18 Days and Counting – Nairobi

Our first leg of our journey will take us into Rwanda in just 18 days. Then, one week later, we will board a Rwandair jet for Nairobi and our work with the Made in the Streets Ministry. Although our original plans only included Rwanda, we were excited to have the opportunity to visit another East Africa country and to meet some additional African friends.

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For many of us, our most memorable view of Africa comes from the book and movie, Out of Africa, written by Karen Blixen. The film won 28 awards, including seven Academy Awards.

Nairobi is the largest city and the capital of Kenya. The country is located on the equator in the African Great Lakes region. Kenya is known for its expansive countryside and the opportunities to observe animals in their native habitat. Bounded by Uganda on the west, Tanzania on the south, Somalia on the east (as well as the Indian Ocean, and South Sudan and Ethiopia on the north, Kenya sits in a unique location and has been relatively stable politically for some time.

Kenya became an independent nation in 1963 when it elected its first president, Jomo Kenyatta. Previous to that it was a colony of Great Britain. It continues as a presidentially-led entity today. Despite the fact that Kenya is one of the most prosperous nations of East and Central Africa, it remains a very poor country. Almost 38% of Kenyans live in absolute poverty. Over 70% of the population is under the age of 30.

Nairobi boasts the largest population of any city in East Africa with approximately 3 million residents. Tourism is an important industry and thousands of visitors come each year to visit its national park and to view the 400 species of animals that live there.

In the last year, increased terrorism by Somalian rebels has made life more difficult and makes it obvious that despite the size of the continent of Africa, these countries are tied together in an intimate way. Most of these attacks have centered in Nairobi and along the coast of Kenya. We count ourselves fortunate that the targets of these attacks are far from where we will be.

Nairobi is a city of great contrast. We will learn much from our hosts and from the children we will serve. We’re already looking forward to our time with the children of the Made in the Streets Ministry. Each one will be a precious gift to us. It is our prayer that our time be a blessing for them, as well.

19 Days and Counting – Packing

As we began our training preparation session today, Allison reminded us that we had just 19 days to figure out our packing scheme. And, being the incredibly organized and helpful person she is, Allison proceeded with show and tell.

Allison Packing 3

Power converters, plugs, packing aids, and great hints on packing. All of that.

I can’t tell you how much that made the trip seem very real. As Allison explained each item, fingers were flying across keyboards and purchases were being made.

We were also excited to see Allison’s new camera, purchased with the trip in mind. We are going to have a lot of pictures to share.

Packing. Two carry-ons. Two checked bags. The goal: personal stuff in the carry-ons and donatable items in the checked bags. More about those donations soon.

So, the thing is. We’re really going to Africa. Something could happen that would stop us, but to this point, everything is falling in place.

 

20 Days and Counting – Plans

What would you do if you only had 20 days before you were going to Africa? Why, you’d get together with your team and you would make plans! And that’s just what we did today. And that’s what we’ll do tomorrow.

Team

With trainings for the Rwanda Security Forces, the ALARM Staff in Kigali, staff members at a Rwandan refugee camp, and a variety of trainings for Made in the Streets Ministry in Kenya, we need a lot of plans. So we talked and refined ideas and reworked schedules.

Team3But before all of that our leader, Dr. Betty Gilmore, led us through a conversation that superseded all plans. With each of us asked to consider what our gift to the people of Africa would be and, in turn, what we hoped to take away, a clear picture of the mission of service unfolded before us.

As each of us took our turn detailing our “give and take” it became more and more apparent that we, as different as we are, held very common values. We want to share the lessons of peace we have learned. And, we very much want to see a more holistic view of our world. We know that we will benefit greatly from the experience of our new friends in Africa.

Team4 We’re not even certain how many new friends we will make. Our hosts have provided details of the groups we will work with in formal trainings. However, this group will invest in countless other individuals. It’s in their nature. As Robyn explained her view, it’s all about love. “Everything that happens in this world is an act of love or a cry for love.” With that idea, the quest for peace takes on new meaning. Our entire mission is to love others through our words, thoughts and service. And to remember, those who are precipitating conflict are crying for love. Love becomes the great common ground for peace and reconciliation.

Dan also reminded us that, as big as all of this is, our job is to take time with individuals because everyone has value.

As Betty closed the conversation and turned us toward training plans once more, I had the satisfying feeling that this team, well-chosen by Betty, had come together for an incredible purpose. Not one that requires a trip to Africa to grasp, but one that is magnified because of the thought and the planning and the praying that will make — and has made — a difference.

 

21 Days and Counting – Kigali

In 21 days, we will board our flight to Amsterdam. After a few hours, our second flight will deliver us to our first work destination — Kigali, Rwanda.

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Kigali has been the capital since 1962 when Rwanda declared its independence. With a population of almost 1 million people, it is the largest city in the country and is the center for education, transportation, and commerce. Kigali’s central geographic location, in fact, was the reason the city was chosen as the capital.

In addition to housing the nation’s government ministries, Kigali is the home of Rwanda President Paul Kagame. The city is a pr0vince-level city led by a city council that delegates day to day operations to an executive committee comprised of the mayor and two deputy mayors.

International attention was centered on Kigali in April 1994 as the scene of the Rwandan Genocide. Approximately one million Tutsi were killed by Hutu militias (known as the Interhamwe) and some members of the Rwandan army. The backdrop for the uprising developed over a number of years and was intensified by outside influences. Incredibly, the killings continued over a 100 day period while the international community sat idly by.

Despite its history of violence, Rwanda has gone about the important work of rebuilding and is seeing progress as reconciliation is being claimed by more and more of its people. Yet, there is so much more work to be done. In many ways, Kigali is the center of that great work.

In just three weeks, our team will be walking among the people of Kigali, sharing our lives, and sharing in theirs. Undoubtedly, Kigali will be a place we will never forget.

27 Days and Counting – Malcolm

In 27 days, our team will travel to Africa to share conflict management skills and to learn big lessons from our new friends on another continent. We are already expanding our personal worlds by bonding with our teammates. In the next few weeks, we want you to come each of us. Today we want to introduce you to Malcolm McGuire.

Malcolm McGuire

Malcolm is a patrol officer with the City of Denton Police Department and is assigned to the Entertainment District as a member of the bike unit. He is also a member of the department hostage negotiations unit, recruiting team, honor guard, and is a law enforcement instructor.

Training others comes naturally to Malcolm. He  is an adjunct law enforcement instructor at both the Tarrant County College Criminal Justice Training Center in Fort Worth and Collin College Law Enforcement Academy in McKinney. He is a contract consultant with the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program and assists in developing and implementing law enforcement training nationwide.

Malcolm is an Air Force Reservist, currently serving as a staff sergeant with the 301st Security Forces Squadron stationed at Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth, TX. In 2012 McGuire, deployed with his unit to Eskan Village, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was attached to an intelligence unit that supported base operations and worked alongside the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Sgt. McGuire was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal for his efforts.

Malcolm is a member of ‘Mentor Denton” that pairs adult mentors with children in the Denton Independent School District in need of positive role models. He is also a big brother with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America.

Malcolm earned his Bachelor of Arts in English with a criminal justice minor from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management from Southern Methodist University.

A committed family man, Malcolm enjoys time with his wife, Tysha, and his two sons, Miles and Mason. Tysha is a registered nurse specializing in cardiac care. Malcolm describes Tysha as a dedicated wife and mother who derives her greatest joy from her family. Tysha and Malcolm volunteer in their church’s marriage ministry. Malcolm dearly loves his boys and enjoys coaching them in baseball. The McGuire family also includes a lovable English mastiff, Maximus.

When asked why he wanted to join the team to Africa, Malcolm said, “I was led to go on this trip for one simple reason.  I love serving as both a peacemaker and peacekeeper.  Any opportunity to assist others in their progression in either of those noble fields,  I will gladly take! Matthew 5:9.”

Malcolm refers, of course, to Jesus’ proclamation in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

That fits Malcolm and the rest of our team. Peacemakers. Children of God.