14 May 2009

AfriCom set to grow

If you had visited Hope Land base in Jinja, Uganda, over the past few weeks you would have noticed a buzz about the base, a cheerful intermingling of people from all over the world as old friends greeted one another and new friendships were formed. You might have noticed two guys huddled over a computer as one taught the other how to use Photoshop, or groups doing interviews to camera, as nearby someone clutched the new/old laptop they had just been given, hoping they could figure out how to use it!

It’s not a catchy name (Communication, Research & Information Technology) but for the past 6 years CRIT has been helping people to catch the vision for effective communication; communication that builds relationships in such a way as to help YWAM become stronger all over the world.

There is a tendency for us to think about communication as the things we do in order to communicate – the articles we write, the websites we run, the logos we design or the footage we capture. Of course, it is all those things, but at root it’s about building understanding among us, getting us connected to one another. It’s about who we are and what we value.

This reality was foremost in our minds as we converged on Hope Land base at the end of April. On the technical side, we had no idea if there would be power cuts during the showing of our video or Powerpoint presentations; we wondered if the speed of Internet access would allow any of us to stay in touch with loved ones or keep up with our emails. But most of all, we knew that we were to be a very multi-cultural group and in that context we were desperate to focus on connecting people to one another, not just to the Web.

CRIT has always been a very interactive event. It’s not a conference or a training time but a time for discussing together some of the communication challenges we face as a mission and together seeking creative solutions. There is a wonderful dynamic when people with less-developed communication skills, but lots of experience of the challenges, sit down with people who have been working in communication for a while. To walk around and observe CRIT working groups is to see a beautiful picture of our incredibly varied and diverse missionaries standing alongside one another, of being harnessed together with a common purpose. At the end of this year’s event Larry Wright, a pillar of YWAM’s International Communication Network, commented “We’ve taken some real practical steps to build the communication highways in YWAM, and we’ve done that together.” It was a highlight this year that there was a marked flow between our times of praise, prayer and devotion and the practical outcomes of the working groups. As Tim Heathcote, a member of AfriCom, enthused “We’ve talked about healing the nervous system, but here we’ve really seen that happening and it’s beautiful.”

For some participants the healing was also very personal. Jeanine is a Burundian YWAMer who works at the primary school on Hope Land base. Along with around 30 local and regional staff members, she took part in the week-long Basic Communication Workshop that preceded CRIT. Having been impacted by both the practical and values-based components of the workshop she decided to also attend CRIT, where she played a key role in the working group focused on developing Communication Teams. Jeanine’s comment touched us all: “I have received more healing over these 2 weeks than at any time in my life, even during my DTS.” When we value communication we value people, we respect them, we say, ‘I care about you, your contribution is important.’

Agnes Ichodu is one Ugandan YWAMer for whom CRIT will lead to some very real changes. She worked in the same working group as Jeanine, discussing with several others the communication challenges faced by YWAM in the region of East Africa. Together they decided that this region needs its own communication team and that they – with their newly acquired skills – could help get things started. Agnes, previously a primary school teacher, did her DTS last year in the north of Uganda and more recently completed the School of Field Journalism in South Africa. She says, “CRIT meant a lot to me because through it I came to know so many people who are working in communication, or who want to. In East Africa so many programs have failed because of poor communication and there are so many good things happening that we don’t hear about, for the same reason. A Communication Team brings hope to the region because so much more can be done when we communicate well.”

Communicating well is the overall goal of CRIT – whether on our bases, across regions or as a global missionary movement. And this year we all took another small step towards making that a reality.

By Miranda Heathcote

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