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.

 

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.