Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Out of Africa

I’m not sure how to start talking about a trip that has adjusted my entire perspective on the world around me. Beginning by saying it was an amazing experience and an undeniable blessing is a good place to start I suppose.

On the way over spending several hours in London was great, Westminster Abby more than Buckingham Palace was stunning but both were equally impressive. Leaving the UK it was 90 degrees F when we deplaned in Johannesburg, South Africa it was about 48 F, bracingly cold. In total getting from Nashville to Livingston, Zambia took 37 hours.

Livingston is one of the larger cities in Zambia and is where we spent our first three days. The "we" I’ll be referring to is Randy the CEO of Healing Hands International, Burt & Bill: HHI board members, and David HHI Agricultural specialist. Bill had arrived in Zambia a day prior to the rest of the teams arrival.

We settled into a nice place off the main drag through town and met Klaus a 27 year resident of Zambia originally from Germany; he is also the owner of Twin Fountains Ag Institute in Kalomo, Zambia. David and Klaus headed to Kalomo to get the workshop organized leaving the rest of us to do tourist stuff before getting to work. To condense three days we canoed 20km down the Zambezi River, had two automotive and one water safari, ate wonderful food, stayed one night in luxury tents (this is the same night it dropped to 38F), met many fascinating people and saw many, many elephants, giraffe, zebra, hippo, water buffalo, impala, kodoo, water bucks, crocs, birds and scenic, unspoiled landscape than I could have imagined.

When the tourist stuff was over Burt and I took a local bus to Kalomo. It was an adventure swerving through massive potholes for almost two hours only to get to our stop and have no one to pick us up for almost 30 minutes.

Once we were at Twin Fountain we settled into the guest house which was currently inhabited by large bug eating spiders. Klaus and his wife treated us to a lovely dinner which was pulled entirely from their farm. Everything was fresh, the bread, butter, cheese, chicken, huge dishes of vegetables and everything was delicious! A nice glass of wine with the mean was more than welcome. Before Sunday service the next morning they treated us to breakfast which was equally fantastic.

Communion was two cups of wine and delicious, fresh flat bread, the singing was glorious. The village on Klaus’ farm was there, as usual, but in attendance were church leaders from 11 African countries and the HHI folks. We sung common songs like How Great Thou Are and Amazing Grace but only the tunes were recognizable. Everyone sang in their native tongue which created a tapestry of some 15 languages praising God in segregated unison.

As the workshop got underway it was my job to document the information and collect stories from the guests. The information I gathered was how these people benefited from HHI’s assistance and training, their respective church works and struggles they are facing. I was also documenting various projects going on around the region that Twin Fountain was involved with.

I heard stories about extreme poverty, life and death starvation, orphans, Islamic riots and murders against Christians and how the Gospel is being spread through the works of the church across Africa. One thing is for sure Africa is quickly becoming the front line of faith, particularly between Islam and Christianity. This part of the experience has startled, depressed and encouraged me. Spiritually, I feel connected to people who are fighting for the literal survival of souls and bodies across a continent. Mentally, I feel conflicted because I see that my work at Scripps is pretty useless to my more important spiritual need.

Connected to each of those feelings is my perspective to the world around me. America is not the place it used to be. The perspective of the rest of the world, particularly the “third world” is very different than what we think it might be. Unappreciative, egotistical, bullies (my words) encapsulates a lot of it pretty well I think. I’ve never met people with so little that were so happy and known so many people with so much who are so miserable.

The trip was a joy and something I’m going to try and move towards doing more often. My true take home is that so much of the things I worry about are useless. Christ’s love for brothers and sisters the world over is very real and very tangible in the most comfortable and desperate situation. My family is a gift and manifestation of that love and you guys are an extension of the same.

I can’t wait to go again!


mullinz8 said...

I’ve got over 960 pictures to add to this post and my computer here is being a turd and not letting me post anything. Leave it blank and I’ll try to figure something to put on it later.

Oh yeah, I also saw one of the worlds largest waterfalls.

Brewster said...


I tried to call you yesterday, but I've lost your number, or rather the number I have is no longer valid.

Try uploading your pix to flickr or pbase, then you can html them here. Although I suspect your IT folks have some kind of block on uploading files from your pc.

Great experiences. It really is amazing the perspective you gain from traveling outside the US. I spent time in mostly urban areas, so I can't imagine how life changing your trip must have been.

bigsip said...

I'm excited for you, Mullins!

So, are you going to hire on with HHI? Are you producing something for them now? What's the outcome of all of this?

Either way, I'm sure this is something you'll never forget. Truly a great blessing!

Jamison said...

"Everyone sang in their native tongue which created a tapestry of some 15 languages praising God in segregated unison"... this, no doubt, would bring me to my knees crying out of joy for sure...

You mentioned that Africa is a battlefront between Chrisitanity and Islam... thats good in that alot of Christians will be martyrs and go to heaven... but when we come across someone who doesnt want to beleive, we shake the dust off of our shoes, when they come to someone who doesnt want to beleive, they kill you.

This is such a huge world, and your blog puts that in perspective. To God, we and this earth are so small. But to us, in the 70 or 80 years we have on this earth, I find it a shame that I have lived in this hot city for 12 years and during that time have seem other towns from a bus on the west coast, been to Disney World, out west a few times, all while admiring things from a window or with a map in my hands.

I sometimes wish I had a job that took me places; if it is just in america, fine, one region of american, cool. Worldwide, wow.

Scary to think about, but I want to see more (Mountains, Gandalf!)

Then again, the thought of leaving a place I love in my heart, and moving away from so many friends I have in this area is sad... so I am torn.

Dubai, maybe one day. Africa, who knows.

Mullins and I are seriously considering starting a commune. All you other folks who think it is too scary, think long and hard about it.
We buy 50 or so acres, Sip shows us how to build homes, make gardens, we live near water so we wat lots of fish, we make cheese and sell it, and pay no taxes and earn no money for we need none.

aye, a dream.

mullinz8 said...

The end game of this little trek is hopefully wide open. Burt the HHI board member who accompanied the team is a money and numbers guy and over discussing my goals and hopes stemming from this trip told me there are people who could be found to fund this type of “mission” full time. Outside the c.o.C family there are huge Christian based aid agencies that are in desperate need of sharing their works so that might be another avenue to consider as well.
From this discussion my next plan it to create a real business plan and put it into action.

In the immediate future I’m going to be creating several videos out of the 15 hours worth of video and 960 plus images I collected. These videos are going to be used as HHI fund raising and awareness tools, the plan it to package everything on a DVD and ship them out through HHI’s mailing list. Randy, the CEO, said that if he can get a few thousand dollars from the project I’ll have paid for my trip, after that every dollar goes back into helping their various projects.

If the video is a success, meaning there are traceable funds coming from the video, there is talk of sending me to Central America to document other HHI works next year.

I also met a missionary in Nigeria who is running a school and constantly looking for funding from the states. He mentioned that this spring he could get the time and funding to ship me over there with him to do a similar video project for his school.

My goal is self employment via creating Christian based video projects. A second tier would be to do corporate video work along with original content development.

Lofty, sure, but if I keep my ducks in a row and make sure my motivation (God first) is in place I don’t see any reason not to try it. You’ll all have jobs waiting for you.

bigsip said...

Wow! Good stuff, Mullins!

I think you're off to a good start. Just making contacts and networking is fantastic.

I've seen a great deal of mission work and have thought about going on a trip sometime in the future. But, I'm pretty settled.

The most I'd do is a week or two in South America or something, but that'll be at least 10 years down the road.

I think it's something everyone should try if they have the opportunity.

mullinz8 said...

Hearing the singing was wonderful! There were times I locked the camera on the tripod and just listened. It might be an odd comparison but because I knew the tune and the songs I recognized their speaking in tongues, I knew without knowing what they were saying.

A friend from work took her family to Africa a few weeks before I took my trip and her experience was very different. She saw the posh and shiny touristy stuff the whole time while I saw the glimpses of that world and its hardened underbelly as well.

Brew you got a view of the states from the other side of the looking glass too. It’s strange to hear what so many people think; we love Americans but hate America. One of the guides and I talked into the evening discussing the states and its politics and he told me that he whole heartedly supported Osama Bin Laden. I was a bit taken back by this and explained my position. His response covered how the US bullied its way into Iraq on the assumption Saddam and Osama were bedfellows, WMD’s, etc and now after no connection has been made and W hasn’t apologized for the mistake Osama is managing to avoid detection from the greatest world power in history. One man has avoided and continued to strike the US in its gut day after day.

This is a difficult concept to wrap my head around bu8t I had to remove the American media from my head and look at it from his point of view. I don't agree with the guy but I do see his point.

mullinz8 said...

Sipper seeing your kids do something like this might be more meaningful for them in a couple of years than waiting so long. I know the need to do mission work of any kind won’t go away in ten years so I think you’ll still be able to help.

I’ve VERY proud of Jules for letting me take this trip and tending the kids by herself. She knows this type of thing, telling a story that matters, is something I really want to do. She is a wonderful wife and I don’t know what I’d be doing without her but I know it wouldn’t be as fulfilling without her to come home to.

In ten years, provided I’d blessed to continue this work, I’m taking Isaac with me!

bigsip said...

I'm glad you got to see another side of things.

It's hard to not be upset when people accept terrorism as an answer to what they perceive as American domination and agression.

America is in a Catch 22. If we get involved in world affairs, we're seen as dominating bastards. If we stay out of things, we're told that we have so much and give so little.

I sincerely hope that other parts of the world will learn to take care of their own problems, but I doubt it'll ever happen.

Brewster said...

My thoughts: stay with scripps while it pays the bills. cultivate HHI and other similar ventures to go worldwide. Start finding secular gigs to pay the bills so you can leave scripps behind and be on your own schedule. become independently wealthy so you can do god videos for everyone.

Hire the excellent and prolific brewster for all your writing needs

tnmommieof2 said...

I second the motion of hiring Brewster. He's a much better speller than my hubby.

I missed him terribly, but I am
ready to miss him again when he takes his next trip. Because I know there will be more. I just don't know the location yet.

I can't wait for you guys to see the pictures. They are awesome.

mullinz8 said...

What ever my plans turn out being I’m going to stay with Scripps for as long as they will pay the bills and cover my decrepitude.

My gig is not that thrilling here but a friend put things in perspective for me. He said, “Churning out the crap they want to or busting our butt trying again and again to prove our selves they are paying us the same. If they continue to refuse you’re initiative let them pay you the exact same.”

For the time being I do exactly that. That will give me time to build my own projects.

Brewster said...

Absolutely Mulls. Keep the day job. Pay the bills. But keep the dream alive

kermitgrn said...

I feel like I'm coming in late on this and it hasn't even been 24hrs since it posted. Mullinz, thank you for going to Africa and then sharing with us. I don't know when it will be, but one day I hope to do something similar (minus lugging around all the camera equipment). I pray you have great success spreading the news of spiritual needs in foreign lands.

bigsip said...

I second Brew's comments on keeping the day job.

I'm living proof that anyone can pursue their dreams while working a regular job.

Whether or not those dreams become a reality depends on God's plan and your tenacity.

BTW, I'm wonderful and prolific, too. So, can I have a writing job, too? I only need $70,000 per year and boss benefits;).