We get so used to words like “mentor” and carelessly throw both concept and practice about until another perspective from another culture makes us reexamine our thinking and praxis. …That we might be toying with the holy!
I’m excited about the coming weekend in many ways. First of all, it’s a good break from the trauma of a flooded house in Montreal but more importantly, I get to revisit Mexico for the first time in 21 years! Thirdly, and most importantly, I get to witness the wedding of my favourite former international student from Latin America, Manuel Zárate Hernández! Above is a glamorous picture of Manuel and his wife-in-waiting, Eve!
Manuel and I met in 2014 (I think) when he was pursuing part of his Master’s in Engineering programme at McGill University. We hit it off and a friendship and mentorship began that has continued to this day. Manuel is actually leading up the work of The HuD Group in Mexico now.
When I dropped him at the Pierre Trudeau international airport when he was done with school and finally leaving for Mexico (and he still hasn’t returned to Montreal since), I knew we were sending off a leader back to influence his nation and generations but nothing could’ve prepared me for the phone call that was to follow some months later.
“H-E-L-P! Doctor… I need some more leadership training. I’M LEADING MY BOSS.” What? At some other time and place I may tell you the whole story (or see pages 162-163 of Thinking Outside the Window) but suffice it to say that not only did Manuel mentor this boss at his manufacturing firm and lead her to receive the amazing gift of abundant life that Jesus Christ offers but this boss is now one of my cross-cultural, cross-continental coachees and is impacting her own world in and from France, where she has now relocated.
This week, Dr. Frank Hankins, my professor of Mentoring in my Master of Arts in Global Leadership (MAGL) programme at Fuller Theological Seminary, unveiled to our class an image of mentoring which the Quichuas in Ecuador came back and shared with him (and their whole group) after a lively discussion in 2006. It really struck a chord in my heart! Wow!
They said mentors are “persons that you can trust enough to put your heart in their hands.” Wow! I must confess, is the most powerful imagery of mentorship I have ever come across!
Prof. Hankins rightly interprets this concept as mentoring (among the Quichuas for starters, but really for all of us) “involves trust, transparency and risk.” True; and that sort of scares me, putting my heart in my mouth, as it starkly reminds me of what a HOLY ENDEAVOUR mentoring is. What a divine privilege. It cannot be taken lightly at all–neither by mentor nor mentee!
But the other interpretation I will put to this poignant image of “your heart in their hands” is formation. When we get ourselves a mentor, we are literally giving them permission and power to form/shape us–our heart (character), habits, skills… even spiritual formation. And that, again, is a scary thought which should drive us to our knees!
The discovery of this profound image makes me wonder what other powerful concepts, imageries and even methodologies of mentoring may be out there in our various histories as well as in our present cultural contexts which we may not be adequately digging out and utilizing just because we have been so (in)formed by other ideas, typically Western. Let’s not forget that the word “mentor” itself comes from Western (Greek) mythology where in Homer’s Odyssey, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who the latter placed in charge of his son Telemachus, and of his palace, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War. Who knows what imageries and lessons in mentorship I will come back from Mexico with, DV?
“Heart in hands!” Heart in mouth; head in clouds; knees on floor; hands upraised to God in prayer right now! HOLY! Off to Mexico to party!