It’s funny how small things add up to things we never planned, never expected, and totally blow our minds. This is the story of one of the miracles Amy mentioned in Three Prayers That Change a Marriage.
I have a sister whom I’ve never met. Her name is Rachel, but she goes by Djibouti Jones. She’s not my blood relative, but as a Christian writer for various outlets, Rachel recently shared two articles that touched me deeply: Soldiers on Dollhouses and Come to the Margins.
Soldiers touched me because it was talking about my Nairobi. Margins reminded me of how it became my Nairobi.
Me? In Africa? Riiiight!
Growing up in the 80’s, I remember hearing about the racial clashes and violence in South Africa. I thought it was a region of the continent; only later did I learn that there’s actually a country in southern Africa named South Africa.
The year I started college at The University of Texas, a shanty was built on campus to give all passersby a taste of what a typical “house” looked like in the shanty towns of Soweto in the suburbs of Johannesburg, and to protest the apartheid that was taking place there.
That’s one place I have no desire to ever go.
About eight years ago, I made a new friend with someone who grew up in South Africa. He expatriated to Glasgow because South Africa was too dangerous. He and his bride were both from there and, “everyone we know has had a friend murdered.”
What?!?!? Now I was sure it was a place I would never want to visit.
The other part of Africa on my radar growing up was Ethiopia, due the super groups Band Aid and USA for Africa. It was a place where hunger and poverty were rampant; a place for missionaries and relief organizations to go as saviors. And where we “rich” Westerners could throw our money to feel better about ourselves. At least, that was my perception. It never really moved me to go or serve; it actually repelled me.
But what does all this have to do with Nairobi? Well, it’s in Africa, too, right?
Europe! The Caribbean! Hawaii! Greece! Australia! Those are the places on my bucket list. You know… the pretty places.
The Power of a Praying Wife
Fast-forward to 2010, when Amy started praying three things for me regularly. The Lord led her to pray: that He would bless me, prosper me, and show me favor. It was months before I knew she had been praying that.
I had recently started a new job working with SharePoint. I brought years of web development experience to the job and found that I was well-poised to excel using this new-to-me tool. A month after I started the job, I commented on a post on a SharePoint community blog and the site owner asked me to post a screencast of my solution. I did and it was very well-received. That led to more blog posts, a series that turned into an ebook, and speaking at conferences around the country.
The SharePoint “community” is unusual among technology users. Because the tool is a corporate collaboration tool, it fosters a spirit of collaboration among its proponents. The SharePoint community is vast… AND tight-knit. Through social media, I’ve made friends with SharePoint people all around the globe.
I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at events in New Orleans, Dallas, Boston, Houston, San Antonio, and DC. I’ve also been a speaker at three online conferences, two for India, and one for EMEA (Europe/Middle East/Africa).
What Does This Have to Do with Nairobi?
I’m getting there… it’s only in hindsight that I can see the steps the Lord led me on to get there.
In early 2011, I was in Dallas to speak at a conference. I approached one of my Austin SharePoint compatriots: “Why is there no SharePoint Saturday in Austin? Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston have all had two. Austin is the tech capital of Texas; we need our own SharePoint Saturday.” “Let’s do it!” came his enthusiastic reply.
We promoted it everywhere we went. One of those places was SharePoint Saturday, The Conference… a three-day event in Washington, DC. While there, I met Alistair Pugin, a SharePoint expert from Cape Town, South Africa. I knew Alistair from Twitter, but it was the first time we’d met in person. Alistair invited me—along with several other folks—to come to Cape Town, telling me how beautiful it is.
Right. That’s in Africa, right?!? Thanks for the invite, but I hear they murder people there.
Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone
In January 2012, the first-ever SharePoint Saturday Austin was a huge success.
I decided to take a bit of a rest. Keyword: “a bit.”
In February, Amy was talking to a friend on Facebook. The friend and her family had moved to Nairobi the previous January to be closer to her husband’s work for a relief organization.
“Y’all should come visit us! Just get here; you’ll have a place to stay, we’ll feed you. Nairobi is an amazing place!”
Nairobi!?!? That’s in Africa, right? Haven’t we already ruled that one out? But… this dear friend and my bride are kindred spirits in many ways, and Amy said she was up for the adventure.
This was something new. Amy’s not timid, but security is important to her. Which means adventure isn’t usually at the top of her list of “to do’s.”
Well, she doesn’t have to tell me twice that she wants to try something out of the norm…
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could time it whenever SharePoint Saturday Nairobi is and I can speak, too?”
She agreed. I went to the SPS website to see when SPS Nairobi was so we could plan around it. There wasn’t one.
I Googled “Nairobi SharePoint Users Group” to see if I could encourage them to host an SPS. There wasn’t one.
I went to LinkedIn and searched my network for “SharePoint” and “Nairobi” and started asking about a SPUG. The first fifty people told me the same thing: “I’m the only one doing SharePoint in Nairobi.”
I got 49 other people who say you’re wrong. Hmm… dead end.
Looks like Nairobi is out of the picture. Unless…
What If I Do It?
There’s no way I can organize a SharePoint Saturday in a city where there is no SPUG and none of the SharePoint people know each other, a city that’s a quarter way round the globe, on a continent I’ve never been to, where I only know three people (and they don’t know SharePoint). It would be ludicrous to even try that, right?
Remember that prayer Amy prayed? To bless me, prosper me, and show me favor?
I asked some of my friends who speak about SharePoint internationally if they would be interested in an Africa tour with a stop in Nairobi.
I talked to Alistair, who organizes SharePoint Saturday Cape Town, and asked if he would be interested in going to Nairobi, and having the international team come to Cape Town, too.
I heard yesses, all around. A date was picked, a plan was made, and SharePoint Saturday Nairobi plans were full steam ahead. And so was SharePoint Saturday Cape Town.
We’re going to Africa! Africa!!! That place that was last on my list. Oh, my! How’d that happen?
Dagnabbit, what’s she praying for me now?
To be continued… This is Africa!