[To read previous stories in the Embarrassing Leadership Story Series go to On Cookie Tins & Under Garments , ZiiiP! and I Really Should Have Grabbed His Tie.]
You can see me smiling in the photo montage above, (that's me in the super short hair and dark glasses) but my embarrassing leadership story for today is about what happened when my smile could no longer hide the terror I was experiencing inside.
One of the perks of running our ministry school had to be the amazing mission trips we took the students on each year. But China was not on my bucket list. I agreed to go because I was determined not to allow fear to make my decisions.
We were delivering some much needed ministry supplies to the secret believers in the country and this James Bond-like scenario cannot even be detailed for you here. But I will say that it involved overseeing 21 people as we flew in, then spent 30 hours on a train that was wall-to-wall, triple-bunk-beds close enough to touch across the aisle. The train was filled with smokers and more people than space, and never ending music from the speakers. I recall sleeping a bit and opening my eyes to look right into the eyes of a chinese man on the bed across from me.
We took subways, taxi's, buses, vans and trains, then had to walk quickly and discreetly (yeah right, we were more like a white-skinned parade!) through a myriad of dark, dank ally ways and into the unlit hallways of a building to make our delivery. Doors opened a crack and quickly closed as we passed apartments. I was humbled at the welcome we received with our supplies.
If anyone recognizes the "squatty-potty" in the photo above then I know you are a world traveler. The talent required to use that was the least of my fears. I hate big cities and have a fear of getting lost. Our group traversed these large cities around and over and under in so many directions that if any of us had become separated from the group it would have been a disaster because we could not speak the language and did not even know the name of the ministry we were working with. I recall sitting in the back of a speeding taxi holding hands tightly with a student and good friend, Tiffany as we were pushed from one side of the back seat to the other while the driver careened through the crowded streets. All we could do was trust that he was taking us where we were supposed to go.
It is dear Tiff's big eyes that I remember when I totally lost it in China. I had just been yelled at by someone after barely making it on a train, fighting my way through the crowd with my important luggage. Hundreds of people had to funnel through one regular size door and up an escalator. Everyone was pushing and fighting to get through. It was a nightmare!
But we all arrived in the right place and as I made my way to a seat, I suddenly could not smile anymore. I lost it. I sobbed and shook and simply lost it. Right there in a train dining car in front of all of our students and other leaders. Poor Joey looked and stammered, "Are you ok?" and I could not speak. Then I looked across the aisle at Tiff and her eyes were huge and questioning. I mouthed the words, "I'm sorry" and her eyes filled and we were both crying. I had to get myself together and not look at her for the rest of the ride.
This particular embarrassing story is still not funny to me, as you can tell. I wish I had been stronger, but I've accepted that not everyone is built for crazy adventures of this kind. My students forgave me and loved me anyway. A few weeks later when a visiting guest speaker at our school prayed over me, she said something about how God is going to use me mightily in Asian countries. I kept my eyes closed, but I am sure she wondered why there was so much laughter in the class as she pronounced those words. :)