11 Days and Counting – Allison

It’s altogether possible that our team will be approached to appear in a major motion picture telling the story of our adventures in Africa. And, when the promotional people begin asking who should have the first action figure produced, I’m pointing to Allison.

Allison Witucki Russell is a quiet soul. Quiet, but not timid. Reserved, but not without opinion. When she decides to share, that moment is well worth waiting for.

1797473_850316691949_1029276132_nA native of Houston, Allison is very passionate about travel. However, she’s not partial to five-star hotels and the like. Allison and her husband, Dan, are outdoor enthusiasts. One of her goals is to visit every national park in the United States. She enjoys hiking, camping, and sailing and just about anything involving their dog, Brisbane. Allison is also a photographer and will be one of our primary sources for great pictures through our trip.

Allison is currently in the master’s degree program in the Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management program at Southern Methodist University. She earned her undergraduate degree from Saint Edward’s University in Austin, Texas with a focus on kinesiology.

Much of Allison’s youth was formed by her involvement in the Girl Scouts. A recipient of the Gold Award, the highest award in the Girl Scouts, she points to her participation and achievements in the organization as her inspiration for her passion to make a difference in the world.

Allison shared these thoughts, “Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts, is one of my heroes. She was a powerful and inspirational WOMAN who worked very hard to foster peace and equality for everyone, while also creating exciting opportunities for women and girls. And she did it in a time when that kind of ‘behavior’ was not common in women.  She made a difference. Her legacy will forever live on in the hearts and actions of Girl Scouts across the globe. That’s pretty amazing!”

No stranger to making a difference, Allison has worked with a number of leadership organizations including the Girl Scouts, the American Red Cross, and Crisis Intervention of Houston.

It was her hope to make a difference that landed her a spot on the Africa team.

“Dr. Gilmore called me and asked if Dan and I would be able to be a part of this team,” Allison explained. “Right off the bat, Dan said ‘No!’  But something about this resonated very deep inside me. I knew this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. This was going to be a life-altering experience and I couldn’t say no to it. I put my negotiation skills to work. Soon, Dan and I agreed this was definitely something we wanted to do. Little did we know…and we haven’t even made it to Africa yet!!  I’m beyond thrilled to be a part of this team, to be presented with this opportunity, and simply to have this experience. And I feel extremely lucky that I get to go through it all with Dan. I am not blind to the fact that sharing this level of experience with a spouse is very rare and we are very grateful.”

Dan & AllisonAs we mentioned in Dan’s post, the Russells will celebrate their second wedding anniversary while in Rwanda.

I wouldn’t doubt if that action figure isn’t already in the works. On our team, one of our constant experiences is to hear Allison say, “I’ll do that.” She has already inspired greatness in packing and rumor has it that several team members may be retaining Allison to get their gear packed and stowed, as well. Allison also volunteered to pack the duffel bags we’ll be taking with all of the great things that have been donated for the refugees. And, she moved ahead on a late term project that we’ll be featuring in a future post.

Allison is a woman of action. With a heart as big as the outdoors she loves so much, Allison sets the pace for peacemaking for our Africa mission.

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.

MITS logo


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.



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.

Collection 1

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.

Crossing our Fingers and Eating Donuts

After almost 2 weeks of server problems and related email feed problems, I’m pleased to announce that we are close to being 100% functional — at least in the website department. In anticipation of the last piece coming into focus, hopefully at 5 a.m. on Thursday, August 28, I’d like to treat you to a donut. Similar to this one:

Here’s the catch. My email feed has to work tomorrow at 5 a.m. by sending this post to my joeycope.com subscription list. If it works, I’ll buy a couple of dozen donuts and provide the real thing to any of you who comes by the office in the morning.

So, if you’re on the list and you’re reading this on your email Thursday morning and you live within driving distance of Abilene, come on by 1541 North Judge Ely for a donut. If you’re not on the list, maybe you should sign up tonight. Use the form on the lower right of this page.

And, if you can’t come by, just enjoy the virtual donut above.


(The other good thing is that, if this works, I’ll no longer be staying up hours after my bedtime trying to find the problem. And, I’ll catch up on those posts about our Africa trip. Thanks to Brad Palmore at Branchweaver — unless this doesn’t work.)

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.