Man plans, God laughs

Will I get to take my long-delayed Uganda trip this summer? God only knows, but I am hopeful…

John I. Carney
7 min readJan 21, 2022

Photo from Raise The Roof Academy website,

This is not the first time I have had an Africa trip postponed due to disease. In fact, it’s the second time in a row….

Let me backtrack a little. Prior to 2002, I’d have told you I was not cut out for foreign mission travel. But in the summer of that year, my friend Gail Drake (now Gail Castle) talked me into going to Nicaragua with LEAMIS International Ministries, the group she’d co-founded with the Rev. Debra Snellen. The trip took place in January 2003; I wore my winter coat on the drive up to the Nashville airport, then handed it to my parents and asked them to bring it with them when they picked me up.

I have taken nine foreign mission trips — two to Central America, one to South America and six to Africa — and, by far, that first one was the hardest in terms of living conditions. We were living in people’s homes in an extremely rural area of Nicaragua. Frank Schroer and I were in a dirt-floor shack, with no running water, one light bulb, and one TV set. Yes, they had a TV set. Whenever Frank and I were in the room and the TV was on, our host family would point it in our direction, as a courtesy to their guests — even though neither of us was fluent enough in Spanish to follow what was going on.

I did not do well with the food (and a mental block/gag reflex continues to be one of my biggest weaknesses as a participant in short-term trips). By the end of the trip, they were saying “Comer, Frank” instead of “Comer, Frank y John” when it was dinner time.

I really liked LEAMIS’ approach to short-term missions. Short-term foreign trips are often the target of criticism, and much of it is justified. But I still think there is value in these trips if they are done correctly, in a sense of partnership rather than patronage, and with clear respect for, and the ability to truly listen to and learn from, the people you are visiting. If nothing else, they tend to transform the travelers and open their eyes to what the rest of the world is really like. I know they’ve had some of that effect on me. LEAMIS gets that in a way that some other missions groups don’t, and always works with host pastors and tries to listen to their input rather…

John I. Carney

Author of “Dislike: Faith and Dialogue in the Age of Social Media,” available at