A "people sculpture" training exercise opens up interesting discussion
The Detroit Conflict Transformation Training of Trainers Group
Sometimes experiential education can get a little crazy! But being unihibited can be a big help in cross-cultural peace-building.
From Detroit, January 2010
Paul instructed his mentoree Timothy, “What you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well” (2 Timothy 2.2). There is a long chain of teaching in practice and theory, in modeling life and in theological reflection. This chain begins with Jesus, through the apostles and the early church, through each generation, down to the people who taught and mentored me, then through me to the next generation, and they will touch lives yet unknown.
A key part of missionary work is replacing ourselves, both in our settings of service and in our sending communities. In many of the places where I’ve worked I’ve been excited to see men and women step forward who want to do the peace-building work that I do. They seek to train others and to do their own direct work in mediation and nonviolent action. Sometimes I meet people who are already engaged in incredible work and just add a bit more to their skills and resource base from which to draw in their courageous and creative work.
I’ve also had a number of people in the U.S. tell me, “I’d like to do what you are doing.” So this January I held a two-week intensive training program on how to do the kind of peacemaking mission work I do. We had eight people gather from all across the country: Maine, Connecticut, North Carolina, Louisiana, Michigan, Kansas, Oregon, and California. We had participants from their early 20s to their early 70s. We formed a spiritual community together for the time we had. We worshiped each morning and night with a liturgy that has been a great source of strength for me over the years. We prepared our meals together, ate together and cleaned up together.
Then there was the training program itself. I facilitated many of the sessions I use in my work around the world, dealing with themes like conflict analysis, conflict resolution, personal styles in conflict, mainstream and margins, nonviolent struggle and transforming initiatives, strategizing, trauma recovery, reconciliation, adventure-based learning and sustaining our spirits for the long-haul. Through all these themes we dug into biblical teaching and creative ways to engage the biblical material in conflict contexts. At the end of each day we did some “facilitator reflections” where we discussed the exercises and learning experiences from the facilitator’s viewpoint including some of the challenges and variations that may be faced in particular global training contexts. During the weekend in the middle of the training we opened up to activists in the Detroit area for a Training of Social Action Trainers led by staff from Training for Change. At some points some of the members of the group facilitated in some of their areas of expertise. Then in the evenings we had “movie night at the Buttrys” where we ate snacks and watched documentaries about nonviolent struggles and reconciliation initiatives.
What will come of such a training? That remains to be seen. I know that the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America is seeking to expand their own conflict transformation training work, so this training will help further equip them for this expansion of what they offer. Some participants are planning to use what they learned in U.S. contexts, particularly in congregational conflict resolution training. Others are envisioning going to other countries to partner with indigenous peace organizations or church groups to do peace-building work. We are looking as some ways that some of the workshop participants might accompany me on some of my mission trips.
All in all it was a wonderful time. There are other folks who are seeking such training who couldn’t make it, so I’ll be looking at how to hold another such event (let me know if you’re interested!). I’ll also be exploring how to take a similar long-term intensive training to various regions of the world to more thoroughly equip the emerging generation of peacemakers.
As 2010 begins we need to build on the support developed in 2009, thanks to the wonderful response to the Luther Rice Society’s matching funds for new donors. For those who wish to support my mission work with International Ministries, contributions can be sent “for support of Dan Buttry” to International Ministries (P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482) or made on the IM website: http://www.internationalministries.org/give (I’m under the “Global Consultants” category—pull down the menu there to see my name and following the giving process). You can send similar support to any of my colleagues, just naming them on your contribution. Also, a new law was passed that allows contributions related to Haitian-earthquake relief to be deducted off 2009 taxes as long as the contribution is made before March 1, 2010. So however you give and to whatever part of our mission at International Ministries, we say a heart-felt and vigorous “Thank you!”
In peace and hope,