The elephant incident.

One of the things we were able to do at the end of our trip was go on Safari. We rented a van & driver/guide who drove us around the park. Ojok was our driver & we really had a great time with him. He was able to take us right to where the lions were on our first drive & we saw lions again on our second drive. (Murchison Fall National Park has tons of animals & we were easily able to see giraffes, elephants, hippos, SO many species of birds, etc. But the lions tend to be a bit more mysterious, and harder to find. Having a driver or guide who talks to the other drivers & guides & can get you to the precise location in the very large park (over 1,000 square miles!) is really valuable.

I mentioned the elephant incident briefly in my last post, and have since learned that his company was really concerned after hearing about the “incident.” Now I’m thinking that maybe we were experiencing more of an adventure than we even knew at the time!

Here’s what I remember…There was an elephant sort of behind a tree on the left side of the road that we were able to get pretty close to in the van. We knew there were other elephants just around the corner on the right side of the road. But as we advanced, the elephant walked toward us, and out into the road facing the van. That’s when Ojok started beating his arm on the side of the van & told us to do the same. We did that for a little bit & then slowly started backing up the van, making sure the elephant wasn’t going to see that as us retreating & just start coming after us. Then Ojok navigated a pretty amazing 8-point about face turn in the road & we drove off in the other direction.

Well here, watch for yourself…

An adventure for sure! ūüôā

Thoughts on our trip

One of our teammates from last year’s trip recently asked us these questions. Spending 10 days in a completely different place is sort of hard to sum up nicely in a normal “How was your trip” conversation. So in an attempt to share about our trip, I’m going to answer Jo’s questions. I know what you really want are pictures, but this will have to do as a start…. ūüôā


What were the key moments when you had opportunities to minister to others? (Ugandans, Candice and Bobby and team members) 

This is surprisingly hard to answer. I suppose that this time, we were able to minister to Bobby & Candice (Americans living in Jinja, working with Kibo) by bringing them some “comforts of home” like crushed red pepper flakes & contact solution. When you’re living somewhere like Jinja you might only get one or two options on the kind of contact solution you can pick up at the corner store. And if it’s not the kind that you prefer, then when someone is coming from “the land of plenty” where you can find 15 different types of contact solution in every corner store, then that might be something you’d request too. We also brought things like good, quality scissors & dry erase markers for the Kibo employees to use in their offices. You can find these things there…but they might not last as long, or they might be really expensive. ¬†Bobby & Candice also ordered some things online & had them shipped to us. Us packing them in our luggage was much cheaper than shipping something from to Uganda. So we were able to minister to Bobby & Candice in that way, by bringing them some “comforts of home”.

We also really saw our role this time as facilitators for the rest of our team. We helped coordinate the pre-trip meetings, we kept track of the group money & paid for meals, etc. It was fun to see the change the group went through from first impressions & being a bit overwhelmed by the smells & sights & sounds, to falling in love with this place, in the same way we have.

Is it strange that I am having the hardest time knowing when I might have ministered to Ugandans?  I feel like they did much more ministering to me than the other way around.


What were the key moments when others ministered to you? 

Bobby & Candice (& Rachel!-another Kibo staffer) took care of so many details for our trip that it made it easy for us to just show up & go where they had arranged for us to go. And Ida (one of the Ugandan Kibo staff) was very transparent about parts of her life & marriage. Hearing part of her story & seeing redemption there & seeing the way she gives & gives to others was really encouraging to me.


What went unexpectedly wrong? 

Hardly anything! When we arrived back in Tulsa, one of our trunks of coffee wasn’t on the baggage carousel with all the others…but we were able to find it before we left the airport. Most of the rest of the team had flight delays on the way back & got home much later than planned…but we all got home.

One afternoon a few of the girls were sort of stranded by the driver at an orphanage. There was some miscommunication & the driver thought he was supposed to wait for them somewhere else. They ended up having to find their own transportation (personal taxi motor bikes) back to meet up with the rest of the group. It was a bit more of an adventure than they had planned for that afternoon, but I think they all actually enjoyed it!


What went surprisingly right?

Lives were changed! And we made it through the Murchison part of our trip “on our own”, just Ben & I in charge-no Bobby & Candice to help us navigate things. This means that we successfully got the group to the game park (a several hour drive), into the park (with fees), across the ferry at the appropriate times, to the lodge, and back to the airport. AND along the way, I did not lose any of the group money, we had no vehicle issues, and we saw 4 lions & experienced a minor confrontation with a rather large elephant & lived to tell about it. Success in my book! (Big Thanks to our driver, Ojok, who was really, really helpful with all of those things.)


What are some things you learned about yourself?

I was reminded that I am naturally a “rescuer”. I want everyone to have very low anxiety & be happy. So it was stretching for me to not have all the answers. Or even if I did have some information about what was coming up next, to not share that all the time & allow people to work through some of their anxieties.



Fundraising Update!

***Finished! Thanks to the generosity of our church and friends and family we are essentially done. Thanks for the help!***

We only need about $2,000 to finish out our fundraising for this trip! (We started needing $6,400…we are so close!)

This is basically the cost of 1 of our plane tickets.

Here’s how that $6,400 breaks down, in case you’re interested:

  • Plane Ticket: $2000 each
  • In Country Expenses (food, lodging, transportation, safari): $1200 each
  • Total Needed: $6,400 ($3,200 each)
  • Total Received: $4,400
  • Total Still Needed: $2,000

If you would like to help out the details are on the  Kibo page. Just put Ben and Beth in the purpose line of the paypal form, or your check or whatever.


A farewell to Aspen.

We bid farewell to a very dear friend today. I bet many of you had met Aspen. (But you probably didn’t realize that’s what her name was.)

Aspen the Outback. (Because she loved our trips to the “real” woods & gravel roads of Colorado. And because we really like Aspen trees.)

But Aspen has been sick lately. She needs some major repairs. Like a clutch & a new head gasket. Not to mention her recent knack for getting run into/hit/vandalized just sitting in a parking lot. We bought her at 67,000 miles. Today she ¬†hit 197,000 miles. That’s over 130,000 miles in 6 years.

And someone was willing to make us a deal, so we said goodbye to Aspen & have welcomed a new vehicle in her place.

Aspen was with us for many adventures & mishaps. Let’s take a look back…

July 2007 : Ben & Luke’s 4-wheeling adventure ¬†// Leadville, CO

Christmas 2007 : Road Trip to Albuquerque


November 2009: Apartment parking lot hit & run


November 2010 : Break-In // Church parking lot

July 2011: Door Crunch // Church parking lot

May 2012 : helping jumpstart the Toyota

May 2012 : BB Gun: 1, Aspen: 0

The end of a chapter.

And here’s the new one:

Back to Africa

This picture was taken one year ago:

Two wide-eyed Americans, armed with passports, a few shots, prayers & curiosity. Headed into a land & a people that were unfamiliar.

We returned with a good supply of African (& European) dust in our backpacks, stories of new experiences, pictures & memories of a trip that has forever changed us.

And apparently once was not enough. We are headed back. In just 2 months we will return to Ugandan soil, fresh pineapples & bananas, dusty streets filled with a perfume of exhaust & burning trash, & friends who will smile huge smiles & hug us with love & welcoming arms.

We made a short video to explain the trip & why we are going back. You can watch it here:

Trip to Jinja-QuickTime H.264 from Ben West on Vimeo.

And we need help. We have about $2000 so far! And we need $5000 more. Would you consider joining us? Gifts can be made directly to Kibo Group here:¬†¬†Just be sure to mark “Ben & Beth West” on your donation.

We’d love to sit down with you (or skype!) & tell you more about this trip, tell you some stories, ask you some questions. Don’t be shy! Let us know when a good time would be & we’ll set something up!

A day in the life…

This week I…

…have been enjoying my new favorite coffee mug.


…went for late-night coffee with some friends


…ate a lot of breakfast for dinner


…enjoyed an evening out on the patio with some friends


…received a surprise lemon-berry slush at work


…counted money from the coffee bar donation jar


…and have been reading through the Hunger Games trilogy.



We have had the opportunity to visit a lot this past week with two of our friends from Uganda. Ronald & Abraham are here in the States for a few weeks & it has been really fun (& eye-opening) to watch them experience America for the first time.

It has been fun to have them here & be reminded of such a special place in our hearts. They are each doing some amazing work to bring communities together as they work with them to plant trees & dig water wells.

And as they are here I am reminded of a few things.

1) We are richly blessed with resources here. Things like running water, clothes dryers, electricity that doesn’t just shut off every other day, smooth roads, and a sort of ridiculous amount & variety of foods to choose from.

2) We eat a lot. And often. We are constantly laughing with these guys because we are taking them to the next meal & they say, “But we just ate a few hours ago-we are not even hungry yet!”

I am grateful that we have had this time with them & am really excited to go back to Jinja in September!

The T-shirt Blanket

So, we spent a lot of summers on staff at New Life Ranch. (Between the two of us, there were 8 summers of summer & full-time staff.) That’s one shirt for being on Summer Staff, and one shirt from the end of each summer with all the names of the staff on it. So, let’s do some math.


8 summers * 2 shirts per summer * 2 people = 32 t-shirts.


That’s a lot of shirts, folks. And I just got tired of wearing only NLR shirts all the time. Our friend Marla gave me a great idea to cut them all up & fashion a blanket out of them. So I did!


Plus a few more other “non-summer” shirts that were acquired along the way. There was one summer when I worked at NLR, but Ben went to Pennsylvania to work at a camp. It was the summer before we got married, and I wanted to be sure he remembered me & that everyone up there knew he was taken.


So I made him this:


It was fairly simple (which is good for me). I just cut out about a 1 foot square from each shirt & sewed them together. Then I found a t-shirt sheet at Target in a dark heather grey color & sewed it as the backing. No batting in the middle, no yarn ties either. (Though I considered both). I ended up sticking with SIMPLE.

And I love the way it turned out! It’s fun using it as a blanket & seeing all the shirts at once when I use it. There are SO many good memories¬†ingrained¬†in the fabric of these shirts. (And a lot of hard earned sweat, I might add…)

Sharing Seeds of Hope in some local retail establishments!

I’ve been really honored to have some local retail shops include my cards in their stores. Both of these places also carry some really fun & unique gift items. You should check them out!

If you’re in Northwest Arkansas, you can find my cards at the Mustache Goods & Wears. Our friends, Brian & Ashley from NLR opened this shop recently & have been quite successful already!


In Tulsa, you can find my stuff at made: the indie emporium shop¬†These are also some great folks who I’ve gotten to know over the past few years. They recently opened as one of Tulsa’s new Deco District Shops downtown. Check out this video clip from a news segment a local station recently ran. That’s my postcard!×2&show_title=0&pf_id=9204&va_id=3257385&auto_next=1&auto_start=0&volume=8