As personnel coordinator, an important part of my job is orienting new arrivals to the field. This happens in stages. When they first arrive, I meet with them in my office and go over some things that are important for them to know....things like not using your left hand, taking your anti-malarials, how to recognize when you're going through culture shock, and what you can post on the internet. Of course, during this initial orientation the new arrival is usually jet-lagged, bleary-eyed, and totally overwhelmed so I'm not sure how much is really absorbed.
As they settle in to their work and ministry, we assign them a mentor. This has been a bit haphazard, and we are trying to move towards more intentionality in this. The reason for having a mentor is because as new arrivals go along and begin to process things they begin to have an idea of what questions they really need to ask. The mentor is there to help them with everything from figuring out how to wash their vegetables and work their water filter to understanding how to act in the culture. As they meet with their mentor, the hope is that the mentor will be able to guide them into a greater understanding of themselves, of their new culture, and of their Heavenly Father.
Twice a year new arrivals are invited to a two to three day orientation. John helps me with this and does a lot. He's so much better up in front of people than I am, and he does a fantastic job with his enthusiasm and teaching gifts. Eliane, who does Member Care is also very involved.
We did one of these orientations in October and will do another one in March. We usually do the October one in the capital city and the March one in a city farther to the east. We like the east one a lot because it gets people out where they can see things other than the big city. But we usually have too many orientees to wait and do them all at one time. The other reason is that by the time March comes, our teachers who arrived in August are on the home stretch getting ready to return to their home countries.
Mornings start with a time of praise and worship.
Eliane leads us through some important topics such as handling stress, conflict management, and culture shock. Others came in and lead sessions on language learning and the mission and the church. John did a session on the predominant religion and we did a skit showing the wrong and the right ways to do ministry in our context here. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that! Time spent in small groups helps the orientees get to know each other better and keeps us from doing too much lecturing! Everybody's favorite session is when we have a Nigerien come in and talk about their culture. The questions and the openness in sharing is amazing. And it's a lot more effective coming from a Nigerien. When we tell people how they should act in the culture it can be assumed that maybe we don't really know what we're talking about. But when it comes from a Nigerien, it can't really be argued with!
And what would orientation be if we didn't end it with a meal together at a local restaurant?!