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 Betty Gilmore, led us through a conversation that superseded all plans.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.

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.

35 Days and Counting – MITS

We’re leaving in 35 days. Even though much of our work in Africa is directed toward adults, our team leader, Dr. Betty Gilmore, worked to ensure that we would also have time with the future of Africa, the children. So, in addition to the children we see along the way and those we will visit in a refugee center in Rwanda, we will be traveling to Kenya to spend time with the kids at the Made in the Streets (MITS) ministry.

On August 3, 1995, Charles and Darlene Coulston began an outreach program on the streets of Eastleigh. That program continues today as 13 and 14 year old children who are looking for a new life free from the streets and its crime and hunger are identified and welcomed into the loving community at Made in the Streets.

About a 45 minute drive from Nairobi, MITS has a campus in Kamulu where the children live and go to school. A loving community, the MITS family provides a place of safety and nurture for these kids. When they reach the age of 16, the children have the opportunity to learn marketable skills and at age 17 they may enter internship programs. Throughout their time at Kamulu, the children are offered spiritual support and guidance.

Our team will be guests at Kamulu where we will be blessed by our time with the children and the staff of MITS. We are also planning to provide conflict management training to the older kids who are preparing to leave MITS and return to find employment.

A little later, I may share more about how the connection to this wonderful place was made. For now, I find it remarkable that I had an earlier connection. One of our life-long friends, Linda, fell in love with Made in the Streets a number of years ago and made a number of trips to Kenya to volunteer and be with the kids. Linda is no longer with us. Cancer took her from this world. Yet, cancer and death can never take from us our memories of her joy from being part of this ministry. She once described it as a place of miracles.

Our team will have a front seat to miracles throughout our time in Africa. I can hardly wait.

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.

 

37 Days and Counting – ALARM

In 37 days, our gallant band of adventurers will head to Rwanda — and then later to Kenya — to conduct training in conflict resolution and leadership. Our group is made up of students from Southern Methodist University’s graduate program in Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management and the director of that program, Dr. Betty Gilmore. And then there’s me. The students will be earning academic credit and Betty will be supervising their educational experience. The Rwandan leg of our journey is under the supervision and sponsorship of African Leadership And Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM), a group that is working quietly in 8 African nations to help people understand how their faith should impact their daily lives.

ALARM President, Rev. Célestin Musekura, Ph.D. in action.

 Dr. Musekura was studying outside his home country when the holocaust raged through Rwanda and hundreds of thousands of his countrymen were killed over the period of 100 days. That very year, 1994, Dr. Musekura founded ALARM and begin initiating his vision to positively influence the thinking and actions of the people of east and central Africa. ALARM has now expanded into 8 countries — Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. All of its offices are staffed with well-trained, professional African men and women who serve as missionaries to their people.

Our group will be hosted by the staff in Kigali, Rwanda. For months, they have been working with Betty Gilmore to coordinate our efforts. Our team is eager to meet and work with these extraordinary people.

ALARM has a three-part vision. By concentrating on developing leaders, reconciling relationships, and transforming communities, the ministry has become a trusted partner with many churches, communities, and government officials in east and central Africa.

Our team will benefit in many ways from our work with ALARM. Its expertise in the African culture, coupled with its local contacts and reputation have opened the door to opportunities that would have never been possible. The key to ALARM’s success is its unwavering commitment to serve the people of these countries by showing God’s love.

Click over to ALARM’s website and spend a little time getting to know its incredible story and its committed staff. If you sometimes wonder if much good is happening in the world, this is your chance to see good in action. In coming posts, I’ll be sharing more about ALARM and about our team’s unique mission in Rwanda.