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49. Problem solving must take time

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Sven speaks: In Papua New Guinea, the pastor is a very important person. Among the most important people in a village, were the council, the magistrate and the elders. Furthermore, there was the pastor, as well. In the beginning the pastor would not be recognized, but as soon as a proper church was established in a village, the pastor got a prominent role in the community. It meant that he had to help solving social issues.

Since our pastors were involved in these discussions, it happened that I was sometimes called to give advice on contentious issues. Once, I was called to a village where our pastor, John May and the village magistrate, Mark Anis, had a very serious disagreement. They wanted to dismiss each other from their respective roles in the village.

There was a fairly large group of men gathered in a hut when the conversation started. After listening to the conversation for a while, suddenly this scripture came to me "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God". I asked if I could say something, and said: "Do not confuse your functions. Let the magistrate do his job and let the pastor do his." Then the men looked at me and said: "Who do you think you are? This is a big problem and you think you can just solve it in five minutes." I apologized and they continued to talk back and forth about the problem. They went on for hours until everyone had told what was on their minds. After four or five hours, one of the men asked me: "What do you say Sven?" I repeated the words "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." "Yes, that is the solution to this problem" he said, and everyone nodded in agreement.


Sven in conversation with village leaders in the late 1970’s

It was Kundi Pok who taught me on another occasion that problem solving had to take its time. This time there was also an issue that had to be settled and I presented quite immediately a solution to the problem. When we came out after the deliberations, Kundi said to me: "You were wrong." "What do you mean? I asked." "You did not give people time to open their hearts. If you have something important to say, you should wait until everybody else has said what he wants to say. Because if you present the solution in the very beginning of the conversation, other people concerned will not feel free to say what is on their minds and will lock it all up inside, and then we have not solved the problem. It is important that everyone can say what is on his mind and then a respected leader will give the final speech to solve the problem. "How wise he is!" I thought. I never forgot Kundi's advice and learnt how to restrain myself in other meetings after this. In the first example above, I was lucky the conversation was not locked up, but we were able to continue.

I experienced many times how outstandingly good Kundi was in handling difficult problem solving in meetings. It was not only me who had experienced this, but he was rather famous for this ability.

Once, when Kundi and I attended a pastors' meeting, one of the pastors, Plang Kerua, asked if we could try to get him a motorcycle. The fact was that he was responsible for six different churches and a motorcycle would help him when he visited the various locations. We explained that we had no money to buy him a motorcycle but could only do what he had done, namely to ask God for a motorcycle.

We heard no more about this. About two years later I got a call from Pastor Plang who told me that the six churches mentioned above wanted to leave the Assemblies of God. Pastor Plang said that Kundi and I had to come and talk with the church leaders. We went there and met a group of very angry people, but we did not understand why they were angry. We believed that the anger was linked to the fact that they wanted to leave the Assemblies of God so we told them that they were not our prisoners. If the churches wanted to leave the Assemblies of God, we would not stop them. After talking for several hours, Plang Kerua said: "Sven, you promised me a motorcycle two years ago but I never received one." Then he and the others continued to talk for a few hours. Neither Kundi nor I said anything, but when it seemed like everyone had spoken his or her mind, Kundi said:

"Plang, if I remember correctly, we said that we did not have a motorcycle to give you but the only thing we could do was to pray to God that he would provide you with a motorcycle. Have you asked God for a bike?"

"Yes, I have," Plang replied.

"Has God given you a motorcycle?"

"No, he has not," Plang said.

"Then why are you mad at Sven and me? If you have to be angry at someone, it should be God."


Kundi Pok in the mid 1990´s

Kundi’s comment was so liberating, it made people roll on the floor laughing. His way of dealing with the situation solved everything and the churches remained a part of the Assemblies of God

This crucial last statement was something that characterized Kundi. When he was in a meeting about a sensitive issue, he usually did not say anything until everybody present had been able to say what he had on his mind.

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