I (Amanda) love Discipleship Training School (DTS) because it is designed to be a greenhouse environment with many classroom hours learning biblical concepts BUT the focus is really on healing, character change, growth, serving, and helping others know God. Its hard to staff DTS’s because they require so much time and emotional energy. I have staffed 8 DTS’s in three different locations prior to this one. (In terms of official hours, this doesn’t put me at the 10,000 practice hours required to be an expert at something, but I’m getting close.)
This is the first DTS with both a totally new team and new environment. It has required a lot of adapting, evaluation, flexibility, creativity, and work.
It has made me think a lot of the first DTS I staffed. At the end of that school it seemed like I was a total failure. Yet, I had done my best every day (ok, most days), and at the end there were very few things I could concretely identify as mistakes. I felt like I had done a very poor job, but I couldn’t even learn from it. What a waste.
With a few years of perspective, I could identify a few things that had contributed to this: a main one was that I wasn’t as good at asking questions of the right people – but also at this time there was a shortage of people to ask, so I often felt like I had to figure it out myself. My co-leader and I were both on a steep learning curve, and though we wanted to work together and be kind to each other, we didn’t always know how. (We did come away good friends, though). We agonized over sending a student home from outreach. (Again, looking back, it seems an obvious choice, but at the time the situation seemed complicated, impossible, and cruel.) I had been taught that evaluation is an important tool, so I agonized as I tried to identify how I had failed, but I without any success.
But staffing this school, I am recognizing that it wasn’t so much that I made big mistakes. However, my skills, character, and confidence needed to develop. I’ve gotten better at some practical skills like communicating and classroom management. But more importantly, I think, I treat people differently: more kindly, more patiently, more graciously, and more wisely.
I’m sure any of you who’ve ever spent much time with me don’t imagine that confidence has ever been a huge issue for me, but my confidence has changed and grown: Now I am confident that I will make mistakes (and thats OK). I am confident that no matter how hard I try, other people still might get hurt and will definitely make bad decisions. I am confident that God will work with me even when I make mistakes, and that it is more important to care for people than to be right. I’m confident enough to tell people when I don’t have answers.
I think I take the responsibility of leading more seriously than I ever have, yet it doesn’t weigh on me in the same way: I work hard to do what I know to do with the abilities I have, and the rest is out of my hands.
I ache when I think of some of the students and staff I was with those first few years: I would be so much better if I could work with them now: I would enjoy them so much more and be a MUCH better leader, teacher, and friend.
It makes me wonder how I will grow and change in the next 10 years (20? 30?). (I hope I continue to grow in kindness, graciousness, patience, etc.) In some ways I wish I could be that person now: but so much of how I have changed has been earned through experience: heartache, joy, failure, triumph, and of course, walking through life with others. I can’t have that instantly.
I wrote this before we got the information about our visas last week, and it has been an incredible difficult week, with obstacle after (ridiculous) obstacle, and we have been really close to packing it all in and coming home several times. While I wouldn’t wish for these challenges, it has been going through circumstances such as this one that have refined my character.
We’ll keep you posted when we know something.