Tuesday, May 22, 2007

why's she talking about chinese food on her africa blog?

My post-lunch fortune cookie fortune made me smile, so I'm sharing it with you:

"A visit to a strange place will bring you renewed perspective."

Isn't it amazing how often those fortune cookie fortunes are relevant to the life of everyone who reads them? ;-) Anyway, I expect my upcoming visit to a strange-to-me place will bring at least a changed perspective and perhaps that's the same thing as a renewed perspective. :-)

I'll be glad when some more pieces of this trip are definite enough for me to pass them on to you. I'm eager to tell you more about some of the folks it's looking increasingly likely that I'll be able to team up with while I'm there. The possibilities are very cool! For now you'll just have to trust me on that one...and keep praying that all will come together in its time.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Family Ties

I talked with my Grandpa and Grandma Rice tonight and got the run-down on exactly which of my relatives are in South Africa and how they're all related to me. The downside of not having a family that lives together all in the same holler (that's Stoney Creek--the community I grew up in--talk for hollow/neighborhood in the mountains) is that you have relatives you're closely related to but have never met and whose names you don't even know.

It was fun to talk with my grandparents about my trip. I appreciate their support and shared excitement. It's been very cool the way my Africa plans have made it more of a priority for me to learn my grandpa's history. You see, my grandpa grew up in South Africa. His parents were missionaries there. He turned a year old on the ship taking his family to South Africa, and, minus a few years here and there for furloughs (during the Depression when they had to stay in the States longer than planned because they couldn't raise enough money to return), he lived in South Africa until he was 19 years old. That's when he returned to the States for college, which is where he met my grandma, but that's another story.

Tonight Grandpa said that he wishes he could climb into my suitcase and go along. It will be fun to come back and compare stories with him. It's nice that South Africa is the last stop on my itinerary, so the experiences there will be freshest when I get back State-side to catch up with folks.

Grandpa's advice to me tonight as we talked about places like Edwaleni and Izingolweni and Port Shepstone was that, as I write, I try to understand the people. He says so many of the books Americans write about Africa don't really come from an understanding of the culture. His advice is very much in line with the purpose around the writing part of this trip that I'm slowly able to articulate better and better. When I began planning this trek to Africa, it was just sort of a murky sense that was difficult to put words to.

My concern as I sign up to do some writing for various organizations working in Africa has been that I do not want to go to Africa and write stories about all the things the Americans are doing to save the Africans. I don't think those stories would be true, and I've wanted to make sure I'm not partnering with organizations that want to tell those stories and want me to help tell them. Instead, I'm very interested in telling the stories of what folks in Africa are doing. Sometimes the purpose of telling those stories will be so that we Americans and others can come alongside them with the resources we've got to support the work they're doing. There will be many different versions of what "coming alongside" will look like, but all of them are a more whole, more body-of-Christ way of understanding our relationships with each other. Just like the way I need folks to come alongside me and help me get to Africa.

I'm also hopeful that God will use me to tell the stories of folks whose stories need to be told but who have no outlets for telling their stories, in essence to give voice to the voiceless. It is humbling to think of the possibility of being another's voice, of representing that person well and truthfully. And, then, as I type that, I realize that God himself already has given me and all Christians the task and opportunity of representing Him well and truthfully. So the idea of representing others, of being their voice is nothing new.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

i've got tickets!

Here's my official itinerary!

July 27: leave Nashville
July 28-August 12: Ghana
August 13-September 14: Kenya
September 14-October 14: Uganda
October 14-28: Zimbabwe (this is where I'll celebrate my birthday! :-) )
October 28-December 1: South Africa
December 2: arrive back in Nashville

The tickets ended up costing more than the max we were hoping for, though they're still very reasonable for all that crazy traveling. However, this raises the stakes for supporting raising. It will be fun to celebrate when all the funding comes in.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

the Ghana leg

There are so many pieces to this trip that I'm trying not to overwhelm you (or maybe it's myself I'm really trying not to overwhelm :-) ) with all of the details at once. Periodically, I'll be focusing in on one leg or other of the trip and describing it in more detail for you.

Since Ghana is where I'll first step foot in Africa, that seems like a good place to begin in bloggerland, too. Chronological is nice sometimes. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been doing some publicity work, just a few hours a month, for The Joseph Alliance since last fall. One day last August as I was waiting for a drink at the end of my afternoon Starbucks shift, my phone began salsa-ing with a number I didn't know. I thought it might be an Atlanta area code but wasn't sure. And guessing that the call was coming from Atlanta didn't really tell me much about who was calling. (Aren't there something like 100 million people living in Atlanta now? It's the new cool southern city or something?)

"Hello, this is Kami." (That's how I answer my phone when I don't know who's calling, as it could be someone offering me a big book deal or maybe just a magazine article assignment.)

On the other end of the line was LaVerne Hanes Stevens, the founder and director of The Joseph Alliance. Ends up that she worked for the CCO, the Pittsburgh-based campus ministry organization I worked for in 1999-2001, a number of years before I did. She told me about her organization and their need to get the word out about what they were up to. She was looking for a writer, and a mutual CCO friend had suggested she call me.

One thing led to another, and LaVerne, LaRhonda, Vanessa and I met at a Ryan's in Chattanooga last September and started strategizing. Sometime that day LaVerne asked me the question I was hoping she would ask: "Would you like to come to Ghana with us?"

And that was really the question that began rolling the wheels (like the kind on luggage!) that have led the way to the trip that has birthed this blog.

The Joseph Alliance is working to encourage African-American Christians to be involved in missions, especially missions in Africa. Many of the African-American churches of our day don't have a vision for the importance of the entire Great Commission: care for people around you and also for those a little farther away and even for those very far away. The Joseph Alliance is working to encourage a vision for the importance of missions. One of the ways they're doing that is by inviting folks to come along on a mission trip that will expose them to missions, with the hope that their passion will grow and they'll take that back to their churches. The hope for these trips is that they'll have a multiplying effect. And that has already begun to happen. Some churches that have participated in past Joseph Alliance trips are now investing regularly in other parts of the world.

I'm going along on the Ghana trip partly to further familiarize myself with the Joseph Alliance's work, so that I can better tell their story as I continue to do publicity/development work for them. But, I'm also excited to begin my time in Africa as part of a group serving Ghanaian folks in more traditional mission trip ways.

The Joseph Alliance group will be in Ghana for 3 weeks, but I (and my sister Erin) won't be joining them until week #2 of their trip. Currently, week #2 will include half-day service projects in a local orphanage. We'll also be helping with the Renewed Woman Conference during that week. Additionally, we will meet the women who've begun their own businesses through the sponsorship of The Joseph Alliance and will send off some new women into family-sustaining business ventures. And, if that's not jam-packed sounding enough, that week is also the week we'll participate in Joseph Project events (Ghana's 50th anniversary celebration combined with the 200th anniversary of the end of the slave trade; the Joseph Alliance is a partner with Ghana's Ministry of Tourism, helping encourage folks to participate in service projects when they visit Ghana). During the last week in Ghana we will be going to a more remote village and doing some life skills workshops and eye screenings, as well as visiting local ministries.

I'm very excited about this portion of the trip and am thankful for the added possibility of seeing things in a new way as I travel and serve in Africa with a group of African-American sisters and brothers instead of with a group of sisters and brothers who share my pale, sunburn-prone skin and accompanying experience of life.

out with Google, in with GoodSearch

From an email from LaVerne, director of The Joseph Alliance:

There is a new Search Engine that will help raise funds for The Joseph Alliance. It’s called GoodSearch. GoodSearch (www.goodsearch.com) is a search engine which donates 50% of its revenue, about a penny per search, to the charity designated by its users. It's a simple and compelling concept.

You use GoodSearch exactly as you would any other search engine, and it's powered by Yahoo!, so you get great results. Each time you search with "Joseph Alliance" selected, GoodSearch will donate to the ministry.

1. Just go to www.goodsearch.com and type "Joseph Alliance" in the field that asks, "Who do you GoodSearch for?"
2. Then select "Joseph Alliance (Tyrone, GA)" and continue on by searching the topic or item you wish to lookup.

Each time you use this search engine with Joseph Alliance selected, you earn funding for our ministry. Once used, "Joseph Alliance (Tyrone, GA)" will be saved in the settings and will not have to be reselected.

For those who have wanted to financially support The Joseph Alliance, but have not been able to do so, this is a great way to show your support without spending a dime. You can even make
www.goodsearch.com your home page, so that the search engine is immediately available every time you bring up your browser.

Just 500 of us searching four times a day will raise about $7300 in a year! Please be sure to spread the word!

I tried it today, and it worked great! And I earned a few cents for The Joseph Alliance doing something I do ALL the time. As a Starbucks tips receiver, I can tell you that pennies are nothing to scoff at. Pennies in a tip jar do add up to real money for needy folks. :-)