Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sharing Stories of Hope & Joy in New Ways

The Power of Social Media

People over Platforms

The power of Social Media enables us with the ability to share stories in new ways. Social Networks have eliminated the degrees of separation and continues to bridge gaps between communities and cultures around the world. Social Networking Tools and Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, & Blogs empower people with new abilities to participate in meaningful engagement. These new forms of communication are transforming old "broadcasting" models of media into new "conversation" models of Social Media.

New Communication Strategies

Bridges Connecting Communities

Have you ever met someone and felt you have known them forever? Last year I met Grace Nakajje during my travels in Uganda Africa. She amazed me with her compassion for others. She is the communications director for East Africa Annual Conference United Methodist Church. She travels around Uganda Africa and surrounding communities with her camera, a beautiful smile, and a listening ear to discover real stories about real change. Last year she talked about her ideas about using Social Media to share stories while connecting with others in meaningful ways. Now she is using web sites, blogs, facebook, and twitter to share stories of hope and joy around the globe. She publishes a newsletter people can get delivered to their inbox by an easy email subscription. Grace is also experimenting with a web-based radio show. Her creativity and willingness to try new things shows us the power of community does fuel real change. You can discover more at

Sunday, July 17, 2011

People at Local Airport Defy the Laws of Physics

rose photo by eelssej_ on flickr 390295937

Relationships Matter

Ordinary People Defy Laws of Physics

Children, Women, and Men seemed to defy the laws of physics during reunions filled with tearful smiles of joy. While waiting at the International Gate at Dulles Airport, I was astonished at how people seemed to defy gravity as they leaped into each others arms. Many magical moments transformed the average person into an athlete with world class gymnastic skills . Everyone witnessed a little girl break free from her mother's grip and fly through the air into her father's arms. Couples reunited in a beautiful silence that the crowd could not miss hearing. The International Gate at the local airport is an amazing place. Anyone feeling cynical about life should spend a few minutes near the international gate of their local airport.

"Relationships Matter" was defined a thousand times in each of these moments.

Relationships are the core value of the Crossroads UMC Mission Team. Establishing relationships with others is the key to helping the team understand what needs done and the collaborative efforts of everyone is what makes real change possible. Purposeful interaction gives people the opportunity to learn about each other and each others' culture. These type of activities provide the building blocks for creating more than dormitories or school rooms.

Thank You
Thank you to all the children, sisters, brothers, moms, dads, friends, communities, and organizations for making these type of mission opportunities possible.

What's Next?
The children of Humble School in Uganda Africa have written a ton of letters and some desire to have pen pals. Contact Dave Norman at Crossroads United Methodist Church, if you are interested in the Pen Pal opportunity. He can be reached at (703) 477-7427 or for additional information.

People in Brambleton, Virginia U.S. area have joined others from Ashburn, VA, Loudoun County, Virginia, and the Washington DC area to prepare for the next Humble School Family Day 10k walk/race.

We also have an endless collection of stories, photos, and video to process and share.

Monday, July 11, 2011

U.S. Volunteers Returning From Uganda Africa

Humble School Mission Team's Journey Home

Volunteers of Crossroads UMC Mission Team to Reunite with Families

The volunteers of Crossroads UMC Mission Team for Humble School Uganda Africa met with the students before embarking on their 25 hour journey back to the United States of America.

The team is doing well and their are on their final leg of their journey back to Dulles Airport, Washington DC, U.S. with expected arrival time of 2:32pm.

Family and friends can see the mission team's current location in the flight map below.

UPDATE JULY 11, 2011 - 2:32pm
I just got back from Dulles Airport a few minutes ago.
The mission team arrived safe-n-sound. Some of the mission team members from other parts of the United States will spend the night in the Washington DC area before their journey home.

Children of Humble School Uganda Africa

U.S. Volunteers Returning From Uganda Africa

Mission Team Flight Map

Uganda Africa to Washington DC U.S.
U.S. Volunteers Returning From Uganda Africa

The Mission Team's flight from Heathrow Airport departed 24 minutes late, but they are expected to arrive at Dulles Airport at 2:32pm.

W = Dulles Airport
F = flight
L = London
U = Ugnada
Red = Where they have been
Green = Where they are going

You can get more details about their current flight here.

This map was created using Google's API. You can quickly and easily create all kinds of maps for your blog or web site using Google's map and charts APIs.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Acts of Random Kindness

Good Gifts

How Children Remind Us of Good Things

So today I arrived at Humble School and one of the girls walked up to me to greet me.. and went to shake my hand... which was weird for her.... then i realized she was secretly giving me something. I looked down and it was a necklace with a cross on it. Before i could thank her she was walking away.. turned back and smiled. awesome day.

- Jen Schoenmann

This story has challenged me to perform Acts of Random Kindness every day.

Children of Humble School & Volunteers Share Gifts of Connection

Children in Africa Share Gifts with Volunteers from U.S.

Celebrating Presence at Humble School Uganda Africa

The volunteers of the Humble School Mission Team (Crossroads UMC) returned to Humble School to find workers mixing and pouring cement to strengthen the foundation of the dormitory for the girls of Humble School.  The workers and other volunteers were doing such a great job with the cement, the Mission Team was able to spend more time with the children.

Some of the mission team volunteers had the privilege of spending time with students and teachers in the Humble School classrooms. Other volunteers & students spent time learning more about each other between classes.  The volunteers and teachers of the kindergarten class had fun teaching the kids how to sing, "You are my Sunshine".  "It was a true gift to hear these beautiful children sing songs with such angelic voices".

The volunteers and children gathered for a celebration after the school day was over.  The volunteers and teachers handed out scarves that Geraldine's group (back in the States) made for each child here at Humble School.  The kids were very excited to get one of these colorful hand-made scarves. The mission team then gave each child one of the crosses that were hand-made by volunteers in Ashburn, Virginia USA.  The children were so happy to have something that was made just for them.  The children shared a few more stories before we attended fellowship time together.

Students of Humble UM School Uganda Africa

Volunteers Making Gifts for Children at Humble School Africa

The scarves people made for the kids at Humble School are beautiful.  Volunteers all around the Northern Virginia area donate their skills making these scarves every day.  The scarves are also sold in the United States and all the proceeds are donated to Humble School.

Volunteers created the crosses from planks of wood from trees that are native to North America.  I learned new things about myself, my family, and my friends while volunteering with others on creating these crosses for the children in Africa.  Its pretty amazing what can happen when you take a break from the normal routine and share a few simple stories.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Celebrating Independence in Africa

The Charters of Freedom

A New World Is At Hand

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." - United States Declaration of Independence

Celebrating Our Freedom in Africa

While people in the United States were celebrating their independence, the Crossroads UMC Mission Team celebrated with them.  Dave Bennett coordinated with the staff of the hotel here in Africa to have a 4th of July party.  The Mission Team enjoyed sharing stories while eating barbecue and cake (not easily found in most parts of Africa).  Our new friends joined us for our fireworks show with sparklers.  Everyone had fun sharing stories with each other and playing together, like kids.

South Sudan Celebrates Their Independence

A New Nation is Born

A few days after the Mission Team celebrated their freedoms, a new nation was born. South Sudan Africa celebrates their freedom for the first time on July 9, 2011. See the CNN video of South Sudan's Independence Ceremony here.

A few years ago I met with David Choat, South Sudan Diplomat to U.S. to learn more about this mission of freedom.  Over the course of time I got to know other people supporting this mission: Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, Tiseke Kasambala, Roger Winter (former State Department Special Representative for Sudan), and many more volunteers of GOSS Mission USA.

Cathy Norman of Crossroads UMC in Ashburn, Virginia and other volunteers from the Washington DC Metro area were very determined to see peace in Africa and Freedom of South Sudan.

We worked together on Social Media Strategies to share this message of hope.  This strategy included using Facebook, Twitter, Ustream, Skype, Blogs, & Google Tools to share stories of hope.

I am humbled by the limitless compassion these volunteers have for others.  I hope more people find the courage to share their stories with others.

Lessons Learned Along This Path Toward Freedom
  • Never underestimate the power of an idea
  • Never underestimate the power of the people
  • Never underestimate the power of stories
  • Never underestimate the power of social media
  • Never give up hope

Monday, July 4, 2011

Children in Africa Ask, "Do They Remember Me?"

Church Service Connects Africa & United States

Mission Team Uses Live Video to Share Stories

The volunteers of the Mission Team currently supporting Humble School Mukono Uganda Africa attended church service in Jinja today.  Then the team used Skype to share stories about their experience of the mission trip in Africa with the community of Ashburn, Virgnia USA attending the Sunday service at Crossroads UMC.  The main message they shared was how the children they have met ask, "Do they remember me?".  Some of these children have visited the United States with the "Hope for Africa" Childrens' Choir.  Many of the children have "Pen Pals" & Sponsors in the United States.  The children are very relationship focused and don't understand what happens when people forget to write letters back to them.  Many people from the Ashburn, Virginia community wrote letters to most of these children a few weeks ago and kids have committed to being pen pals.  Contact Crossroads United Methodist Church, if you are interested in connecting with or supporting these children in Africa. 

The Skype Live Video from Africa in Sunday's church service in Virginia was impressive.  It was good to see the smiles of our mission team volunteers.  It was pretty amazing to have a conversation with them while they are half way across the world.  You can learn more about Skype and how to use it to connect with others in this previous article, "Talk face-to-face with live video for Free".

Do They Remember Me?
Live video stream connecting USA and Africa

Church Service in Jinja
Mission Team Uganda Africa 2011
To God Be The Glory

Remembering the Children
A Photo Wall of Humble School Africa
This photo wall was created with Cooliris.  You can navigate the photos by using the side arrows or the blue bar toward the bottom.  You can fully appreciate how this photo wall works by clicking on the arrows in the bottom right corner, which will open your view in full screen mode.  Then you can play with the controls to view the pictures or click the button toward the bottom for an animated slide show. 

You can create photo walls with pictures from Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, YouTube, and RSS.  You can share these photo walls on web sites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Wordpress, and more.  You can create and share amazing photo walls for your web sites and blogs using Cooliris.  

A Message of Hope for Africa and the World by US First Lady Michelle Obama

US First Lady Michelle Obama Inspires!

A Message of Hope and Inspiration

First of the United States of America, Lady Michelle Obama visits Africa and delivers the keynote address to a U.S.-sponsored Young African Women Leaders Forum from Regina Mundi Church in Soweto, Johannesburg.  The message goes beyond inspiring young African women leaders, it is packed with hope and inspiration ALL people in ALL places can use everyday.   The people of the United States of America are celebrating their independence today and there is a part in this video (41min mark) that reminds us how to celebrate moving forward.  I encourage you to watch the complete video with others you care about.

Quotes to Read Daily


"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." - Theodore Roosevelt

"Each time a (wo)man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, (s)he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." - Robert F. Kennedy

Video of First Lady, Michelle Obama in Africa

Top 10 Keys to Unlocking Real Leadership Potential

  1. Remember the sacrifices that were made for you.
  2. What will you make of your inheritance?
  3. What legacy will you leave?
  4. Couple your vision with courage.
  5. Take part of something greater than yourself.
  6. Don't underestimate your abilities.
  7. Connect with others.
  8. Pursue Your Passion.
  9. Be prepared to make history.
  10. Be determined to build a better future.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Contuning Education and Students of Humble School Africa

Education is a Foundation for the Future

Visiting Humble Students at Secondary School

The volunteers of the Crossroads UMC Mission Team return to Humble United Methodist School in Mukono Uganda Africa. The volunteers and students shared a few quick stories and learned a little more about each other. The team got busy moving sand from piles to the sections of the foundation. They worked with others to spread the sand so it filled in around the stones created from the rocks they broke into the foundation the other day.

They rolled out wire mesh to go on top of the sand and rocks, and then secured all the pieces together. All of this has been done in preparation for the cement that should be delivered to the school on Monday.

The team of volunteers finished this work in time to fit in a visit to Mt. St. Henry's Secondary School. The team had a chance to visit with some of the students that graduated from Humble School and now attend St. Henry's. Some of the students that graduate from Humble do not get an opportunity to continue their education, so it was good to see some Humble School Students at Mt. St. Henry's Secondary School.

Education for children in Africa is not a requirement, so many children don't get an opportunity to attend school. Education seems to be considered a luxury in Africa and many families cannot afford to send children to school. Most of the children at Humble School get to have their education because of the generosity of others. This generosity even extends beyond providing a child primary education, because most children then teach others in their family and community the things they learn from school. It is sad to see children with great potential get denied secondary education, especially when there is such a high return on providing education for a single child.

The internet and electrical power are not available all the time, but we will continue to share photos and messages when possible (we take so much for granted at home). We plan to to attend church and do a little sightseeing n Jinja tomorrow.

Shopping, Food, & Fun in Kampala Africa

Volunteers Have a Day of Rest & Relaxation

Shopping, Food, & Fun in Kampala Africa

The volunteers of the Crossroads UMC Mission Team went to Kampala to do some souvenir shopping. Kampala, the capital city of the Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, has a lot to offer it's visitors. They went to two small markets where they purchased jewelry, wooden items, soapstone stuff, and other gifts for family and friends.

The team developed quite an appetite after shopping and discovered an indian restaurant where they each enjoyed a delicious meal.

They made their way back to the hotel after a full day of exploring Kampala and shopping. Some of the team members went to the gym and relaxed at the pool. The volunteers will return to Humble United Methodist School and continue their work on the foundation of the new dormitory for the girl students of Humble School.

Win a Trip to Africa with Will and Jada Smith

Help Families Have Clean Drinking Water

Win a Trip to Africa with Will and Jada Smith

Nearly one billion people in the world do not have clean drinking water. Many people around the world take serious health risks every day from the water they drink. Families need clean water to prepare meals and clean drinking water to help them stay healthy. Charity Water helps people helping others to have clean drinking water. See how you can help and possibly win a trip to Africa with Will and Jada Smith here.

"We believe every person on the planet should have access to clean drinking water."
- Will and Jada Smith

Join Will + Jada Smith to provide clean water for people in Africa. from charity: water on Vimeo.

A Jerry can full of water weighs 40 lbs. People all over Africa collect water in them and haul it long distances back to their homes. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking miles to the nearest source, which is likely to make them sick.

Water transforms lifestyles, communities and the potential for future generations. Where projects are built, disease rates reduce, women and children have time for work and school, families have a better chance for economic freedom and sanitary living becomes a possibility.