Day 12 – Re-entry

Boarding our red-eye flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam brought a sense of relief. Our team of peacemakers was tired and we were eager to see family and friends back home. Yet, our relief was not about our re-entry to our own lives and routines. No, we were just pleased to finally be beyond the checkpoints and into a series of flights and layovers that would be routine.

Well, that didn’t quite work out.

That first leg of our flight was uneventful with the excellent level of service we had come to expect from a KLM-Royal Dutch Airline crew. Polite, helpful staff, clean airplane, and excellent dining. Most of us tried to follow the advice we had received to “sleep on the first flight — stay awake on the second” in order to ease jet lag on re-entry. Well, let me put it this way. I followed the advice. The rest of the team managed to get seats in pairs. So, it’s possible that they decided that this ten hours was better spent in conversation. The German guy next to me simply put his blanket over his head before we left Nairobi — a pretty clear signal that we wouldn’t be talking.

The blanket did come off the German quite rapidly when we touched down in Amstersdam. And I heard more words from my seatmate in 10 seconds than I had in 10 hours. German words. Although I’m pretty sure they weren’t nice German words.

2014-10-01 08.39.04Of course, almost everyone came to attention at that moment. Within seconds of touching down, the 747’s brakes malfunctioned and locked on the right side of the plane and we rapidly came to a stop, nose and right gear off the runway. (Later we would learn that the captain accomplished a heroic feat in keeping the plane upright.) Our great crew put us all at ease and we watched from inside as fire trucks, ambulances, and light trucks began to surround us.

2014-10-01 08.39.16Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. We began the slow process of deplaning, boarding buses, and making the 15 minute journey to the terminal. The flight attendants, ever friendly, invited me out on the stair platform for fresh air and to shoot a few pictures while Aaron, Betty, and I waited for the last buses.

We had a 5-hour layover, so none of us were concerned except . . .

2014-10-01 08.42.45Did I mention that Betty and Robyn were leaving us in Amsterdam and flying to London to attend a special event honoring Nanon Williams, Betty’s co-author of The Darkest Hour? So I probably didn’t mention that their layover wasn’t as long as ours, did I?

2014-10-01 08.41.38Nevertheless, the dynamic duo did make it on board a plane bound for Merrye Olde England, without bags, of course. And the rest of us took advantage of our remaining layover to charge phones, grab a bite to eat, and stand in line for the ever-present security checkpoint.

The last leg of our journey into the United States was uneventful. I watched 3 movies in a row, ate the two meals that were served, and walked the aisles to stay awake. I was determined to conquer jet lag.

Leaving the plane in Dallas, we made our way through passport control and down to baggage claim. Because of the mishap in Amsterdam, there were no bags. But the KLM agent we contacted had documents waiting for us. Aaron, Allison, Dan, and Malcolm would need to return to DFW for theirs. Mine would be flown on to Abilene.

So, we said goodbye. Hugs and a few tears. Then, we parted.

Re-entry. Initially it seemed it involved a few plane rides, gathering our belongings, and a short drive home. But in the ensuing weeks, we found it was much, much more.

Re-entry came to be about a far different worldview from that we had experienced in Rwanda and Kenya. Re-entry surfaced as a longing and loneliness for the new African friends we had made. Re-entry became a complicated attempt to extricate ourselves from the daily lives and routines of our life-long partners in this adventure.

Africa Team

Photo: Betty Gilmore

Betty, Robyn, Allison, Dan, Malcolm, Aaron, and I had formed a bond that was stronger than any of us had anticipated. We had become brothers and sisters in a very special calling.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9.

Day 5.4 – Respite

Respite: a short period of relief from something difficult or unpleasant.

With the emotionally draining events of the past 24 hours . . .

. . . completion of 2 days of training via interpreter with the security forces . . .

. . . a long drive to the remote Seeds of Peace Conference Center . . .

. . . awaking to illness among our team members . . .

. . . the confrontation of our feelings and the realities of the plight of refugees . . .

. . . and the disappointment of not immediately fulfilling our dream of leaving gifts for the refugees and the children . . .

. . . our team desperately needed a time to regroup.

And what could be a better venue for that moment than a nice leisurely lunch on our way back to Kigali?

We retrieved Allison from the Seeds of Peace Center. We were relieved to find her feeling better, but still concerned as she courageously boarded the bus.

At Ben’s suggestion, we set our course for the Eastland Motel Kayonza. Upon arrival, we found that the location was the venue for a business conference. But, since we didn’t arrive until after 1 p.m., the staff located a vacant dining room and escorted us in.

Within minutes, our orders were taken. Almost 2 hours later, our food was ready. That’s right. Two hours later.

And out of 9 orders, seven were wrong. Most involved the inclusion of vegetables on hamburgers. And since vegetables found on hamburgers are generally rinsed in water that may or may not be filtered for American intestinal tracts, we placed a premium on having the order right. But fearing another lengthy wait, we adjusted.

And Allison, out of an abundance of caution, ordered a fruit plate — oranges. And then she learned that locally, oranges are more like limes. Eventually adjustments were made. Had she not, she’d be puckered still.

The Eastland Motel also features a guest restroom that requires the women to walk through the men’s restroom. If that doesn’t bring you pause, I don’t know what will.

Sometimes respite is comprised of just enough hassle to help you forget what you needed respite from.

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.

6 Days and Counting – Betty

Less than a week to go. In 6 days, Dr. Betty Gilmore will be leading our intrepid band of peacemakers into Africa to teach, to share, and to learn. Leaders get to lead for a variety of reasons. But the best type of leader is the one who people choose to follow. Betty was our choice.

I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have signed on for this adventure had it not been for Betty, but her invitation made it pretty easy. You see, Betty is a phenomenal organizer of programs and educational trips. I knew that I could count on Betty to plan and lead in a way that ensured the success of this venture. And besides all that, Betty is just an extraordinary individual — and a lot of fun.

photo 2Betty is the director for the Center for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management at Southern Methodist University. A licensed clinical psychologist, she teaches courses in both the dispute resolution and masters in counseling programs. Always searching for ways to introduce her students to the wide world of peacemaking, Betty is constantly alert to opportunities for immersion in rich contextual environments. And so it was that she researched and initiated our trip to Africa.

Betty is the former training program director for the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution at the University of Texas School of Law. Her work there provided a variety of alternative dispute resolution services including mediation, training, assessment and consultation to governmental agencies, policymakers and others involved in public disputes. She continues to provide consultation, training and crisis management services to private and governmental entities.

Gilmore is an online-lecturer for the Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at Creighton University and will be teaching as an adjunct professor at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine University School of Law. In addition, she has served as a visiting faculty member at Hiroshima University where she co-taught an international negotiation course. Betty currently serves as  co-chair for the Texas Mediation Trainers Roundtable.

As a licensed clinical psychologist, she has worked in clinical, teaching, training, supervisory and consulting roles in a wide variety of settings including academic, workplace, private practice, community and health care. Her areas of specialization include trauma, crisis management, conflict-resolution and cross-cultural issues.

She is also the author of The Darkest Hour: Shedding light on the impact of isolation and death row.

Gilmore earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southern Methodist University. In addition, she received her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles, California.  She has received extensive training in dispute resolution through Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, Pepperdine’s Straus Institute, CDR Associates, and the American Institute of Mediation.

photo 5Those are all of the official reasons we would choose Betty to be our leader. But there is so much more. As I have watched the team on our work days in Dallas, I have seen the way that they look up to Betty. Their respect has been earned by Betty’s dedication to people and to their personal development. From an abundance of applications, Betty chose these people to be part of this peace mission.

Here are some of the other reasons we chose Betty . . .

Betty is unbelievably smart. Not in a brainiac sort of way. No, Betty uses her intelligence in a way that builds other people up and brings them along. She honors their gifts and appreciates their intellect. She is the mastermind behind the trainings we have prepared for Africa.

photo 3Betty is inclusive. She sees opportunity in interacting with people in diverse settings and circumstances. She wants to make time for others. From our very first conversation about this trip, Betty shared that one of her intense desires was for the group to have time with refugees — and especially the children.

Betty has a soft heart for little ones and furry creatures. And, you might like to know that extends to tortoises. Betty loves life. She makes certain that all of us recognize the great treasure that life holds. She leads us in celebration of life.

Betty is a detail person. Putting together a trip to Rwanda and Kenya for 7 people is a challenge. Yet she has relentlessly pursued the information necessary and provided counsel on the practical things we need to know. And, she also blessed us by choosing Allison and Robyn who have stepped up with additional tips for travel and their love for language and peace. And she chose Aaron with his extensive experience in motivating groups of people. And Malcolm with his great love for others and his vast experience in training. And Dan with his passion for making the world better, one person at a time.

Betty has our respect. Sure, she is a trusted professional. But she’s also a friend who cares deeply for each one of us. Just in case you read past that too fast – Betty is our friend.

Betty Gilmore. Professor. Mentor. Leader. Trusted professional. Friend.

Who else would we follow?

8 days and Counting – Aaron

Just a week away from boarding our flight to Amsterdam on the way to connect with the final leg of our journey to Kigali, our team continues to pull together our variety of assigned details and personal dreams. As we’ve presented our individual motivations and hopes for the trip, we have also listened and learned from our team members. From Aaron, we all catch a glimpse of his quiet confidence born of experience and embellished with intense capacity to achieve his vision.

EASTER 2014Aaron, lives in Frisco with his wife, Kelly, and his three girls, Claire, Emerson, and Riley (LEFT: seated left to right).

Aaron Horn is an executive for an oilfield services company and also founded a training and consulting company. Aaron has held a critical role in the startup phase of three separate companies over the past six years.

Aaron is qualified as a mediator and dispute resolution professional in the state of Texas. He has authored several professional papers on operations and leadership and is an experienced public speaker and trainer. Aaron is a combat veteran, a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal, and a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. In our team meetings, Aaron is the go-to person as our resource for leadership and business issues.

When asked why he joined the team, Aaron’s response revolved around his respect for others and his heartfelt desire to serve others and to share a common experience.

“African Leadership And Reconciliation Ministries and Made in the Streets Ministry each serve noble purposes, educating and assisting people in unfortunate circumstances. In doing so, they shine the light of God’s grace. I’m humbled and heartened to play a small role in shining that light,” Aaron began.

“Emerson said, ‘In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.’ I believe that the people we’ll meet in Rwanda and Kenya will have salient lessons to teach each of us, as long as we approach each encounter with the willingness to be changed by those we meet. I’m excited about the lessons I’ll learn.

2014-08-30 10.35.30“And as a bonus on a more superficial level, I love to travel. And I’ve always wanted to go to Africa. I can’t wait to see it!”

Aaron’s excitement is shared by each one of us. We look forward to the journey and the places and the people.

Aaron brings great talent and capacity for accomplishment to our team. But, than that, Aaron models his concern for others through his love for his family, for each one of us, and for those new friends we will soon meet.