Strength in Diversity

Posted by Matthew Schonewille, Category: Editorials,

This reflection comes to you from the Dominican Republic. It is based on a devotional this morning by the Director of Learning of the COCREF schools,

EduDeo has been asked to provide training for about 30 leaders in the COCREF schools on restorative practices and as a result, Anne Martin from Shalem Mental Health Network and myself are providing the first level of IIRP Canada (International Institute for Restorative Practice) training to the leaders/educators of these Dominican schools.

This is the third day of training and Guillermo shared his thoughts on I Corinthians 12:26.

“We often think that those of us who are different from us are difficult. They don’t think the same way, they don’t do things the same way and we feel uncomfortable with them. However, Scripture calls us to be one body (though many parts). How does this happen?

The beauty of difference is the call to understand that the different parts of the body together create a greater whole than its pieces. I may not think the same way as you or do things the same way but the real challenge is to realize that I have an obligation to be connected to you. How can I be connected if I don’t agree with you?

This week, we are learning new ways to speak with each other, new ways to tell the truth in love. If I do not have the courage to learn these new ways, then I will continue to be disconnected to others who are different from me. The real change needs to happen internally with myself. I need to put on new eyeglasses or change my thinking from being adversarial to asking questions. Instead of assuming that the other person will impose their ways of thinking on me, I need to invite conversation, clarification and move into listening.

We need protocols and scripts to help us create safe spaces for people to tell their stories, their ideas, give their critique. We may use “I like; I wonder; I suggest” but sometimes we need facilitators to help us with very difficult situations. The idea is to find ways to build trust and to build community. The idea of restorative practice is to understand that difference can actually grow connection and strength in our communities.

I once had a colleague who I just avoided. I knew he was the contrarian. I avoided talking with him. I didn’t believe he could change. One of my greatest sorrows is that the relationship with him never was healed nor could I ever be honest with him. Restorative practice training would have been so helpful to create a bridge to him.

As we move through these restorative practices training, the goal is become people of love, to know ourselves more clearly, to understand our wounds and to understand others. I look forward to learning more!”

Thanks to Guillermo for his leadership in Christian education and we, the members of Edifide hope that we can continue to create collaborative spaces for our colleagues in the Dominican to share with us and help us to continue to grow and learn and lead.