24 Days and Counting – Dan

The first time I met Dan was over dinner at Mi Cocina. The meal was the team introduction meeting where Betty pulled us all together. Since this is an SMU trip and these were SMU graduate students, I assumed that I would be the only one who needed an introduction. But, it just so happened that most of the students had no prior connection. So, we quickly bonded over Mexican food.

Dan was at the other end of the long table. Toward the end of the meal, I watched as a majority of the female members of our team quietly passed their plates down to Dan. After the second or third one made its way that direction, I heard Dan’s wife, Allison, explain that it takes a lot of food to keep Dan going.

Dan Thumbs-UpIf you could meet him in person, you would understand why. Dan is a big guy. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a little guy. Dan works hard at staying in shape and physically ready for the demands of his job as a Senior Corporal with the Dallas Police Department. Although his size is imposing, Dan works hard at being a reachable presence when he’s working the streets of Dallas.

Daniel Russell is a native of Snohomish, Washington, where he developed his love for the outdoors. A graduate of Central Washington University, he earned two bachelor degrees with honors — Psychology and Law & Justice with a specialization in Law Enforcement.

While still in Washington, Dan served as a Reserve Sheriff’s Deputy for the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office and completed the police academy while in school full time and working part time. He later served as a patrol deputy and as a part-time School Resource Officer at a middle school and high school.

Dan & AllisonLove brought Dan to Texas. He met his wife, Allison, in the summer of 2005 and, upon graduation from university, he moved to Texas to be closer to her. The couple married in 2012. Upon arrival in Texas in 2008, Dan joined the Dallas Police Department and is now assigned to the Central Patrol Crime Response Team, a pro-active crime reduction unit. In addition, he is a Field Training Officer. As a result of his passion for his job and a great deal of hard work, Dan has received the Certificate of Merit on four occasions and has been awarded a number of commendations recognizing his dedication and skills.

Dan is currently a graduate student in the Southern Methodist University program in Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management.

He and his wife, Allison, are both members of the Africa team. They live in Dallas with their two-year old golden retriever, Brisbane. The couple will celebrate their second anniversary while in Africa with the team!

Dan’s interests outside of work include weight training, physical fitness, hiking, reading, traveling, and what he calls “nerdy science fiction trivia.” A fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Harry Potter, he would make an awesome partner in Trivial Pursuits.

Dan & PitbullAs I have come to know Dan, I’ve come to appreciate his intentional way of dealing with conflict. He brings a balance to his work and to his life. Dealing with everyone and everything with respect seems to be his goal. This snapshot is symbolic of that emphasis. Answering a call to deal with a “threatening pit bull,” Dan encountered this guy — complete with spiked collar and a “Beware of the Dog” sign. Approaching the dog in a reassuring manner led to the friendly encounter you see here. In all likelihood, it also saved the dog’s life.

In our last team meeting, Dan was talking about how hard it is to shift back and forth from police officer to peacemaker. Then he explained that he was able to reconcile the two by viewing himself as a full-time peace officer. Still, there remains a tension.

Dan said, “I try very hard to take my ‘cop’ persona off when I get home, and struggle with that at times. Brisbane keeps me balanced, and reminds me that there are still pure things in this world, like the unadulterated  love of a dog. Allison is who makes me want to be a better person, and not allow myself to dwell too long on all the injustice that is hidden in the shadows that must be dealt with.”

Personally, I can’t think of a better person to deal with that injustice nor a better man of peace to partner with on this mission to Africa. Just another example of our awesome team members!

25 Days and Counting – Hashtags

In preparing for Africa, we have been grateful for the many technological tools we have at our disposal. We have smartphones, tablets, laptops, digital cameras. We have blogs, FaceBook, Twitter. We’re learning about data roaming, Viber, FaceTime, special international calling plans. We’re loading books on eReaders and we’re writing journals in the cloud. And hashtags. We’re doing hashtags.

I’ve known about hashtags for some time now. Basically, hashtags are the speed dial of social media. If you tap the right hashtag about the right subject, you can pick up on news feeds and trending topics. You can be informed.

At some point, the topic came up and a decision was made that our team needed a hashtag.

To be honest, I didn’t really pay attention to that conversation because I am really not all that good at social media and thought that I would simply opt out of the hashtaggery. Before I knew it. We had a hashtag.

#SMURwandaPeaceMission2014

As a person who prefers 4-digit passwords, I was pretty sure that I would never be able to remember this one. Twenty-six characters counting the #. That’s like an alphabet. And it didn’t even have the name of my first dog embedded in it. Too much, I thought. Too much. I’ll never learn it.

But then, seeing other team members put it to use — and noticing when they would take my postings and dutifully repost with the hashtag — I decided to give it a try.

# – That part was easy.

SMU – Important. Tells people the origin of our group. This is a sponsored trip organized by the Dispute Resolution and Conflict Resolution Program at Southern Methodist University.

Rwanda – Where we’re going.

PeaceMission – What we’re doing.

2014 – When we’re going.

Painstakingly adding “#SMURwandaPeaceMission2014” to my post, I realized that basically I was achieving the equivalent of my first presentation in Speech 101. The hashtag attracted attention, told who we were, where we were going, what we were going to do, and when we were going to do it. As I prepared to click the “Tweet” button, I tried to remember what we were trained to do to overcome speech anxiety. So I imagined everybody on the Internet was naked.

Turns out, many are. But that’s beside the point.

We are not just taking a trip. We are telling a story. And whether we do it in 26 characters or a picture or a thousand words, it’s a story that will change many lives.

#SMURwandaPeaceMission2014

26 Days and Counting – Robyn

Words matter to Robyn. As our team has prepared for our journey to Africa and for our mission of sharing peace, Robyn has reminded us that helping people find useful language to negotiate daily conflict is a gift that will change lives — including our own.

Robyn Short is the author of Prayers for Peace, a prayer book and journal for those who are committed to being “the change they wish to see in the world,” and Peace People, an illustrated children’s book. A former teacher and school principal, Robyn sees the promise in children and hope for change in the way the world turns because of them.

Robyn is the founder of GoodMedia Press, an independent publishing company that’s mission is to actively and passionately promote peace through the written word.  An independent filmmaker, Robyn premiered “The Darkest Hour,” her first film, in Dallas, Texas, in September 2014. Coinciding with that premiere was the release of GoodMedia Press’ book of the same name, co-authored by Africa team leader, Dr. Betty Gilmore and Nanon Williams.

A passionate believer in peace and social justice, Robyn holds a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Auburn University, a Masters in Liberal Arts from Southern Methodist University and a Masters in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution from Southern Methodist University.

In a previous blog post, we shared Robyn’s thoughts on love — a key to her approach to just about everything. Maybe everything. “Everything is either an act of love or an act of someone crying out for love,” Robyn tells us. So, those good things we intend, even if they don’t turn out well, are because of our love. And those bad things come from our need to experience love.

Noting that conflict is a rich experience, Robyn reflected on the need to have something positive available to individuals who are confronted by others crying out for love or who are making that cry themselves. “Hurt people tend to hurt people,” Robyn says. “When we’re in conflict, we tend to move toward violence and not towards love, when love is what actually feels better.” Having those positive influences in place was Robyn’s motivation for writing Peace People for children. Knowing that people can only choose from the opportunities available to them, she wanted to provide a resource that introduced those concepts to children.

Robyn summed up her feelings about the trip to Africa in this way, “I want my time on this earth to matter. When we as people change, there is a ripple effect. Others have the opportunity to change as we change.”

And Robyn is passionate about change . . . for the good.

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 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.

 

 

28 Days and Counting – Recognition

We are only 28 days from departure. Our preparation for Africa comes with a special recognition and a prayer. We seek to help in God’s good work of bringing peace to a world in conflict. We want to see Him in others and pray that they will see Him in us.

Image Credit: eyebiz @ FreeImages.com

Robyn Short, a member of our team, published a book in 2013 entitled Prayers for PeaceAs I pick it up each day, I’ve found peace by saying the prayers she has penned. This one, in particular, has blessed me as I think about our trip and the work ahead in Africa. Yet, it covers each and every day at home.

Dear God,

I pray your blessing on myself and all those whose lives I touch today. May every encounter be a holy encounter filled with opportunities for giving and receiving. May I give with a pure heart and receive with gratitude. May I recognize the Divine in each person I encounter, and may each person in turn recognize the Divine in me.

I choose to recognize that every interaction I have with another individual today is an opportunity for practicing peace. May my heart become so skilled at peace that practice quickly becomes permanent and that I may become a constant embodiment of Your love in this World.

Amen

“May I recognize the Divine in each person I encounter, and may each person in turn recognize the Divine in me.”

That’s the reason why peace is so important. It is through peacemakers and people of peace that we see God.