Reflections on the KGB Museum in Lithuania

lithuania11dl9This past week I have been in Lithuania on a mission trip.  We are partnering with a church in Lithuania and this trip was to help us acclimate to the culture of this great country.

One of the first tourism visits we made in the country of Lithuania was to the KGB Museum.  Housed in a beautiful historic building, the three floors of facts and evidence of Soviet occupation are somewhat overwhelming.  As I walked through the museum this week here are the random thoughts I recorded:

  • One visit will change your life
  • More Lithuanians were deported from their homes than from any other nation.  (Over 60% of deportees were Lithuanians.)
  • Anyone who questioned the new government or was thought to be negative towards it was thrown into prison.
  • Prisoners were often subjected to cruel punishment, including standing for hours in ice-cold water.   We saw the specially designed rooms where this occurred.
  • Prisoners who caused any problems were put is a 3 x 3 cell and forced to live on very little food for days in only their underwear, with no heat in the frigid Lithuanian winters.
  • The main prison where detainees were kept was designed for 650 prisoners.  During the Soviet reign it held over 8,500.
  • The Soviets immediately got rid of intellectuals, educated, and professional men, sending them to places like Siberia.
  • Many times women went to work and led their homes with the forced absence of the father.
  • Deportees tried to make the best of their situations, organizing basketball tournaments and producing dramas.
  • The Communist Party believed they were right and justified in their actions.
  • Soviets put out atheist propaganda to combat the growing Christian presence among deportees.  Christians rose to the occasion and ministered to hurting people during Soviet occupation.
  • During Soviet occupation all Lithuanians had to learn Russian.  The language is still a large part of the country’s culture.
  • On March 11, 1990, the Lithuanians declared independence from the Soviet Union.
  • There were hardly any flowers during the reign of the Soviet government.  Flowers are now plentiful and inexpensive. They are everywhere.

Have you ever studied the Soviet occupation of former Soviet Union countries?

I will continue to share thoughts about my time in Lithuania in days to come.

7 Principles for Successfully Leading Change

Every organization needs change to occur to continue to grow and remain healthy.  Change is hard for some people and is often rejected or rebelled against.  Learning to lead change successfully is important for any leader.

Here are seven principles that can help you think through leading change in your organization:

  • Lead change from a pre-established trust in your leadership.  New leaders should be careful not to implement a lot of change early in their leadership unless that change is vital to the organization.  Change will be easier if the leader is trusted.
  • Introduce change as early as possible.  People need time to warm up to the change that is coming.
  • Prepare people along the way by keeping them informed of progress during a change period. Include the good news and the bad news of change in these updates.
  • Get buy-in from as many people as possible.  Sometimes leaders have to lead alone (For those times read this post on the loneliness of leadership), but wherever possible include others in decisions concerning change.
  • Follow through on commitments made.  The quickest way to lose trust is to say one thing and do another. Likewise, do not make commitments you cannot keep.
  • Be consistent.  You will keep people’s trust through the change if it is easier to figure out where leadership is at and what they will do next.
  • Do not make change a rare occurrence in the organization.  Build a culture of healthy change in the organization so that change will be more naturally accepted.

What advice do you have for leading change?  Have you ever been in an organization that lead change poorly?

Video Messaging (Using Technology to Stay Connected)

My 18 year old son Nate is serving as an intern this Summer for Michael Bayne our family minister working primarily with middle and high school students.  Recently he took it upon himself and made this video announcement to send to the students.  It reminds me that the methods of communicating with our people are changing every day.  Are you staying current?  Does your church use Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and video messaging to stay current?

Maybe you need to take a lesson from the next generation of leaders too of how best to contact your people.

The Strength of the Lithuanians

125px-Flag_of_Lithuania.svgOne thing that has kept us occupied the most in our culture training this week in Lithuania is the difference Soviet occupation has made on this country.  People talk constantly about “Soviet times” and “during occupation”.  We visited the KGB museum and saw the evidence of the stressed conditions of the people. Not one family here is unaffected by those days.

There are many visual evidences of those times, which ended about 20 years ago.  You can see it in the building disparity.  There will be a beautifully architecturally designed building Europe is famous for right next door to a very plain, no flash, almost ugly Soviet-built building.  It is obviously the major influencer of the economy here that has tried to learn to adjust to capitalism and the freedoms that come with it.  Sadly, you can see it in the fact that there are lots of older women walking the streets, but relatively few older men.

In spite of the hardship of this country, however, it has been amazing to see the tenacity of these people.  They are survivors.  They find a way to make something work.  They find a way to be happy, to provide for their family, and even to give to others.  I will be telling more stories later when I have more Internet time, including one man’s story that literally blew me away, but for now let me just say that I hope when times are tough for me I will have the courage and resolve of these people.

Are you having a hard time these days?  Perhaps you need to hang around my Lithuanian friends for a while.

The Loneliness of Leadership

I was talking with a friend the other day that is having to make some difficult decisions for his organization that he knows are right and necessary, but he also knows they will be very unpopular and he will most likely lose friendships over the decisions he has to make.  I was able to remind him of something all leaders need to know.

There is sometimes loneliness in leadership that cannot be avoided.  Don’t offer to lead if you are not willing to sometimes stand-alone.

Even in the best team environment there will be times when the direction the organization needs to go involves making decisions, which adversely affect the rest of the team. Consider, for example, some of the hard decisions the United States auto industry is being forced to make to remain viable.  The companies that survive that crisis may be the ones who are willing to make the hardest choices.

There have been times when I have to have hard conversations, correct people who are wrong, force my views on others or follow through on the plan I think is best for the organization, even though it is unpopular, all because I happen to wear the leader hat.  That responsibility should never be abused as an excuse for dictatorship or poor leadership, but loneliness sometimes comes with the territory of being a leader.

Michael Jackson Tweets

My blogger friend Scott Williams has a creatively done and entertaining post/tribute on Michael Jackson.  What would Michael Jackson Tweet if he Twittered?

Read the top 10 things Michael Jackson would have Tweeted

By the way, Scott has a great blog you may want to consider adding to your reader or bookmarking.

Are You Feeling Unqualified For Today?

This morning, as this is posted 8 hours after it is written, I will speak to a group of Lithuanians who mostly do not speak English.  In fact, my talk will be translated into Lithuanian and Russian.  There is a part of me feeling a bit unqualified.  I am reminded of the story of Moses.

Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. Exodus 4:2 NIV

Moses had plenty of excuses. He couldn’t do what God was asking of him. He was not the right choice to carry out the mission of God. If God really wants to achieve victory….well…He’d just better pick someone else. Moses had the excuses, but God already had the plan…and it included Moses!

God said to Moses, “What is that in your hand?” Moses responded, “A staff”, but he must have looked at the staff and thought, “Well, it’s just a stick God. You’ve seen one before! After all, you made them. I just can’t walk as well now in my older years. This helps me climb over the rocks. Gee, I thought you knew what a staff was…”

Then, Moses observed God do miracles with that ole stick right before his eyes. And that was only the beginning. Moses would see God perform many other miracles with the “ole stick” in the days ahead.

Moses was not eloquent in speech. He did not command a great army. He was in exile from his people. He was not the most obvious choice to lead this great exodus from Egypt, but He was God’s man. And, Moses had everything God needed to complete the task!

You and I do too! Sometimes we may not have what we think we need to accomplish the task of the day or to get through a trial; to conquer the mountain ahead or to see victory, but God has a plan! God asks of you and I today, “What is in your hand?”

God has fully equipped us to do the work in which we are called!

If you do not have confidence in your abilities today have confidence in your Creator! He has prepared you for this day!

Should I Even Bother To Come Home?

n678929877_43Cheryl and I are in Lithuania this week.  Read that story HERE.  We plan to update more later.

Nate and I were commenting back and forth on Facebook.  I told him I was getting up early here in Lithuania, because it is daylight from about 4 AM to 11:30 PM.  Here was his comment back:

“i’ve been up a while too.. since about 1 PM. I have to wake up early tomorrow though so I should probably go to bed soon.. I’m working on some new music stuff. The house is still in one piece… except for the giant hole in the garage door from where I forgot to raise it before backing the mower out.. thankfully the mower is more powerful than the garage door. It was about time we replaced that ole thing anyway… also the yard looks good. A couple of the neighbors stopped by to compliment how good it looked.. a few others stopped by when I wasn’t here so they left notes about it. Also the kitchen was smelling a little funny so I sprayed this stuff in there, but it turns out it was for wood services only and now the kitchen floor is really slick. Hopefully it will get better before you get back. I called the wooden floor guy to come over and fix it.. so it should be fine.. also Paw Paw has a Yugoslavian Pride hat for you.. I told him you were in Lithuania but he didn’t listen.. see ya!”

Should I be worried?  Should we bother to come home?

PS.  I love my boys!

Where Have Common Courtesies Gone?

Quick question: What has happened to general common courtesies?

Do you miss words such as:

  • Thank you when you hold the door open for someone?
  • I am going to be late when someone is running behind schedule?
  • I am sorry when someone hurts another’s feelings?
  • No, go right ahead when you have one item and they have a cart full at the check-out line?
  • Excuse me when someone bumps into you?
  • I forgive you when you apologize to someone?

Have you noticed these courtesies disappearing from our society?  What words or phrases do you miss?

Michael Jackson’s Death Reaches Lithuania

michael-jacksonI am in Lithuania on a mission trip. This country, for the most part, was cut off from Western civilization for the many years of Soviet occupation/Communism. In the first few days we have been here I have heard numerous accounts of how sterile an environment the country was during those years. Apparently, however, one part of the Western world managed to find it’s way through to this culture. The name is Michael Jackson.

We were saddened to hear of Jackson’s passing, but word hit the streets of Lithuania quickly also. It is amazing that he is a legend here as well.  This morning on my run I passed a couple of shrines to Jackson. I wish I had a camera with me. They had printed Internet pictures of Michael Jackson and put them in clear plastic binders, taped them to park benches, and surrounded the benches with burning candles and flowers. The man’s legacy lives here also!

I am wondering now if Michael Jackson’s memory/death will be forever immortalized as Elvis Presley’s has been. What do you think?