Are You A Victim of The Pilgrim ’s Predicament
Beware of the Pilgrim ’s Predicament.
Before I share what I mean by the Pilgrim ’s Predicament, let me take you on a journey to the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, Southern Africa.
In December 1999, I visited Ghanzi, pronounced as “Hanzi,” a dusty outpost in the crucible of the Kalahari. This is the homeland of the storied Bushmen. You may have watched them in movies like, The Gods Must Be Crazy.
During my time there, I met over two-dozen Bushmen and scores of ostriches roaming around, from dawn to dusk in the remote village.
Unlike most other ethnic groups in Africa, Bushmen are not interested in the modern amenities of life like hospitals, schools, elections, or shoes, or fine dining. They could care less the latest flashy Louis Vuitton handbags.
I am willing to bet that the Bushmen don’t care about taxes either!
It was thanks to my Aussie friend, Peter Hiscouck, that I went to Ghanzi for 14 days as a construction site custodian while his staff were gone for Christmas holidays.
We had to drive over 900 miles from the capital city, Gaborone. On the way, we made a stopover at Orapa, a fledgling diamond city to refuel our truck and to say a pray after eating 2 salami sandwiches.
After Orapa, we spotted a lone feline animal racing toward the road. As we slowed down, it also slowed down, before stoping at the center of the road, 5arely 5 yards away from the car.
The beast with near perfect dotted skin examined us in a rather perplexing look that said, “But who are you in my sanctuary? I don’t know and I don’t care.”
After that brief awkward look, he sped off into the stunted trees of the desert to our left.
My friend Peter was ecstatic; I was ballistic, even though I did not know it was a leopard. Thank goodness we were in the car, that beast would have had us for his dinner.
On the third day of my expedition, I met Rev. Fr. Steve, an Irish Roman Catholic priest. He ‘d lived in the Kalahari for over a decade as a missionary. In one of our multiple conversations, he asked me.
“Gideon, how good is your Basarwa?” [Basarwa is the language of the Bushmen, one of the languages famous for having a potpourri of clicks sounds] “I can speak a bit of Setswana, but not Basarwa, yet.”
“You ‘ve got your work cut out for you. Its not an easy language.”
“Very soon, I ‘’ll start learning,” I assured him.
“Don’t wait too long, or as long as the missionaries.” he cautioned.
I recall Fr. Steve later saying, “Young man, if you want to ride a horse, get in the saddle.”
He chastised himself and other missionaries for not engaging with the natives soon enough in their dialect, Basarwa.
They often felt insecure to do so, thereby relying on interpreters for months. “I ‘d be fluent in Basarwa, if I had started learning soon. Alas, I wasted months in contemplation, procrastination and self-pithy,” the man of God elaborated.
Each time I reflect about that expedition, I realize that I have something in common with the missionaries. I often contemplate, procrastinate and meditate instead of of engaging my new audiences.
Do you sometime procrastinate at the expense of engaging?
I refer to this as the Pilgrim ‘s Predicament.
It can be costly. It can cost you new opportunities to engage. It can cost you social capital and trust with your new community.
Have you ever held back, or used a lectern as a barrier instead of using it as a bridge? Have you avoided dealing directly with your audience, staff, or stakeholders?
I believe if we ‘re serious about gaining the trust of those we serve, we must engage and not hold back. If we fail to do that, we inevitably suffer from the Pilgrim ‘s Predicament, which undermines our purpose of serving.
Beware of the Pilgrim ’s Predicament.