Friday, 7 October 2016

Without Borders

Violeta Altmann, blogs about her own experience at the 2016 Regathering of ROM and EDI friends in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Violeta and her husband Conrad live and work in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Visit her blog "The Journey".

It is never too late to be taken by surprise…

I find myself be more pessimistic in the recent years; I may have low expectations about most things, since moving back to eastern Europe. One positive trait I claim across worlds is that I am happy to jump on board of the unknown. I need very little information in order to start something, but my gut, the depth of my heart, has to feel the decision. I can’t control it. I pray. No decision can be exclusively well made by the mind or by the heart.

We spent the last 4 days with a large group from across Eastern Europe – the majority of them Balkans, and I knew little about the speakers. It all worked out in the end. Liviu Mocan, one familiar face, friend and internationally renowned sculptor, opened the floor with a very artistic dialogue – brilliant! – breakdance, a sculpture and the scripture, all highlighting the theme of transformation.

I am an observer and I don’t feel the need to speak early to put myself on the map. I emerge discreetly when the time is right. And if it is never right, no loss on my part. As one of the speakers quoted another wise guy “you should only speak when you can improve on the silence”.

I met about 60 people and 10 of them had a 25 minute speech each, on a topic of their choice. Men and women shoulder to shoulder, with a diversity of personal stories and intellectual journeys, all connected with “Renewing Our Minds (ROM) & Economic Diplomacy and Integrity Forum (EDI).

Many of the messages are relevant to any communities or youth eager to develop. I can’t help but reminisce about my time at Apple and the personal development I got to constantly work on, with relevant feedback and support from admirable people. Not everyone has such an opportunity.

One set of questions an English business professor (Jack) posed, stuck with me.
Who are you?
What is your purpose?
What are you going to do about it?
How will you know you’ve done it?
And no matter how great your achievement always ask yourself the question “So what?”. It will offer you the gift humility and help you brace yourself for the next chapter.

Another English graceful lady, politician who happens to be a Christian, Heather brought up the need to learn to argue well. We all disagree, and we grow from differences, diversity and disagreement. But lately people get but-hurt too easily, and take the shortcut to winning the argument playing dirty, even in the highest places, easily name calling or threatening. Social media distorted out sense of shame, empathy and face to face healthy interaction when we disagree.

Another issue that was put into words, is related to community building. How to make it long lasting, impactful and transformative. We all need community, some in smaller doses, but we all still need it. And this speaker, Nate, proceeded by presenting the variety of communities we are all part of, some overlap, some are similar across the world. We begin with our school community, or work, or church, or neighborhood friends. Most communities have one or two things in common. For long lasting communities, this man listed a set of principles. I like to call them pillars. The more pillars are used in a community, the longer it lasts.

And these are:
Learn together
Work toward a common purpose
Eat together
Have fun together
Pray together

Nate also started counting how many hours he spends with different groups. With some people he can count tens of hours in a month. I realize that there are very important people in my life, and we spend together only 5 hours a month on average. That’s sad… and it does make me wonder what draws us together, what sustains our friendship, and how long would it last.

I am determined to be more intentional in my relationships. Being real and honest is not comfortable, for either party, but if we can’t build on honesty, we might as well not build at all.
With my Couples Fellowship I am looking forward to sharing meals and fun experiences, along with learning together on how to build stronger marriages. I believe it is imperative. Conrad has been saying it for a while, expressing a subconscious intrinsic need to go out and have fun with this new group.

Another delightful man with a fascinating story intertwined with Romania since before I was born, Graham, shared about the discipline and the training we ought to submit ourselves to in order to win the race. St. Paul talked about being qualified for the race and the importance of not just starting the race, but to finish it well.

We’ve also had a BBC reporter of 30 years, who has had a front seat in seeing the world transform these last many decades, in many cases out there in the field, interacting with people, looking them in the eyes, permeated with each story. The world has undergone dramatic changes. For us much of the bloodshed and the horrors are too hard to process and deal with them as they truly are. We, who live in a relatively peaceful world can lay our head on the pillow and decidedly embrace the bliss of ignorance. I understand the need to detach ourselves from the heavy-heavy things in the world in order to process them and do something with a clear mind. But sometimes we detach ourselves so much that we run away from it completely.

Another young brilliant mind, Lizzie talked about the distortion of acceptance and inclusion, and the effects it has on families, children and the society as a whole. We start to be so confused ourselves, that we cannot discern between right and wrong. Love the person, disagree with the action. The dichotomy between loving someone and yet confronting their behavior with facts and a cool mind.

We also had an amazing Sunday morning, up on the Tabor (as Tihomir called it in the schedule) where we focused solely on the Gospel, and communion was shared with bread and wine, in the remembrance of Jesus, with as a diverse group as one can think of (see photo on my Instagram).

And Mihaela had a wonderful encouragement as a parting gift for all: the importance of focusing on one person at a time, as Jesus did. I know I lose my footing and my focus when I address a crowd, and not the individuals. Jesus went out of his way to meet one Samaritan woman – the ripples effects of this personal encounter are still felt today.

My greatest takeaway from the ROM and EDI Regathering is their constant absorption of new people – an unparalleled openness to newcomers of any age, culture, status, branch of religion, country. They are together to focus on what they can accomplish together, and not on what differentiates them. And Jesus shines through without demagogy.

Read also other articles postd by Violeta Altmann.

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