I was a technician—a very happy technician. I loved what I did and I was good at it; I thought I would be a technician for the rest of my life. The thought of working in any kind of administrative role never once crossed my mind. I was typecast as a technician and I fit the role perfectly. Spending my days in an office wasn’t something I would’ve ever considered.
One day in 1993 I got called into the station director’s office. I had only been in that office a couple of times in the six years I had been on Bonaire. My world was turned upside down in the office that day. The station director asked me to join the administrative team. I turned the position down, but it quickly became obvious to me that this was something I would have to consider seriously. My excuses for turning down the job were valid; I really didn’t think I had the skills for it. The feedback I was getting from my friends wasn’t positive, and to be fair, their feedback was also pretty valid.
If I was going to take this job I would need clear direction from God. I won’t get into how God gave me that confirmation in this blog post, but he did show me clearly that he wanted me to do this.
I was left asking “How am I going to do this?” I was going to have to deal with people instead of machines, I would have to make hard decisions that people wouldn’t like, I would have to risk friendships and I wouldn’t be able to wear coveralls to work anymore. This was just the tip of the iceberg. I couldn’t type and my written English skills were not at the level they needed to be for me to do my job. The list went on and on.
I knew God was going to walk the journey with me, but I was still nervous. Thankfully, the Lord sent Tom to mentor me as I ventured into the unknown.
Tom was my first mentor in ministry. On my first day he asked me to read a sign he had in his office. It read, “When policy fails, try thinking.” We spent an hour talking about why that sign was so important. On another occasion I regrettably took advantage of the power that I held in my position. The conversation that followed between Tom and I was one of the most important conversations I’ve ever had in leadership.
Tom knew my weaknesses before I started, and he patiently helped strengthen me in my areas of weakness. He quietly arranged for me to be tutored in English and what a difference that year of tutoring made. The only reason I can write these blogs is because of that year of tutoring.
Tom gave me wings to fly but was always there for me when I hit the ground. He let me make mistakes knowing that there was a life lesson to be learned every time I smacked into the ground.
I don’t learn well from reading books. I learn by doing, so Tom let me “do”. I found myself in a leadership role just months after starting in administration. Tom and I had an agreement—he would allow me to have an open-door policy with him if I needed anything. No question was too dumb for me to ask and we would always strive to find a solution to problems together. He regularly had to remind me that making hard decisions was an important part of being a leader.
As a technician I seldom had to deal with peoples’ emotions. I knew how machines would act while working on them. People just aren’t that predicable. Dealing with human emotions wasn’t something I was used to, and I had a lot to learn. I wasn’t very good at predicting peoples’ emotional reactions, but I was good at separating my own emotions from the important decisions I had to make. Tom was helpful in refining that skill in me.
In 1993 I went into administration thinking that I would go to the office each day and be given my assignment for the day. On day one I realized that wasn’t the case. To my surprise, by 1996 I was providing leadership for the programming department and the station operation in the absence of Tom.
I have told many people over the last 25 years that my success can be attributed to two things. The first is that God has graciously held my hand through this entire journey. He miraculously gave me the skills when I needed them. The second reason for my success is the mentors God put at my side, especially in those early years of leadership. Tom put the building blocks for my future leadership in place. He taught me many lessons in those early days—lessons I passed onto others and continue to apply to all I do today.