Carl and Teresa Wilkens: Spokane, WA

I am very proud of my aunt and uncle.  And while I'll start there, I'll specify that this is the kind of pride built through relationship when a kid is young--you know, when you're so proud to have your aunt and uncle out there at your birthday sledding parties--careening down the back hills together, barely missing trees;  when you're so proud to be a part of their many, many made up games, which were potentially so-not-fun, but were ALWAYS SO fun;   when you're so proud to have them come to your Christmas play, your fiftieth rinkadink harp concert, or whatever other insignificant, yet very significant thing that might be happening when they visit town.  That's where the pride roots itself, in relationship, but I've found the pride realizing itself more and more in these past years as I've come to understand more of their story.

My Aunt and Uncle were living in Kigali in 1994 when the genocide in Rwanda began.  My uncle was working for ADRA, a development-aide organization in the valley where he and my aunt were raising their three young children.  As the expat community and most of the relief organizations began evacuating, my aunt and uncle made a decision together that my uncle would remain in Rwanda.  The question of, "Why stay?" is one I've heard many people ask.   And this would be an incredible segway to introduce to you his book, "I'm Not Leaving."  Rwanda through the eyes of the only American to remain in the country through the 1994 genocide.
My uncle writes, "While the stories written here happened during the genocide, this book is not really about genocide. It is more about the choices people made, actions people took, courage people showed, and sacrifices people gave in the face of genocide…"

And as he writes, he takes you with him into the homes where people are hiding in closets, to the water spigots under sniper fire, into the gates of the overflowing orphanage, takes you in under the roofs of killers and into the offices of corrupt men of power, and through all of it, there is a strong sense that our decisions matter and how important relationships are. And it was these truths that so deeply impressed me, that left me inspired.

Now, my aunt and uncle travel around the world speaking about inclusion and emphasizing relationship. They run a non-profit called, World Outside My Shoes, which is an "educational and professional development organization committed to inspiring and equipping people to enter the world of “The Other”. “The Other” may be under our own roof or on the other side of the globe."

Pick up their book!   Just click over HERE and put a donation into the PayPal button on the side reel.  Then, when PayPal asks for a purpose, simply write "Books" and they'll ship it on over to you!  My uncle is an incredible speaker and this translated right into his writing--moving, personal, and profoudly insightful!   

If you get to meet my aunt and uncle in person, you'll find them laughing and asking you questions; you might hear my uncle ask my aunt to please play him a song, as my aunt can ignite a piano; you might find them taking walks or riding their recumbent bicycles.  I know you'd love them.  :)  Meet Carl and Teresa:

Carl:  "I re-purpose my daughters' hair bands to hold my credit cards and drivers license in a wad."
Teresa:  "I re-purposed a full length mirror into a decorative table top!"



  1. I want a franchise for my students! Mr. J. : ), a former teacher of Emily StAr.

  2. Fun memories of that afternoon with you!! As always, you write so powerfully!! Such an honor to do this with you! I'm going to place an order right now! Much love....Aunt Teresa