16 Days and Counting – Opportunities

Our team has been richly blessed by the generosity of family, friends, and strangers who have given unselfishly in an effort to share a little love and hope with the children, women, and men we will meet in just 16 days. These opportunities are incredible. Yet, there are so many opportunities in the world to give and to participate. We thought you might want to know about three such opportunities that are impacting our mission on our trip to Africa.

African Leadership And Reconciliation Ministries, Inc. (ALARM) has been featured on this blog before. ALARM is an African-led ministry that focuses on equipping leaders with the skills and knowledge needed to truly transform their communities.

With the help of friends and partners ALARM has trained close to 9 thousand leaders across east and central Africa in biblical theology, conflict resolution, forgiveness, mediation, leadership skills, and reconciliation. ALARM’s programs are designed for grass roots church and community leaders, women, youth, government officials, teachers, military professionals and Christian professionals (lawyers, police and chaplains).

Many of the countries we serve in have had years of war, tribal conflict, genocide and political turmoil. ALARM believes that the transformation and development of Africa rests in the hands of Africans who have been effectively equipped to lead, bring about peace and maintain stability. ALARM therefore focuses on equipping Africans through training, to transform communities through servant leadership and the Christian message of forgiveness and reconciliation.

ALARM is our primary host for our peace mission. On September 4, ALARM will celebrate its Big Day of Giving. With an opportunity to have gifts matched up to $50,000, ALARM is seeking new partners for their efforts. If you are interested in the great work of this ministry, we would encourage you to go to their website.

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MADE IN THE STREETS

We also shared information about the Made in the Streets Ministry (MITS) in an earlier blog post. This unique place will be our host for the second leg of our journey. At MITS, children living on the streets in Nairobi are given the opportunity to break away from their lives of poverty and decline in order to go to school, learn skills, and prepare themselves as engaged citizens for the future. We will have the opportunity to be with these children and the wonderful staff of MITS for four days. If you are interested in helping this extraordinary ministry, please visit their website.

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GLOBAL SAMARITAN RESOURCES

Global Samaritan Resources in a non-profit organization in Abilene, Texas that collects surplus goods of all kinds: medical and school supplies, tools and equipment, household goods, furniture and more. Global Samaritan provides the logistics for storage, staging and shipment of the goods it collects and goods collected by other partners. In addition to charitable distributions of supplies, Global Samaritan supplies water purification solutions all over the world. AND, importantly, Global Samaritan has assisted our team by assembling medical kits for distribution to refugees in Rwanda. If you are interested in helping Global Samaritan in their great work, please visit their website.

(You’ll notice at the Global Samaritan donation website that our project to Africa is not listed since it is a relative small and short-lived effort. Donations to cover the medical kits for Africa are being accepted by Abilene Christian University through its Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution. If you would like to specifically help in this way, please visit the Duncum Center’s website.)

MOST IMPORTANTLY, our team wants to thank you for your support, your prayers, and your encouragement. We still have a lot of work to do. We know that we are part of a much larger team of peacemakers. THANK YOU!

17 Days and Counting – Collection

With 17 days to go, our Africa team has gathered quite a collection. From sunglass readers to coloring books to drawing paper to crayons to soccer balls to maxipads to medical supplies, all items are stockpiled in Dallas, Plano, and Abilene.

And most of the collection is not only gathered, but it’s been packed, as well. So far, 5 large duffel bags have been loaded, indexed, and weighed and thus comprise a good part of our checked baggage. If things go as planned, the collection will grow by several more bags.

Our chief organizer, Allison, and her chief assistant, Dan, have meticulously arranged each item and have the bags stacked and ready for transport to the airport.

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A collection is a gathering of objects — individual items, some packaged goods. Most of these were donated by friends and family who wanted to have a part in our mission to Rwanda and Kenya.

Most of this collection is going to a refugee camp in the eastern part of Rwanda. It is our hope that these items will be a welcome gift for the children and the adults who, once displaced, are on the path to finding a new place in life.

As I watched team members load some of the items in Allison’s and Dan’s car this weekend, I wished that there was a way to connect each person who donated an item to the person who would receive it. That connection would create a new network and a new collection — a collection of individuals who are coming together even though they are half a world apart.

In a way, that “people collection,” some in the United States and some in Africa, is the entire reason for our trip. The only way to build peace in a world like ours is to find the right connections and to bring people together.

Our teCollection 2am — Aaron, Dan, Allison, Malcolm, Robyn, Betty, and me — has the privilege of being a connection. We hope to form, along with the wonderful people we meet, a collection of humanity who will expand the possibilities of peace.

Thank you for your generosity. We’ll be sharing other ways you can help as our departure grows closer.

18 Days and Counting – Nairobi

Our first leg of our journey will take us into Rwanda in just 18 days. Then, one week later, we will board a Rwandair jet for Nairobi and our work with the Made in the Streets Ministry. Although our original plans only included Rwanda, we were excited to have the opportunity to visit another East Africa country and to meet some additional African friends.

For many of us, our most memorable view of Africa — and Kenya — comes from the book and movie, Out of Africa, written by Karen Blixen. The film won 28 awards, including seven Academy Awards.

Nairobi is the largest city and the capital of Kenya. The country is located on the equator in the African Great Lakes region. Kenya is known for its expansive countryside and the opportunities to observe animals in their native habitat. Bounded by Uganda on the west, Tanzania on the south, Somalia on the east (as well as the Indian Ocean [more southeast], and South Sudan and Ethiopia on the north, Kenya sits in a unique location and has been relatively stable politically for some time.

Kenya became an independent nation in 1963 when it elected its first president, Jomo Kenyatta. Previous to that it was a colony of Great Britain. It continues as a presidentially-led entity today. Despite the fact that Kenya is one of the most prosperous nations of East and Central Africa, it remains a very poor country. Almost 38% of Kenyans live in absolute poverty. Over 70% of the population is under the age of 30.

Nairobi boasts the largest population of any city in East Africa with approximately 3 million residents. Tourism is an important industry and thousands of visitors come each year to visit its national park and to view the 400 species of animals that live there.

In the last year, increased terrorism by Somalian rebels has made life more difficult and makes it obvious that despite the size of the continent of Africa, these countries are tied together in an intimate way. Most of these attacks have centered in Nairobi and along the coast of Kenya. We count ourselves fortunate that the targets of these attacks are far from where we will be.

Nairobi is a city of great contrast. We will learn much from our hosts and from the children we will serve. We’re already looking forward to our time with the children of the Made in the Streets Ministry. Each one will be a precious gift to us. It is our prayer that our time be a blessing for them, as well.

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.