Meet Dana – The Advocate

Roze and Dana going out for Saturday brunch and bottomless mimosas! (2014)

Roze and Dana going out for Saturday brunch and bottomless mimosas! (2014)

I don’t even know where to begin when sharing about Dana. I first met Dana when she was a high school student and a few things stood out to me: her pearls, her blond hair and her confident demeanor and willingness to speak up. As you can see in the picture to the left, she still rocks the pearls.

Dana is so much more than meets the eye. She is a woman who has persevered and experienced some of the hardest things one could ever imagine, though you’d never guess it. In spite of what she’s been through, she is fun loving, outgoing, adventurous and passionate. She lived in Japan for two years and has traveled extensively around Asia. She speaks Japanese and Chinese. I often joke that she thinks she was asian in a former life.

Dana has a mouth on her. For those of you who might not understand what that phrase means – she is someone who speaks her mind and has no problem speaking up and out when something is wrong. I believe it might have even gotten her in trouble when she was younger. She wanted to be named the mouth but I changed it to the advocate.

Dana fiercely believes in equality and fighting systems of injustice. Human trafficking in issue that she is committed to working on. She is someone who seeks out all the information she can find to learn about an issue and puts the information to use in order to make change.

I love Dana and am so proud of the woman she has become. She follows through, pays attention to detail and is focused on living a life that models accompaniment and relationship building. Dana is someone you would want to travel with, especially to a place like Cambodia, where we are going in January 2017. You can learn more about her adventurous spirit and all of the places she’s been on the Journey Guides page.


Meet George – The Agitator

Roze and George leading an international youth group in Chicago (2012)

Roze and George leading an international youth group in Chicago (2012)

I first met George in 2009 when I was coordinating a project that invited international companions who hosted groups from the United States to come together to engage in some listening around their experience of receiving us as short term missionaries – those who would come and travel in their countries to do projects. George was a partner of ours in Nairobi, Kenya who worked as a community organizer, church leader and activist. I noticed two things about George right away –  his sense of humor and his insistence on finding answers to difficult questions of justice, equality and peace.

During our meeting, George posed a question to me that I have never forgotten. We were in a heated discussion about the amount of money that Americans spend on short term mission trips, numbering in the billions. George and a few others could not understand how so many people going on mission trips would spend so much money but nothing would seem to change. At some point he frustratedly blurted out, “How can Americans not engage in advocacy when they see what’s happening around the world? How do you make a distinction between service and justice? For me one goes with the other. I can’t serve and not be an agent of justice.” He’s been the agitator in my life ever since.

George is someone who demands justice and peace. He engages youth, young adults and adults in projects that ask difficult questions and bring people together to create a new reality. His work has taken him all over the world and he currently lives in Geneva where he works with a non-profit that advocates for people with disabilities. As his Journey Guide bio reveals, he is someone with a deep passion for doing what is right and for fighting against inequalities and injustice.

I first went to Kenya in 2007 and I’ve been itching to get back ever since. So much has happened in Kenya since I was there and I’m looking forward to returning with a native Kenyan who can share his love of his country with us. George has taught me the importance of relationship and of using one’s power and influence to impact change. He is a key reason why Sacred Travel Journeys don’t engage in service trips and why we focus on accompaniment. We are all about experiences that change one’s perspective and foster awareness, peace and love.

Join us on our journey to Kenya, in August 2015 and sign up by visiting our Contact page.

Sending you light and love,



Meet Andrea – The Bridge-Builder

Roze and Andrea on Valentine's Day in Chicago (2014)

Roze and Andrea on Valentine’s Day in Chicago (2014)

I’m her mini-me. This is what Andrea calls me. Andrea and I met in 2007 and realized that we had much in common. Little did I know then that she would become a dear friend and woman I greatly admire. The more that I’ve learned about her, the more that I realize that our lives started in two very different ways. You see, Andrea has taken the road less traveled. She started in one place – a life that was rough. Many wouldn’t have thought or believed she would become the woman she is. She became the rose that grew from concrete.

Andrea has overcome so much. She was a young single mother, one who went back to school, working full-time and finishing her education. She went on to get her Master of Divinity degree and her Doctor of Ministry degree in Preaching. She is a bona fide Rev. Dr. And she’s my friend.

Andrea speaks life and love with her words and actions. She is such an uplifting presence and deeply desires for others to experience life and affirmation. Her generosity is overwhelming. She gives of herself, her time and her possessions without hesitation. I won’t even tell the number of boxes that I have received from her, long distance mind you, of clothes, shoes, and other fun gifts. And she has a great sense of style!

One of Andrea’s many gifts is connecting with all sorts of people. She has an uncanny ability to hear different perspectives and help people come to an understanding. She calls herself a bridge-builder and as you will see in her Journey Guides bio, she believes that the love of God helps us overcome divisions. Andrea has spent much time in West Africa, even living in Cameroon for three months. She travels to various countries in the region regularly and is saving her money to buy property in Senegal. She has a deep love for the continent and we look forward to sharing this love with you. Join us for a journey to West Africa in the summer of 2016. More details about the exact country will be shared as we get closer to our dates.

Sending you light and love,



Meet Ulysses – The Listener

Roze and UB at the 58th Commission on the Status of Women in New York (2014)

Roze and UB at the 58th Commission on the Status of Women in New York (2014)

Many think he’s quiet – which he is – and they mistake his quietness for disengagement. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Ulysses, also known as UB (or Eubie to some of us) is one of the most observant and deeply engaged people I know. As his bio on the Journey Guides page reveals, he takes listening very seriously. I’ve known UB for something like 20 years, which blows my mind. When do we get to the point in our lives that we know people longer than we haven’t?

UB travels a lot. He’s curious about the world around him and likes to learn best by immersion. When he commits to learning something, he’s all in. UB’s life was on a particular trajectory through medical school. Did I mention that he’s also a doctor? Much of his training and focus was on cancer. This life-taking disease left it’s mark on UB, taking his mother’s life and impacting many whom he loves. He decided early on that he was going to find a cure. I honestly can remember UB in a scrubs and a lab coat as a boy. That’s how far back his passion for science and health goes.

Something changed though in 2008. UB moved to Argentina for a year to work in public health, specifically with those affected by HIV/AIDS. His time in South America left an indelible mark on him – on his values, his life plan and his understanding of what it meant to be of service in the world.

Over the years, I have seen the boy grow into a man. UB is a person I trust with my life, quite literally. We have traveled together throughout the US and have gone to Jordan, Israel and Palestine. He is always aware of his surroundings and takes the time to understand everyone he encounters. He takes every journey home with him and has a gift for contextualizing the reality of our global brothers and sisters for those of us in the US. I often call him a man after God’s own heart. He seeks justice with every fiber of his being and lives a life that models his values and commitments.

UB balances me out in many ways and I look forward to sharing our love of the Holy Land with you in 2015. Traveling with us will be an experience of cool, calm, collected (him) and a what some might describe as a little high strung, decisive and outwardly expressive (me). Are you interested in joining us? Visit the Contact page to sign up for our journey, January 15-24, 2015. Spots are filling quickly!

Sending you light and love,


Meet Leila – The Heart

Roze and Leila, Thanksgiving in DC (2013)

Roze and Leila, Thanksgiving in DC (2013)

Leila Ortiz is one of the most brilliant people I know. But that’s not why I love her. I love her because she has the world’s biggest heart and is constantly seeking heart connections among people. In those spaces, she believes that God is most fully present. I call her my sister wife because we share a deep and abiding connection that goes beyond friendship. I trust her with my life – with my darkest secrets, my deepest joys and my widest dreams. She’s spoiled me for any future relationship. 😉

Leila and I met as students at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Leila was completing her Master of Divinity degree and preparing for ordained ministry. She was very clear in her call to be a pastoral leader. She loved the congregation and after her year long internship, her call was confirmed and affirmed.

We grew closer during a course on globalization and interfaith relations. A key part of our class was a trip to Egypt in January of 2009 and our friendship blossomed. We not only traveled well together, we were also deeply engaged with everything that we experienced. We found very quickly that we thought in similar ways, having similar questions, thoughts and concerns about the things we experienced. It got to be that we didn’t even have to say anything. We just have to give one another a look and know exactly what the other is thinking.

For Leila, things always come back to the theological, to those things that reveal who God is and how God is in relationship with humanity. Leila’s framework for everything she engages is through the lens of the heart, through the emotional center that reveals truth, desire, and ultimately, call. She is a pastor, one who seeks the heart of God in order to help others uncover the heart of God.

I am so excited to lead a travel journey to El Salvador in January of 2016 with Leila. As you will read on the Journey Guides page, El Salvador was her sacred travel journey. I hope you consider joining us as we explore the history, culture and reality of civil war among the people of El Salvador, as well as experience the joy, hope and hospitality that people from this special country share.

Traveling with Leila and I will never bring a dull moment. Our friend and fellow Journey Guide UB often says that we need a camera following us because we are a walking reality show. Interested in joining us? Check out the Contact page to be added to our mailing list. We look forward to sharing our passion and joy with you!

Sending you love and light,


Introducing our Journey Guides

Guide: One who assists a person to travel through or reach a destination in an unfamiliar area, as by accompanying or giving direction to the person; one who accompanies a sightseer to show points of interest and to explain their meaning or significance.

Sacred Travel Journeys would not exist without Journey Guides – individuals who have a deep passion for the people and places where Sacred Travel Journeys takes travelers. Guides help plan each part of the travelers journey, working closely with partners on the ground, to arrange logistics and create travel journeys that meet the core values of sacred travel journeys (accompaniment, listening, learning, reflection and growth). Guides provide direction, support and help travelers process and reflect upon their experience. Guides have either lived in or have an extensive knowledge of the place. Guides have been to each of the locations many times and we work tirelessly to maintain special relationships with our partners. A guide will never take travelers where they haven’t been and we always follow the lead of our hosts in every place we go.

One of my non-negotiables for the leadership of Sacred Travel Journeys is that I have to trust the people who are guides. I have to be in relationship with them and they have to be deeply connected to the places where we will go. This week, I’ll be introducing the guides who will be co-leading journeys with me from now until 2017. We have plans to go to the Holy Land, Kenya, El Salvador, West Africa and Cambodia. And we are just getting started!

I am excited to work with each of these individuals and look forward to sharing with you why they are so important to me. I have learned that relationships are EVERYTHING. I can’t exist without the people in my life; without authentic connections that constantly offer support, accountability and challenge me to go deeper and dream bigger. I have a special relationship with each of these guides and I look forward to introducing them to you this week.

Sending you light and love,


Welcome to Sacred Travel Journeys!

This site started off as a travel blog, a space where I could share reflections from the various places I visit and the people  I encounter. I wanted it to be more than just stories and pictures; I wanted to go deeper, to share my understanding with what I call sacred travel journeys – experiences that transform one’s soul. Ever since visiting Ethiopia in 20014, what I refer to as my first sacred travel journey, my life has changed. The way I see travel has changed. The way that I engage with others has changed. The way I understand myself in relationship to the world has changed. That journey and many others after it, began to form the foundation of how I understand this life – of how I understand what it means to be in relationship with God and with others.

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What if I told you that Egypt wasn’t an “African” country?

My trip to Egypt in 2009 was eye-opening on many levels, but the thing that caught me the most off guard was moving from thinking about Egypt as African to Egypt as the Middle East.

So, as an African American, the thought of coming to Egypt not only excited me for obvious reasons (the land of the Pharaohs, the Pyramids, the Holy Family) but also got me thinking about the connection that I had ethnically to this great history. I have travelled to Africa two other times (Kenya and Ethiopia) and the warm welcome and sense of home I experienced were overwhelming. Upon arriving here, however, I have been introduced to this very complex culture of Egypt that, among other things, does not consider itself to be African. Yes, you read that correctly…Egyptians do not consider themselves to be African. Continue reading

Fear of the Unknown

I wrote this post before my trip to Egypt in 2009. I traveled for a course during my time at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. I travel all the time but it never ceases to amaze me how fear is such a powerful emotion. It can literally stop us in our tracks…

I received a call from my father today asking if this trip was still going to happen. My mother continually calls and tells me (doesn’t ask) that I won’t be able to go to Egypt in a week. Their fear is linked to what’s happening in Gaza at this very moment. When I first heard their comments, I laughed and told them, “You do realize that I am going to Egypt and not Israel, right?” After time passed and I thought more about what they have been saying and asking, I realize that they are truly concerned for my well-being and don’t really care that Egypt isn’t Israel. Rather, when they look at a map and see the close proximity of the Gaza strip to Egypt, the alarm bells start ringing. As I put aside my own “traveler’s superiority” (you know, the attitude that many of us can acquire after being fortunate enough to travel internationally) I realize that their fear is not unwarranted.

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Alternative Pilgrimage

I am leading a group of young adults who are tasked with the responsibility of leading other young adults on trips to Israel and Palestine in the next year and a half. These travelers will use their trips as starting points to engage in issues of peace and justice back home as it pertains to the ongoing occupation and violation of human rights happening in Israel and Palestine. Each night, we hold reflections and devotions as we consider what we have experienced throughout the day and how it not only impacts our knowledge, but more importantly how it impacts our calling as people of faith who are seeking to be change agents.

The other night, the young adults leading devotions last spoke about Christian pilgrimage and they got me thinking about this question – What does it mean to reclaim Christian Pilgrimage from being viewed as an internal spiritual experience to an external prophetic journey? Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we are called to deepen in faith and do soul work that better informs our spirituality. However, it seems as though Christian pilgrimage has become mainly about visiting sites and growing in personal faith and less about connecting with a historic narrative that informs how one’s faith should impact their life in the world. Continue reading