Unheralded

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 6

Our last full day in Cairo promised to be full, with much on our agenda,  but it began with a surprise. Since the start of this trip, I had been in search of a very unique Egyptian dish called Koshary, a mix of pasta, Egyptian fried rice, vermicelli and brown lentils, topped with a zesty tomato sauce, garlic vinegar and …


Unheralded

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 5

Today was one for the bucket list, but I am going to divide my posts up a bit because I think a picture is worth more than 1000 words.  In the morning we were joined by Cindy’s friend, Ellen, who flew in from Los Angeles to join us for the last part of our time in Cairo and our cruise. …


PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 4

Today we took a break from sightseeing. In the morning, Cindy caught up on some work and I traveled to visit the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo. My good friends Karla and David Grafton, who helped profoundly with planning this trip, worked at the seminary when they lived here and it was an incredible chance for me to learn about …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 3

We got to sleep in a little later this morning, heading out at 8:20 a.m. to our first site, the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan. We try to get out a bit earlier because traffic in Cairo is absolutely insane and I’ve never heard so much beeping. So many cars, so many people. On our way to the mosque we passed …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 2

Today began very early, as we met our guide and driver at 6 a.m. to begin the journey to Alexandria. It was a 2½ hour drive on what it’s called the Desert Road between the lush oasis that is Cairo, which is fed by the Nile River, to Alexandria, located on the Mediterranean Sea. Alexandria was the capital of Egypt …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 1

Every so often in life, you are dealt unexpected curveballs that seem unfair and moments of true serendipitous grace. For me, in the past year, I’ve had both. When I left my call at Emanuel, I lost a Lily Sabbatical Grant that would have provided an amazing experience for my family and me. And now I have begun a truly astonishing …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — An Uganda Journey, Part 9

Today is International Women’s Day, so naturally my mind immediately begins to focus on the women I met in the Oula and Mungula Refugee Settlement Camps. While sharing with someone about my recent trip to Uganda, I told about my role in the Trauma Healing Training. I give leaders in the community the tools they need to assist them as …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — An Uganda Journey, Part 8

Water. It’s something many people in the developed world take for granted. That what comes out of our faucets won’t kill us. However, having just recovered from what was most likely a water-borne infection, thanks to the wonders of modern antibiotics, I am incredibly aware of just how precious clean water is and just how deadly contaminated water can be. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — An Uganda Journey, Part 7

One of the key objectives of our visit to the settlements was to meet the people involved in the South Sudan Leadership and Community Development cooperatives and share their stories. These cooperatives are what set SSLCD apart from most aid organizations because they are literally organized by the refugees and for the refugees, as we seek to empower their leadership …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — An Uganda Journey, Part 6

They say it’s about the journey, not the destination. But on our return trip to Entebbe, Uganda, it was reaching the destination that gave me the greatest joy. We had planned to take the African Bus back to Kampala on Saturday for our return trip home Sunday. However, for several logistical reasons, as well as the fact that a few …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — An Uganda Journey, Part 5

In addition to our work with trauma healing and peace-building training, one of the other reasons we as board members of South Sudan Leadership and Community Development come to visit is to provide support to our on-the-ground organizers and help assess the needs and strengths of the cooperatives. We believe the work being done in refugee settlement camps through SSLCD …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — An Uganda Journey, Part 4

One of the key principles of South Sudan Leadership and Community Development is that we operate within the settlement camps through cooperatives. We have three organizers who work within the camps to focus on leadership training, which is part of our work this week, and on community development. Our focus is to improve the lives of the women, children and …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — An Uganda Journey, Part 3

Our second day in the settlements took us to Olua, which is a bit closer to Adjuman, a little over a half hour away. The two camps are very different. Olua is more concentrated, so it appears to have more buildings, whereas Mungula has more space and appears more sparse. Even in refugee settlements, there is an urban/rural demarcation. Although …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — An Uganda Journey, Part 2

After a mostly sleepless night, thanks to the loud bed-shaking music playing outside our hotel until after 5:30 a.m. — which, I might add, seemed eminently unfair since they must have been the only place in Adjumani with electricity — we spent the morning getting supplies to provide for breaks during our day at the Mungula Settlement. Hospitality is a …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — An Uganda Journey, Part 1

Four flights and a 9½-hour ride on an African bus later, I am happy to report I am safely in Adjumani, Uganda. Denise, my fellow co-chair of South Sudan Leadership and Community Development, and Christine, who also serves on the board, and I met in Detroit. Given a variety of travel concerns in the Midwest due to snow, I am …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Forgiveness And Love

It’s been 10 years since that night I left Ian’s basketball game at halftime because I knew I needed to go to the nursing home to see Steve. Driving through snow and bitter cold because I knew that was where I was supposed to be. When I walked in, he wasn’t responsive, but I’ve been around death enough to know …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — ‘Break The Rules Day’

I was a very strict parent, especially until my sons turned 13. My boys still comment on how I wouldn’t let them watch “Rugrats” because Angelica was mean spirited.    But on Dec 31, we always celebrated “Break the Rules Day.” As long as their actions were not mean-spirited or destructive, they could break all of the rules. Have ice …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — A False Narrative

If you want to understand what straight white privilege and implicit bias looks like, the response to Brittney Griner’s release is a case in point. Over the years, there have been many prisoner exchanges the United States has had with countries that have unjustly imprisoned American citizens. Rarely if ever are there even exchanges and when they happen, other Americans …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Actions, Or Inactions, Have Consequences

Just after midnight on Nov. 20, which is Trans a Day of Remembrance, to honor the memory of transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of hate and violence, an armed gunman entered an LGBTQ nightclub during a drag show and shot and killed five people, two of whom were transgender individuals. In recent months, anti-gay rhetoric has been …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Don’t Let Indifference Destroy Democracy

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” ― Elie Wiesel Elie Wiesel knew what he was talking about. The indifference of the German people, who elected the Nazi Party to …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Freedom And Justice For All?

I was gone for two weeks traveling and return to a country very different than the one I left, thanks to U.S. Supreme Court rulings that question privacy, bodily autonomy, the ability to regulate weapons of war, the separation of church and state, rights of Indigenous people and the welfare of our planet, with the ability to conduct free and …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — God-Inspired Serendipity

Today would have been my 30th wedding anniversary. When I got married, I never imagined losing Steve twice to the same disease — first when our marriage ended and then when he died. I am the kind of person who uses anniversaries to reflect, and I can honestly say I will never regret my marriage. First, because I loved Steve …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — A Crisis Of Selfishness

It’s the same response every time. “We need to arm teachers. We need more police at school. We need to focus on mental illness,” which stigmatizes mental illness, as opposed to focusing on the real issues. It’s never “Maybe there is no reason to EVER have an AR-15 that isn’t about personal pleasure”  or  “18-year-old kids shouldn’t be able to buy guns” or …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — A Tarnished Olympics

As anyone who knows me is aware, I’m a huge fan of the Olympics. But I am struggling deeply with these Games because China is an abusive nation that is committing genocide against the Uyghur Muslims. And the IOC is a corrupt tool working with them to silence any athlete who wishes to speak out about their human rights abuses. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Addiction Takes No Prisoners

On Sunday my first friend, Tim Quimby, the boy across the street with whom I walked to school every day for years, often holding hands when were kindergartners, lost his beloved partner, Jerry, to cirrhosis, as he was holding his hand. Nine years ago tonight, I was holding Steve’s hand as he took his last breath, also a victim of cirrhosis. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Following the Path Of Martin Luther King Jr.

Growing up, my sisters and I were never asked if we wanted to serve or give of our time. It was expected. It was truly ingrained in us as part of our DNA. This morning, as we were reflecting on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in our “sisters” chat, we recalled how our parents instilled this into …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Do’s And Don’ts Of Grief

Over the years, I’ve often been asked by individuals how they can most effectively help those who are most directly touched by the death of a loved one. As a result, I’ve come up with a list of Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to dealing with grief. It is based on conversations I have had with people who have …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Be Part Of The Solution

Those who are outraged by the changing recommendations regarding masking by the CDC are a case in point why people should perhaps trust science and get the vaccine rather than leaning on their own limited understanding or the advice of friends who are not credible medical and public health professionals. Life is dynamic, not static, and all things evolve, including …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Facts Still Matter

Ignorance kills. It is the reason unvaccinated people are dying from COVID-19 and other diseases whose worst effects could be avoided. It is why people ignoring the consequences of climate change are wreaking havoc rather than being addressed. It is why people are victims of hate crimes and why teaching our children real history — not some whitewashed version that …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — The Truth Will Keep Us Free

The intransigence of the GOP leaders to move forward with a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection and attack on the U.S. Capitol is the height of party over politics. It is a glaring example of what is broken in our government.The Republicans were given everything they asked for in negotiations, including equal representation and power, and when …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — What Really Matters

I received a letter from my 22-year-old self this week. Well, sort of. It was a letter that I sent to the woman who was my camp counselor when I was 14, thanking her for the influence she had on my life. I sent it the week before I left for seminary, Aug. 31, 1986. She found it this week, …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Wanted, Critical Thinkers

I never received the smallpox vaccine. But I thank God for everyone who did. My parents were not anti-vax. But back when everyone my age lined up to get the vaccine that would leave a unique scar on their upper arm, I couldn’t join them. I had severe eczema as a child and due to a reaction that the vaccine …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Addressing The Color Divide

From time to time, I see Facebook friends who I know to be decent people post things about “cancel culture,” decrying what they see as an “attack” because someone found something offensive. It always makes me sad because I believe that a lot of this “forced” divide in our nation could be addressed if we opened our minds, heard the …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Separating The Wheat From The Chaff

The faux rage about “canceling” Dr. Seuss because the corporation that preserves his legacy removed a small handful of his countless books because of content that clearly is not appropriate and is hurtful in 2021 is so off point. Much of what Theodor Geisel wrote was lovely or fun. That is not going anywhere. It is the process of separating …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — My Lenten Discipline

This year, as my Lenten Discipline, I decided to devote 30 minutes a day to deep and intentional anti-racism reading and reflection. I selected a few books that have been on my “meaning to read” list and put them next to my recliner.  Every evening after dinner, if I have time before a meeting, or before bed if I don’t, …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Taking Something Up For Lent

Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, which is a time when many faithful Christians begin the process of their Lenten Discipline, or what is often referred to as “giving up something for Lent.” This year, though, I suspect I am not alone in my reaction to the thought of “giving up” something after a year of giving up a whole lot of …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Beyond Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day, the day when Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow to see if he sees his shadow to determine whether there are six more weeks of winter. Today also feels like Groundhog Day, as portrayed in the 1993 comedy classic starring Bill Murray. The premise of “Groundhog Day” is that a TV weatherman finds himself reliving …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Thank God For Bernie

If you are on social media anywhere these days, it is impossible to miss. A photo of a single man, his face covered by a mask, but still clearly glowering underneath, sitting in a fold-up chair, bundled up in a warm coat and wearing glorious mittens, photoshopped into a myriad of odd locations. The Bernie meme. This picture of Vermont …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — The Two Kingdoms

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. The events of the past week have left me at once glued to my television and also feeling a soul-crushing desire to just go upstairs, pull the covers over my head and pretend that this is not happening in our country. So I have been praying a lot about how to deal …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids —Democracy Depends On Unity

This morning, I watched with horror more videos of the violent insurrection, which was minutes away from a massacre. As awful as it was, it could have been so much worse had the rioters fulfilled their intent to kill the vice president and members of Congress. Many of the rank-and-file members of the Capitol Police, whose leadership was horrible, fulfilled …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — The Truth Will Set Us Free

My social media presence is fairly deliberate and intentional. I try to vary it between vignettes from my day to day life, spiritual reflections and my commentary on what is transpiring in the world around me. I have worked hard to not be the person who only rants about politics, although depending on what is going on, I will occasionally …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Out With The Old, In With The New

A few years back, I decided to toss away the idea of New Year’s resolutions and instead embrace the idea of a “Word of the Year by Which to Live.” The idea is to have one word for the year that you focus on and each day you work on that word. It becomes a centering principle by which you …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Uphold The Constitution

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and that is what I will do Jan. 6 — just as I strive to do every day as I serve the people of Alaska. I will vote to affirm the 2020 presidential election.” Joe Biden won the presidential election over President …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — God’s Name Is Not A Tool For Our Benefit

I must admit to being bemused by the hypocrisy of people who claim the name of Christ who have looked the other way the past four years but are horrified over the use of a vulgar word by a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s staff. I don’t condone calling anyone names. It is wrong, and I don’t think it is …