3 Days and Counting – Less

With just 3 days left before our peace mission team leaves for Africa and as we are thinking about more and more we have to do, simple acts like “practice-packing” inspire us to think in terms of less.

I’ve been putting off my practice-packing. I haven’t polled the rest of the group, although I suspect that Allison has had several sessions. Several successful sessions. Or perhaps she packed 3 weeks ago and she and Dan just have to remember not to trip over that roller-board bag in the middle of the room. But, more likely, if Allison is already packed, then she also found a place to stow her luggage. Allison is our champion of packing theory and getting things done. That’s one of the reasons why she’s going to have her own action figure some day.

As I’ve taken several looks at my carry-on bag, I’ve tried to imagine what might actually fit inside. Sometime in the next 48 hours, I’m going to have to start moving from imagination to reality. I dread that moment. For, I’m anticipating that not only will I have to think in terms of less, I will have to do with less.

It seems if I take 10-12 days of anything, that there will be entire categories of things I can’t take. It’s true that we will have laundry facilities available to us. So, sufficient supplies of clothes and underclothes and socks can be calculated by simple math. Number of days divided by 2. That is, of course, only viable if I can actually get 5-6 days of things in my bag.

I’ve already chosen shoes that double as kind-of nice dress shoes and kind-of durable trekking/safari shoes. Since I’ll be wearing them on the plane I don’t have to pack them. Or anything else I wear on the plane. So, if I can wear two days worth of clothes on the plane, then I’m down to 3-4 days of things to pack.

Regardless, I know it will work out. I’ve had dozens of people tell me how they spent weeks and weeks living out of a single bag. Those people don’t really make me feel better, either about them or packing. Yet, I do have some hope.

On a more serious note, our team is about to travel to a part of the world where a majority of the people live with less than we think is humanly possible. These are men, women, and children who would consider themselves rich to have the things that could be packed into a 21-inch piece of luggage. Although we will see much need and poverty and hurt, we anticipate that we will also come to know many, many people who exude joy and contentment. In particular, we are already thinking about our time among refugees and the displaced kids from the streets of Nairobi. We will learn much about living with an abundant spirit in the days to come.

For you see, one of the great things about this trip is our opportunity to deal with the concept of less.

Every member of our team is grateful for the many material blessings we have. Yet, within each of my beloved sojourners, I have seen an incredible desire to give, to share, and to walk side-by-side with the folks Jesus would have referred to as “the least of these.” And give and share and walk they will.

There is a beauty to simplicity. An ambience to less. A restful peace. All from letting go of more and embracing less.

Less of stuff. Less of self.

More of God’s children. More of God. More of peace.

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!

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.

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

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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.