Wheaton man knows how to keep the peace
Permission granted to PeaceMakers.net, Inc.

By Mike Sandrolini - Daily Journal March 2nd 1986

How does man go about solving disputes between people, organizations or nations?

Needless to say, it's a dilemma that man has faced since the dawn of human history. And there never seems to be any clear-cut method(s) for settling disputes, because every situation is different.

However, Bill Fields of Wheaton seems to have a grasp of what it takes to get to the root of a dispute —and solve it.

Fields is one of the founders of a non-profit organization called "PeaceMakers.net, which is based in Wheaton.

IT'S HARD to pin down what Fields does specifically. He could be described as being either an arbitrator, diplomat or a liaison—or a combination or all these-

Fields, however, says he likes to be known as a reconciler. He tries to use Christian principles to settle differences—reconciling people to God, to themselves and to each other.

"In union arbitration, each side is often looking to be a clear winner," Fields says, "but at PeaceMakers.net, we want to restore relationships, rather than make one person right or wrong. We teach people to always be open to learn, willing to care for the other person and surrender your personal rights for the welfare of others."

Fields admits that getting people to turn the other cheek w hen they're at each other's throats is a difficult task. (see: Biblical Principles For Peacemaking)

``SOME PEOPLE aren't going to understand that," he says, "because they're going for all the gusto they can get today. It's a very tough job. You get beat up a lot, because in very difficult conflict situations, neither side really cares for you too much.

"Oftentimes, they see you as the person who didn't give them everything they believe they should have gotten."

Nevertheless, Fields enjoys the challenge.

"I enjoy doing the impossible," he says. "It means a lot to me. I'm doing something God has given me the gifts to do. These are principles that can bring healing and peace in people's lives.

"TAKING THESE principles into the worst situations possible and seeing them work is what turns me on." (see: Biblical Principles for Peacemaking)

Last fall's Wheaton teachers' strike proved to be the ultimate testing ground for PeaceMakers.net. But Fields and company worked behind-the-scenes to help settle the bitter strike.

"It became apparent to the community at large that teachers, the board and the superintendent were not communicating well," Fields says. "What we did is say, 'What body of citizens could we put together that could sit down with both sides and help work this disagreement?

"I called a broad range of pastors and asked them if they were willing to make a commitment of time and effort to sit down with the sides and see if we could bring some understanding and reconciliation—not just to settle the strike, but to build the relationships that the community really wants the teachers to have with the school board and with the community.

"I DID make appointments where I sat down with both sides to see if I understood the issues that were going on. I spent two hours literally in the rain on the picket line listening to what teachers had to say. Then I called (District 200 Superintendent) Ken Olson and said, Would you be willing to talk?' And he did. I made a proposal to him. After that, we talked with a couple of members of the board, then me with the full negotiation team of the union. They gave us permission to begin acting as mediations."

The strike was settled the next day.

"Now, I certainly would not take credit for them settling," Fields says. "At the same time, if you and I are in a conflict, and somebody that you respect steps in and says, 'Well, I understand your side and I understand his side—here's what I think it is,' both of us are more likely going to listen to that third party."

A typical day for Fields includes individual counseling in person and over the phone, Biblical instruction and conflict resolution, and seminars with Christian and non-Christian organizations.

RESOLVING employer-employee conflicts is a big part of Fields' day.

"The other day, I spent a good portion of the day with an organization that had an employee who felt he was being mistreated," he says. "It had gotten to the point where it was extreme enough that both the employer and employee recognized that a third party participating would be helpful.

"Another thing we do is help an employer recognize that having some built-in systems can help eliminate these kind of stalemates and help deal with employees effectively in a way that is caring and gives them esteem and value."

PeaceMakers.net was started in December, 1984. Fields estimates that the organization has around 60 people working with it across the country.

"MANY OF them are pastors, or laymen in the business world," he says. "Some are attorneys who say, 'Yes, these values and principals that you're talking about, we understand them and we would like to be a part of them.'

"But actually, the idea's been around for thousands of years. It's all Biblical principals, and I'm just one of many men who recognize these Scriptural principles."

steward@peacemakers.net