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The Art of Negotiation

I remember my first trip to Nogales, Mexico. We stopped on the way back from visiting a Mexican orphanage to do some shopping south of the border. Our first stop was at a shop that sold blankets made by the locals. There was a sign with the amount for each style blanket. I was carefully instructed to never pay full price for an item in Nogales. I was in my mid 20’s and hadn’t really ever negotiated for anything. I watched my friends began the masterful art of starting low and working their way up to an agreeable price. Since then I have watched many great negotiators but have never consider myself to be part of that elite group. I ALWAYS seem to have buyer remorse that I have paid too much for an item. I feel like a fish out of water when it comes to price negotiation.

Forward to today: we met with a land owner to talk about expanding the school on her property. I had invited two government workers, the Infrastructure Director of the Sector and the Cell Leader, to help me negotiate with my neighbors. First up was a parcel of land directly adjacent to the existing school. I had Emmy, our Project Manager, step off the land to see the dimensions. Later I even brought my long tape measure to get the exact measurements.

Negotiations in Rwanda still baffle me. Instead of going for square meters I am told that you just “eye ball” the property and go from there. My “eye balls” aren’t as good as theirs so I try to figure out square meters and come up with a fair value.

I knew that Justin, our teacher, had just bought land for around 800 rwf/square meter (a little over $1). What I had objected to and why we had government leaders at this negotiations was because City of Joy was paying almost double that for previous land bought. As I did the math, I am not good at math by the way, sweat started to trickle down my brow in the hot Rwanda sun. “God help me figure out a fair price”, I prayed silently.

I made an offer at the 800 rwf price. The landowner said she could accept nothing less than 400,000 rwf for her land. This was a little over 1,000 rwf per square meter. All eyes were on me as the infrastructure guy asked what I thought of her counter offer. My mind raced back to all the times I had done this in the recent past. Would today be the start of a new thing?

I prayed silently to myself, “God, I am seeking to build this school for you. I am trying to “seek your kingdom” (Matt. 6:33) first— is this an ok price? Let me be the first to tell you. I have never heard an audible voice from God but I consider God’s Spirit guiding my thoughts, gut feeling and hard work of preparation in decision making.

It was a good deal. I agreed to the price. This would set the course for Friday’s negotiations with landowners for the rest of the future school land. Great negotiator I am not but what I have found is that if I do my homework and know what I am willing to spend it is much easier. I have also relied on the people around me to help negotiate: Surrounding myself with smarter people than I.

So Friday we will meet with 2 more landowners. If we can settle on a price we will purchase the entire section of land that will allow us to build another school building similar to the first one. It will allow us to expand into full day classes for kindergarten and older students. Full day school is going to revolutionize our education system. We feel like we are that close to making a substantial break through with our children. All they need is more time in the classroom!

Please pray for Joy Christian School and remember:  ”Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33

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