Posted on June 28, 2024 Tending the Tenders
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Tending the Tenders

“The Great Spirit walks with us through times of trouble, giving us courage and well-being so that we can give to others the same comfort God has given to us. When our suffering overflows because we represent the Chosen One, the Great Spirit gives us overflowing strength and well-being. Our sufferings and the comfort we receive help us to bring you comfort when you suffer in the same way we have. This gives us great hope, for we know that when you share in our troubles, you will also share in our comfort.” -2 Corinthians 1:4-7 First Nations Version

“Be still, and know that I am God.”–  Psalm 46:10 NIV

Last month I was invited to accompany key leadership of AMOS Health and Hope in Managua, Nicaragua. AMOS has been providing community-based primary health care for the community, and by the community in the most vulnerable communities throughout Nicaragua. Due to many factors, including persistent uncertainty and increased immigration away from Nicaragua, the staff configuration at AMOS has shifted tremendously. I have been a friend and fan of the AMOS family for over 20 years now. I have visited and trained numerous community health promoters and staff in arts-based healing processes for emotional and physical regulation, relational connection and spiritual health and well-being. Most of the current staff are new and haven’t received the restorative arts training that I offered in years past. Dr. Woo, the executive director and Christine Lafferty, my IM colleague working at AMOS, invited me to come back to support, encourage and train their current team leaders. In other words, to tend the tenders. To care for those who care for others. Those who attend to what is hurting in others often don’t give themselves permission or time to tend to what is hurting in themselves. They need time to tend to what is tender within. Organizations like AMOS, busy meeting the needs of multiple vulnerable communities, can’t always carve out big chunks of time to be present to their own needs. Due to heavy workloads, limited resources, and unending time constraints, what would normally take an entire intensive week, would need to be condensed into two days.

These two days were a break from their normal work routine, meant to ease the stress of constant change and uncertainty. This practice of pause was a time to be still, a time to pay attention. A time to stop, to ask questions, to be present to the present, to hit the reset button, to quiet the noise long enough to hear the voice of God. A time to tend to, mend, repair and restore their bodies, minds and spirits. Integral health and hope require bodies, minds, spirits and relationships all working together for life. In this short two day period, we nurtured life in and through our bodies, incarnating as Jesus did, the Good News of eternal life. The arts have healing qualities that are well suited not only to restore a sense of normalcy in the lives of staff who have themselves been through or are still going through traumatic experiences but also to empower them with resources and skills to deal with the daily stressors in life.Through play, movement, rhythm, imagination, breath, and meaning making with metaphor we created safety, community, and connections. We paused long enough to ask what keeps us from being present to ourselves, each other and God.  

After the intensive two day leadership training, we planned an all AMOS staff retreat for the following day designed to nurture team building, support, encouragement, and spiritual renewal. In teams of two, each of the 18 team leaders co-facilitated imaginative and engaging experiences that they had appreciated from our two previous days together. My role was to care for the group process and support the AMOS team leaders while they facilitated the activities. They led creative body-based exercises that encouraged reflection, connection and growth. It was fascinating to watch them nurture group safety, cohesion and spiritual reflection.  As they led their co-workers in pencil dancing, parachute play, imaginative landscapes, animal sounds and other “outside of the box” group play; serious issues, ranging from fatigue, family and co-worker conflict, grief and loss were addressed in safe and supportive ways. By interrupting their normal patterns, they could see in a different way. By pausing to pay attention, they began to hear their own and each other’s stories. By tending to what was tender within, they could better attend to what is happening around them from a more tender and compassionate place. 

I was honored to accompany my friends and I owe that privilege to you. Thank you for making it possible to share in the sufferings and give to others the comfort and well-being I have received from God so that they too may share that comfort with others. YOU make a difference!

Please be praying for our International Ministries All Staff Gathering in Denver, CO from July 8-13. I will be facilitating a few creative group-building pieces during the week and would appreciate your prayers for clarity, energy and inspiration. 

Much love,