Tag Archives: Vigilante Kindness

A Fallow Year

I, the brownest of brown thumbs, have been planting things in my backyard. I planted strawberries in hanging baskets on my deck. They’re already blushing and I can’t wait to eat them. I planted peas, but they’re too shy to make an appearance yet. I also planted potatoes in a trash can. Yep, in a trash can.

As I’ve planted, I’ve learned about dirt. I learned that you shouldn’t plant strawberries where you’ve recently grown potatoes because the potatoes will have leached necessary nutrients from the ground and your strawberries will die of starvation.

I’ve been thinking about dirt a lot and how farmers would plant for six years and let the ground lay fallow for a year (Exodus 23:10). This was practiced by descendants of tribes of Israel-the descendants of God’s chosen people-and not by other tribes.

Nothing would be planted for a full year. The ground would be left to rest, to be fertilized by animal poop, and to recover the nutrients that were lost. My favorite definition of fallow is, “to be let alone.” I love the idea of just leaving the soil alone, of not touching a single grain, or tilling even a row.

Some years we just have to be let alone.

I don’t know about you, but I just survived that kind of year. A year where I got pooped on a lot and it felt like my very bones were leached dry, a fallow year for sure. So many of us on the board of Vigilante Kindness have been navigating fallowness this year, a year where nothing new was planted, a year of letting the soil sit.

I’m incredibly bad at letting the soil sit. I want to do what I want, when I want, but planting doesn’t work that way and neither does following God. That’s a sure way to kill the things you so desperately want to grow in your garden and in your life.

After a year, the farmers would come and tend to the soil. First they’d pull out masses of overgrown, thorny weeds, removing any remaining thing that would suck water and nutrients away from the new crop. Then they’d till, turning the ground over, breaking it up, letting in light, letting in air. The ground would be noticeably darker than the year before, fertile and ready for seeds.

Vigilantes, I didn’t know how to tell you about this year, how to tell you why I didn’t go to Uganda and why I’ve been quiet. I’ve been laying fallow. Maybe you have, too.

Did you know that the root word for fallow is the same root word for Sabbath and that both mean to rest? So rest I did. I didn’t go to Uganda. I didn’t start any new projects. I said no and I listened when God said no to me, which was difficult because I had some thorny pride that needed to be yanked out by the roots.

But the beauty of leaving a field fallow comes at the end of the year, comes in the recovery of what was lost, and in the eventual green of new growth.

A verse that’s been on repeat in my mind is Hosea 10:12.

“Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you.”

Isn’t that just the best news? In the hardest of times, you can wait with expectation because the time for tending to the fallow ground is coming. Your parched bones can stand with buckets at the ready for the Lord to rain down righteousness on you.

The NIV translation says it a little differently:

“Sow with righteousness and reap the fruit of unfailing love.”

In the throes of my horribly hard year, I can say in my soul that I have known and felt the tender, unfailing love of God.

I hope you have, too. If you need a reminder, come on over, I’ll let you pick the best strawberries and I’ll feed you trash can potatoes. I’ll sit with you-dusty, dry, worn out, fallow, utterly lovely you.

I’ll remind you that you’re God’s chosen person, that it’s good and necessary to rest, and that the time will come for you to break ground again.

Thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving, to our American Vigilantes and happy Thursday to our other Vigilantes around the world. As our first year as an official non-profit comes to a close and as we prepare for more adventures in Vigilante Kindness in 2016, I wanted to take a moment to say thanks for partnering with Vigilante Kindness in this work we love to do.

Whether you volunteered your time and talents, hosted a fundraiser, donated to one of our projects, purchased paintings or art supplies for our artists, purchased paper bead jewelry from our artisans in Bungatira, prayed for us, used your grocery shopping or AmazonSmile shopping to support us, donated your recyclables, or simply followed along on our journey, I’m overcome with gratitude for you.

What began as giving shoes and mattresses to kids in need and buying a sackful of pigs became a way for students and their families to earn sustainable incomes to pay for basic needs like food, medicine, and education.

Who would’ve thought this adventure would unfold before us in such wild and wonderful ways? For sure not me, but that’s just like God to take my meager yes and run with it. And it’s just like God to give me wild at heart, desperate to serve, breaking the mold kind of Vigilantes like you to keep me company.

Words fail to express how much love and appreciation I have for you. Apwoyo matek! (Thank you so much!)

Fondly,

Alicia

Want to be a Vigilante?

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2015 is winding down and for Vigilante Kindness, that means we’re gearing up for a new year in wild adventures of Vigilante Kindness and we’d like you to join us. As we prepare for the new projects God is calling us to in Uganda, we’re looking to expand our Board of Directors to meet our growing needs and perhaps you’ve been looking for something more to do with your life, too.

Vigilante Kindness is currently looking for volunteers who possess talents in the areas of:

  • finance & accounting
  • personnel & human resources
  • administration, management & leadership
  • fundraising & grant writing
  • web design
  • non-profit experience
  • community service
  • project & policy development
  • public relations & communication
  • education & instruction
  • special events
  • outreach & advocacy
  • art instruction

If you’re interested in being on the Board of Directors, please email your completed Vigilante Kindness Board Application to Alicia at vigilantekindness@gmail.com.  Tell us a little bit about yourself, what your special gifts and talents are and why you’re interested in being on the board.

If you’re interested in becoming more involved in Vigilante Kindness, but becoming a director isn’t your thing,  or maybe you don’t see your skill set listed above, we want you, too.  Maybe you paint.  Or write.  Or take photographs.  Or ride your bike really far.  Or knit hats and scarves.  Or make jewelry.  Or make music.  Or make jam.  Or teach Zumba.  Or cut hair.  Whatever your gifts and talents are, we recognize them as something valuable, we recognize you as someone who is valued.  We see you.  We want you to join in our wild adventures of Vigilante Kindness.

Paper Beads & Paintings Now For Sale Online!

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Dearest, patient online Vigilantes, the long-awaited day for you to purchase paper bead jewelry online is finally here. In case you simply can’t wait another moment, pop on over to our store to shop. I’ll wait here.

Because of seed money donated by Vigilantes prior to my last trip to Uganda,  Vigilante Kindness was able to purchase 1,000ish gorgeous paper bead necklaces and bracelets. I bought up every bit the women of Bungatira created and I thought surely 1,000ish pieces would be enough to last us for sales for a year.

I was wrong.

So very wrong.

I brought them to one local speaking engagement and had 2 small jewelry parties and POOF! all but a few pieces were snatched up before I could even breathe, let alone get the pieces loaded vigilantekindness.com to sell.

Honestly, it was a great problem to have. Once again, Vigilantes, you completely knocked my socks off with your generosity and support for the people we’ve come to love in Uganda.

The good news is that there are a few lovely pieces remaining and the even better news is that this year’s jewelry sales have guaranteed that this project is now self-sustaining. It makes me want to jump up and down a teensy bit. Okay, more than a teensy bit.

Before you head over to buy some beautiful paper bead jewelry, please take 2 minutes to see how the paper bead jewelry is made.

Loving you with all my liver,

Alicia

P.S. While you’re there you can check out the three remaining painting we have for sale by Ugandan artists Calvin & Seddrick.

A Ragamuffin Story

Vigilantes, I really hope you find this story as funny as I do. Some stories are just too good to keep to myself.

Last evening after our Night of Vigilante Kindness Stories, I walked to the help desk to turn in the form the library requires to ensure all is as it should be in the room they generously let us use for free. With all of my bags of Ugandan treasures weighing me down and the library closing in one minute, the sweet librarian mistook me for a homeless person and kindly let me know where the local nearby shelter is located.

Mind you, knowing that public speaking is not in my comfort zone, I’d put on an outfit I feel great in: tall boots, cute skirt, favorite color shirt, 2 paper bead necklaces and 7 paper bead bracelets because 8 is too many, obviously. I thought I was looking okay, but apparently after hanging with you guys for an hour and a half, I looked TORN UP. After sweating through my talk, I probably smelled torn up, too.

I handed the librarian my form and explained that I’d been speaking in the community room. Her face turned a quick shade of pink and before she could say anything else, I said, “Have a good night!” and hauled my bag-laden self out.

With my self-esteem skyrocketing, this afternoon I opened an email from a woman who attended our Night of Stories. In her e-mail this gentle soul felt free to confirm that I am indeed AWFUL at public speaking. I had to laugh at her list, yes-her list, of my inadequacies.

Now, Vigilantes, I thought I’d made it abundantly clear last night that public speaking is NOT my gift. I did say that out loud, right?

Here’s the thing, dear Email Woman, I warned you at the start of my talk that public speaking cripples me and that it wouldn’t be pretty. You decided not to heed my warning and instead you stayed through my whole talk and then some. So, in my mind, that’s on you.

I’ve thought about these two encounters a lot this evening and this is the good news. God delights in using people like me who have a little bit of a lisp and a paralyzing fear of public speaking. It’s that whole “in our weakness, He is strong” thing.

Paul, my favorite writer in the Bible, the guy who knocks my socks off every time I read Ephesians and Philippians, had a speech impediment and I imagine public speaking wasn’t his most favorite thing either.

As for looking a little torn up last night, John the Baptist looked torn up all the time, eating bugs and wandering the wilderness, stinking to high heaven I’m sure, oh and, by the way, preparing people for Jesus.

I’m not saying I’m a Paul or a John the Baptist, far from it. What I am saying is this: God doesn’t need perfect people. He’s already got perfection covered, thankyouverymuch. He needs imperfect, ragamuffin people who need Jesus like we need air or water.

People like me.

People like you.

Even on the days when we feel, and let’s be real maybe even smell, like a complete disaster.

It takes a lot for me work up the guts to speak in public. It’s hard to stand up in front of people and talk about this very personal and incredibly rewarding work you and I get to do together.

I used to wish I were more poised, that when I spoke, my pores wouldn’t all simultaneously decide to sweat out all the perspiration I’m allotted for the remainder of my life. I used to wish my voice flowed with smooth assurance.

I don’t wish that anymore.

I kind of love that when I get up to talk, my voice will shake and my pits will be extra pitty. As I stand up there swallowing bundles of nerves, I stand knowing that my most paralyzing weakness is on display for you.Microphone

I stand there also knowing those are the moments when God is bursting with fatherly pride.

One of my favorite things about God is that He doesn’t use us in spite of our weaknesses, He uses us because of our weaknesses. I don’t know about you, but that floods me with all kinds of relief.

I may have acute stage fright that leaves every layer of my clothing dank with sweat. Sometimes I may look and/or smell wrecked, but I’m still going to keep talking about this wild adventure in Vigilante Kindness we’re on together.

Some stories are just too good to keep to myself and ours is that kind of story.

 

Vigilante Kindness Evening of Stories

Hi, Vigilantes!

You’re invited to an Evening of Stories on October 17th from 4:30pm to 6:00pm in the Community Room at the Redding Library. I’ll be sharing stories and photos from our latest adventures in Vigilante Kindness in Uganda.

Paper bead jewelry and paintings from our Ugandan artisans will also be for sale that evening.

This event is free and open to the public.

If you’d like to help out at the Evening of Stories, please email me at vigilantekindness@gmail. com. We’re in need of people to help with some light set up, to prepare snacks, and to man the paper bead jewelry table.

I can’t wait to tell you stories and show you photos of all the great things your generosity has done. This evening is a small way of saying thanks for partnering with us in acts of Vigilante Kindness in Uganda.

Fondly,

Alicia

Dominoes and Tractors

At this very moment, I sit writing by the Nile, the Albert Nile stretching out mere steps away in front of me. The river is glass, hiding crocodiles and hippos, a whole underwater world of hungry life. The rain has gathered in the river, engorging her, bringing the banks higher than I’ve seen before. Tiny dragonflies flit all around me and I can’t help but think of dominoes when I think of the path that led me to this moment, sitting at the feet of the teeming river. 
I’m amazed at the way things play out, the way life unfolds like a curving line of dominoes, one domino tipping and then colliding into the next and the next and the next. I’ve never been any good at setting up domino mazes. I’m too impatient and I can’t ever seem to get the spacing or the angles right.

Yesterday I returned to Te Okot to check on the well, to deliver 46 more solar lights and to meet with the elders and community about next steps for building a school for the children of Te Okot. On the way to Te Okot I passed the village of Got Apwoyo. “Got” is the Lwo word for mountain and “apwoyo” means either “rabbit”, “hello”, or “thank you” depending on intonation and context. Got Apwoyo the village is named for Mount Rabbit, but each time I pass the Got Apwoyo sign, I’m can’t help but think of a mountain of thanks.

This year Got Apwoyo has taken on a truly special meaning.

When I returned to Te Okot, I was so eager to see all the people I’d come to love last year. I was excited to see the well still pumping out fresh, clean, healthy drinking water and I was glad to deliver a second round of solar lights.

But in the pit of my stomach I was nervous at telling the group I’d not yet found a suitable organization to build their children a school and that I’d not raised nearly enough money to even begin such a project. 

 In the same way I believe that all people should have access to healthy water, I believe all children should have access to education. There aren’t public schools in Uganda, even the schools built by the government charge school fees.

 Though I’m careful not to make promises I can’t keep and I hadn’t promised Te Okot a school, a large part of me felt like I’d failed them. As if any of this is about me or depends on anything I do. Really my feeling like a failure was quite arrogant.

While I was lost in doubt, God was smiling and setting up lines of dominoes. Isn’t that the best news? In times of failure, God is delighting in unfolding a plan we can’t even begin to see. 

After tramping through the bush to see the well, I returned to the community meeting, sat with my shoes off on a papyrus mat next to the Lapyem, the musee of Te Okot.
 After roll call, Lapyem began the meeting, greeting my mom, Denis, Bitek and I.  

 Then it was my turn to speak. I took out my small notebook and in a quivering voice, I read the speech Olive, the daughter of my language teacher, had helped me write.

Apwoyo ludiro magitikany, ki apwoyo Lubanga me ripowa. Bed ma cwing wu tek. Pyen Lubanga ti ked wu. An bene wiya pe wil i kum wu. Pol kare ka amaro pi, atamo pi wu. Cwinya yom pyen wu tiki pi maleng, maber pi yot kum. Anyeyo ni lyec dong pe ka yelowu pyen mac tye. Amarowu matek. Apwoyo.

Greetings to the elders. I thank God for bringing us together again. God is still with you and you are always in my heart. Whenever I drink water, I always remember you. I’m happy because you have clean water, which is good for your health. I hope the elephants aren’t disturbing you anymore because you have lights. I love you all very much. Thank you.

The people at the community meeting were very gracious and this time I didn’t even need someone else to translate my attempt at Lwo into real Lwo. Phew!
During the meeting, we revisited the three needs of Te Okot from last year: water, a school, and a medical facility. I braced myself to bring the news that we were far away from building a school.

That’s when Francis, a mechanic and the brother of Lapyem, stood and reported. He said that what they really need most is a tractor. A tractor would allow their children to go to school and also prevent many of the health issues they’re facing. 

 A tractor??? A tractor would do all of that?

I asked Francis to tell me more.

Over the last year, parts of Uganda have been divided into different subcounties. Got Apwoyo and Te Okot were rezoned into a subcounty called the Got Apwoyo Subcounty. Te Okot was included in this redivision because Te Okot now has a source of healthy drinking water. To think that the well was one of the influencing factors in allowing Te Okot to become part of the new subcounty blows my mind.

The important thing about becoming a part of a subcounty is that the government can’t have subcounties without schools or access to medical care. So now that the villages of Te Okot and Got Apwoyo have been designated together to form Got Apwoyo Subcounty, the government will have to build a school and a medical care facility.

I tried to remain calm on the mat, but I was flooded with excitement and relief. I know nothing about building a school. Less than nothing.

 Francis continued explaining that their land is too difficult to farm using hand tools. I nodded emphatically. I’ve walked to the well enough times to know that the hard ground, sloping terrain and lush bush are monumental obstacles. Plus there are those pesky elephants who eat whatever they please.

 I still wasn’t understanding how a tractor would help with the issues of education and health, so Francis continued. If they had a tractor, they could farm and grow enough food to not go hungry, eliminating many health problems related to starvation. Plus a tractor would allow them to grow food crops to feed their families and cash crops to sell at the market, so they could earn and save money to pay for their children’s school fees when the government school is built.

“So instead we want to the government take care of building a school and a hospital and we want you to partner with us in buying a tractor so that we can take care of our families.”

I nodded my head vehemently, in complete agreement, but still Francis continued.

“From the time we first know ourselves until we are old like that musee, we work the fields, from morning to night and morning to night again, but still we grow only enough to eat and not always enough. Our poverty is deep and if we had a tractor, we’d be free.”

If we had a tractor, we’d be free.

Even now I get a lump in my throat from those words.

I marveled at the simple, yet elegant solution.

A tractor.

I listened as Francis continued speaking, asking questions when needed, but mostly just listening. As I listened I realized that Francis thought he needed to convince me, that the reputation of mzungus is to come in with our own plans, to splash our names all over new school buildings and pat ourselves on the back. The ego of it all turns my stomach and makes my heart sick.

I listened until Francis was finished. Then I stood and told the group, “I’m so relieved not to have to build a school! I don’t know anything about building schools! You know my only talent is writing stories. I don’t know anything about tractors either, but I know that you do. I think a tractor is a wonderful solution. I’ll bring it to my board and to our donors, but I think buying Te Okot a tractor is very possible. I’m so glad you felt comfortable telling me your new plan. We want to be an organization that listens to what you need to help you solve real problems.”

Denis translated for me and the relief that washed over the faces of the people I love in Te Okot was remarkable. There was a little more discussion amongst members about various kinds of tractors and my mom even spoke to the community. 

 Then I passed out a suitcase full of solar lights and sat on the papyrus mat, cuddling babies, hugging and shaking hands with a throng of adults, and doing my best to gracefully accept all the thanks pouring from their mouths.

  As Bitek drove us away from Te Okot and toward the place we’d stay at the bank of the Albert Nile, I sat in shock. A tractor. I don’t know anything about buying tractors, but then again I didn’t know anything about digging wells either and we all know how that turned out.

Vigilantes, my arms are prickling with goosebumps, waiting to see exactly what God is going to do next, waiting to see a new line of dominoes fall perfectly into place.