Thursday, June 30, 2011

From the Big Tent: Networking with Len

Here I am, at the Big Tent, the gathering of a multitude of ministries within the Presbyterian Church, sitting in a meeting for the Iraq Peace Network.  We’ve moved from hearing directly from an Iraqi partner to hearing more about the work we’re doing in the U.S. and the mechanisms by which we will do it.

One of the buzz words is ‘networking’.  Well, it is in our name.

How do we network?  How do we network better?  What does our networking ‘bring to the table’?

I have nothing to offer.

But here is what I do know; and I think it might be all I do know about networking.  Maybe it is enough.

When I began to learn about Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), the peace group I go to Iraq with, I was attending Princeton, a Presbyterian seminary.  I was a member of a Presbyterian church back home in West Virginia.  I belonged to a group at seminary called Princeton Seminarians for Peace.  I was ‘under care’ of the Presbytery of West Virginia.

I thought I was pretty well hooked into my church.

Until one day when I was preparing to go to Iraq for the first time and the phone rang.

There was a man on the other end of the line, who identified himself as Len Bjorkman.  Len introduced himself as being a part of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.  I was surprised.  I didn’t know there was such a thing.

Then he gob-smacked me, “The reason I’m calling is that I heard you’re going to Iraq with CPT.  And I just wanted to touch base with you and introduce myself and see how you were doing.”

Outside of CPT, Len is the only fellow Christian who reached out to me as I prepared to go to Iraq for the first time.  Until that phone call where Len introduced himself to me, it never occurred to me that other people might be interested in what I was doing; might pray for me even though they didn’t know me; might care about what might happen to me.

Len wasn’t done with surprises: after we talked for a time, he asked me who would be checking in with my mom.  This is after we had established that I was living with her at the time.  Len, with a pastor’s keen ear, identified the person closest to me and asked about who would be taking care of her.  And while I would be gone, every now and again, Len called my mom.

Len Bjorkman is a born networker, which is just another way of saying that Len and his wife Judy think about people and reach out to them and make connections between what they’re doing and what others might be doing; and they work hard to connect all those dots.

I have visited with Len and Judy in their home, done a speaking tour that Len organized, done a few workshops/conversations at General Assembly at Len’s behest, helped Len usher an overture (fancy name for a certain kind of motion) about Iraq through a committee process, and come to the Big Tent early for the Iraqi Peace Network, all because this kind man has bid me come.

Want to know how to network?  Call someone who might have something to offer and introduce yourself.  Call Len.

1 comment:

  1. What a blessing to have someone offer to come alongside. Since you mentioned your mom, I saw that she's a friend of my cousin on Facebook! Small small world.