Handing off the baton

“… let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1)

I feel like my work in Liberia is part marathon and part relay race. In junior high I tried various running sports. I discovered very quickly after the first few cross country practices that long distance was not my thing. Short sprints were better so later I ran track for a while. Though not the fastest, our gym teacher and coach Mr. Greenlee tried me on hurdles and then decided to put me in the third leg of a 440 relay. This required me to hand off the baton to Jimmy Sanchez for his final leg to the finish line. I remember practicing the handoff technique over and over – the timing, the baton snap into his hand, the attempt to make it seamless with our running strides. At some point, the practice became reality as competition against another school team began. I recall feeling good about handing off to Jimmy because he was very fast and could make up for any time I lost.

This trip to Liberia represents four and a half years into a transatlantic marathon necessary to engage this struggling community because we know full well that sprint methods of service can feel satisfying to us but have less long-term impact on those we attempt to serve. Each month or month and half-long trip is practice in handing off the batons of responsibility, accountability, and trust (among others). I’ve been blessed to have had several Jimmy Sanchezes put in my path. The school principal handoff to Sumo is working smoothly; the construction relay handoff to Lavela gets the job done; and now the poultry handoff to Tumamee trusts he will run with the resources put in place (and not like a chicken with its head cut off…). Some handoffs take more practice or different people trying that fourth leg of the race to find the right fit. This is most evident in the block making business which hasn’t yet gotten up enough speed and endurance to reach the finish line. Perhaps the issue is more in my handoff technique for this leg than in the choice of recipient??

As I depart Liberia tomorrow, I leave knowing I practiced the poultry handoff with Tumamee as best I could. We researched, networked, and prepared. Now it’s his turn to run.

I did a lot of puttering today as I packed my Rubbermaid bins into the locked closet in my guesthouse bedroom. It’s a sacred closet with tools and other personal items that no one should touch (for fear they’ll either spoil or not return). With my suitcase zipped full of handmade baskets, I’m feeling ready to go home.

The workers had a six game volleyball tournament for which I was ref and scorekeeper. One team dominated and went undefeated. They were going wild as their winning streak grew with each game. It’s hard to imagine they’ve got that much energy after masonry and carpentry work all day.

It’s my last rainy thunderstorm as flashes of light puncture the night’s thick darkness enveloping my bed. I expect to attend part of the church service tomorrow and spend a good deal of time saying goodbyes laced with inevitable questions of my return date. I depart Deanville by 12 noon for the airport and dread arriving all sweaty after a 4 1/2 hour truck drive THEN starting 26 hours of travel to Boston. I won’t get a good wash up until my layover in Brussels. Praying for uneventful travel – and not a duplicate of Becky and Dave’s multi-night delayed flight.

6 thoughts on “Handing off the baton

  1. Save travels Jon! May the good lord guide and protect you always. Thanks for all that you do for our mission and Liberia.


  2. Do not remember you being a track runner. The lesson you learned about passing the baton has served you well.


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