A Life-Saving Decision

There is no time like right now to make a great decision. One that will improve your life, lift your spirits, and put you on a pathway to success.

I’ve done that by resigning my job as a morning news producer in the 22nd largest market in the U.S.

For just about anybody else, this would have been a dream job. Great station, great support, lots of fancy tech tools, great team of anchors, reporters, editors, video journalists.

Problem was, it was not for me.

I Was A TV News Producer
When I arrived at the station in June, I had not produced a TV news program for nearly 30 years. To say the industry has changed in the past three decades is like saying civility is dead in D.C. Pretty obvious.

Many layers of jobs have been eliminated in the newsroom. Fewer eyeballs are on the television these days as more are staring into their iPhones and iPads for personalized news and amusing animal videos.

In the old days, a producer would “stack” a show, i.e., identify stories, place them in sequential order, assign times for each. There would be a team of people to help get the show on the air. Someone would create chyrons, or fonts (video identifiers) for stories. Maybe there would be a writer or two to help prepare the program. There would a director, an audio guy and others in the control room to broadcast the news

Today, it’s all on the multi-tasking producer: format the show, assign the live news crews, write the fonts, make video editing instructions, write the stores, teases, all while implementing popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s the new reality. Like having only a director in the control room these days, who’s responsible for switching the show, with audio, graphics and fonts coded into the electronic rundown.

In one of the top, competitive markets in the country, you can expect to have talented, qualified journalists gathering, updating and reporting the information. Feeding the news beast never ends.

It takes experience and knowledge to coordinate so many sources, while keeping an eye on updates to breaking news stories like hurricanes, earthquakes and Donald Trump tweets. For someone living in the African bush and out of the business for as long as I have been, gaining command over all these elements would take many months. In retrospect, I should have gone to a smaller market to update and refresh my game. Walking into the big leagues was a big-time mistake.

Must Know What I Don’t Know
It was an uphill battle from the moment I sat down. So much to learn, including trying to know what all I didn’t know. I’ve learned things in the past 10 days that would have been helpful to me three months ago. At this level, one is expected to have been around the block a time or two with the technology and to feature social media. For me, in Africa, having electricity was a luxury most days.

TV news remains a dynamic, exciting, fast-paced job. I no longer live and breath it. I don’t need or even want constant updates. My focus is elsewhere.

I left the industry in the late 1980s after about a 10-year run, then moved into civil service work. That helped make for a work-family life balance. There were no demands to write 20 stories, three teases, and maybe 10 news summaries in two and a half hours.

After more than 22 years in a state-run cubicle farm, I set out to find my life’s work in the mission fields of Africa. Never have I felt more focused or secure in my calling. It revealed the authentic person I am, one without walls or defenses. I discovered my voice and my passion. When I returned to the US in April, I thought I might want to stay stateside for a time and make a living again.

I could not master producing programs of breaking and trivial news, to engage audiences at an early hour. What I love to do instead is build relationships with strangers, speak their language, listen to their stories, and enjoy fellowship over a meal. What I found out in the past three months is there’s no time for that in the newsroom.

My Life’s Work
I have much to share with the ambitious but desperately poor people in Uganda and East Africa. They have great dreams for careers in many professional fields, from accounting, to IT, to business administration. They have no family capital or resources to help pay for tuition or tools. I’ve done all I can through my charity, teaminfaith.org, to provide opportunities that impact the neediest of students.

As I walk out of the newsroom for the last time again, I will leave an operation that’s in very good hands. Energetic, driven, experienced men and women striving to be leaders in the community.

I’m no longer working to help a corporation’s bottom line. Like much of the audience, I’m distracted…but by real-life issues. My decision was made to focus on lifting lives and raising hopes of real, lovely, wonderful people. Where life is simple, but hard. It’s a great life. Time to get back to that.

Disneyland!

I’m going to Disneyland! Not the fabled amusement park but something much bigger: America!

A pastor friend and global mission worker characterised the USA as such to me. It’s a good line, with a lot of truth.

Compared to East Africa and Uganda, my home for the past two years, flying 20 hours to get to the US is like flying to see the Magic Kingdom. With relatively smooth roads, non-stop fleets of late-model cars, endless assortment of food and snacks, beautiful homes and residents, all under gorgeous Spring skies.

We thank our forebears in America for building such a magnificent country. We have infrastructure and transportation systems here. We have public education, we have drinking water out of the tap. We have energy and limitless entertainment. It’s a comfortable life. In the fast lane.

Greeting one of my favorite people. A spirited neighbor. She loves us.

It’s a far cry from the quality of life in the villages, small towns or cities of Uganda.

Where I’ve lived in Kisoro District of SW Uganda, there is no power. There are few very cars. There is no industry. There are people walking at all hours of the day. People—mostly women—hard at work as subsistence farmers…ekeing out a living…growing vegetables in their gardens.

It’s a simple life…but it’s not easy.

There’s no glamor here in the village. There are few thrills beyond gatherings of extended families and shared experiences. Night is for sleeping and tomorrow demands more of the same labor-intensive effort.

The pace is slow here in the village, overlooking the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Well-heeled tourists come and go in Land Rovers bound for four-star accommodations and appointments with the mountain gorilla.

Residents here look up and gaze into the vehicles at the visitors. Lives are not so adventurous, not so exciting.

They live as their ancestors did, cultivating in rhythm with the rains and without. It’s not a destination here but a way of life.

As I return to the many conveniences of modern living, I find that I very much miss the simplicity and the sounds of a village life. People on foot always pass, and we can share a wave and a greeting. Some locals bring us irish potatoes or a chicken for our supper. Drums and voices carry a long way over the regions.

There is community here, worship on Sundays, visits and meals shared.

If Disneyland is “the happiest place on earth” then here in Ryarutagara is one of the simplest.

This day and age, simple is good.

The Simplest Pleasure

Just returned from a 40-minute walk around Ft. Portal in western Uganda. I greeted everyone I encountered in the local language. I was met with smiles, surprise, conversation. It was a thrill. The simplest of pleasures. And it never gets old.

One word triggers it all. Hello. Orrirota. Agandi. Wabukire. Habari. Bonjour. With a simple, friendly greeting, we can open doors to new relationships and possibilities. We can engage a neighbour in conversation, share a bit of ourselves, learn something. It costs nothing but a few moments of time but the rewards are gratifying.

pat batwa seated classic

I’ve found my life’s work in Africa. What is it exactly? If it’s nothing but greeting people and lifting spirits, that’s more than enough for me. I support entrepreneurs and students through my charity, Team in Faith. There are plenty of bonuses in helping others.

Throughout each day, I get many opportunities to greet people who, on the outside, are not at all like me. Can there be a bigger difference between a middle-class white guy and my black brothers and sisters here?

Racial and socio-economic differences aside, we have so much to share. Good humour, stories about work and projects, events of the day. I know I missed daily opportunities to acknowledge people over the years in California. So I do my best to greet others here in their language every chance I get.

Two of my most important relationships on this continent were launched with that one word.

My first visit to Uganda was in 2013. I flew from Los Angeles to London, and had but an hour to make a connection to Entebbe. I made it somehow, but my bags did not make the transfer. I would have to spend two extra days in town awaiting them.

bp enoch

During my stay over at the Namirembe Guest House in Kampala, I was sitting outside after breakfast when I recognised a man in bishop’s purple shirt and collar approaching. I stood to greet him (photo above). From my one-word introduction to Bishop Enoch Kayeeye, we shared phone numbers and would later meet at the other end of the country to begin our ministry work together that continues to this day.

In 2014, I was in Kampala preparing to fly home the following day. I was directed to the African Craft Village where I could get some souvenirs to bring home to friends. I stopped in several shops, but when I went to another to ask for the time, my greeting of “hello” led to much more.

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That’s where I met Evelyn, a shop owner (above). She gave me the time of day, and asked about what I was doing in Uganda. Among other things, I mentioned I had an empako, or nickname which is used in her Batooro culture. When I told her my empako, Apuuli, she told me hers, Akiiki. Twenty minutes later I left with a bag of shirts to pack, and a spirit lifted by the exchange.

Today’s contentious world needs a lot fewer words and more interpersonal relationships. Hiding behind a computer firewall typing insults at strangers online is inflammatory and destructive.

Take a walk outside. Look a stranger in the eye and say “hello.” Believe me, It could change your life and make your day.

Whose Life is This?

I thought I was managing well early on. Focused on sports as a youngster. Got myself educated, practiced journalism. Read sports on TV for a time. Thought I was on my way.

That was before I learned it’s one thing to ask God to bless your plans. It is another to have him show you his. They’re already blessed.

Decades after my TV sports career ended, I’m happier and more focused than ever. Not without trials or doubt but through faith I am being taught some valuable lessons.

One of God’s greatest disciplines is that of patience. Our quest for instant gratification is humbled when we get a glimpse of the eternal timepiece.

God’s time meets our expectations.

bp enoch preach

In Ecclesiastes 3, the writer says “everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses.” He has set the right time for everything.

Why wait until my sixth decade to find this peace that passes understanding? Couldn’t he help me out 20-30 years ago?

Today, in Kabale, Uganda, I accompanied Bishop Enoch to a funeral. I was not looking forward to the event. Funerals here are usually very long, four- hour affairs in which one is seated throughout.

We drove a short distance to where the funeral service would be held. Shade tents and chairs were set, but few people were about. The deceased’s brother, known as “The Professor,” was nowhere to be found. We waited about 45 minutes before returning home for lunch. We’ll try again later.

After lunch, I was anxious about going back. It will be too long, I fretted.

Off we went.

My worldly view of things is not God’s view of things. I may have been anxious but God had other plans. I entered a small house and sat with nearly a dozen women, mourners and supporters for about 15 minutes. I greeted them with my Rukiga, to which they responded.

A bit later we went to meet “The Professor,” to negotiate the order of the service. He spoke very good English, greeted me with interest and asked where I was from. Turns out he has been to Sacramento on several occasions.

We all headed to the tents where several hundred people awaited us. I took a seat in the second row; the only muzungu in the crowd, a distinction I appreciate and to which I am accustomed.

Fellowship and understanding were the order of my day from God’s view. Whereas I was apprehensive at first, it turned out to be a blessed time for me, joining those in attendance.

I never expected to have such a rich life of experiences in Africa but this is not my life. God’s plan for me is to see and experience, share and grow with his people halfway around the world from home.

I’ll never settle for anything less.

Finding Fellowship

In the wake of the horrible shooting at the Charleston, SC, church, I reflected on a church visit in the home office of the Confederacy, South Carolina.

Several years ago my family and I vacationed with my wife’s sister and bro-in-law not too far from Hilton Head, in their home state of SC.

I remember getting up to go to an Episcopal Church one Sunday morning, alone. After a short drive, I entered a small, attractive church.

As I remember, not one member of the congregation spoke to me. Was it because I was dressed like I was on holiday? Even afterward when I greeted the vicar, I barely got a “harrumph.” It was a stifling experience. I am remembering now just how chilling that felt.

Today, halfway around the world from home, I’ve attended church services where, as the only white person in the congregation, I was moved through the packed congregation to a seat in the second row. The worship was vibrant and fun. After the Easter Sunday service I took tea with the visiting bishop.

My point to this anecdote is that in the South, the culture appears set. Outsiders or visitors, like this Californian, who try to break through into a closed-knit community, are looked at with suspicion. There was not much warmth.

I get looked at a lot when I visit an Anglican Church in Uganda. There is curiosity, but there is love and fellowship. I feel the Lord’s presence. I feel at home.

It’s About Relationships

It’s all about relationships.

At home that means connections which can help build careers, business and romance. Be my Facebook friend. Follow me on Twitter. Leverage me and my posse on LinkedIn.

Here in Africa, relationships mean something else. It means, “time out.” Who are you? Tell me your story.

I have had a wonderful day with my brother in Christ, Barnabas. This morning I took my camera and tripod to morning devotions to record his homily, which was presented to staff and others in the Rukiga language. I’m working with the hospital chaplain on a video series of sermons/homilies to show to patients in their wards.

pat barna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, we also knocked out a video on Easter Carols I recorded several weeks ago. All I need is a DVD to which to output. (Um, why didn’t I bring a dozen?) He is helping me today with a transcript of some Batwa interviews. I’m showing him all my gear (excessive!) and planning how, together, we can do cool things.

His job is not to be my assistant. He has enough to do. He works as an education coordinator with the Batwa Development Program.

Before I left CA, I prayed that the Lord would put his persons in my path to help, protect and encourage me. Barnabas was among those who fetched me at the airport, thus one of the first I met, and has been a companion friend since. He is an outlier of sorts….he is always punctual, a rarity in this land of “African time,” when even doctors stroll in late to meetings, rehearsals, morning prayers.

He is prayerful, one of the gifted speakers during morning devotions. He is very smart, funny, charming. I pray that I can help encourage him to pursue his destiny. For instance, we have talked about how he could go to UK for education. Visas for the US are too hard to get these days.

He’s a quick study with video. He wants to learn. He can compose pictures, which isn’t for everyone. In short, he’s delightful. My brother of a different mother. If I return to Africa, I’d recruit him as a grip for future shoots.

I thank God for Barnabas.