9 Days and Counting – Detours

For Allison, Dan, Betty, Aaron, Malcolm, Robyn, and me, the days are head are narrowly focused toward our peace mission to Africa. Yet, there are detours.

Robyn and Betty are concentrating today — and good parts of many days before this — on the release of Betty’s new book (co-authored with Nanon Williams), The Darkest Hour, and the premiere of the documentary of the same name produced by Robyn (both projects by Robyn’s GoodMedia Press). The big event is tonight on the SMU campus in Dallas. That’s a pretty special detour.

I saw on FaceBook that Dan and Allison had a date night recently. As busy as they have been with work and getting ready for Africa, there hasn’t been much time for those wonderful events. That’s a pretty special detour.

Aaron and Malcolm are working and trying to get as much family time as possible in these last few days. That’s a pretty special detour.

Several of us from the team plan to be at Robyn’s and Betty’s event tonight in Dallas. That’s a really special detour.

Detours. Little changes in route. Some caused by challenges. Some representing opportunities.

I should be on my way to Dallas right now. But I came across, with the able assistance of Nancy, my wife, one of those detours you would label as “opportunity.”

Today is senior day at the West Texas Fair and Rodeo. All of us old codgers (and young lasses like Nancy) get in free. That isn’t enough to tempt us to tromp through the dusty lots at the fairground. But something else is.

And so we stood in line for a half hour, in the sun, in the dust, to buy two of Harold’s World Famous BBQ chopped beef sandwiches. We wolfed them down pretty quickly — after all, this was a detour. And, in truth, Nancy is much more refined than I am. She didn’t wolf her sandwich down. But that’s why she only finished half of hers.

To those of you from outside of Abilene, that trip to the fairgrounds doesn’t sound like that big a deal. In fact, you might be tempted to pass an opportunity like that by. But then, you’ve probably never had Harold’s BBQ. You see, Harold retired a few years ago, leaving a gaping hole in the BBQ industry of Abilene. Fortunately we have dozens of other great smoked meat and sauce shops. But Harold’s BBQ is . . . Harold’s BBQ. And that’s a special detour.

Detours are all different. But all are important. After all, sometimes a detour is simply where you find yourself. And that’s reason enough to make the best of it.

Our trip to Rwanda and Kenya is, in the grand scheme of things, this month’s detour for us. And, we will be making the best of it. And that’s a very special detour.

14 Days and Counting – Fortnight

Fourteen days or, as they would say in days of old (or perhaps “olde”) —  a fortnight. That’s how long until Aaron, Betty, Dan, Allison, Robyn, Malcolm, and I leave for Rwanda. Despite all of our hard work, it doesn’t seem real that the trip is that close.

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

In fact, it’s almost surreal. Surrealism is a genre of art where things take on dream-like qualities and often appear out of order and beyond their natural element. We have a little of that going on with this peace mission.

For months, all of us have been dealing with the concept of going to Africa . . . some day. At some point in the future, this will happen. And now, that some day, that point of time, is just 2 weeks away.

A lot will happen over the next 2 weeks. The other part of our lives will continue. We will go to work. We will do household chores. We will shop for groceries. We will go to the gym and exercise. Okay, some of us will go to the gym and exercise. Despite the fact that this really important journey lies just ahead of us, we will keep living our lives.

In talking with my teammates, I know that most have wished that life could just be put on hold. For 14 days, could the phone stop ringing, could the grass quit growing, could the world quit spinning? The focus of the last six months is looming. It’s more than looming, It’s leaning over and crowding out almost everything else.

Except it can’t. And we won’t allow it.

In a fortnight we will be on our way. But between now and then we’ll meet our obligations. We’ll relish every moment with family and friends. We will live the lives we already have. Why? Because this trip, this peace mission to Rwanda and Kenya, is now a part of us. Our adventure doesn’t start in 14 days. It began the moment God placed on our hearts the desire to share peace with others. Our experience in Africa will live on with us and shape us forever.

 

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.

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.