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Life Arts

"Turn Right at the Dancing Cow: A Miracle in Uganda" with John Shimer

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Joan Brunwasser       (Page 2 of 3 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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She was able to escape her tormentors at age 30, ran away to Seattle, changed her identity, became a Christian and spent the next 18 years in therapy with a brilliant psychiatrist. She paid for every one of those sessions out of her own meager wages. 

So, she was 49 years old when I met her. She was poor, had no wealthy friends, had never lived in Africa, had never run a school, let alone found one and create it from scratch. She knew nothing about fundraising, or non-profit organization and management. But she had the faith of a grain of mustard seed. 

Over the next four years, following my guidance, she raised money, went back to Africa, cleared jungle, built buildings and the campus, started teaching and training a core group, and never, never, never gave up. She was like the "Ever-ready bunny" and in 2006, she had actually pulled off a miracle. 

The school is called African Hospitality Institute (AHI), and anyone can go to the website for AHI  and take a tour around the campus and learn about the amazing work she does to train teenagers for careers in the hospitality industry. Since tourism is the fastest growing industry in Uganda, these youngsters are all hired before they complete the two-year course at AHI. 

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Self-sufficiency is almost unheard of in Uganda. But Maggie's students all graduate as fully self-sufficient. 

After my accident, as part of my own healing, I went to visit AHI, to teach, and to give the keynote speech at graduation in December, 2011. I decided to write a book about this human angel and my involvement with her that, by then, had lasted more than a decade. Writing that book was part of my healing process, as my brain injury from the accident had been serious and I had to rewire my brain to be able to function properly again. 

In that process, I guess my soul got rewired too, because I am now trying to live my life like Maggie to relieve the suffering of others, but in a different way, of course. 

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How do you explain Maggie's success, when so many NGOs [non-governmental organizations] fail? 

I have really puzzled over this question for a long time. I can, of course, point to the fact that she (Maggie) received professional fundraising guidance and very few ever have that help. Let's face it, it takes money to do these things. If you don't know how to get money to support your work, you are out of business--fast! 

I also believe that her idea of making her school about "self-sufficiency" is a giant advantage. Many NGOs give hand outs in one way or another. Seldom is the primary goal to make others fully self-sufficient. But let's face it, you are never free to be an adult until you are able to support yourself with marketable skills. Maggie saw that, knew that herself, and decided to give it to others. 

But still, this is Africa, and the challenges of succeeding there are enormous. Could there be more going on here than meets the eye? 

Let me answer that by saying that the mathematical probabilities of earth being here and of us being alive on the earth are comparable to a tornado slamming into a junkyard and the outcome of that encounter resulting in a perfectly constructed, perfectly operational Boeing 747 Dreamliner. 

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Each of us is free to make what we will of this truth, but I have concluded that there is more than chance at work here. My personal belief is that the mystery of our existence, and the meaning of what is going on here is way beyond the ability of our tiny brains to comprehend. 

Yes, we are able to ask all the right questions. But just because we know the questions, doesn't mean we are capable of figuring out the answers. I came away from my near-death experience with three clear messages that I believe were meant for me personally. I'll share them with you, but you are free to decide if they have any meaning for you. 

The first is "Judge no one! It is a total waste of time and in spite of your penchant for doing this, you will be better served by just paying 100% attention to living your own life as well as you can." 

The second is "Whatever you believe about what is going on in the universe is way short of the whole truth. Marvel in the mystery of it, but also be humbled by it." 

The third is, "Do all you can to relieve the suffering of others." For me, God is now real in ways that go beyond what faith tells me. And I fully understand that one day, when my final death comes, I will have to stand before God and answer this one question, "What did you do to relieve the suffering of others?" 

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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