Pandemonium in Sumatra

Hello!  Thank you all for your faithful support and out pour for Justin and his campaign.  If you didn't know, part of Justin's team included a writer, who had been blogging since their arrival.  This entry, mentions their visit to schools there in Sumatra, where at one point, notes what happened in the classroom when Justin introduced himself to a class full of teenagers.  Enjoy!

Roger's Rhapsody | A Writer's Journey

09.10.14 | Reading, Writing & Rock Stars

Sumatra, Indonesia

 

- Team Foxtrotter

Shoulder to Shoulder by David Lind

In darkness, light.

In darkness, light.

Upon landing, I was immediately struck by how different the Kenyan culture is from our own. The people as a whole are far more religious than here in the states, which is apparent even in their conservative dress and lingo. On the way to the slum, while observing a group of women crowded around a rusty faucet, I really began to feel the culture-shock; the sight of adults in line to collect clean water in trash bags and dirty tubs was humbling. However, this was only a taste of what I would witness in the slums.

Our team of about 60 social workers, child-sponsors, and medical professionals spent the week serving one of the largest slums in northeastern Nairobi. Korogocho, which is a Swahili term for “crowded shoulder to shoulder”, is home to an estimated 200,000 people crammed within 1.5square kilometers. (Though slums comprise only 5% of Nairobi, they are home to roughly half its citizens.) Walking through the slum for the first time was a truly unforgettable experience. The crowded shacks were comprised of strips of corrugated metal and other recycled materials held together by long nails with bottle caps for washers. The first one I went inside, which belonged to a kind woman named Margaret, was home to 6 children and 2 single mothers despite being no larger in area than a queen-sized mattress. The stench inside the homes is even worse than the street, where the lack of a sewage system has resulted in an unmoving stream of garbage and excrement. The air is so thick with the odor of waste and the fumes of burning plastic that my throat actually swelled so much on our second day to the point that I couldn’t even talk. The bathrooms, which are literally just holes in the ground, are so few that pedestrians have to be wary of “flying toilets” (i.e. plastic bags full of human feces). Surprisingly, the people of Korogocho had some electricity, or at least enough to power a few light bulbs and old radios. Since all the power is stolen from the city, however, it is often shut off without warning and lost until someone can find a new way to steal it. The absence of streetlights encourages a high crime rate; even as we walked, our guide reminded us to keep our wallets in the front to protect from pick pocketing. At night, however, is when most of the frequent murders, rapes, and kidnappings occur. One of the more graphic events I witnessed in the slums was a fight that broke out just yards in front of me on the second day. Two men were throwing punches until one managed to knock the other to the ground; the standing man then picked up a rock the size of a watermelon to cave in the other’s skull. Thankfully, the rock missed by inches, and the men were both tackled and separated before the fight became a murder. A local, Kenya-based ministry called Missions of Hope International (MOHI) coordinated nearly all of the work we did. Founded by Kenya-native Mary Kamau in 2000, MOHI seeks to do away with the common mistake of “hit-and-run” relief by working with the people of the slums and training them how to care for themselves.

Korogocho

Korogocho

One teacher, Henry, described it to me as teaching a man how to fish versus just giving him one. Most of the organization’s efforts are toward education, community outreach, and business development. MOHI schools, which my friend noticed to be similar in structure to Alcatraz, vary in size but offer quality education, far superior to the public education of most of Nairobi. These schools are currently educating 2,000 slum children in everything from English and literature to biology and physics. One day I had the opportunity to teach a class a song as part of their Vacation Bible School, and I’ll never forget it. The classroom, which was smaller than my bedroom in Phoenix, was crammed with twelve desks and an astounding forty students; the room was so crowded, in fact, that I literally had to climb my way to the back when it came time to pass out crayons. Despite the lack of space and quality supplies, though, I have never seen a group of kids in my thirteen years of public education as overjoyed to be in school as these students. They were so enthusiastic about every song, activity, and concept that one couldn’t help but be enthusiastic with them.

Indeed, it seemed that the children were the life of the slums as a whole. For all the pain and suffering I witnessed, the amount of smiles and hujambo’s (hello’s) I received walking through Korogocho forced me to sit down and rethink poverty.  In addition to working with the children and installing skylights in homes, our team also set up a medical clinic to address some of the more demanding, physical needs of Korogocho. The clinic was set up to begin with a triage run by nurses, who they sent the patients to either one of the consultation rooms, the eye clinic, the prayer room, or the pharmacy. Over the course of the week, our team of 20 physicians and medical professionals saw and treated over 520 patients for everything from ear infections and ringworm to pneumonia and tuberculosis. I had the opportunity to shadow and assist a brilliant doctor named Mark. Mark, who has practiced internal medicine in Sun City for over 20 years, was raised by missionaries in Peru and has been on many medical missions throughout his career. “If money wasn’t an issue,” he told me with a smile, “I’d just do this [medical mission work] fulltime.” Throughout the week, I learned how to measure a patient’s pulse, heart rate, and blood pressure in addition to checking for ear infections, pharyngitis, and a few other diseases. Some of the more memorable experiences include seeing a umbilical hernia for the first time and watching a makeshift IV save a young girl from dying of pneumonia. Witnessing the joy and life brought to patients who would otherwise go without care definitely inspired me in my goal of practicing international medicine.

Dr. Mark in action in our clinic

Dr. Mark in action in our clinic

As I’ve attempted to express to you throughout this letter, the trip was a truly life-altering experience. In addition to teaching me about the struggles and vision of another culture, the experience gave me a newfound gratitude and appreciation for the little things I so often take for granted on a day-to-day basis. Witnessing the paradox of extreme pain and extreme joy helped me better understand what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote to rejoice in suffering in light of the fruits it can produce (Ro. 5:3-5). As I prepare to leave for college in the next month, I consider myself truly blessed to have been able to regain this perspective on what really matters in life, namely, faith, hope, and love. “But the greatest of these is love.”

Thank you again for all your love and support, and I hope this upcoming year is as inspiring and encouraging to you as this summer has been for me.

- David

Foxtrotter II, Nairobi Kenya.

Bringing light to darkness, God shatters our hearts.

Foxtrotter Nairobi // Part 1

Foxtrotter Nairobi // Part 1

Our young Foxtrotters arrive in Nairobi, ready to witness the second largest slum in Kenya, Korogocho.  With a population of over 250,000 people squeezed into 1 square mile, we were gearing up to experience something like no other.  Awaiting that next day, shortly after arrival though, the crew got to relax by settling in with a lazy afternoon at the Methodist Guest House & Conference Center, experiencing Kenyan food, accommodations and hospitality for the very first time.  This humble place, where we rested our heads, reflected none of what we were to experience that very next day.

Early Monday morning, we bussed into the slums of Korogocho, we witness the chaotic traffic jams, which seems to be the norm for the commuters of Nairobi, people hustled, walking where cars drove, hopping on and off of door-less buses, the roads were filled with unpredictable vehicles and exhaust.  We arrived at Pangani school, the headquarters of our mission partners, Missions of Hope.  A ministry that is focused on recruiting children ages 4 and up from the slums, offering them an education and consistent meals 5 times a week.  Through those efforts, they gain the right and respect to then, bring the Gospel to the parents, who work and live in the slums (more about that later).  Most of the time, the meals these children receive at the school were the only ones they are to have all day.  We had orientation that covered pretty much everything our mission partners were doing in these slums.  We visited a home, where the walls were made of mud and sticks, protected by sheets of rusted, corrugated metal.  We walked on what felt like an endless walkway of trash, laced with trenches of sewage.  We saw kids as young as 18 months, sitting on the side of these small rocky roads, eating mud and other remnants of unidentifiable material such as plastic and paper.  Trash was burnt in the distance, every 20 yards or so, puffs of it seemed always part of our direct landscape, the air was heavy with the smell of the African red dirt, sewage, and charred plastic and anything else that may have been in those burning piles, creating thick, gray smoke, sometimes black.  On day 1, God took what we thought we were getting ready to see, feel, smell and touch and flipped it.  No words, no photograph, no footage can describe it.  Nothing can prepare a heart to experience the friendly greetings of hungry, dirty, knee-high children who run up to you and hug your leg as if you had something much better to offer them besides an apathetic smile.

Children in the slums run up to the Mzungu (pronounced Moo-Zungoo), typically the name given to the white man, or anyone from the West, and they would ask for pictures by saying "picha, picha!"  They loved the process of simply posing with or without us, and then seeing their photo on the screens of our iPhones or digital cameras.  Many pictures of children and us Mzungus were taken together, the adults though were reserved and did not care for pictures. Though, there is something deceptive about the beautiful pictures that have been taken with these children, many of which I am sure you have seen from many who've done a mission trip like ours.  The momentary smile on these beautiful faces were surely real.  But as we walk on, it's back to the dirt they go.  Most run around with no shoes, no socks, torn clothes, dirty faces and observant eyes.  As the white man walks on to greet more of them, he is quick to forget what it's like for these children when he is no longer in their presence.  Actually worse, he doesn't forget what he doesn't know.  The reality is that when night falls, we could only imagine where these little ones curl up to sleep, where do they go?  The dirt floor of these small 10' x 7' shanties that must contain a family of 6?  We see children in the streets, but where are their respective parents?  Why is it that we cannot find men in these homes?  Are we welcomed in these parts?  Us, with our cameras, blue jeans, clean faces, hole-less "work-shoes" and mini hand sanitizers.  The string of questions we all battled inside our minds were endless for the next few hours.  Our work had not began yet, but God had already started the work in us.  We were all noticing the constant shatter that was happening inside of each of us as the minutes went by, which felt like hours. We, for the moment, must have felt the ache of His heart for the people who called the slums their home.

This is just the beginning, we saw, we journaled, we recorded our thoughts, many stories are to be told.  Our young adventurers will share much of that, and our team will put together a portrait of what we experienced the best we can.  One thing is for sure.  Our hearts were shattered, His questions echo in the depth of our minds still today.  One should not be shy to take trips like these, for the world needs more young people to travel and feel this very heart of God, broken and vocal.  He calls out on behalf of his people, not for us to fix what we see, but for us to get close to Him, in an unforgettable way.

 

- Team Foxtrotter

Forward.

Our very first Foxtrotter, Addy, reached her goal in 2 weeks and 5 days.  Her friends, family and even people who didn't know her personally jumped in and supported her!  That is incredible. It's been a fun three weeks watching her friends proudly wear her shirt, telling others about her venture, as well as reading the words of encouragement that come through with each donation from friends and family.  As you may have seen from her update video, Addy and the team at Foxtrotter thought of something new as we have a few days left in her original campaign!  It's more of an add-on, are you ready for it?

We learned about a few other students who are also planning to go on this exact same Nairobi trip.  They are still in the middle of the fundraising efforts, most have written support letters and slowly working toward their goal in their own way.  Something then clicked for us.  As Addy had T-shirts left over and still had people who hadn't given yet, we thought it would be good to keep the giving open so those who planned on supporting her would still have a chance to... with a small twist!  Here is our pay-it-forward concept, Foxtrotter style.  Everything given to her within the next 10 days, (ending 6/21) will go to those students, giving them a boost in their efforts!  The donors will still be getting Addy's shirt, and 100% of the money raised is paid forward for those students, putting them one step closer to their adventure!  We couldn't help everyone, but we helped one, Addy, and now she wants to help others.  (Our last blog covered the "do for one what you wish you could do for everyone" concept... click here to read it.)

What an exciting way to celebrate Addy being fully funded!  We don't know what will come of this follow up effort, but we thought it would be kind of fun.  Addy is excited about the opportunity and will make a push to help her peers.  This raises the question: What if we always kept the "pay-it forward" concept in the forefront of our mind?  Whether we do it out of being blessed and fortunate, as Addy has been in the past three weeks regarding her efforts to fund raise, or just because, weeks, months, or years ago, someone made a gesture that truly helped us.  And what if we simply mimicked great acts of generosity previously done onto us?  What if?  Do we truly recognize that giving out of a pure heart, as all of Addy's supporters have, outshines giving out of abundance?  The pay-it-forward concept is surely not a new one.  But it surely is good when we have a chance to weave it into certain times in our lives.  What people will say to this effort from Addy may surprise us, much may be given, much may not.  But we know one thing is for sure.  The project has already done so much good for many, an abundant outpouring of love has already taken place, and one girl is on her way to a trip that will surely change her forever.  Thank you to those who are following us, life change through project such as these, is worth all of the hours invested in teeing up a home run, such as this.

 

- Team Foxtrotter

One. Not Everyone.

May and June are an interesting months.  If you know students ages 16 to around college age, you're most likely getting bombarded with support letters right now.  Maybe you're not getting the old school snail mail letter, which surely has its charm.  But in one way or another you hear about these young people looking to fund raise for their upcoming trip, whether through email, social media, or a co-worker.  Do you ever feel overwhelmed or even stuck, on who to give to?  Do you apply that silly rule that "If I can't help everyone, I won't help anyone."  Who came up with that rule really?  Does it come from our parents who lovingly said they couldn't let us have that certain something because then, our siblings also had to have that certain something?  They could give to one, but not to all.  But that's the point exactly, they COULD give to ONE.  One of the best communicators out there right now, is Pastor Andy Stanley, who a few years ago preached a sermon on the topic of  "Doing for one, what you wish you could do for everyone", and he challenged the thinking behind that rational.  A simple thought, that if revisited could change more lives than we know.

As we see social media flooded with students trying to fundraise each their own way, we hope that many of their friends and families will step up and help them with a few bucks.  A true investment, something that keeps on giving. Chances are if you have a Facebook account or Twitter, you can log in right now, and within a string of 50 or so posts in your Newsfeed, someone has posted, liked or re-tweeted someone's fundraising cause.  The need is there!  There is no doubt about that.  At Foxtrotter we wish we could do for everyone, what we're doing for a few.  Some is always better than none.  As we continue to grow and scale our efforts up, we will be taking on greater challenges.  We will be hearing amazing stories, dreams will be shared with us, and difficult goals will be set.  We will also be telling those amazing stories, helping realize dreams and reach those tough goals. Not for all we're sure, but at least for few. And that is the small part we can play.

So what are you waiting for?  Support one of these students who need your help!  It doesn't have to be our Foxtrotters, it can be anyone.  So go and do for one, what you wish you could do for everyone.  You will surely make an impact, to few, which is better than none.

 

- Team Foxtrotter

Rustic Bread, Clarity & Affirmation

Foxtrotter Blog 2.jpg

The air of the ambient dining room was filled with the smell of the daily-made rustic baguettes in this unique restaurant.  The walls were brick, our hostess led us to a couple of two-tops, which were uneven slabs of steel, and the lights were low.  The elements in this place felt artisanal, organic, and nothing looked completely identical.   In this charming little restaurant in downtown Phoenix, the Foxtrotter team met with a couple of individuals who themselves were a mimic of our setting's elements.  Both now college students, they were refreshingly different from one another, they were both extremely organic and began to share something we will never forget, a burden to go and do something.  We heard the hearts of this young couple over dinner. We were awkwardly interrupted numerous times by a waiter who he himself, seemed genuinely, socially clumsy.  But the conversation never stopped from the moment we sat down and was rich throughout.  As we literally broke bread together to attack the baked goat cheese dish that had just arrived at our table, we stopped to bless our meal.  As the given thankfulness came to a close for the moment, we knew this night would be the start to something incredible.

Ally, a college Freshman, is one of the founders of steppingout4hope.  She shared her story and involvement in this small local organization started by 3 high school students here in Phoenix.  We discussed what her upcoming trip to Monrovia, Liberia would entail as they were going to be bringing supplies and materials to a school her and her team was to be dedicating to Katie this June.   We saw this young person speak about what God has truly done in that place.  We could feel what He had done through Ally, Carly and Katie.  It was not about how much money they had raised in their efforts, but how much influence they have had on their peers and beyond.  That influence had been found in Ryan, who was sitting next to her.  A young man who'd return home for the summer from college, and even as they hold a long distance relationship during the school year, he says that the fearless Ally was the one who inspired him everyday.  We went on to discuss his zeal to make a difference, whether it was a local effort here in Phoenix or across the world much like Ally is doing, he was on fire.

The conversation continued to spark some exciting ideas between our two camps.  Ally and Ryan then tell us, that they had more young people in mind, just like them, hungry for action, and ready to step up and make a difference.  We talked about how Foxtrotter could come alongside their group, and how many people we could inspire through a project together.  Foxtrotter will be watching as Ally and her team finish up the project her and her friends dreamed up a little over a year ago.  It will be bittersweet said Ally, as we all wish that Katie was here with us to experience it.  There is not enough to be said about the courage and boldness that you could hear in Ally's voice, as well as a rare sense of focus on her specific mission this summer.  A focus that undoubtedly comes from a very intimate and emotional place in her heart. The evening affirmed why our team is attempting to fill this gap.  The gap that needs to be filled with substance solid enough for these students to step on, to get from one side to the other.  Last night we were inspired a couple of young people who know reality, and don't accept it, they want to make it better.  They challenge their generation, with joy in their hearts and wish to change the way their peers view themselves, life, and others.  Our team will be here for them when it's time, and that time is near.  Strangely, this evening was not planned by either parties.  We never meant to sit down and explore possibilities together over dinner, we never meant to hear their story.  But God was at work, and in Paul's words, we will not quench the Spirit.

For more on Ally's project, go to steppingout4hope.com

- Team Foxtrotter

Sleepy Lions And Open Spaces

There is something to be said about all the start-ups that we see popping up online today that are attracting a new generation to make a move.  Everywhere you look there are groups doing something new and exciting.  Can you imagine if those brave souls never went through with their idea?  Can you imagine a world where Blake Mycoskie of TOMS shoes, thought that people didn't need shoes that bad and that his "one-for-one" idea would never work?  Or if Scott Harrison of Charity Water never amplified the impact clean water could make in the health, education and the economy of remote countries most of us have never heard of?  These innovators, world changers, and trend setters, were once like the students that are sitting in school right now.  They worried about a zit, they spent time worrying about the parties after football games, school dances, Friday nights and maybe even their grades!  What made those individuals break the mold and put that misused energy spent on worry, to good use?  We believe it had to do with influence.  Positive influence.  Specific events in their lives shaped who they'd become.  Those events were filled with people.  People who filled them.  A seed of goodness and joy was planted during that time deep down in a place where it wouldn't be forgotten.  Someone else, or many, came alongside them and continued to water that seed.  But what truly set up those opportunities for this positive growth? The answer is space.  World changers put themselves in situations where they say, how can I help?  They also ask, what can I do to fill this specific need, right here, right now?  They look for those who've paved the way, those who once were shown how to serve others without expecting anything in return.  They move into that space and take it in. 

In that space, they are open to truly taking in what their very purpose is, in that very point in time.  They live it, breathe it in and exhale breaths of fulfillment.  As Foxtrotter kicks off this crazy idea of helping these very students and young people move into these spaces, we are excited.  We are excited to help the future generation get to where they need to be to absorb those things that will shape them into the leaders they aspire to be.  We are honored to have heard stories of hope, dreams and faith from students who hope to one day do something meaningful.  Parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, pastors, whoever you may be, stop and picture those kids that are sitting in class today and be assured that in those young men and women, lies a sleeping lion that awaits release.  They may not come right out and say it, but we are sure that in all of them, quietly resides this need to do something meaningful.  Let's not wait until their young lives fill up with regret before they are told that they are believed in.  Now is the time, not to write them off, but to instill hope and encouragement.  Let's remind them that they matter, that they are what the world needs, not what the world has excess of.  Let's lead them to that space, that space where God awaits to awake that beautiful young soul, so that soul may roar louder than ever for many to hear.

 - Team Foxtrotter