Training of Trainers in Conflict Transformation, Lutheridge Center, Asheville, North Carolina, U.S.A., May 2013
‘I have no doubt that I leave here a changed person and that this training will be a part of me and be used for the rest of my life.’
In the course of two weeks, 13 people from Canada, the United States and Mexico shared a unique experience of training, learning, Bible Study and prayer that for many was indeed a transformative experience:
‘Thank you, Lee, Evelyn and the BPFNA for an experience that lived up to the training’s promises of personal transformation and the gaining of skills for world transformation.’
Of the baker’s dozen that they were, four were men, nine women; three were from Mexico (one an Australian-Mexican, one a U.S. American-Mexican), one from Canada, and nine from all over the United States (Florida to Michigan, Connecticut to California); remarkably, only three were BPFNAers, the remainder were a mixture of Baptists, AMEs and Catholics. We ranged in age from twenties to seventies; three of us were racialised, five were pastors. A good half of us spoke Spanish.
We investigated together a number of topics, learning to welcome and get to know one another, to listen to one another; learning about learning, experiential, risky, discomfiting, challenging and stretching learning. We discussed and played our way through issues around difference, diversity, race and racialisation, unsurfaced biases and prejudices, economic literacy, the contours of conflict and how we respond to it, restorative justice and the economic roots of violence.
‘Finally, finally, we get to talk about what’s really going on the world where people are suffering and dying every day – and to do so as people of faith!’
We learned about and practised Non-Violent Communication, Body Prayer, methods of non-violent social change, personality profiles, consciousness and mindfulness, stereotyping, CT training across religions. We put Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Peggy McIntosh’s Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege, Bill Moyer’s How to Plan a Campaign, Training for Change’s Chairs of Power, and a variety of Rank & Privilege tools into our respective toolboxes. We looked at a number of movies in which we saw CT in action! Participants left with more than 60 Handouts for use in their own future trainings.
We sang, prayed in novel ways, walked the retreat centre’s labyrinth, read scripture, wrestled with scripture. Over sometimes difficult terrain, we let the Bible speak to us, listened to the Holy Spirit, present amongst us in remarkable ways – and ended in a place that was readily embraced by both the self-identified ‘liberals’ and ‘evangelicals’ in the group. It was a profound encounter.
‘I have felt and experienced God directly working in my spirit calling me to boldness.’
As we prepared to depart, many already had a high degree of clarity with respect to what they were going to do with their new learnings once they got home – with youth groups, community groups, health sector colleagues, University classes, church councils, family members, neighbours: teach a course, organise a training, plan a protest, address an outstanding conflict, take on a local ‘war zone’.
‘I learned so much about myself (and others) through the many exercises – which weren’t just information or tools to learn for the future but experiences I will treasure for what they gave to me and created in me.’
The evaluations tell a story of rich learning for everyone, the willingness to give and receive feedback and consider new ideas and new ways of doing things.
- New interpretations of scripture
- The huge variety of ways in which we learned, playfully and kinaesthetically…
- Evelyn and Lee’s collaborative leadership, skills, contagious excitement, love and patience
- New friendships
- The beautiful setting of the Lutheridge Center and the North Carolina mountains
- The flexible nature of the group exercises, the freedom to use personal insights
- The leaders modelling vulnerability
- The creation of a strong safety net that enabled us to open ourselves to each other in very meaningful ways.
- The amazing place we were in, the friendships, support and ‘aha!’ moments
One evaluation said it like this:
What were the delights of the past two weeks? The realization that … I … have … been … trained!