Wednesday 16 December 2009

Member Care and Resiliency—Part 1

High Salinity Humans

Molecular structure for NaCl compound—Sodium Chloride—Salt (Wikipedia)

Human resiliency refers to the ability face reality: 
to deal with and to grow through life’s challenges.

How resilient are you?
You may never know until you are salted with fire.

Resiliency is like salt. Salt flavors and preserves the quality of food and helps disinfect harmful materials. In a similar way resiliency enhances and protects the quality of life and helps detoxify harmful matters.

Resiliency is developed by working through the difficult and at times "fiery" experiences of life. Indeed, "everyone will be salted with fire," as Christ says in Mark 9:49. The path to developing resiliency is usually circuitous, marked by pain and uncertainty.

Resiliency includes three core parts which can be described in terms of the New Testament metaphor of salt.

1. Perseverance—inner strength to not give up and to benefit from hardship. Having salt in yourselves—Mark 9:50
2. People—social support from/as encouraging role models and true friends. Relating graciously with salt—Colossians 4:6
3. Purpose—strong sense of meaning in life and/or strong belief in God’s goodness. Being the salt of the earth—Matthew 5:13

Resilient people are characterized by salt.
They are high salinity humans.

 Notes, Quotes, and More
1. Conference. Resiliency was the theme of this year’s annual Mental Health and Mission Conference in the USA (19-22 November 2009). To see some summaries of the presentations, check out the November entries on “The Encouragers” weblog from Dr. Vance and Dr. Bethyl Shepperson. Here is a notation from 20 November 2009 about the presentation given by Duncan Westwood.

“Ultimately the resiliency of another human being remains beyond the abilities of scholars to describe or define. Just as each symphony creates a particular and a special sound, so too is the marvelous, complex interweaving of each person’s bounded resources and limitations.”

2. Book. Here is a quote on celebrating life and challenging cynicism. It is from Stress and Trauma Handbook: Strategies for Flourishing in Demanding Environments, 2003, by John Fawcett, published by World Vision. (for book review click here)

“In the context of complex humanitarian emergencies and the rigours of life in developing nations, aid workers arrive on the scene expecting to enhance life, not just to neutralise pain. Humanitarian work is, afterall, a celebration of life, not homage to death and despair. …International aid is a challenge to the power not only of hunger, war, and poverty, but to cynicism. Faith-driven or secular, the workers who bring aid…are the living embodiment of a human conviction that wrongs not only must be righted, but that they can be righted.” (p.1)

3. Video. The BBC is one of many media services that provide incredible video reports and stories about real life and international issues. On relevant example related to heroic resiliency is described below. Click on the link for the six and a half minute video story. Other examples are listed on the Media that Matters section of our Member Caravan website.

“Mariatu Kamara a 23 year old woman from Sierra Leone, had her hands cut off by rebel soldiers when she was a child. With no parents or living adult to support her in the aftermath, and living in a refugee camp, she turned to begging in the streets of Freetown. 'Biting the Mango' is her story of survival against all odds in which she shares the details of her attack, her road to recovery and her eventual move to Toronto where she now lives.” (Source: BBC)

4. Tool. The Authentic Happiness website offers a variety of self-assessment tools for free. Many of these tools are directly related to resiliency. For example, the Brief Character Test measures 24 character strengths. The GRIT Survey measures perseverance. You will need to register on the site (one minute process) in order to access the tools and other resources online.

These tools are available in different languages. They are easy to use although note that their applicability to international settings/populations is not established. We use such tools to help workers get a general sense of how they are doing and to discuss strengths, weaknesses, and coping strategies.

5. Music. Iona. Strength

Iona began recording in 1990. Their music is a progressive and distinctive mix of Celtic, rock, folk, and jazz with Christian themes. The song above, Strength, is on video from their live performance in November 2004 at the University of London. It is also included on their CD,  The Circling Hour, which is available from the Iona web site. The song begins with a lyrical description of the strength found in nature and proceeds to describe the strength of people and finally the strength of love--or more than likely, the Author of Love.

Trust God.
Stay the course.
May your salinity soar!
Reflection and Discussion
1. In the BBC video, what types of “salt” have helped Mariatu Kamara to recover from the traumatic injustice she experienced and to productively re-engage in life?

2. List a few experiences in which you have been “salted with fire” and through which you have developed resiliency.

3. Respond to Fawcett’s assertion in the above quote that “Humanitarian work is, after all, a celebration of life…”

4. Define resiliency in your heart language, and in your own words, in one sentence.

5. Recall a tiime this past year when a friend's strength (as mentioned in the Iona song above) has helped you when you were weak.

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