34 Days and Counting – Difficulties

As I prepared to write my previous post, I attempted to open my website. No response. Frustrating. In fact, very frustrating. Over the past several months, I had experienced multiple outages. Recently, my web host provider, assured me that our difficulties were over. But now, more than 30 hours after the website went down, I am writing this post off-line as I did yesterday. With just 34 days before we head to Africa, technical difficulties in delivering our story was the last thing I needed.

I went to the office about 7:15 this morning to work on several projects. I sat at my desk with my oversized mug and felt the steamy aroma of my extra-bold coffee wrap around my face. As I positioned my cursor, I had every confidence that the website server would be up and running. After all, the technical folks had been working on this for almost a full day and, since computers work fast, I just knew that joeycope.com was up and running again.

But it wasn’t. I took a sip of coffee and tried hard to work on something else. But every few minutes, I’d go back and enter my web address. No connection.

My annoyance with the situation grew. Irritated, I opened a book that our team is reading in preparation for our time in Rwanda and read for a while. Perspective is a sobering thing.

In just a few weeks, Robyn, Malcolm, Aaron, Dan, Allison, Betty and I will have a different worldview. As much as we’ve studied and talked about Rwanda and Kenya, we won’t be fully ready for what we will see and we’ll never be the same again. And that will be a good thing.

Difficulties are popping up. Some of them are the everyday variety. Others have much deeper significance.

A serendipity of facing difficulties is having loyal and trusted friends by our sides. And that’s the essence of our team — loyal and trusted friends.

Countdown days 35 through 30 were written on the right days — but posted late because of a

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major web server outage. My apologies for the delay in posting and for posting several a day to catch up.

35 Days and Counting – MITS

We’re leaving in 35 days. Even though much of our work in Africa is directed toward adults, our team leader, Dr. Betty Gilmore, worked to ensure that we would also have time with the future of Africa, the children. So, in addition to the children we see along the way and those we will visit in a refugee center in Rwanda, we will be traveling to Kenya to spend time with the kids at the Made in the Streets (MITS) ministry.

On August 3, 1995, Charles and Darlene Coulston began an outreach program on the streets of Eastleigh. That program continues today as 13 and 14 year old children who are looking for a new life free from the streets and its crime and hunger are identified and welcomed into the loving community at Made in the Streets.

About a 45 minute drive from Nairobi, MITS has a campus in Kamulu where the children live and go to school. A loving community, the MITS family provides a place of safety and nurture for these kids. When they reach the age of 16, the children have the opportunity to learn marketable skills and at age 17 they may enter internship programs. Throughout their time at Kamulu, the children are offered spiritual support and guidance.

Our team will be guests at Kamulu where we will be blessed by our time with the children and the staff of MITS. We are also planning to provide conflict management training to the older kids who are preparing to leave MITS and return to find employment.

A little later, I may share more about how the connection to this wonderful place was made. For now, I find it remarkable that I had an earlier connection. One of our life-long friends, Linda, fell in love with Made in the Streets a number of years ago and made a number of trips to Kenya to volunteer and be with the kids. Linda is no longer with us. Cancer took her from this world. Yet, cancer and death can never take from us our memories of her joy from being part of this ministry. She once described it as a place of miracles.

Our team will have a front seat to miracles throughout our time in Africa. I can hardly wait.

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.


36 Days and Counting – Songs

I spend a lot of time with music. I’m not musically talented, at least not anymore. That takes practice. But I love music and music tells stories. In 36 days, our team will be flying to Africa and we’ll be hearing new songs. Each of them will chisel out distinct memories of our time in this wonderful place.

This is my first trip to Africa — my first, first-hand introduction to the music of this beautiful land and these marvelous people. As I sat at my desk and tried to imagine the cultural riches we will experience, I couldn’t get this song out of my head.

Music imprints us. I’m not certain what it is. But the combination of melodies and harmonies projecting a story stays with us.

Songs are the language of the heart.

Our team is anticipating being very impressed with Africa. We are excited about the people we will meet, what we will learn, the sights we will see. But more than anything, I think we’re eager to experience the hearts of the people of Rwanda and Kenya. Resilience is a heroic trait. And we will be meeting some heroes on our journey. Some will be survivors of the holocaust. Others will be little children — the survivors of the streets. But all will be heroes.

I may be taking visions of jungles and lions to Africa. But I’ll be bringing back songs in my heart that will reveal visions of hope and peace. Can I get a “Hallelujah!?”


37 Days and Counting – ALARM

In 37 days, our gallant band of adventurers will head to Rwanda — and then later to Kenya — to conduct training in conflict resolution and leadership. Our group is made up of students from Southern Methodist University’s graduate program in Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management and the director of that program, Dr. Betty Gilmore. And then there’s me. The students will be earning academic credit and Betty will be supervising their educational experience. The Rwandan leg of our journey is under the supervision and sponsorship of African Leadership And Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM), a group that is working quietly in 8 African nations to help people understand how their faith should impact their daily lives.

ALARM President, Rev. Célestin Musekura, Ph.D. in action.

 Dr. Musekura was studying outside his home country when the holocaust raged through Rwanda and hundreds of thousands of his countrymen were killed over the period of 100 days. That very year, 1994, Dr. Musekura founded ALARM and begin initiating his vision to positively influence the thinking and actions of the people of east and central Africa. ALARM has now expanded into 8 countries — Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. All of its offices are staffed with well-trained, professional African men and women who serve as missionaries to their people.

Our group will be hosted by the staff in Kigali, Rwanda. For months, they have been working with Betty Gilmore to coordinate our efforts. Our team is eager to meet and work with these extraordinary people.

ALARM has a three-part vision. By concentrating on developing leaders, reconciling relationships, and transforming communities, the ministry has become a trusted partner with many churches, communities, and government officials in east and central Africa.

Our team will benefit in many ways from our work with ALARM. Its expertise in the African culture, coupled with its local contacts and reputation have opened the door to opportunities that would have never been possible. The key to ALARM’s success is its unwavering commitment to serve the people of these countries by showing God’s love.

Click over to ALARM’s website and spend a little time getting to know its incredible story and its committed staff. If you sometimes wonder if much good is happening in the world, this is your chance to see good in action. In coming posts, I’ll be sharing more about ALARM and about our team’s unique mission in Rwanda.

38 Days and Counting – Trips

As I sat down last night to see if I could capture my thoughts for the day, just 38 days before our team leaves for Africa, I was wordless. I was tired from one of the many trips I have scheduled. Yesterday’s was an important journey for several reasons — not things I’ll go into here. But when I pulled my car into the garage and gathered my things, I felt empty. Tired. Even though I had experienced a really fine day.

A few days ago, I wrote about interruptions. Trips aren’t really interruptions. Okay, maybe they are, but they are planned interruptions. Regardless of how important they are, when we are pressed for time, those things we agreed to do seem to haunt us. “If I had only known” we groan.

Many times the purpose of the trip — the reason we go — isn’t part of the agony. Like my trip yesterday. I am so glad that I was able to attend that meeting and sit with some remarkably gifted and motivated people for a little while. Yet, as I drove home, with my fellow traveler nodding off to sleep in the passenger seat, I began to panic over the time I was losing.

Star-Trekkian transporter technology is looking pretty good. Even those little trips I’ve scheduled across town — the one to the dentist on Thursday and the outing to Best Buy to purchase power adapters for the trip to Africa — seem especially irritating because I feel like I’m wasting time just getting from Point A to B. Just to show how deep this reaches, I would really like to have another cup of coffee right now. But I’m holding out because I would have to walk to the coffeemaker . . . on the other side of my office.

So, since I seem to be obsessed with the actual travel involved in going places, I thought I would see if I could find some especially insightful quote about the “journey.” I found over 500. Most of them made me more anxious. “I tramp a perpetual journey,” Walt Whitman said. I didn’t find that inspirational at all. I did find a couple by some rappers/urban poets that resonated with me. Unfortunately, to keep this blog rated PG-13, I can’t share them with you.

“I don’t have time for this” is a statement always uttered as I take time for whatever it is I claim I don’t have time for. Unless, of course, it is taking time to correct grammatical errors like those in the previous sentence. I am not going back to rewrite that one.

Why can’t all the details and miles and phone calls and emails be handled by someone else?

As I muttered and complained about my plight and the unfair demands being placed on my life, I flipped through my morning email and I saw this quote from Seth Godin.

JUST LEAVE ME TO DO MY WORK! By now, you’ve probably realized: This isn’t going to happen. Not as completely or as flawlessly as we’d like to hope. We need the leverage that comes from working with other people, but that leverage also means that we’re responsible. People who do great work also embrace the fact that this is their work too. It’s not merely an interruption or a distraction, it’s part of what they do. There are no monasteries reserved for productive, successful artists who regularly ship inspiring work. Our culture responds to instigators and impresarios who figure out how to make a ruckus in a complicated world.

So, to my team members, as you make countless trips and you push to quell that inner panic of seeing the seconds, minutes, hours and days slip past, take a minute and breathe. All of your experiences — even these — will bring you to the place you need to be. We have 38 more days. And we have many, many trips to make before we board that plane to Africa.