Friday, April 28, 2006

Site Coordinator Woes

I recently wrote an entry entitled “Rant,” which at the time I kept private and only allowed those who requested it to read it. Well, after some recent events I feel that it is okay to speak about this publicly.

Here’s the general gist. Our amazing site coordinator, Carole retired at the tail end of December and a new site coordinator named Lynn came on in her place. Lynn came on as a part-time employee as opposed to Carole’s full-time position, so we all expected a diminished presence in that department, but not to the extent Lynn has taken it.

Basically since she started Lynn hasn’t been doing her job. There hasn’t been any bible study, no structured time to talk about our negative experiences, no sounding board to keep us positive. In fact Lynn is a very negative influence on our experience here. When she is around I very rarely hear positive things come out of her mouth. We all agree that sometimes she says supremely negative comments and we all think, “Why are you even here?”

On top of that, Lynn barely speaks Arabic. I have been here eight months and I speak more than she has learned in five years. She is not involved in the local community at all and doesn’t seem interested in continuing years-long relationships that have been built through this program.

In February I was absent from my placement for three weeks because of the death of my grandmother and a very serious sinus infection. The next time I saw Lynn I asked her to contact my placement to let them know what was going on to keep a good relationship from deteriorating. She asked me for the contact information. It was then that I learned she hadn’t bothered to contact any of our eight placements during the two months she had been the site coordinator. I told her diplomatically then and there that she needed to contact them and allow them the opportunity to talk about their experiences with us. Were they having a positive or negative experience?

There have been several occasions when pastoral care was needed this year and that falls under the site coordinator’s responsibility. When my grandfather had bypass surgery earlier this year, Lynn spoke to me at length about her own parents’ failing health. I can understand how a pastor might need to relate to a person in stress, but this went far beyond that. Lynn spoke for a full twenty minutes about her own pain, seemingly blotting out any opportunity for me to speak about my own anxiety. When Teri’s mother passed away, she experienced the same level of pastoral care. It lead me to ask myself, “Who is doing the pastoral care here?” Then, when my grandmother passed away, Lynn called in the middle of the day, when I couldn’t possibly be home, and then emailed me twice. That was the extent of her pastoral care. She seems completely incapable of dealing with other peoples’ pain. I don’t know if I have ever mentioned this even in my “rant,” but Lynn is an ordained church pastor. How can this possibly be?

This year the harassment of the female YAV’s at the hands of Egyptian males has drastically intensified. When we went through the interview process last year we were all told explicitly how bad the harassment could be, but even long-term missionaries have commented on how much worse the harassment is this year. Lynn had lost the trust of the female volunteers to the extent that none of them wanted to speak to Lynn about it. These ladies were experiencing incredibly traumatic harassment and there was no outlet for it, no counseling, no prayer, and nobody they could trust to speak about it. We were doing our best to be a good support for one another, but we were all sharing the same negative experiences, so of course there was only so much we could do for one another. Sherri, the accountant for the program found out about what was going on and compassionately stepped in and acted even though it wasn’t her job. She arranged for a counselor to come and speak to us. It seems to have helped the female volunteers already, but it had nothing to do with Lynn’s actions.

I could go on and on about the negative experiences that we have experienced with Lynn, from nearly being stranded in Jerusalem, to her general lack of communication, which causes a continual level of anxiety in the group. There simply isn’t time to recount all of the astounding gaffes.

There are several reasons I feel comfortable sharing this publicly now. One is that I personally confronted Lynn about her lack of involvement in the program. The other is that is seems the Presbyterian Church in the USA has taken notice of the problems that are brewing here and are working to rectify them. Another is that I hope I can finally put these negative experiences behind me. From here on out, regardless of what Lynn does or doesn’t do, I am going to try and focus on the positive.

I ask for your prayers for continued safety, for positive experiences, and most importantly for my work to continue for God’s purposes. Thank you all for your support.

-Jason

1 comment:

Heather said...

Oh Jason. I'm so sorry that things had gotten so bad. I think about you every day, and pray so hard that things turn out well for you, and that your hard work will be blessed.

I'm glad that things are finally looking up, and be sure and tell Teri that I'm praying for her and the other ladies, as well. That can't be easy.