The hearty “Congrats!” quickly changes to questioning when leaving corporate law in New York requires a move to the Middle East.
“Wow. What does this non-profit organization do?”
“Well, our mission is to strengthen local visionaries in hard places to enable the poor to thrive as God intended.”
“Er…OK, but what is it that they actually do?”
I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing the answer to this question for the last four months. Coordinating Dreams InDeed’s 2013 strategic planning effort means I’ve traveled and interviewed past and present “dreamers” to understand what Dreams InDeed actually does.
The answer? Dreams InDeed helps ordinary people, with extraordinary dreams, in very difficult circumstances, with just what they need, so that their communities experience life and hope.
Who – Servants Who Lead.
I was incredulous at the findings. We were deep into three weeks of organizational development with a dreamer team working in the remote mountainous areas of Southeast Asia. To define management roles, we asked each team member to rank his or her own gifts and the gifts of each other.
The team’s views of this dreamer’s gift? “Service.” “Service.” “Service.” Everybody clearly looked to him as their leader, but they overwhelmingly experienced his leadership as a gift of service.
The dreamer “entrepreneurs” I have met are not the slick, ladder-climbing types, and the dreams that they are pursuing are not merely great ideas. Great ideas cannot survive the crucible of sectarian violence, human rights abuse, compromised rule of law, and chronic poverty.
Dreams that are inspired and inspiring, that are recognized by the poor as good news, and that are inclusive, calling all to participate and all to change, require servants with character who are willing to sacrifice.
Where – Through Dark Nights of Crisis.
“I’m sorry, I hope I’m translating your questions right,” Manal said to me. “He keeps coming back to the same phrase-he feels that Dreams InDeed backs him, or supports him, so he can face challenges.”
This Arabic speaking dreamer’s unassuming voice hardly rose above a whisper. “The crisis we are living through is very hard,” he told me, “but I cannot imagine my life without this work.”
I tried to vary the questions, but he kept returning to one point. The Dreams InDeed team that had supported him was made up not just of consultants and donors, but of friends who had walked with him through the darkest times of his life.
Pursuing a dream to sustain mentally challenged orphans in the midst of war is lonely work. Most of us tend to turn inward during crises, with little time or energy to give to others.
Giving money and providing training is the easy part.
Accompaniment in friendship involves listening and getting involved, agonizing with the dreamer’s struggles. It involves asking the hard questions-how do we support without creating dependency? How do we equip without imposing inappropriate cultural norms? How do we plan where nothing is certain?
There are no easy answers, but accompaniment creates a space of trust and stability so that a dream can come to light.
How – Adaptive Creativity Based on Dreamer Needs.
It was the day before a three-week trip into a remote corner of Southeast Asia. There had been plenty to do-photographs to print as gifts, teaching tools to procure, travel arrangements to confirm. One thing remained unclear to me.
“So…what are we going to do with them for three weeks?”
Over the next three weeks, I watched in amazement as Janice and David led this dreamer, his core leadership team, and the group of preschool teachers in a participatory process that culminated in their first-ever annual plan and budget. It was a long, grueling process, but what emerged were tools and information that will enable this team to start anticipating, rather than reacting to, the challenges ahead.
I expected that at some point this group would say-enough inputs! This is too much! We like the way we’ve been doing things, thankyouverymuch! Instead-“this is very precious for us,” the dreamer told us, at the end of a particularly hard day. “We must get organized.”
So what does Dreams InDeed do?
Whatever It Takes.
-We recognize a servant. We help the dreamer’s team identify their strengths and roles so their dream can grow, and many more children can enjoy new opportunities.
-We accompany that servant. We engage in friendship, beyond consulting, so that a dreamer can persevere through the crises shredding the fabric of his community.
-We equip that servant. We adapt experience to address unprecedented challenges so a first-ever plan and budget enables a dreamer’s team to get in front of oncoming hardships.
What I am inspired to do now.
I believe we are on the cusp of significant progress toward our vision of “a light in every hard place in this generation.” Seeing the impact that a light of hope can bring, and inspired by those committed to bringing change, I remain ready and determined to eat, sleep and breathe the work of strengthening dreamers.