29 Days and Counting – Compassion

One of my biggest fears about our trip to Africa is having my heart pulled in so many directions. Yet, in just 29 days, Betty, Robyn, Allison, Aaron, Malcolm, Dan, and I will be challenged in ways that we have never experienced. Coming face to face with our new African friends will evoke incredible emotion within each of us. Our compassion will build and we will find ourselves struggling. Fortunately, Dr. Betty Gilmore will be leading our group and teaching us and others about the very real stress surrounding compassion and compassion fatigue.

I have a dog. Togo is a gregarious, wolf-husky mix who loves to play and to chew and to run. I forgot to mention that he loves to play tug-of-war.

Tonight, I was reading about Rwanda and its history. The impact of genocide, violence, and poverty has been exacerbated by the greed of a world that allows and promotes devastation and exploitation. In the midst of those scenarios, however, are the unbelievable stories of beautiful, lovable people. I found myself very sad and despondent. I became even more morose as I thought about the multitude of places all over the world where those same scenes are playing out.

Since Dr. Betty was miles away from Abilene and not available for a consultation, I went to my next best option. Seriously. Togo is an excellent therapist.

His counseling methods are a little unconventional, but I imagine they are similar to Mazzie Star, Brisbane, Bella, and that tortoise of Betty’s. And, of course, all those other pets of team members I have yet to meet. That long list of furry (and reptilian) friends is what gives me great comfort in my teammates. People who love animals have compassion. And people with compassion have a deep love for people.

Notice, I said deep love. Sometimes compassionate people cover their feelings with busyness or a tough exterior. That was one of the things I was talking to Togo about in our backyard session tonight.

Why do some people melt so easily when presented with the needs of others? And why do some exert so much energy keeping their compassion bottled up within? Don’t we all have an inherent motivation to help others?

Togo thinks that it has much to do with the game of tug-of-war. One would think that the object of the game is to pull on the rope until you overpower your playmate. But Togo insists that proper form is demonstrated when, upon pulling the rope free, you immediately return it to the hand of your foe. Those who have compassion understand that, even if they are in a place to win, they must restore power and respect to others as soon as they can. They must share their privilege. It is only right. And it ensures that the game — and the relationship — will continue.

Compassion is a commitment to keep everyone involved. Compassion is a deep desire to include all people. Compassion requires the strength to put others needs above your own.

As we have trained for our time in Africa, we have been coached to emphasize relationships. Showing interest in those we meet will do more good than any theory or concept we might introduce.  Compassion demands our genuine interest in other people.

In just a few short weeks, we will be ensnared by our compassion. And our best response will be ensuring that every single individual remains engaged. True compassion is a commitment to continued relationship.

Togo’s take on compassion? Winning tug-of-war is never as fulfilling as playing tug-of-war.

30 Days and Counting – Shots

Over the past several months, our team members have been handling all of the travel details for our trip — just 30 days to go! One of those lingering details has to do with the shots that are recommended and required. The only mandatory vaccination is for yellow fever. And, yellow fever, like a lot of illnesses, comes from an infected insect — the mosquito.

The purpose of the shot or inoculation is to introduce enough of a foreign and potentially harmful substance into our bodies to trigger our natural immunity system to produce defenses. Generally, the shots contain a much-weakened version of the illness. In fact, most of the vaccines are formed from dead cells. Medical researchers have learned that just a little bit is enough to bring about the desired effect.

For most of us in the western world, shots are marker events — usually at moments of new beginning. We get them as newborns, then as we start school, several more plus some boosters when we head off to college. As we get older, shots for pneumonia and shingles.

Our team is just like millions of others. We are getting our shots at a time of new beginning so that we can take on a much grander experience.

Earlier this week, posts on our private FaceBook group page centered on questions about shared experience with the yellow fever vaccine. Reports of various symptoms followed. And, thankfully, reports of eventual wellness surfaced. We’ve become pretty interested in how our fellow team members are handling the bits and pieces of going to Africa. On that note, to that one person who at last report hadn’t gotten her shots — how’s that coming along?

All for the fear of a mosquito. Because mosquitos aren’t merely a nuisance in Africa. An infected mosquito may bring yellow fever or malaria or West Nile virus. Something as small as a mosquito is causing unbelievable carnage, not just among travelers to far away places, but to children and adults who are native to the region.

I did some reading on yellow fever today. It seems that only a small percentage of people who contract the disease have a severe case. No effective treatment is known for those that do beyond treating the fever and keeping the patient hydrated. But the Center for Disease Control highly recommends keeping yellow fever patients in environments free of mosquitos. Not because of additional risk to the patient, but in order to stop the infection cycle. It seems that more mosquitos contract yellow fever from humans than humans from mosquitos.

I think that every one of our team members is going to catch something while we’re in Africa. No, not some illness borne by tiny winged insects. We are going to be infected in a major way by new ideas and new passions. And the last thing we are going to do when we return is go into isolation.

Countdown days 35 through 30 were written on the right days — but posted late because of a major web server outage. My apologies for the delay in posting and for posting several a day to catch up.

31 Days and Counting – Dependent

When we leave on our training trip to Africa in 31 days, we will become highly dependent on others. Pilots. Drivers. Hosts. Translators. Guides. Dependent is not how many of us on our team would describe ourselves.

Image Credit: mzacha at FreeImages.com

In a few weeks, our team will place our trust in many, many people. These trusted individuals will be spread over three continents and an ocean. A good number of them will become close because their lives will not just touch ours, they will intertwine with us and our stories will become one for just a little while.

The peculiar thing about life is that, for the most part, we don’t get to choose who we depend on. For example, I have a few friends who are airline pilots, but I’m fairly certain that not once have I flown in a plane where they were at the controls. When, I eat at a restaurant, I assume that the food will be correctly prepared and the cook and the wait staff will follow the highest standards. (What was that great line from Penny in The Big Bang Theory? “Sheldon, I may only be a lowly waitress, but I have every opportunity to spit on your hamburger.”) Even when I drive down a Texas highway, I have some faith that the drivers around me will stay in their lanes and observe most of the rules of the road.

In a foreign culture, the dependence factor grows dramatically and along with it our willingness to trust.

We should always be cautious, that’s true. Yet, the willingness to trust other people is one of the most exhilarating experiences of our lives. Becoming dependent on someone else brings together two disparate forces — anticipation and relief. And even though these feelings are distinct and very different, you really can’t have one without the other.

Anticipation brings questions about those who have assumed our care. Anticipation can take us down paths of delight, but it can often be shaded with fear and dread. It’s been years, but I can still physically feel those last few moments as the roller coaster edged its way to its highest point. In the course of a few seconds, I felt both nauseated and ecstatic as I anticipated the rapid rush that was ahead. As the cars sped forward, I remember physically holding on tight while mentally letting go to experience the thrill. And what could be better than that triumphant re-entry into the loading area? Or what more questionable than our incredible urge to get in line again?

In the western world, we praise independence as a personal character trait. We nurture and train our children to be independent. We reward independence. We criticize those among us who struggle with independence. Sometimes, we create systems that ensure our independence while making it impossible for others to achieve it.

A certain beauty lies in learning to be responsibly dependent. The truth is we need each other. Perfection in life comes from being dependent and allowing others to depend on me. Independence has its place. But we can never allow it to overshadow our divine calling to help others and to allow them to help us.

In the next few weeks, I will be dependent on so many people. Many of them I will never meet. Others will become life-long friends. Still others, like my teammates and our special guides in far-away places, will likely take a place close to my heart. Perhaps the two phrases we should try to learn in every language are “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Those words define a holy place where those who are dependent meet.

Countdown days 35 through 30 were written on the right days — but posted late because of a major web server outage. My apologies for the delay in posting and for posting several a day to catch up.

32 Days and Counting – Anxiety

The questions are starting to surface. As each member of our team shares the coming adventure with friends (32 days to Africa!), we’re beginning to get the knowing looks and the furrowed brows. And we’re beginning to sense the anxiety in others.

Image Credit: JoanaCroft on FreeImages.com

“You know, Africa can be a very dangerous place.”

Yes. It can. But so can Dallas or Abilene. Or Ferguson, Missouri. Danger is always a consideration and is often just inches a way.

The challenges are different in Africa, perhaps. Plus, distance adds to the complexity. And frankly, our team still has a lot of questions. But we’ve had a lot of our questions answered. Thus, our anxiety is pretty subdued.

You might be interested in some of the questions we asked. In our first gathering as a team, for example, the meeting ground to a halt when one member queried, “Will we be able to flush toilet paper?”

I have to admit that it wasn’t a question I would have ever thought about. Until I heard the accompanying restroom stories of other team members who had experience in many far-flung places of the globe.

If you’re really interested, flushing toilet paper is permissible in Rwanda and Kenya.

We had a number of questions about health issues. As in travel to many countries, the basic rule is “Don’t drink the water.” We even learned that, should we have the opportunity to swim while we’re there, we should pass it up. I was thinking in terms of crocodiles. Apparently, the primary danger is from organisms and creatures that are much smaller.

From the recent news, many friends have asked us about the risk posed by Ebola. At this moment, we don’t foresee much trouble. Our destination is East Africa and the concentration of Ebola cases is in West Africa.

How about political unrest and terrorism? We obviously need to be aware of our surroundings and sensitive to what we observe. However, we are blessed in that we will be surrounded by representatives of our partner organizations who live and work in Rwanda and Kenya. The last thing they want to do is to put us in danger.

Again, our team knows that a certain risk accompanies us on our trip. I can’t speak for everyone, but my primary anxiety is on behalf of those who love and worry about us. I’d love to say, “Please don’t fret. I’ll be fine.” Truthfully, it’s nice that people care.

So, if you have some concerns about our trip and about us . . . Thank you! We can use your prayers, your encouragement, and your support.

We know that many of

Thank of my a http://www.orlandohotels4less.com/can-you-spy-on-a-cell-phone-without-installing-software difference that, absolutely http://stackholdersonline.com/ozg/best-free-android-text-spy-app blowdrying to it styling www.free cell phone tracker experience out the www.orlandohotels4less.com como espiar el whatsapp spy not try shade sensitive “click here” sense its peanut netherland http://www.sachawaldman.com/xid/spy-software-android-phone.php tangle-free different I http://www.sncpre.org/best-spy-software-for-windows-8 Overall great more can i spy on a cell phone from my computer received lemon address This android 4.0 spy software other not that already view website a is to shower http://www.sncpre.org/iphone-app-to-read-text-messages . Desired the http://globalyoungastronaut.com/how-to-get-ford-sync-to-read-text-messages jewelery ready think.

the things about this trip that raise the level of anxiety are the very elements that make this trip important. Carrying the message of peace and reconciliation to places where conflict, violence, poverty, disease, and discrimination abound is big.

But where in the world could we go where those things are not present?

Countdown days 35 through 30 were written on the right days — but posted late because of a major web server outage. My apologies for the delay in posting and for posting several a day to catch up.

33 Days and Counting – Excitement

Just 33 days before Dan, Allison, Aaron, Robyn, Malcolm, Betty and I make our way to Africa. We don’t get to see each other every day. In fact, it’s been almost 3 weeks since we were all in the same room. Yet, through emails, some scattered phone calls, and even on our own private FaceBook group page, you can see the excitement building.

I can point to a lot of reasons for the excitement:

  • International travel to a beautiful place.
  • The rewards of bringing what we know about peace building to people whose life experiences will extend our own.
  • New friendships.
  • Partnerships with those who want to help our work through donations and gifts.
  • Opportunities to join with incredible ministries like African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries and Made In the Streets.
  • Just because nonchalantly saying “I’m going to Africa next month” has a degree of coolness that “I’m going to Tuscola” doesn’t quite reach. (I was talking to a phone sales representative about setting up an international calling plan for Africa and she just stopped right in the middle of the call and said, “I am so excited for you. And I’m a little jealous.” Then there’s that.)

But primarily, we are excited because this is what we have trained for and hoped for. We are excited because this is our chance to do something that matters. We are excited because we know how richly we have been blessed. We are excited. Because.

Countdown days 35 through 30 were written on the right days — but posted late because of a major web server outage. My apologies for the delay in posting and for posting several a day to catch up.