Back to Uganda

Beth and I are headed back to Uganda. Crazy!

We have had the honor of getting to know the people and work of Kibo Group up close and personal. I spend a significant amount of my time working for them figuring out how to tell the story of Kibo Group to more people. We have been able to visit Uganda twice. I count it a privilege to get to work with people who are trying to solve big problems around the world.

So, I am taking a little business trip. I will be making videos, taking pictures, having meetings, and learning more about how Kibo fulfills our mission. Beth is coming along to help out. Its a bit surreal actually. The last two times we have gone have been with big groups, one of which we were leading. There was a lot of work to make sure everybody was ready, I had to get shots and buy power adapters, and it was all new. This time we just went on delta.com and booked some tickets. It’s still a really big deal! We are going halfway around the world to a totally different culture and place to learn and bring back a few stories. I am blessed.

If you want to know more about Kibo Group check out www.KiboGroup.org and find us on facebook. 

A post about Kibo

This is going to show up on the Kibo.org blog in a few weeks, but i thought i would test it out here. -Ben

 

Three years ago my wife and I moved to Tulsa for an internship  at Garnett Church of Christ through GPS Tulsa. We were a bit old for internships, but it seemed like it would be an adventure.
The first day of our internship Bobby and Candice showed up at church, along with some people from Water4 and we started digging a well in the front yard. This is how we were introduced to Kibo Group. Three years, two trips to Jinja, hours of conversation with Greg, Ronald, Bobby, Roy, Candice, Abraham, Rachel and Clint later I’m all in. I believe in what Kibo is doing, and want to be a part of it.

It’s hard to summarize in just a few paragraphs all the elements that draw me to Kibo, but a thread that seems to connect them is that Kibo acknowledges and even embraces complexity. I’m a big fan of simple solutions (I think egg beaters are genious, and I also think this food processor needs one less button), but sometimes we make things too simple. Our simple solutions don’t solve complex problems.

We can look at people in need and think their problems are simple. We see they don’t have money, food, water, shoes, or education. If we are feeling generous it seems easy enough to provide those things. Or, if we are feeling a bit cynical, or a little judgmental we say that person should just get a job, or just buy some shoes, or just go back to school. Both of these responses ignore the complexity of the situation.

Instead we have to let go of our assumptions, ask questions, try to understand how people can solve their own problems, understand what we should not do, understand how we can help, listen to people, and be patient. Perhaps above all be patient and willing to accept slow solutions.

These things are not easy. They force us to think deeply, and to accept that we can’t solve everybody’s problems through the strength of our minds and hands. They make us realize we might not be able to take a quick glance at the world and understand it. And slowly we see the complexity.

I have had the opportunity to observe Kibo, first from the outside and now from the inside, I am convinced that Kibo is trying to understand and embrace the complexity. The process is slow, imperfect, and sometimes boring, but it is also deep, fulfilling, and empowering. For my part I am honored to play a small role in an amazing group of people acting redemptively in the lives of people around them.

The elephant incident.

One of the things we were able to do at the end of our trip was go on Safari. We rented a van & driver/guide who drove us around the park. Ojok was our driver & we really had a great time with him. He was able to take us right to where the lions were on our first drive & we saw lions again on our second drive. (Murchison Fall National Park has tons of animals & we were easily able to see giraffes, elephants, hippos, SO many species of birds, etc. But the lions tend to be a bit more mysterious, and harder to find. Having a driver or guide who talks to the other drivers & guides & can get you to the precise location in the very large park (over 1,000 square miles!) is really valuable.

I mentioned the elephant incident briefly in my last post, and have since learned that his company was really concerned after hearing about the “incident.” Now I’m thinking that maybe we were experiencing more of an adventure than we even knew at the time!

Here’s what I remember…There was an elephant sort of behind a tree on the left side of the road that we were able to get pretty close to in the van. We knew there were other elephants just around the corner on the right side of the road. But as we advanced, the elephant walked toward us, and out into the road facing the van. That’s when Ojok started beating his arm on the side of the van & told us to do the same. We did that for a little bit & then slowly started backing up the van, making sure the elephant wasn’t going to see that as us retreating & just start coming after us. Then Ojok navigated a pretty amazing 8-point about face turn in the road & we drove off in the other direction.

Well here, watch for yourself…

An adventure for sure! 🙂

Thoughts on our trip

One of our teammates from last year’s trip recently asked us these questions. Spending 10 days in a completely different place is sort of hard to sum up nicely in a normal “How was your trip” conversation. So in an attempt to share about our trip, I’m going to answer Jo’s questions. I know what you really want are pictures, but this will have to do as a start…. 🙂

 

What were the key moments when you had opportunities to minister to others? (Ugandans, Candice and Bobby and team members) 

This is surprisingly hard to answer. I suppose that this time, we were able to minister to Bobby & Candice (Americans living in Jinja, working with Kibo) by bringing them some “comforts of home” like crushed red pepper flakes & contact solution. When you’re living somewhere like Jinja you might only get one or two options on the kind of contact solution you can pick up at the corner store. And if it’s not the kind that you prefer, then when someone is coming from “the land of plenty” where you can find 15 different types of contact solution in every corner store, then that might be something you’d request too. We also brought things like good, quality scissors & dry erase markers for the Kibo employees to use in their offices. You can find these things there…but they might not last as long, or they might be really expensive.  Bobby & Candice also ordered some things online & had them shipped to us. Us packing them in our luggage was much cheaper than shipping something from target.com to Uganda. So we were able to minister to Bobby & Candice in that way, by bringing them some “comforts of home”.

We also really saw our role this time as facilitators for the rest of our team. We helped coordinate the pre-trip meetings, we kept track of the group money & paid for meals, etc. It was fun to see the change the group went through from first impressions & being a bit overwhelmed by the smells & sights & sounds, to falling in love with this place, in the same way we have.

Is it strange that I am having the hardest time knowing when I might have ministered to Ugandans?  I feel like they did much more ministering to me than the other way around.

 

What were the key moments when others ministered to you? 

Bobby & Candice (& Rachel!-another Kibo staffer) took care of so many details for our trip that it made it easy for us to just show up & go where they had arranged for us to go. And Ida (one of the Ugandan Kibo staff) was very transparent about parts of her life & marriage. Hearing part of her story & seeing redemption there & seeing the way she gives & gives to others was really encouraging to me.

 

What went unexpectedly wrong? 

Hardly anything! When we arrived back in Tulsa, one of our trunks of coffee wasn’t on the baggage carousel with all the others…but we were able to find it before we left the airport. Most of the rest of the team had flight delays on the way back & got home much later than planned…but we all got home.

One afternoon a few of the girls were sort of stranded by the driver at an orphanage. There was some miscommunication & the driver thought he was supposed to wait for them somewhere else. They ended up having to find their own transportation (personal taxi motor bikes) back to meet up with the rest of the group. It was a bit more of an adventure than they had planned for that afternoon, but I think they all actually enjoyed it!

 

What went surprisingly right?

Lives were changed! And we made it through the Murchison part of our trip “on our own”, just Ben & I in charge-no Bobby & Candice to help us navigate things. This means that we successfully got the group to the game park (a several hour drive), into the park (with fees), across the ferry at the appropriate times, to the lodge, and back to the airport. AND along the way, I did not lose any of the group money, we had no vehicle issues, and we saw 4 lions & experienced a minor confrontation with a rather large elephant & lived to tell about it. Success in my book! (Big Thanks to our driver, Ojok, who was really, really helpful with all of those things.)

 

What are some things you learned about yourself?

I was reminded that I am naturally a “rescuer”. I want everyone to have very low anxiety & be happy. So it was stretching for me to not have all the answers. Or even if I did have some information about what was coming up next, to not share that all the time & allow people to work through some of their anxieties.

 

 

And…here we go…

The house is bought, the bags are (mostly) packed, the final wal-mart run has been made. Its time to go to Uganda.

It has truly been a crazy last few days. We really did buy a house just 4 days ago. I think “house owner” has not really set in yet (partly because really we are just %5 owner…the bank still owns a lot of this house!). It is exciting though to be able to look around know we are here long term, that we can do projects that might take a year or more to finish and know that we will be here to see them through. So…its all exciting, but i have not had time to really process the whole thing. Oh…a huge thank you to all the people who helped us move. You made our lives easy that day and we are really thankful!

In the mean time…we are laving for Uganda in the morning. We talk about Uganda and our involvement with Kibo Group a lot on this blog, so just search through the Uganda category if you want to catch up. As we prepare for this trip there are lots of things going through my mind: I am excited to get to share Jinja and the work that Kibo does with new people who have never been there before. At the same time I am a bit nervous about being the facilitator of this trip, and supposedly the leaders of the group. In the end I want those of us that are going, and those who we will be seeing in Jinja to learn and grow from these next few days, and for God to be glorified through this trip.

We will write a lot more about this when we get back, and we may do some updates while we travel (no promises…), until then we hope that you will pray for our journey.

Fundraising Update!

***Finished! Thanks to the generosity of our church and friends and family we are essentially done. Thanks for the help!***

We only need about $2,000 to finish out our fundraising for this trip! (We started needing $6,400…we are so close!)

This is basically the cost of 1 of our plane tickets.

Here’s how that $6,400 breaks down, in case you’re interested:

  • Plane Ticket: $2000 each
  • In Country Expenses (food, lodging, transportation, safari): $1200 each
  • Total Needed: $6,400 ($3,200 each)
  • Total Received: $4,400
  • Total Still Needed: $2,000

If you would like to help out the details are on the  Kibo page. Just put Ben and Beth in the purpose line of the paypal form, or your check or whatever.