A Geographically Diverse Team: Collaborating Remotely

by mendibpng

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Right now we have teammates in the U.S., Australia, Ukarumpa: PNG and Arop: PNG. The majority of our team travels between Ukarumpa and Arop for translation and other workshops (eg: scripture use/dictionaries/literacy) So far our team is comprised of American, British, Australian and Papua New Guinean members.

In the past two years, Ben has taken over the ‘team leader’ position in our translation project. We’ve added new expat members: some newer ones already making a contribution need supervision. We also have other more ‘seasoned’ missionaries who are (or will be) providing some much needed technical and ministry related support, who will not need mentoring as much. Looking at our team going from six members (three of whom were in the U.S. last year) to twelve at first was exciting but also a bit nerve wracking for Ben and me. Some of us are never in the same geographic location as the others…

Here’s the thing: we’re new at this. We have never worked with so many teammates before. Ben and I try to live realistically, which means ‘the ugly bits’ will eventually show to anyone working with us. But, we know that God is bigger than our limitations. So this is my attempt to ‘story’ as we say here in PNG about how it’s going.

Common Purpose:
I love it that we as a team are passionate about seeing the people of the Aitape West area translate and use the Scriptures. We long to see the gospel being lived out daily. We want to be living examples of people who are being rescued from sin and have a living relationship with Jesus. In other words, we do not want to appear perfect or self righteous, we would like to be the kind of people who freely admit that we can’t do it all ourselves, that God is the One who enables us. [this is my personal interpretation of our common purpose, but maybe we need to sit down as a team and actually work on writing one!]

We’re still trying to figure this out, but Ben emails the whole team as our main mode of communication. People reply to him directly or ‘reply all’ to the team. Ben added a ‘response desired’ at the beginning of some of the more urgent emails and that helps when need to decide something as a group. One of our new teammates helped us set up Google Calendars so that any of us can access the team’s calendar at anytime. Before, we waded through hundreds of emails to find information that we needed.

Additionally, we are able to contact most team members via skype or cell phone if needed. Having a VSAT [satellite connection] in the village makes this possible.

We host everybody who is here in Ukarumpa with us for lunch every week. In the past we’ve only had team meetings here on an ‘as needed basis’ but we’re finding that now with the larger team, we need regular fellowship and interaction to stay connected. In the village, we meet on Wednesdays as well. However, we see each other constantly throughout the week there…so it’s easier to stay in touch with what is happening simply because we live closer to each other and there are less community distractions.

Each week we ask our Papua New Guinean teammates for prayer requests and we also share our own. I send an email with them all typed up so that we can pray during the week and so that those who are remotely working with us can stay connected.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my next post about the challenges and advantages of having a cross cultural team working remotely.

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