The building may be closed, but the work is ongoing. The One Challenge U.S. Mobilization Center in Colorado Springs is the headquarters for all overseas workers sent from the United States. The personnel working there provide financial, communication, member care, training, and leadership support to our people abroad and in the U.S. For the OC US-MC, the last eight weeks have looked like this:
- Tuesday, March 10, OC’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT) creates an OC crisis response team (CRT)
- Friday, March 13, 6:02 a.m. – OC’s ELT decides to hold March board meetings virtually
- Friday, March 13, 7:47 p.m. – all OC personnel are informed the April 2020 Global Leadership Conference is postponed until April 2021
- Monday, March 16, 8:30 a.m. – the US-MC holds chapel at the Colorado office with social distancing, precautionary measures are announced, and personnel are encouraged to work from home if possible
- Thursday, March 26, 6 a.m. – OC US-MC office building is closed in compliance with the Colorado government’s stay-at-home order
- Monday, April 6 – Gov. Polis extends stay-at-home order from April 11 to April 26
- Monday, April 27 – OC office remains primarily closed in compliance with safer-at-home guidelines
Every state has had its own timeline, and each of us has had to learn how to stay on task while at home, 24/7. It’s been a challenge for sure. While we’re all working to flatten the coronavirus curve, our learning curve has been going up. Amid the heart-breaking losses of the pandemic, by God’s grace and goodness, our organization as a whole has had some big gains.
Part of the OC office culture is Monday morning chapel. Those who work in the office begin their week gathering together for some worship and a devotional word from one of their colleagues. The last half of the 45-minute chapel time is spent in small groups praying for the needs of our people. Then COVID-19 …
Even before the order to stay at home came, OC made the shift to work at home – and thus the birth of Monday morning virtual chapel. Shannon June, director of the Communications Department, says this about the transition: “Needing to do virtual chapel caused us to try Microsoft Teams for video conferencing. We just jumped in the deep end and gave it a try. I learned how to find the ‘channel’ in Teams to access the chapel video recording, and then I learned how to put the video window on a specific web page on the intranet. I changed the Weekly Prayer Sheets web page into a full Virtual Chapel web page with videos, announcements, speaker notes, and the prayer sheets.”
In March, attendance was the usual Colorado Springs personnel learning how to join into the Teams Virtual Chapel meeting. As the weeks continued, more and more OCers from around the world joined in. Soon, field personnel living overseas joined online to share the devotion message. For those who couldn’t attend live, they watch the recording available on our intranet. As the virus restrictions continue, Virtual Chapel continues to grow.
It’s hard to describe the tremendous sense of unity Monday morning Virtual Chapel brings. As more than 60 attend the devotional time, corporate connection is palpable through posted comments in the chat box, shared prayer requests, and words of encouragement spoken to one another. What a gift! We are wondering why we didn’t do this sooner!
And after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted? It seems unlikely we will go back to the “old” way. The crisis has moved us positively forward in terms of both connection and use of technology.
US-MC March Board Meetings
Not only did Virtual Chapel get jump-started in early March, so did the biannual board meetings. As things began to look critical with the coronavirus spread, the decision was made to hold the meetings virtually. Instead of our 15 board members flying to Colorado Springs from different parts of the United States, they congregated online from their own homes. How did it go?
Chairman of the Board, Murray, says: “I found more enhanced engagement in the virtual meeting in the sense that the chat box was often active, both with ‘everyone’ messages and private ones. Email within our secure server was also active. So, we had more means of communication available to us in addition to verbal. This may have helped compensate for missing ‘white space’ coffee and mealtime, side conversations.”
Board member Sharon says: “The board meetings were very effective, and I loved the small group prayer time using different virtual rooms. It was efficient and effective — and far easier than trying to get us to break into small groups while all in the same room. At the press of a button, we were all able to move quickly into prayer for OCers, the kingdom, and our world. Well done! We also came back more quickly from breaks, so the dedicated time was spent on OC vision and business.”
Another board member adds: “It was great that we were able to conduct board business so well virtually. Of course, we lose something not being able to be ‘in person,’ but it was actually easier to see everyone (via cameras) than when we are at an actual board meeting!”
Global Tech Training and Learning
With the rapidly changing regulations in March and April, the use of secure and centralized, organizational communication was paramount. Director of IT, Paul, says, “The IT department has actually gotten busier due to the COVID-19 restrictions. We have been helping US-MC staff work from home and stay connected. That entails, for some, new computer equipment, for others, getting their home computers to connect to resources here at the US-MC. We have been training those on how to access resources at the office. We have also been working on setting up access to files ‘in the cloud.’”
Paul goes on to say, “Part of my five-year plan was to move more resources to the cloud, along with getting staff and field workers using the tools we have with Office 365. We have made more progress in the last few weeks, which puts us where I expected to be in about three-four years. With the ‘stay at home’ order, we have had to use more of the Office 365 tools to stay connected.”
Paul is not complaining about all the extra work. On the contrary, the pandemic restrictions have forced the whole organization forward at the same time. “While these last few weeks have been very busy for IT, I am encouraged by how, suddenly, we are seeing the need and usefulness of the tools and resources we have available to us with Office 365,” Paul says. “We have been on Office 365 for two years now, and in the last few months, staff here at the US-MC, as well as field staff, have started to learn and explore the tools available to them.”
Isolation is a Motivator of Innovation
Even now, the office remains closed for the most part, but we continue to learn and help one another. Different departments are offering training webinars ranging from how to use technology to manage the added stress and grief brought on by COVID-19.
Others are virtually training colleagues one-on-one. Like everyone, we miss the many benefits of being face-to-face, but we’re staying on task, nonetheless. Even more, God is blessing us in ways that will continue long after the virus threat is diminished.