My Personal Success

Beginning year six in East Africa. From an inauspicious start, I’ve managed to take root here, make friends, learn languages, find success.

What is success? Making a long putt for par? Closing a deal with a sought-after client? Raising upstanding children? Before we can answer the contemporary question of “what does success look like?” we must first define it.

Personal or professional

I’ve had a lifelong conflict trying to balance my personal life with my professional goals. My first career as a TV sportscaster-producer took me to more (TV) markets than Joe Carcione (The Green Grocer)! I was chasing the dream I had since pre-teens. The multiple daily deadlines, ever-changing challenges. It was exhilarating and exhausting. I moved a lot in nine years, bouncing from here and there to move up the ladder, in prestige and pay, until I ran out of gas.

After a transition period of about 18 months, I was selected for a state civil service job in San Francisco. I was plucked out of an overnight cable news shift in Los Angeles–300 miles from my home–and never looked back.

That first year I began to achieve a professional-personal balance in my life. I commuted to The City from my mother’s East Bay home. Took public transit every single day, without fail. Made friends, had fun, started my run as a public information officer. After a year I was back in the state capital, sleeping at home, commuting to work on Light Rail, and training for my first of four marathons.

Spiritual success

After my son was born it was time to get him baptized, as generations of forebears did with their young progeny. A Christian community was found with activities, suppers and prayers. I had grown up a generation earlier in the church rectory where we hosted such events. This was a back-to-the-future moment. It felt familiar. And friendly.

More state jobs meant more pay and responsibilities. Soon I was cycling 25 miles to work, achieving fitness while sharpening my sword. We found a new church which was about to undertake a profound step in faith to embrace debt and build a wonderful worship center for the community. I was all-in.

As my career and family grew, so did my spiritual gifts. I became a regular worship leader as a member of the choir, a performing sketch artist on designated Sundays and a participant and contributor in an ecumenical revival movement. I found time–no, made time–to enjoy God’s great outdoors with a cadre of friends on our cool road bikes.

From where I sit now those were the greatest of days. My son completed university and was focused on his next steps. I was climbing some of the great hills and mountains from the coastal range to the Sierra Nevada.

Yet that still, small voice inside me said it was time for more.

Across the pond

From my days in the rectory and hours in the pews, I always had this sense of a higher calling. Summoning me from child’s play, from the cubicle farm, the rat race. An opportunity was born in the fall of 2011, just weeks after I retired from my state career. I could visit a secondary school in South Sudan with my video cameras. That meant making critical connections, getting a passport, and crossing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. I didn’t have far to go. The school was founded by retired educators and friends at my church in Cameron Park. A new door was opened, a new life beckoned.

This journey has not been difficult. Traveling 10,000 miles to Africa has unfolded naturally, easily. Almost as if it was preordained. I first arrived on this continent without knowing a single person. In Christian communities where I landed in South Sudan, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, I was welcomed by brothers and sisters who knew the Lord as I did. They grew up in strong communities where hospitality is a cultural norm.

I have stepped toward them, learning their languages, sharing my faith and humor and wealth. I have been rewarded with their friendships, smiles and love.

Answer the question!

So what is success? I’ve missed more par putts than I’ve made, but I’ve cycled and traveled a road few peers have followed. While I worked. While I worshipped. While I helped raise an outstanding young man.

Success is a balanced life: Love and laughter, pain and forgiveness, selfishness and selflessness. It is making money and making amends. Structure and spontaneity. Climbing the challenging peaks and coasting home. Remembering friends and loved ones, and making new ones on the other side of the world.

Blessed and Broken

A life on the road in ministry for others is a life of adventure. There are people to meet, places to go and, in Uganda at least, beautiful animals to see.

My mission with Team in Faith has taken me to Africa four times since 2012, with another trip just a few weeks off. My relational ministry style has been a blessing to many as I have brought gifts from the Holy Spirit in addition to practical items, like computers, smart phones and money for school fees.

The wonderful thing about it is that by being a blessing to others, we receive abundant blessings. As a pastor friend put it, “we are blessed to be a blessing (to others)…”

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, please and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 NIV

Leaving home, friends and colleagues, for months at a time, doesn’t come without a cost. Relationships are broken, communication is distant. The reality is by losing myself in my work and mission, I lose others, too.

kasese group

Great satisfaction comes when you see lives transformed. In Kasese, Uganda, this year, Team in Faith awarded a grant of $1,000 to four women’s micro-finance groups. The money was to be shared among members for small business loans, family expenses, school fees. Two months later, more than 100 people showed up (photo above) to thank Team in Faith for its support of their livelihoods, with songs, dances, testimonies.

My return to California has been met with a much cooler response. Busy, distracted lives separate me from friends and family. It’s a price I pay for my work on the other side.

When Jesus called his first disciples, he saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew. They were fishermen, casting a net into the lake. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

Whoa! How do you think that went at home? “You quit your job for what??”

Their faith in the Lord turned their lives upside down. The world has never been the same.

Help Wanted

Thanks to you, Team in Faith is establishing its presence in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Team in Faith is based in Kabale, Uganda, where it supports education, health care and evangelism projects in the region.

evangelism

In five months, TIF has been privileged to support students, schools, churches and others through grants in aid. A big hug to our friends and donors for your support. Your tax-deductible contributions are helping to affect lives in Uganda.

Among its activities since March, Team in Faith has issued grants
* supporting 30 HIV-AIDS orphans in Kasese with school supplies for their primary school studies
* funding radio broadcasts of the good news of Jesus Christ across five countries
* supporting Kitojo Integrated Development Association’s (KIDA) hospital activities in Kabarole District in Western Uganda
* supporting university-level students in Kenya
* for uniforms for St. John’s Karusandara Orphans Primary School near Kasese

Extreme poverty affects many families in this region. Money for basic necessities, like food and water, is very tight, so affording school fees for young students is a challenge.

Team in Faith joins existing organisations that serve these marginalised populations. One of our main partners is African International Christian Ministry, or AICM. It conducts community outreach, and operates a vocational training college. More than 10,000 alumni have built careers over the past 30 years. Today, young men and women learn skills with which they can become ready to join the work force, or create new jobs as entrepreneurs.

Among the programs at the college is an ICT class that teaches students computer skills. Technology is a leading industry throughout the world. Africans deserve and want the chance to learn alongside their western colleagues with equipment that meets today’s demands.

computers

Students and schools here can no longer use aging equipment. With advances in technology in this competitive world, new computers are needed as a platform for training eager young minds.

To meet this demand, Team in Faith embarks on this campaign:

* Upgrade the 10-year-old computers at the ICT lab. We aim to raise $5,000 for two powerful servers, with which to network the classroom with the latest softwares. These would help build a web hosting business, teaching students the latest in network management.
* In order to keep the computers running, TIF will raise an additional $7000 for solar panels, batteries and inverters with which to supplement the municipal power.

From this platform, the campus can become wireless enabling students, faculty and community guests to enjoy first-rate Internet services, like the ones we take for granted.

You know the value of education and practical experience. You know that up-to-date computers are needed in today’s world. Would you please make a tax-deductible donation to help see this project to completion.

Make a monthly donation of $100 for one year at teaminfaith.net. As a team, we can build brighter futures for the talented young men and women from Uganda, South Sudan and DRCongo who study at AICM.

This is Personal

From school fees for primary, secondary and university students; to support for single mothers, the stories and appeals I hear are very personal. As much as I’d like to help them all, I can’t.

Team in Faith, a public charity I established after returning from Uganda in September, 2014, exists to support education, health care and evangelism projects throughout Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. They are those I have personally visited and recommend.

After a 35-hour journey, which included two missed flights, I finally arrived in Kampala. My first stop after leaving the Ugandan capital was Kasese, about a five-hour drive to the southwest. I stopped at a friend’s house where I was once again welcomed by his family.

becky

Cleous and his wife, Becky (above), operate Action for Community Empowerment and Rehabilitation (ACER), a project to support HIV/AIDS orphans and mothers. The board of directors of Team in Faith has approved grants of nearly $2,000 that will help young students get school supplies and support women’s micro-finance projects.

abraham

While in Kasese, Abraham, (above) a bright, soft-spoken medical university student, told me of the tough financial road he has ahead of him to complete his studies. Three semesters of tuition, plus boarding fees, for the next three years are outside the reach of his peasant parents.

Abraham’s total bill of about $8,000 would be a fraction of what a US student could expect to pay for his or her medical degree. He is focusing on gynecology to help women in Uganda deliver births safely, which is far from a sure thing.

From Kasese I traveled past the magnificent Queen Elizabeth National Park, a destination savannah for safari adventurers. My driver and I have tossed bananas for giant elephants in the past. Lions are often lounging in trees before or after meal time, I’ve been told.

queen eliz

After four hours I reached Bwindi, where for the past two years I have volunteered in the Communications Office at the Bwindi Community Hospital. My lodging was a kilometer or two away near the boundary of the Impenetrable Forest.

A friend I met last year is now estranged from her husband and heading for divorce. In the middle is their three-year-old son. She appealed to me for help with nursery school fees, which would cost about $80 per semester.

The culture here does not reward the efforts of single mothers. I vowed to help her. Maybe you will help me do so.

After nearly ten days of travel and crossing 11 time zones, I reached my home in Kabale. I stay with my friend, Bishop Enoch Kayeeye, and his wife, Phoebe, at their family compound. I have my own room and join them for meals.

phoebenoch

For more than 30 years, the bishop has served marginalized communities like the Batwa Pygmies in Uganda and neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. He has bought land, built schools, medical clinics, and housing for them.

His foundation, which includes the African International Christian Ministry (AICM), operates a Vocational Training College. It helps students and budding entrepreneurs gain critical skills in accounting, catering, IT, masonry, woodworking, tailoring and other trades.

I’ve been so impressed by the bishop’s work and vision that I’ve signed up for three years to help with marketing and fundraising. The student body here tops 300. Their enthusiasm at the morning devotions each day is really inspiring.

Every dollar, or Uganda shilling, is carefully accounted for and spent to support facilities, curriculum and supplies, and hire qualified instructors. School fees and donations help pay much of the expenses but more is needed. While I am here we’ll explore grants and tap the 10,000 alumni working in Uganda and elsewhere to help “pay it forward” to support the college.

Building self sufficiency is the best path to success here in Uganda and for more than 30 years AICM has set a standard.

My friends, I know that this message joins others you receive that require your attention and financial support. I am here to do my best among a people in a land that I love. You helped send me here.

In a small way or a big way, I ask you to help those here who have great aspirations, but lack finances, to succeed. Make a donation at teaminfaith.net. Tell a friend, or an army of friends, to do the same. I will personally see to it that the funds are used for education and other projects and that an accounting is made.

Webale munonga. Thank you very much.

Patrick Hill

Sunday in Kampala

Sundays are the best days in Kampala. The headache-inducing traffic jams the other six days in the capital city are not present this day. It is easy and fast to get around. A relief.

Today was my first Sunday back in Uganda. Worship day. I took a Matatu (taxi) about 10 miles to downtown Kampala to attend Watoto church, an uptempo church of the word that reminds me of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago and an Assemblies of God meeting. Lots of energy, great worship…and a time clock that keeps the service at about 1:45, because they must clear the house to get the next group of enthused worshippers in their place.

IMG_0055

I visited Watoto last year. A friend took me today. As we were walking through a small village to get to the taxi stand, a mother was outside, washing her crying two-year-old. The child wouldn’t stop and the mother, after glancing at me, told the child (in Luganda), “If you are not quiet, the muzungu will take you!” At that, the child stopped crying immediately!

It has been warm here, in the 80s with humidity. It wants to rain, but hasn’t. The heat hasn’t stopped mosquitoes seeking my sweet, muzungu blood. Fortunately, I packed a couple of bed nets to keep them mostly away. I can hear their whine (and cry) as they probe for weaknesses in the mesh. The deadly anopheles mosquito flies quietly and at night. So far have not met up with them.

It is good to be back. I feel comfortable and supported by many friends. I have been meeting people in town as a “mule” to deliver gifts and items on their behalf. On Tuesday, a Ugandan friend I met three years ago in South Sudan will come pick me and drive me to his home in Kasese. I’ve enjoyed his family’s hospitality the past two years. We will also discuss some projects of his, from supporting scholarships from primary school students to women’s micro-finance projects. Then it will be to Bwindi for a couple of days before settling four hours further south in Kabale.

Had to rely on patience and faith to get me here. My reliable driver was late in collecting me Tuesday morning. As a result I missed the 6 a.m. flight out of Sacramento. An agent put me on a 6:20 a.m. flight to Houston that would connect to Newark where I would pick up my scheduled itinerary.

It was snowing with freezing rain in Newark. That flight was delayed three hours as we joined a lineup of jets for de-icing. When we arrived in Brussels, five of us had 20 minutes to make the next flight to Uganda. Nope. So we were rerouted through Istanbul, Turkey, which looked pretty nice near the Mediterranean and Black seas. Wheels down in Uganda at 3:45 a.m. about five hours behind schedule.

Before I left, I wired $10,000 to my account in Uganda on behalf of Team in Faith to be used for grants and gifts, ranging from church roofs in Congo to materials for primary schools. It will be a powerful experience for me to make these grants on behalf of TIF and the generous gifts of donors.

God is here, the holy spirit is present in all my activities. Am blessed and thankful to be in this position.

Mukama nimarungi. Good is good.
Ebiro byona. All the time.

Support education and health care projects in Uganda at teaminfaith.net