion questions. Tom wrote up two simple questions that went along with the topic. Instead of one or two people sharing we actually had 6 people open up to the group of 18. A victory!
It is hard to share personal things in a small town. Churches are not always safe places to be real. This principle is universal. We may feel we are betraying our family or loved one by sharing our own hurts or feelings. We don't want to put someone else in a bad light. We must keep our 'I'm fine' face on.
Tom and I have had a few counseling appointments and several get together's and meals since we arrived with a young couple who have been married for less than a year. This week was the first time that they went beyond surface talk and finally poured out their hearts. The husband said they had discussed it and agreed that we were trustworthy.
Our prayer is that we will continue to build trust and teach principles which well help others grow and become who they were designed to be. Our desire is to remain open to learning more about the culture through talking to our neighbors, vendors in the market and people that we meet around town. We will continue to ask questions and stay interested in the Belizean way of life so that we can provide safety and love, a Haven if you will, for all who come our way.
Please join with us in prayer.