United and Ignited!

United and Ignited!

Toastmaster International is truly a respected world-wide institution helping people in many countries to become inspiring communicators and leaders.  In any city, town, or village near you, there are organized clubs offering the chance for individuals to use their voice.  I often tell people “Toastmasters is like going to a local fitness center to train and perfect your voice.”

 

Active club members stay united by demonstrating their willingness to attend each scheduled meeting and participate in various roles offered to them.  At South Cobb Toastmasters in Mableton, Georgia, we recently celebrated our club’s 15th year and as a group, we wanted to band together and take an excursion to Kenya, Africa.  To ensure everyone had time to save money, receive time off from work and prepare our families for this experience, we spent two years planning for the journey.

 

Over the past 15 years, I’ve traveled to the “Motherland” many times escorting others in doing humanitarian work in remote and less traveled places.  It was an honor to invite my fellow Toastmasters into the professional work that I love most.  A quote from a travel journalist, book author and photographer named Jeff Greenwald reminds me of this special travel invitation: “Sharing a bit of yourself, opening a window into your own world, is a Good Place to Begin.”

 

In the two years of planning, there were new lessons for all:

 

  • This adventure drew us closer – some had the fear of flying for long periods of time; some had never been to another continent; some didn’t know much about the culture of where we were going. As we intimately and openly shared these concerns, others would edify or support one another – chiseling off the stress of international travel.

 

  • This adventure opened our senses of the world – too often we can easily open up our computers/laptops and thoroughly read details of a country, its people and culture. That may be a great thing to do, BUT it doesn’t give real justice.  An adventurer need to feel and embrace the untimely breeze of a different place; an adventurer need to unexpectedly slip into the distinct aromas of new surroundings; an adventurer will need to become a food connoisseur and appreciate unexplainable tastes of a place; and an adventurer opens kindship conversations in new places.

 

  • This adventure improves our global understandings – the world becomes much smaller when you explore other cultures and places. A person who often visits and spends time in other places will see the world in multiple perspectives.  A person will also reflect upon their position in a global society.  Our group experienced a great deal of engaging with the beautiful people of Kenya.

 

Of our leisure travel experience in Kenya, we took time to attend a Toastmaster club meeting!  The Nairobi Toastmaster Club held its bi-weekly meeting the same week we were enjoying the downtown sites of Nairobi.  Under the leadership of Margaret Njoroge, Club President, she and her members graciously welcomed us.  Prior to the start of the club meeting, we and their members happily united in true fashion to serve in various meeting roles!

 

The club meeting experience in Kenya ignited our ability to share and learn ways to build comraderies and new friendships.  As we were impressed with the professional meeting culture, they were impressed with our enthusiasm to be there!  This made long-lasting memories that everyone will never forget.

 

From delightful hotel staff members, people we met throughout the city, tour drivers, to young walking tour guides and friendly street vendors, the created synergy of global connectedness stirred our hearts and minds.  Every minute on the ground, each person within our group beautifully blossomed in their own way; discovering a new sense of themselves and who they are – a new sparkle of life emerged.

 

After our extraordinary travels of Kenya, South Cobb Toastmaster members were ignited and eager to share their journeys through prepared speeches back at home in the United States.  Will we take another global group adventure in the near future?  I do hope so!

Let get out there people and do some good!

Heavenly Moments in Haiti

By reading the subject of this recent blog, you might disagree with the lexiconic statement. How could “anyone” experience heavenly moments in Haiti? Well, I recently did…

I traveled to Haiti last month on my second mission trip of the year – my year-long mission expedition for www.lifewalkmission.org. Once there, I met other mission-minded travelers who all were enlisted by a U.S. based organization called Adventures in Missions. Unlike other mission travels, I would not know any of my team members before I took that first step onto to the third largest Caribbean nation. Looking back on it now, I’m so grateful to have new relationships with the most incredible individuals who came from all parts of the United States – even one who traveled all the way from London!

Four several hours at the airport, we patiently waited for everyone to arrive on different flights – yours truly was the fourth of eleven travelers appearing through international customs that day. When our last member arrived, we then boarded a bus for Carrefour, Haiti. This hillside hamlet community awaited our presence; a town that is said to be near the epicenter of Haiti’s catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake four years ago.

Our first night was filled with high excitement and group learning activities. As the navy blue skies darkened and the flicker of universal stars began to illuminate ever so brightly above us, our team leader wanted to begin bible study on top of the flat-roof where we slept.

Mission work to me is all about serving and of the many years of mission work, never had I experienced what was to take place that night. It was from the bible passage of John 13 where Jesus performed the most humbled act to his disciples – the washing of their feet! Our humbled and passionate team leader Jonathan M. performed this gentle act to each of us on the cool breezy night on the roof-top.

Jesus’ simple act of foot-washing teaches us the kind of humility God wants us to have. For the rest of the week, the spirit of team unity was so profound and prevalent. No one balked, complained, refused, nor murmured during our time in Haiti. And though our walking travels throughout the town was physically rough and challenging, we were commitment to find the lost, the least and the left.

Each day our team weathered the sweltering heat of Haiti; their perspiration of passion was evident as we played, laughed, and encouraged young kids during Vacation Bible School on the open soccer field in the community. We divided into small teams to canvass the hillside village to speak with those who did or didn’t know Abba father. Toward the end of the week, we put on a skit for the community that displayed how God can be ‘your’ EVERYTHING – a five minute moving exhibit of a person going through the evil temptations on Earth and eventually displaying how God is still there with you through it all.

Our work wasn’t done just yet! Of our last day together, we went to the local public beach to enjoy the quality of time in Haiti. The team realized that one of our members had never been baptized. God was giving us one more instruction – to officiate a candidate for baptism! As we surrounded our sister and prayed together, the waters near the shore grew calm; and the heavenly clouds opened to present the glowing sun above. It felt as if we were in the Jordan River! The angels looking over the balcony of heaven rejoiced that day!

The international community may never show or discuss the positive side of the country – yes, it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. How strange that one of the richest countries lies at a distance of 90 minutes in flight! Someone said to me years ago, “The world doesn’t have a wealth problem, but a distribution problem!”

While Haiti may be a country with wide-spread poverty, YOU can encounter heavenly moments there!

Let go people and do some good!