Conflict Resolution

Teaching Peacemaking in West Africa

Sometimes opportunities come and you just can't say no.

On our last trip to West Africa, John and I met with a few Christian lawyers. They were very interested in the teaching I do on conflict resolution. The Christian lawyers in this town have a heart to start a mediation center. They asked if I would come and teach. This area has a history of heavy religious persecution, so the need was real and urgent.

When John & I returned the following year to teach, I had hoped for maybe 20 students. However, the interest grew. We were informed we should expect over 100 lawyers, judges, and other leaders in the community. We packed 6 suitcases to take with us, 4 filled with books and other teaching materials.

Thankfully they all arrived, despite cancelled flights, long delays, rerouting flights, and one suitcase temporarily missing.

Words cannot begin to describe this teaching opportunity. What do you say when a woman tells you story of bringing someone into her home to help flee from an attack, and then when she leaves to go get some food and returns, she discovers this person has killed her children? Or what do you say to the wife who's husband has never said he is sorry because the culture does not encourage that kind of communication? What do you say to someone who doesn't want to shop in a certain area for fear of being poisoned? What do you say to someone who decides to avenge a loved ones' death by killing the murderer and eating their organs in order to gain power?

These are very real problems facing very real people on a day to day basis. What could this white woman from America possibly do to help them? Share with them what I've learned about a peaceful approach to responding to conflict.

What did I teach? I started with the anatomy of conflict, explaining our tendency in responding to conflict (fight or flight) and how those responses can actually escalate conflict. Then I explained another way of responding, a peacemaker's way. It requires a new way of thinking, learning to see conflict as an opportunity.  Then we dived into how we must examine ourselves first in conflict. It is so easy for us to see what everyone else has done wrong, but do we take the time to look at ourselves first? If we honestly look at ourselves first and deal with our own wrongs, it helps us to see others more clearly. It helps us to respond to the wrongs of others more compassionately. We talked about how to talk to others respectfully, lovingly, and kindly to show them their errors. We talked a lot about confession and forgiveness. People who call themselves Christians are the most forgiven people in the world, so they should be the most forgiving people in the world. It is not easy to breathe grace naturally into the lives of others, but we can learn. We can change. We can do better.

The group has asked me to come back and teach conflict coaching and mediation. I am eager to return.

Greetings from South Africa!

Myself, John Stewart, John Njoroge, and J.T. Bridges

South Africa! When I first landed in Jo-berg, I asked "Where is Africa?" It looked more like Europe to me than the Africa I was used to. I would describe South Africa as "Africa meets Europe." The cities are much more advanced than the one I have visited in East and West Africa. And Cape Town was just as beautiful as I had heard.

This trip was fascinating and so different. We had the opportunity to travel and speak with some brilliant Christian Apologetic minds, including Dr. John Lennox, Michael Ramsden, and John Njoroge of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.  J.T. Bridges just earned his PhD from Southern Evangelical Seminary.
Charming Dr. Lennox

And of course, my brilliant husband! 

We visited several universities and churches. These college students had a hunger for truth that I've never seen.

The highlight of the trip was going to an "after glow." The day after Dr. Lennox spoke at Cape Town University, the Skeptics on campus held a lecture response to Dr. Lennox's lecture the previous night. John and I and a few other Apologists visited the Skeptics lecture and asked thoughtful questions of the speaker. But the best part was after the lecture when we fanned out to engage the students in a winsome way. We sensed some minds opening up and God was at work!

It was a memorable trip and I can't wait to return!

Welcome to West Africa!

How do I even begin to describe our recent trip to West Africa?  No matter where I go in the world, I am always at home with our brothers and sisters. Even in seemingly dangerous places.

This time I had the enormous privilege of teaching biblical conflict resolution to a group of leaders at a Bible school where John taught a class on Apologetics. How does one teach peacemaking to a people who know religious persecution in a way that I have never experienced? Although I don't have all the answers, I do know One who has the answers. And I do have the best Book to guide me in all things. And that is what I shared.

I will never forget one of the students in my class, a former Muslim who became a Christian. Toward the end of the week and end of my teaching, he stood up and publicly confessed he had been harboring anger and hatred towards Muslims ever since his conversion. However, after learning biblical principles for peacemaking and conflict resolution, he realized he needed to forgive and love. He had a new found desire to reach out to the Muslims in love.

Another person confessed feeling bitterness and fear towards some Muslims who had burned down his house. After learning a Higher way of thinking (seeing conflict as an opportunity to glorify God, grow more like Christ, and serve others), he reached out in forgiveness to these folks.

Christ's example. Christ's love. Christ's forgiveness. Christ's sacrifice.

These precious ones are my heroes.

Life Crisis

This past month at Life Streams, the topic was “Life Crisis.” Timely message for many of us. I once heard that at any given time, we are either in the middle of a crisis, we’ve just been through a crisis, or one is about to happen. Where do you fit into this paradigm? What do we do when we find ourselves in a life crisis?

First, what is a crisis? A crisis can take many different forms. For example, financial crisis, relationship crisis, employment crisis, health crisis, natural disaster crisis, and faith crisis. A crisis is a trial, usually with a turning point. It can cause a sudden change, which may lead to better or worse.

Naturally we don’t like crisis. Why? It is painful. We have little or no control, so we are afraid. We suffer. And we don’t want to suffer.

James 1:2-4 tells us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Joy? How is that possible?

Because trials test our faith. When was the last time your faith was tested? How did you do?

Recently I’ve been studying the Scriptures about spiritual warfare. After reading classic passages from the New Testament (e.g. Eph. 6:10-18, James 4:7, 1 Pet. 5:8), my sister encouraged me to take a look at some battles in the Old Testament. Then a dear friend pointed me to the beginning of Judges. I noticed that after Joshua and the elders died, the next generation “neither knew the Lord, nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10) They forsook the Lord so He handed them over to their enemies. Why? To test them and to teach them to fight. They didn’t have any battle experience, so God brought them battles to teach them warfare. (Judges 3:1-2) And to test whether they would obey God. (Judges 3:4)

So let’s examine ourselves and our responses to the trials, the life crisis. How we handles the storms of life will tell us a lot about our faith. Do we turn to God, crying out to Him, as the Psalmist did repeatedly? Do we run away? Do we fight? Do we turn to others, looking for man-made wisdom? Do we look within ourselves, the god-self? Do we medicate with drugs, alcohol, sex, food? Do we work or play harder? Do we turn to anything except the living God?

Seeking help, looking for answers, desiring comfort, these are all good things, if we are looking to Jesus. If we take our eyes off Jesus, like Peter when he briefly walked on water, we turn our focus to our circumstances and start drowning. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, even during the storms of life. We must do this regardless of how we are feeling. We trust God and obey. Why? Because we worship Him who sits on the throne. With Jesus all things are possible. But without Him, nothing is impossible.

Storms pass. They all do. Some are for a brief season. Some seem to last forever. But eventually they pass. Only what is done for Christ will last.

If you are currently in a crisis or helping someone in a crisis, remember to keep your eyes on Jesus. If you seek Him, He will help you endure. He will provide the ultimate comfort. His grace is sufficient.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Ps. 150:6 

[Article originally printed in RSM's February 2012 Newsletter]

Holiday Blues and the Prince of Peace

The holiday season can be a joyful and festive time of the year for some people, filled with parties, celebrations, and gatherings with family and friends. However, for others, it can be a very difficult time, filled with sadness, disappointment, loneliness, and anxiety about the future. It can be especially hard for those in unresolved broken relationships or those with unmet expectations. They get a bit of the holiday blues or experience more severe forms of depression.

The Scriptures tells us Jesus is the "Prince of Peace." (Isa 9:6) And God's peace "surpasses understanding and will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:7

How can we experience this peace during the Holiday Blues? Here are a few recommendations:

1. Pray ("Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray..." James 5:13)

2. Confide in others so they can pray for you ("Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16)

3. Sing (Music can lift our spirit, see 1 Sam. 16:14-23)

4. Praise God (God inhabits the praises of His people. Ps. 22:3)

5. Consider your trial pure joy (Yikes! This one is so much easier to say that to do. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4. This doesn't mean you must feel joy, but you must think of the trial with joy because you know God is maturing you.)

6. Be thankful ("Give thanks in all circumstances." 1 Thess. 5:18)

Don't rely on your feelings. Rely on God's promises. Trust and obey. He is trustworthy.

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Eph 1:2

Conflict Resolution Training

Conflict is all around us, and even in us. Would you like to know how you can have God's peace in your life? Come find out this Wednesday night at "Life Streams." Last week, Pastor Tae Shin began a short three weeks series on Conflict Resolution. I had the privilege of joining him and Pastor Don Barkely in a panel discussion with the audience about sources of conflict.

I'll be joining the pastors for the next two weeks as we discuss styles of conflict and forgiveness & moving on.

Come join us for a delicious dinner and stimulating topic discussion. Check out the Life Streams website for more info for location and time.

Peacemaking in Kenya

Our dear friends, Pastor Sammy and his wife Anne, invited me to teach at their new church plant in Kitengela, just outside Nairobi, Kenya. It is a quickly growing church. The building already has a roof! 

It was an amazing three days! I thank God for the opportunity to teach biblical peacemaking at a three-day women’s conference in Kitengela, Kenya. While the drive there and back each day was an enormous challenge (taking between 2-3 hours to drive there and then about 2 hours back—EACH DAY!), it was a blessing to teach conflict resolution to eager learners.

The week after the conference, Anne told me that the women from the conference were already applying the peacemaking skills they learned. Apparently two women who attended the conference were in conflict with other, but they reconciled their differences!  Others reported reconciling with their neighbors and co-workers. What a privilege to pass along what I have learned. May God be glorified! 

Blessed are the Peacemakers (Matt 5:9)

Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Conflict is all around us. Turn on the news and we see it locally, nationally, and globally. As we examine our own relationships with our families, our friends, our neighbors, and even our brothers and sisters in Christ, we find occasional, and sometimes constant, conflict. Why so much conflict in the world?

Jesus warned us that life on this side of eternity would not be perfect. He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

So how are we supposed to deal with conflict? Biblically, of course. But how many of us really know how to do that?

Ken Sande wrote an incredibly popular and practical book called The Peace Maker, a tool used around the world to help individuals, families, churches, ministry and business leaders resolve conflict. Ken “gives practical biblical guidance for conflict resolution that takes you beyond resolving conflicts to true, life-changing reconciliation with family, coworkers, and fellow believers.” When Christians learn how to be biblical peacemakers, they are able to turn conflict into opportunities to strengthen relationships, preserve valuable resources, and make their lives a testimony to the love and power of Christ. The book teaches a straightforward approach to resolving conflict, summarized in the four basic principles, referred to as the “Four G’s”:
  • Glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31)
  • Get the log out of your eye (Matt. 7:5)
  • Gently restore (Gal. 6:1)
  • Go and be reconciled (Matt. 5:24)
These principles are countercultural. In our natural state, it is difficult for us to forgive and be reconciled when we feel we’ve been wronged by others. However, there is One who came to save us from our sins. The message of the gospel helps us learn how to resist temptation, obey His commands, and live a life that honors Him. As Ken says, “Peacemakers are people who breathe grace.”

This book is for anyone interested in learning how to biblically resolve personal and/or professional conflict. Imagine the impact of our churches if they were full of trained Christian conciliators, able to wisely help others resolve their conflicts! We might actually restore relationships, save marriages, avoid court (1 Corinthians 6:1-8), and testify with our lives to the grace and mercy of God’s forgiving love.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

Grace and peace to you.