Monday, November 27, 2006

Rwanda moving in the right direction

Rwanda is an amazing place. Just over twelve years ago it was hell on earth. Unimaginable evil taking place. With security in place, it is now developing at an incredible pace. Kigali now is probably the nicest East African city I've seen. It is clean, has nice roads, business is booming, new buildings are going up, crime is low, and people obviously enjoy the development. This past Saturday, and every last Saturday morning of each month, businesses shut down and the whole country is encouraged to clean their neighborhoods. The police and government officials lead the way in the monthly clean up time. Plastic sacks (like Wal-Mart sacks) are not allowed in the country as they tend to trash up the city. I know because I carried one into the airport. I wondered what I had done wrong when they immediately ushered me into a room and handed me a blue Mickey Mouse bag to carry my belongings so they could confiscate my plastic sack. The Mickey bag cost me $4 but after I heard the reason I was fine with paying it. Those are just small examples of how Rwanda is treating their development seriously.

The Imbabazi Orphanage is also moving in the right direction. The term "orphanage" will soon be phased out and it will be run as the "Imbabazi Center". The majority of the children are now teenagers and so focused efforts will begin on preparing them for adult life. The Rwanda government has good policies towards children in need and the Imbabazi Center will align itself with those policies. The Imbabazi Foundation Board met for nearly 30 hours last week and some great strides were made to building on the strong foundation Roz had started. I'm weary of meetings but I'm very happy with the future of the Imbabazi children.

Tomorrow night Mark and I will be on a plane heading for home. I can't wait to be there. Two weeks is about all I can stand being away from my family.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Roz' rainy memorial service

We went up to Mugongo (Roz' farm) early today as we thought that her grave marker / garden area still needed a lot of work before the 2 p.m. service. We found that her Rwandan friends had worked through the night and it was in pretty good shape. Mark, Adam and I were able to stroll around her farm, have tea in her house and play and visit with the children.

About the time the service began it started to pour down rain. There were two tents set up and I'm guessing nearly 300 people crowded in to stay dry. We were happy to see Terri Taylor who made it just in time. For nearly the whole two hour service it rained heavily. While the rain made it a little difficult, it was still powerfully evident just how big of an impact Roz had on so many people. I met many Americans, Congolese, Rwandans, Europeans and more today that had in one way or another been inspired by the sacrificial love Roz gave throughout her life. The 120 or so children that sang, danced and told stories of how she rescued them from a homeless life was the biggest example of her love. (She started the Imbabazi Orphanage at the age of 82 and has been the director the last 12 years.) She loved children just as Christ told us to. She also loved those in the community around her by providing them secure jobs, treating their sicknesses and giving them an example of working hard.

Diplomats (US ambassador was in attendance today), family, friends, business people, philanthropists, missionaries, conservationists, strangers and many beautiful children said goodbye today to Roz' and thanked her for her inspiration. I believe her legacy will live for eternity.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Thanksgiving to Remember

Happy Thanksgiving!

While I prefer to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family, this Thanksgiving is certainly one to remember. Most of the day was spent at our Gisenyi hotel getting acquainted with the other Imbabazi board members and other friends of Roz. At 6 p.m. Mark, Adam and I sat at Roz' table and enjoyed a great turkey dinner with dressing, rice, green beans, cranberry sauce, and then pumpkin pie and chocolate cake. There were 14 of us around the table and the conversation was filled with fascinating stories from Roz' life. We were a unique group all brought to the table by Roz. Everyone had a chance to say their thanks and I told them about how thankful I am for Briley, Easton, Tyler and McKensey, family and new friends. There was a lot of laughter mixed in with some tears in the three and a half hours we were there.

We leave at 8 a.m. tomorrow for Roz' farm where we will make final preparations of her grave marker and the memorial service. We will be there by 9 a.m. and the service begins at 2 p.m.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Random Thoughts from Uganda

I’ve been on the ground in Uganda for 48 hours and going full steam from the get go. Unfortunately my brother, Mark, has only been on the ground for 24 hours as mechanical problems made him miss our Brussels flight by 15 minutes. More mechanical problems nearly made him miss the next flight too.

He’s here now and it’s great to have Mark with me on this trip. He and Adam Langford have hit it off well and we’re really enjoying hanging out together. Adam is obviously doing great work here.

Some random thoughts from my first 48 hours in Uganda….

I don’t miss jet lag. My body pretty much stopped functioning around 8 p.m. last night Uganda time. It’s now 3:30 a.m. and I’m rarin to go.

Uganda is not rarin to go as it is dark, quiet and peaceful. I miss the quiet peaceful moments that come much more naturally in Uganda than America.

It’s definitely rainy season in Uganda. The green tropical surroundings are amazing.

My African allergies are alive and well. I wonder if Ugandans think my eyes are always red and puffy.

I miss Briley, Easton, Tyler and McKensey.

Jinja Church asked me to preach. Preaching without much preparation but with jet lag and a bad case of allergies is always an interesting combination. It’s those times I give up trying to preach a great sermon on my own and let God. I believe He did. I was surprised when my emotions got the best of me and I teared up in front of the 50 or so people.

I preached from Ephesians 4 on community, the importance of relationships, and “making every effort” to encourage and keep the bond of peace with each other. For me and this trip, I’m convinced that taking time to just show up in Jinja is the effort I needed to make to reconnect with such important relationships I have here. My Ugandan friends encourage me so much and their smiles, hugs, and handshakes have let me know they’re also encouraged.

I looked around Jinja Church and was pleased at the strong faith and community I have with several of my closest friends. Richard & Idah, Moses and Irene, Alice, Ronald and Lazarus (and more) are all producing great fruit through their ministries / lives. I don’t believe it’s any coincidence that most of these are the people that for about five years we spent nearly every day of our lives together working at The Source. It reinforces in me the value of relational ministry. It also reinforces in me that serving the community through a Christ-centered business is a great way to deepen Christian relationships and develop whole people. The spiritual, physical, emotional and educational aspects of life are all important and I’m glad that The Source and Jinja town ministry provides for all of those.

Mark, Adam and I had lunch with Moses and Irene and their four children. I was laughing with them that five years ago they were childless and now they have four! The oldest, Jared, is about 10 and is an AIDS orphan. He is Moses and Irene’s nephew.

AIDS continues its march to wipe out a generation here in Uganda. The good news is that there is now free ARV treatment for those suffering the worst. Unfortunately it’s too late for so many Ugandans. I have heard account after account of church members and their family members who have died from AIDS the past few years or are dying from AIDS right now. Moses and Irene have a brother-in-law on his death bed right now.

We spent Sunday afternoon in the village of Kyabirwa visiting my good friend Manda Wilson and his family. They are also great leaders in this church movement leading by service and a seemingly unshakable faith in God. They moved to Kyabirwa to help oversee the property owned by the church and which the land is designed to produce coffee and livestock (pigs, goats and more) to provide for the sustainability of Basoga Bible School. Manda is the Assistant Director of BBS. The former caretaker of the land, Charles, died of AIDS a couple of years ago and the property has largely been unattended and uncared for since he became sick. Manda’s wife, Sarah, generously provided us a good meal of sweet potatoes and beef.

We ended the day by seeing God’s incredible power at Bujagali Falls on the Nile River. There continues to be a lot of economic development in this area because of the Nile River. It is known for its world class rafting and kayaking. South African firms are building up an impressive tourism base here. That only helps the success of The Source. We sat by the river to wind down and reflect on a good and full day.

The on the ground Jinja team continues to impress me. The Langford, Bogles and Manry’s are incredibly talented while serving so humbly. They were appreciative of our small groups at Memorial Drive buying their lunch Saturday.

Today, Monday, will be another busy day. We’ll spend as much time as we can at The Source. I want to reconnect with as many Ugandan friends as possible. Mark is excited to drink freshly picked and roasted coffee at The Source and to meet people. Adam and I will make our third trip in four days to the airport in Entebbe (on average a 3 hour one way trip) and the three of us will end the day sleeping in Kigali, Rwanda.

More from there….

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Back to Africa

Soon I'll be off to Africa again. A short three day stay in Uganda seeing friends and then a week in Rwanda for Roz' memorial service and Imbabazi Orphanage board meeting. This blog started on my last trip to Africa in February 2005. I'll try to post short notes every now and then on this trip as well. Hopefully my brother, Mark, can also give his first time in Africa reflections.

Plane reading material will be Left To Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza, an amazing woman who found her faith while surviving the genocide. Sam Shewmaker told me about it and Briley just read it as well. Both were amazed and inspired by her faith story.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

You've Been Lost!

In Uganda, when you go for too long without seeing someone they will inevitably say, "But, you've been lost!" I realize that in the blogger world I often get lost. Lately it's been too much going on and too little time to write about it. I wish I could write in much more detail but short blurbs will have to work for now. (Btw, I did finally add links over there but still have goofed up pictures. I'll fix it someday)

The U4U event went great. There were about 70 in attendance. Not a huge number but each one was passionate about Uganda and ministry. When you get 70 people like that in one room great things happen. As Mike Schrage put it so well in the final talk Saturday afternoon, "This is not Sunday, but as far as I'm concerned this is where the rubber really hits the road regarding church happening." There was great prayer, praise and partnership going on as we celebrated what God has done in Uganda and we dreamed about what God is going to do in Uganda.

Probably the best part of the weekend was sharing our home with former Jinja teammates Bret and Johnna, Ben and Kym, Erika, McKensey, Rebecca, Terri, and Greg and Jill. We had a houseful but it was great. I'm not sure that I've ever experienced "community" with a group as I have with our Jinja team. Our small groups here in Tulsa get close to that but the shared cross-cultural experiences and the down time in Uganda we had together allowed those relationships to really deepen. Terry Rush asked Ben Langford Sunday morning if our whole crew was Ben's family. Ben looked at us and then just said, "yes." And he is right.


From the mouths of little ones....

As we were cleaning up Saturday afternoon, a few of us noticed my 2 1/2 year old daughter (who was in her own little world), McKensey, walk up to the glass podium, stand behind it and started saying very loudly, "Jesus, all over the world!" while waving her arms around. She said it over and over until she realized we were all having too much fun watching her. You don't think she notices what's going on?

On Sunday morning after church, my five year old Tyler began showing off his clothes pin donkey he made in Bible hour. My friend Doug Townsdin asked him what the donkey's name was and Tyler said, "Jack."


On my upcoming trip to Africa next week.....

After Roz passed away about six weeks ago, my heart wanted to make plans to attend her memorial service and the scheduled Imbabazi Orphanage Foundation Board meetings on Thanksgiving weekend. But I thought "no way" as I didn't want to be away from my family over Thanksgiving and didn't think I could afford to be away from work for that long. Then one morning my incredible wife, Briley, woke up and said, "you really need to go and be a part of this opportunity God has given you." After praying on it for a few days I brought it up with my supportive Christian boss who said, "No question, this is something you should do." So, I am scrambling to prepare for another trip to Africa. I leave next week.

Then last Friday my oldest brother, Mark, called me and asked, "What would it take for a guy to plan a trip to Africa in less than two weeks." Evidently he and his wife, Kathleen, had talked about my trip and she said, "You just need to go with Clint." I've been trying to get Mark over there for about 10 years now so I immediately went to work in getting things lined up for him. He is very excited about seeing new ministry opportunities and being an ambassador for poverty-stricken Africans. We are both excited to share this experience together and we are both extremely thankful for our supportive wives and family.


More coffee!

I received 200 more bags of excellent Arabica coffee called Kiira Kawa last week. I need to get rid of them. Can you help? They make great holiday gifts as you can tell others that this coffee keeps giving (remind anyone of George of Seinfeld?) . This coffee is bought by the Jinja Church members directly from the farmers. They pay the farmers above market price for their best coffee therefore benifitting those farmers economically (same idea as fair trade). Then the coffee is processed and roasted in Uganda and then packaged at The Source Cafe in Jinja. I bought this last shipment from them at their normal wholesale price enabling them to use those profits to pay for the expenses of the church building. The church, not having to pay for the building expenses due to this business, sends out their own missionaries by buying them bikes and providing monthly support as well as develop their children through exciting youth ministries. And this is not just buying coffee for a purpose. I believe that if you are a serious coffee drinker that you will really like it. So much so that you may end up like Doug and Danna Townsdin, who can't drink anything but Kiira Kawa dark roast coffee.

Let me know ( if you want some of this coffee for your home, small group, Bible class, office, church fellowships, Christmas parties, etc. It is great coffee with a mission.