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.

Fix Our Streets

I am a true political cynic, but living in Tulsa is changing that a little bit. I am realizing that on a local level there is true opportunity for normal people like me to have a voice, and the local nature seems to make less room for partisanship and dogma. I recently sent an email copied below to the mayor and council about Fix Our Streets. If you live in Tulsa and want to influence the future of transpiration in Tulsa this is one of your chances by letting council and mayor know your vision for transportation in Tulsa. – Ben

The recent debate over Vison2, and the upcoming debate over Fix Our Streets has caused me to think a lot about what type of city I would like to see Tulsa become.

Any individuals vision for a city could take up pages and be very complicated, so I have been trying to think of a concise way to state my vision. In a broad sense PLANiTulsa fits a lot of what I hope happens in Tulsa in the coming years. While I did not live in Tulsa when that document was create, I appreciate and agree with much of what is in it, and I truly hope that it is implemented. It seems that it would be very easy for PLANiTulsa to become a nice thing Tulsa talked about once and never be truly implemented without strong and continued dedication from city leaders.

Here is the summery of my vision: I want Tulsa to be a place that invests in all people.

If this is true then the decisions we make will be driven by a desire to equip people to reach their full potential. This sounds sort of fluffy and abstract, but it has real consequences, even as we look at something like Fix Our Streets and the transportation planning that goes into it.

If in our transportation planning we do not consider the needs of those who do not have cars (or, to a lesser extent would like to use cars less), we basically make the decision that we are only investing in those that have cars. If you don’t have a car then we will not do what we can to help you reach your full potential. When I read “Council Chairman G.T. Bynum spearheaded the request for the study, saying that it’s unlikely the city will ever have enough funding to make the bus system what it should be.” (http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=334&articleid=20121109_11_A1_CUTLIN980670) it is easy to read “we are unwilling to invest in people who ride the bus.” (In fairness to Counselor Bynum that TW article did not even give a true quote of what he said, much less give the context, so I don’t just take it at face value. Further, the article did not say if he was stating his opinion of reality, or his desires for transportation funding. It is not my intention to imply that he is somehow unsupportive of transportation options in Tulsa).

If we look at our transportation system (streets, sidewalks, trails, bus, taxi, etc) and find that it is hindering, or at the very least not helping, people reach their potential (http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=61&articleid=20121026_61_A18_Tulsas783853) then we have an opportunity to invest in people.

Lets invest. PLANiTulsa calls for this investment: “Tulsans will have a wide variety of transportation choices. The system will be designed to provide everyone a variety of modes to choose from, including driving, biking, or riding frequent and reliable bus or rail transit”

I don’t understand the specific procedures, politics, etc around Fix Our Streets and other funding issues. But, I do know that now will always be the best time to start investing in the bus system, sidewalks, bike lanes (http://www.benandbethwest.com/2012/05/biking-in-tulsa/), trail systems, trains, trolleys, bus stops (http://www.benandbethwest.com/2012/04/tulsa-transit-a-marketing-problem/), crosswalks, streets, highways, and planning that will be an investment in all people. There are lots of people working to understand these issues (BPAC, Tulsa Hub, Fast Forward Plan, etc), please involve and listen to them as you plan for Fix Our Streets and other transportation needs in Tulsa.

When it comes specifically to Fix Our Streets I would like to see the BPAC SMART Goals implemented, and a true plan and effort made to sufficiently fund our bus system.

The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney With Care…

We have had an ongoing dilemma in our house every Christmas since we got married.

 

Ben displays the stocking he has had since he was little.

 

But my childhood stocking is still with my parents. And I sort of want it to stay there for now. I guess I just always imagined that when I had my own family we would have matching stockings like I had while growing up.

 

Ben has been reluctant to trade in his stocking for a newer one, so that we could have matching stockings.

 

And so this year (9 years later), we have finally have matching stockings!

 

Because I made one for myself, to match Ben’s. I used a scarf that was a beautiful blue knit fabric, but the scarf itself was a bit too short. So I re-purposed it into the base for my stocking. I used fabric scraps that I have had for a long time for the rest of the stocking.

 

My favorite part is the gold ribbon along the top. This fabric scrap was nestled in the sewing kit I inherited from my great grandmother. I have loved it since I found it (about 15 years now!) & have been saving it for just the right project to come along.

 

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, and stretching that creative ability I mentioned yesterday has been good for my soul.

 

I’m really happy with the way it turned out. And that we now have matching stockings. 🙂

Creativity

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso
 

I don’t really see myself as a naturally creative person. I think at some level we are probably all creative in some aspect. It seems that I have to work at it a little to find my natural creative outlets. And I’ve found ways to let my natural creativity come out. (making cards, seeing the beauty that still lies in old, discarded things.)

I recently came across some old artwork I created in elementary school. Some of these made me laugh really hard. And some of them seem to have come from a completely unfamiliar creative brain.

 {That’s a brontosaurus w/ a freakishly long tongue. Standing next to a tar pit.}

{You’re missing a lot of 3-D detail here, like layered construction paper hills, and cardboard behind the big balloon, making it just “pop out” from the page, and red yarn tying the basket to the balloon. You can, however, see my signature “m” birds.}

 

Because looking at these, it seems that maybe somewhere along the way, I fell into a trap of thinking too much. As Ray Bradbury said, “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

{I call this one “Root Trapper”}

And I’ve tried figuring out the logistics of this story. Can you read it? Here, I’ll transcribe it for you.

“This Plant is called a Root Trapper. It is purple and green. It has a wheel that goes around and eats the roots. On the leaves of it, it has the plants food to attract the roots. The neat thing about it is that it is it only grows by green hills on its right.”
The right side of the picture is my rendition of The Root Trapper. It says, “This is a root trapper. With a wheele that goes eight miles per hour. and eats the roots.”

But I think the beauty of this story & creation is in just celebrating it for what it is. Not trying to figure out the logistics of how in the world this “World’s Scariest Plant” would ever survive.

I’ll leave you with some deep thoughts by Calvin & Hobbes.

“As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance”-Calvin
 
 

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.