Changes have been afoot lately. As of August 31, I officially left the employ of Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ). I now carry the title “associate staff,” since my husband remains missionary staff with Cru. I currently fulfill a small, unpaid volunteer role from home.
After 22 years of serving with Cru, on three different continents and multiple campuses and various teams at international headquarters in Orlando, I decided this summer to close this chapter. My entire adult life has been intertwined with the ministry of Cru.
When Woodrow was a baby, I couldn’t find a Cru team where I could contribute–a situation that began during my pregnancy with him and continued until I left staff in August. But in 2005 or ’06, a former supervisor had connected me to a person who could make use of my writing, so I did piecemeal work for her team.
One story assignment involved interviewing a Cru couple over the phone about challenges their family faced. I took copious notes during a call with them, wrote up a story, and brought it to a meeting at headquarters with the team. I attended as a visitor. The women in that group read and discussed all the stories written for that cycle, including mine. A few remarked on the spiritual lessons we all could draw from it. I felt I’d succeeded.
Then the stories went live. The family who was the subject of my story contacted the team leader about it. They were disappointed, even upset, about what I’d written. I discovered this when the leader–we’ll call her Betty–came to my house for a meeting she’d planned with me.
Woodrow had just woken up from a nap, and I held him while Betty and I sat on the couch. I didn’t know the reason for our meeting that day. I felt confused about why we couldn’t discuss this over the phone–whatever “this” was.
But during our talk, she shared the news about the family’s frustration over my story. She spoke as if I’d broken a rule, disobeyed a law. The thrust of her conversation: that she wanted me to re-write the story to satisfy the couple.
“I’m sure I’m not a very good writer, either,” she declared, emphasis on “either.” Perhaps Betty meant that as an expression of sympathy.
I felt gobsmacked (I love that word, by the way). The story had been vetted by a table full of women reviewing materials that were soon to be published. Not one person raised a single reservation about what I’d written. And, from what Betty expressed, I hadn’t gotten a detail wrong–like misspelling one of their children’s names or something; they just didn’t like how it represented them. Betty never informed me, though, of what exactly had displeased them, of what it was that I’d gotten wrong.
I took time to figure out how I felt. Why wouldn’t Betty’s first response be to support me, one of her writers? Well, kind of…since I’m not on the team. Why would she throw me under the bus instead of explaining how she, the editor, and a team of women had all signed off on this piece? Why would she promise them that I’d rewrite the story without first asking me? Why not raise questions before it got published? Why not train me better in what exactly she wanted me to produce?
Betty had also shown up at my house with several instructional books on the topic of writing. I’m sure they were useful, although I don’t remember reading any of them. Interesting that my writing skills weren’t called into question *before* the family announced their disappointment, I thought.
I didn’t mind if somebody else re-wrote the story. I didn’t mind if they deleted my piece, used my notes from the interview, and gave somebody else credit. I just knew I didn’t want to call that family and apologize (for what, exactly?)–Betty indicated I should do that–and go through this process all over again.
I called Betty and left a message about not re-writing the story and wondered if I should be working on side projects for her team anymore.
She never called back. I haven’t seen her in ages; I think she moved overseas. I believe (now) that my writing ability–or lack thereof–wasn’t the real issue. I think Betty saw a problem, blamed me, and wanted me to fix it.
I no longer need a team to write and have my work published. I didn’t let the “not a very good writer” comment derail me–not for long. As you can see, I’ve continued to write.
Within days of submitting my change of status forms to Cru, I heard from Chicken Soup for the Soul. A story I wrote will appear in their new volume, “The Forgiveness Fix.” It comes out in November.
Last week, I got a phone call from the editor of a magazine called Power for Living. They’re publishing a story of mine in 2020. I will also have a piece in Country Woman in December.Two devotional magazines (one for youth; one for kids) will print pieces I’ve written in 2020: Keys for Kids and Unlocked.
I also get to work with editors who value my contribution and help me grow. I re-wrote a piece 3 or 4 times this year for a Christian kids’ magazine called Primary Treasure. The editor’s feedback helped me improve it so the story meets their needs. I can’t wait to see it in print.
After that appointment with Betty, I wondered at times if I were like those contestants on American Idol. You know, the ones who get highlighted during auditions who are so ridiculously awful you wonder how anybody can lack total self-awareness. What if I’m like those ill-informed wannabe singers putting themselves out there for the entire world to mock?
Maybe I wasn’t a very good writer in 2006. But I’ve grown, and I’m better now than before.