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.

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.

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 Betty Gilmore, led us through a conversation that superseded all plans.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.

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.

22 Days and Counting – Missed

In 22 days, our team will take to the skies to travel first to Amsterdam and then to Kigali, Rwanda. As we fly, we will undoubtedly have thoughts about the adventure ahead. It is our hope that we never have any regrets about what we might have missed along the way. This is a somewhat peculiar post. First, even though it is being posted 22 days before the trip, it’s a little out of order since I am lagging 4-5 days behind on posting due to technical glitches– glitches that I now hope have been resolved. Those delayed posts are still coming, by the way. Second, because of the server outage and then the website feed issues, many of my email readers have missed all of the posts since August 15. So, at the bottom of this post, I am providing links to each of those posts. Finally, this post is a little peculiar because I want to assert a point of personal privilege to write just a few thoughts about someone I’ve missed.

Jack Lawrence Agnew was an extraordinary man who, if he were still with us, would be 100 years old today. Born in 1914, Jack was a native of Rising Star, Texas and a member of one of the founding families of that little community. His father, E.F. Agnew, operated the local grocery store and both Jack and his older brother, Ray, worked in that store for years. Jack married Ileta McWhirter and, when the economic necessity arose, moved his family to Lubbock, Texas where he continued in the grocery business.

If you had known Jack, you would have loved him. He was one of the kindest individuals I have ever met. And, even if he wasn’t lovable and kind, he would have been special to me because he was the father of my lovely wife, Nancy.

I didn’t always know what to think of Jack. In my early days of dating Nancy, he worked late hours, often coming home long after I had said my goodbyes. I recall vividly the time that Nancy accompanied my family on our vacation to the lake. On our return, I helped carry her bags to the front door. Jack answered the doorbell and, on seeing Nancy, grabbed her, hugged her and said, “I had no idea that you were going to be gone this long!” He whisked her away to see her mom and promptly closed the door in my face. I waited a few minutes and, when it became evident that it might be a while, I opened the door, placed the bags in the entry hall, and walked slowly back to the car. “I’m pretty sure her dad will never let me see her again,” I told my parents.

That, of course, did not prove to be the case. Nancy and I have been together ever since. And our families have been a huge part of our lives. Because I worked for Jack for a couple of years in the grocery business while I was in college and then spent hours with him at the farm in Rising Star after he retired, I have some powerful memories of him. Jack didn’t waste time on politics or celebrities or anything that might be negative about other people. Jack was, in a word, pleasant.

Jack could be a handful. He was stubborn about some things. When many husbands would have sought help caring for sick family members, Jack cheerfully and dutifully cared for Ileta during her last difficult years. No matter what, Jack’s love for her was evident in all that he did or said. He was also determined to keep working on the farm, even though he could hardly walk. Jack had reluctantly agreed to move to town and leave the farm. We moved his things to Abilene to a retirement center nearby and took delivery on one of those scooters. Jack only asked to stay for one more weekend so that he could oversee the workers coming to harvest his last pecan crop. On a Saturday morning, before the crew arrived, Jack was out in the orchard and fell, breaking his hip. Complications from that fall and the surgery eventually claimed his life on Christmas Eve of that year.

I have missed Jack, just as I have missed Nancy’s mom and my dad. When I see pictures of Jack I can almost hear his voice and I wish that we could sit and talk again. He would talk about baby calves and the need for rain and how he needed to get into Brownwood to pick up this or that. But, it was the things that he didn’t say that made those conversations so appealing. I never heard him talk about anyone else in anger. Occasionally he might express disappointment, but that was the extent of it. He spent his time pointing out the good and beautiful things of life. He loved his wife, his daughters, and his son. And his grandkids. And baby calves, of course.

As I think about things I have missed, I have become increasingly aware that I have missed meaningful times with genuinely beautiful people. Growing older, I am also more aware that most people are genuinely beautiful when you give them a chance. Jack knew that. And that’s why so many people would drive miles out of their way to spend time with him.

This trip to Africa is presenting unbelievable opportunities for our team to spend time with people and to give them a chance to be beautiful. None of us can afford to miss that. You don’t have to go to Africa to make that happen.

I miss you, Jack. Happy Birthday! Thanks for seeing the beautiful!

 §§§§§§

So, if you missed a few posts, here are the ones that didn’t make it out to my email subscribers. Just click on the links and you’ll be magically taken to each and every one.

36 Days and Counting – Songs (This one was emailed out but the video links didn’t work. So here it is again.)

35 Days and Counting – MITS

34 Days and Counting – Difficulties

33 Days and Counting – Excitement

32 Days and Counting – Anxiety

31 Days and Counting – Dependent

30 Days and Counting – Shots

29 Days and Counting – Compassion

28 Days and Counting – Recognition

 

23 Days and Counting – Pounds

In just 23 days, our team will be lining up at the Delta ticket counter in DFW International Airport. And for a moment, we’ll all be conscious of extra pounds.

No, we’re not trying to make this about Weight Watchers International. The pounds we’ll be watching are with our checked luggage.

Each of us will be allowed to check two bags with a weight limit of 50 pounds per bag. In those bags — duffel bags — will be our gifts for the refugee camp we will visit in Rwanda. Other posts have shown you the wide variety of art supplies, soccer balls, and sunglass readers we’ll be taking.

My project for the trip was medical kits. Working with an Abilene non-profit, Global Samaritan Resources, I was charged with pulling together a few items that might be useful to medical personnel in the camp. Well, the good folks at Global Samaritan, came up with a little something.

I think it is remarkable that when Betty, Robyn, Allison, Dan, Malcolm, Aaron, and I let it be known that we wanted to take some things to Africa that the outpouring was so great that our biggest problem is having too much to take.

It’s a wonderful, absolutely glorious, problem to have! Thank you!