Monday, February 27, 2006

One Year of Blogging, Still Between Two Worlds

I just realized that I started this blogging thing one year ago today. It started more out of convenience than anything else. I had just begun my trip to Uganda and Rwanda and figured it was the best way to keep several people updated on my trip events. It's turned out to be something I really enjoy and helps me probably more than anyone else. It keeps me focused on the problems and opportunities of Africa. And if you are reading and want to join the discussion I always love to hear from you.

I plan to go back and read all the posts from my 2 week trip as a fun reminder of what I was doing this time last year. Feel free to read them through the oldest archive links.

Here is my very first posting. By the way, I talked to Mading just a couple of weeks ago. He is a year closer to his nursing degree, still lives in Nashville and is doing well.

Between Two Worlds - Feb. 27, 2005

One of the many prayers covering me on my current Uganda - Rwanda trip is that God would work in every moment, including who I sat by on the long flights. I'm now thankful that He answered this prayer over my selfish desire to enlarge my plane territory by having an empty seat next to me.

As far as I could tell, he was the only African on the Chicago to Brussels flight and he happened to have seat 31J just to my right. As he settled we greeted each other and I asked him where he was going.

"Africa" he replied.

I followed with the obvious next question. "Where in Africa?"

"Uganda" he said and my interest perked as out of the many African countries we would be flying to the same.

I asked, "Where in Uganda?"

"Jinja" he said and my jaw dropped. His wife and mother live less than three miles from the Jinja Church of Christ.

Mading is my newest friend from southern Sudan and he is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. I sat in amazement of his faith and of his survival story. At age five, in 1987, Mading was separated from his parents when the Arabs killed many and forced everyone else out of their homes. Mading was in a group of children that fled to Ethiopia. A few years later the fighting in Ethiopia forced them back into Sudan, many of them drowning while crossing the river. A few years later more insecurity in southern Sudan forced them into northern Kenya where they were rescued. That is the short story of it but you can read more here.

I'm thankful that Christian missionaries and the U.S. government stepped in and saved these boys. Mading was granted refugee status in 2001 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. He has great opportunities before him as he learns to be a nurse and he has a job at a local grocery store. I'm also thankful for the Christian man who bought his plane ticket to see his wife and mother here in Jinja. Please pray that Mading will get clearance for his wife to move to Nashville with him. May God use a poor Sudanese boy who had to walk for days on end just to survive to now do great things in His Kingdom.

Seated across the aisle on my left in 31F and 31G was quite the different story. A beautiful woman with a man who couldn't keep his hands off of her. Long neck massages came with very loud conversation where I learned way too much! They discussed the most expensive perfumes from Europe, how he was important enough to be invited to some famous person's wedding, staying in five star hotels in Rome as well as which smile was her best smile in her Playboy shoot. They both agreed that her cover shot was by far her best smile and that her teeth were perfect. Headphones went on after that.

It couldn't become more clear to me that I live between two worlds. One where most of the population fights oppressive poverty and insecurity and thousands of people die every day because of it. The other where a few people have so much money they don't know what to do with it and it's driven them far away from God.

May the Church acknowledge this vast economic chasm and stand up for the poor, as over 3,000 verses in our Bible tells us to do. May God save our country from a continual push towards self-centeredness and the deceit of wealth.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Cheek Gushing for Africa

Our family is into the Olympics big time. Last night we even found ourselves high-fiving each other while watching the USA women's curling match. It makes the Olympics even more fun to watch when you have athletes like Joey Cheek.

Immediately after winning his speed skating gold medal the usual scramble of cameras, interviews, etc. began to take place. But rather than soaking in his own glory of a gold medal, Cheek immediately turned his attention to helpless children in Sudan. In his own words, "I can take the time to gush about how wonderful I feel," he said, "or I can use it for something productive."

Cheek announced that the $25,000 he just won, along with any other Olympic Committee winnings he might earn, would go to help the children suffering in the war in Sudan. He then challenged Olympic sponsors to match him. So far I've heard that Nike and Gap, Inc. have done so.

Now that's the spirit of the Olympics that too often gets missed!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Smelling Coffee

Driving around town in my little Ford has been a little more enjoyable this week. I've been carrying several bags of fresh Ugandan coffee everywhere I go and it smells so good it makes me smile.

Last week Adam Langford, a Kibo fellow, shipped and his brother delivered to me a shipment of Kiira Kawa from Uganda. Kiira Kawa is a product packaged in love at The Source Cafe in Jinja and its profits go to provide the church facilities where so many people are ministered to.

The coffee is grown by some of my Ugandan coffee farmer friends that live on the slopes of Mt. Elgon. Another good friend Moses Kimeze, who is an incredibly gifted Ugandan church servant, asks them to grow the best quality arabica coffee in Uganda and he in turn pays about 10% over market price for it. Moses then takes the green coffee to a processing plant where it is hulled, sorted and roasted. The roasted coffee returns to the Source Cafe where my church friends package the final product in love. (The great packaging design was provided by a small American Christian owned business who wanted to support this small African Christian owned business). The product is then sold in high end craft shops throughout Uganda as well as the international airport and various hotels. While many avid coffee drinkers get a great product, many Ugandans receive dignity through jobs and are empowered as they work hard to provide such a great product. And as I mentioned above, the church can have a place to meet, AIDS victims get counseling, preachers get Bible training, and so many more God filled things take place at Plot 20 Main Street in Jinja, Uganda.

So while the smell of this coffee is very appealing, knowing so many lives are improved through it makes me smile even more.

If you'd like to have a bag from my new shipment, I'll gladly share. Just let me know if you're interested.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Congrats to the Moores!

Congratulations are in order to my Kibo sidekick, Mark Moore and his wife Marnie. They welcomed a little girl, Rylee Louise, to the world today! She will be well protected by her 3 older brothers Benjamin, Grady and Cooper.

Rylee already has her own webpage.

Check out her favorite links!