Our Current Trip (from which we just returned)

We have no illusions that we can change the world, or even one small corner of it, in six weeks, so we won’t pretend that’s what we did on this trip. This journey was more subtle and more realistic than that. It’s primary purpose was two of the most important things that we know of:  (1) connection, & (2) learning.

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For six weeks we traveled across East Africa, visiting three countries: Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, with a primary goal of (in addition to visiting Travis’s parents) connecting with as many people, communities, businesses, and organizations as possible along the way. We hoped that we could provide listening ears and a bit of encouragement. We also wanted to learn as much as possible along the way about the people we meet, about the countries, regions, and towns through which we passed, and about the needs and opportunities that exist locally.

We hope that we can now share with others what we have learned in order to facilitate greater connection and collaboration across this global body of fellow humans who are on a great and complicated journey together. Perhaps by sharing what we have learned and by connecting more people, communities, and resources, some small but valuable positive impact may be made. We also learned and connected with our own futures in mind: what does our own future involvement in East Africa look like? Would we ever move back? If so, to do what? If not, how can we remain connected and continue to collaborate from afar?

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Our trip consisted of 17,056 miles (or so) of flying and over 2,200 miles of land travel (plus a few ferry rides). The scope of resources being used here was and is not lost upon us, and we took this trip very seriously and humbly, aiming for tangible, practical good to grow out of the connections and learnings that were cultivated along the journey.

Over our next few posts we hope to introduce you to a few of the remarkable people, places, and organizations we have met along the way.

In the meantime, here is a photo of some camels. #trafficprobs

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Photo Summary: February & March 2012

These past few months have been fast-paced and non-stop for us. Amidst language school, village trips, and meetings around East Africa, we’ve fallen a few blog posts behind. So here’s a quick summary post that we hope will catch you up on the major events… in pictures.

January 30 – February 17: Three-week language program at State University of Zanzibar

We had class from 8 to 12 every day. This is our teacher, Mwalimu Farouq.

We lived with a local Zanzibari family as a part of this immersion program. We ate all our meals with them and visited into the night, all in Swahili. This is our host mother, Mama Rahma.

Mama Rahma's daughter, Amal, was also a good language helper.

We were also able to attend some special events, such as this engagement party.

February 20 – 24: East Africa Men’s Retreat at Rondo Retreat Center in Kenya

Every year a different team around East Africa plans this event and brings in a speaker. It is a great time for us to be challenged as well as to connect with and learn from others around the region doing work similar to ours.

One of the many old houses at Rondo Retreat Center, which is located in the beautiful Kakamega Forest.

While passing through Nairobi on my way to and from the retreat, I was able to spend a fun evening with my two good friends Murithi and Mwenda, both of whom I grew up with as a child in Kenya.

February 27 – March 9: Back in Mtwara

After a month out of Mtwara, it was great to be back in town. We tried to hit the ground running, making the rounds to greet our friends around town and get updated on any news. We also quickly made plans to head out to some villages to build some developing relationships and to have some more good Swahili immersion time. So our first week back we spent Thursday in a village area on the edge of Newala, Thursday night in Tandahimba, and Friday in the village of Chikongo, where we made plans to return for a much longer stay in April. Monday the following week we attended a surprise wedding ceremony near Newala (we’ll have to write more about that in another blog post); then we spent Monday night in Newala and Tuesday traveling to nearby villages with the groom to announce the news of his wedding to his friends and relatives who hadn’t heard.

Women singing to the bride inside the hut as a part of the wedding ceremony.

The men wait outside the hut, bearing witness as the groom and father of the bride solidify their agreement as overseen and prayed for by a local Muslim leader.

The ceremony continues.

Singing Makonde songs as we drive the bride and groom to the groom's home after the ceremony.

March 14 – 27: Tanzania Meeting, Visiting Rangi Church near Mwanza, and East African Women’s Retreat.

Group photo at the Tanzania Meeting.

Following the Tanzania Meeting, Lauren and the team girls headed off to the Women's Retreat on Lake Kivu in Rwanda.

Lake Kivu in Rwanda.

While our wives were at the Women's Retreat, the men (plus Reed and Aletheia) spent 3 days with the Rangi church near Mwanza.

The Rangi church has been extremely helpful to our team in many ways, and we are very thankful for them and for the time we have been able to spend with them last month.

We are very grateful to have been able to participate in these events across East Africa and believe that the work we do here in Mtwara will undoubtedly benefit as a result of this time. But we’re glad to be back in town and to be getting back into a more regular routine here in Mtwara.

Book Response

A few nights ago I finished It’s Our Turn To Eat, by Michela Wrong, a book tracing the history of political corruption in Kenya. A fascinating and enlightening read, I would highly recommend It’s Our Turn To Eat to anyone interested in the history and fate of the African continent and her people. Issues touched on include: kenyan history and culture, ethnic hostilities, colonialism and its long term effects, post- and neo-colonialism, how the ways in which foreign aid are given actually often proliferate corruption and, as a result, poverty, etc.

This book calls for a more thoughtful, careful, and sober-minded approach to outside assistance supplied to many African nations. Michela hopes to “alert Western readers to the damage well-meaning thoughtlessness routinely causes.” Michela writes: “As for the Western tendency to turn a blind eye to blatant graft and routine human rights abuse in the eagerness to save ‘the poorest of the poor’, it is a feature of donor relations across the continent. Worried Westerners, who so often seem to fall prey to a benign from of megalomania when it comes to Africa, would do well to accept that salvation is simply not theirs to bestow. They should be more modest, more knowing, and less naive.”

More modest, more knowing, and less naive. Instead, Westerners often tend to see ourselves on white horses, coming to save the day in epic romance. Megalomania indeed. It is time to lower our view of ourselves. To be listeners, learners, and servants. To genuinely consider others greater than ourselves. These statements are beyond me, but I hope to continue learning what they mean and to enact them in life. Maybe then, when that is done, the world can be changed, not by me, but by someone greater than myself.