Bob Goff has inspired audiences with his crazy stories and life-changing insights for more than a decade. He builds school for kids in war zones, rescues girls from brothels, raises horses, prosecutes witch doctors, hosts retreats, speaks to millions, and the list goes on and on. People constantly ask him how he does so much, and his simple answer is this: he stays undistracted. His new book is all about overcoming the constant distraction we let into our lives—our homes, work, relationships, and soul—and recovering the purpose and joy covered by all the clutter. It’s a grace to welcome Bob Goff to the farm’s front porch today . . .

Guest post by Bob Goff

In Northern Uganda, the night sky is bright with stars. If you live in a major city, small town, or suburb, you may not be able to fully visualize what I mean. In vast stretches of the African bush, there is almost zero light pollution. The night sky is riddled with glorious, sparkling pinpricks. You can see a spiraling arm of the Milky Way stretching out past the dark horizon.

Uganda is not the kind of place that would have a space program. But at the Love Does school we built there, our students have looked up with the same wonder the vastness of space stirs inside each of us. NASA stopped flying the space shuttle, and most of their funding was cut several years ago too. When I learned of this I called and asked if they had any spare parts we could have sent to our school in Gulu. A space capsule? A spare booster rocket? Really, anything would be nice.

I imagined giving people directions to our school and telling them to “turn after the first rocket ship.” Uganda had never launched anything into space. I looked at the GoPro camera on my desk and started to wonder: What if our kids were the first?

photo credit: Esther Havens

Since NASA was basically out of business, we decided to establish Gulu’s first space program. We called it GASA. I found some tanks of helium in Mombasa, Kenya, and had them shipped to Gulu. It cost me more than four giraffes. We enlisted an astronaut from NASA, the owner of an airline, and some others to help us with the caper, and we got to work.

A few months later we traveled to Gulu. Once there my son Rich put a GoPro camera wrapped with hand warmers in a Styrofoam ice chest. Then we began filling a weather balloon with helium. It inflated to fifteen feet across and twenty feet high. The students counted down and let go. A thousand sets of eyes watched as it soared into the air. When the balloon was off the ground, the students yelled, “We have liftoff!”

“Children who were once forced to be soldiers and given Kalashnikov rifles were now cheering and crying and hugging as they all became part of Uganda’s first space launch.”

Children who were once forced to be soldiers and given Kalashnikov rifles were now cheering and crying and hugging as they all became part of Uganda’s first space launch. They had a new family, and they could soar as high as their imaginations would allow them. But this launch wasn’t just a metaphor; we still had a school to run and lessons to teach. With the help of a friend who understood meteorology, the kids calculated how the winds aloft would influence the trajectory of the balloon, then predicted in their physics class calculations where the balloon would end up.

Rich had put a GPS in the ice chest so we could monitor the balloon after the launch. Every three minutes we got a new ping. The students tracked the balloon as it drifted south over the country and climbed to over one hundred thousand feet. It entered the edge of space, and by the time it reached this elevation, it grew even bigger as the atmosphere thinned. And then it happened. The vacuum of space popped the balloon, and the remnants began their descent to earth. Rich also attached a parachute to the ice chest, and the kids huddled around the computer as we tracked its progress back to Uganda. The package was right on course with where the students had predicted it would land.

Suddenly the wind shifted. Students scrambled to calculate new trajectories, running about waving their arms. Team leaders shouted across the room. There was a tremendous amount of energy and focus as these young people sized up the task before them. It was awesome. I felt like I was in Houston during Apollo 13. The kids figured out the new trajectory, and as it turned out, the payload decided to drift more than one hundred miles to the west. The new landing zone we triangulated was in a different country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Not good.

The package touched ground one hundred yards away from six small grass huts. We assumed the box had landed in a field or was snagged in the thick jungle canopy. Every three minutes we continued to receive a new fix on our Styrofoam box, but within an hour, something changed. The GPS indicated the box was now inside one of the huts. A few minutes later, it was in another hut. Within the hour, it had gone to all the huts. I can only imagine what the villagers must have been thinking as they carried the box with the parachute and camera that had been in space from hut to hut.

“Not everything went exactly as we planned, but who cares, right? A couple of things will go right for you, and a couple simply won’t. God doesn’t keep score, and you shouldn’t either.”

One of the guards at the school is named Cosmos. I’m not kidding. I’m so disappointed that my parents picked the name Bob for me. Cosmos is from a village in the DRC near where the box landed, so we sent him over the border to see if he could get it back. A few hours later, Cosmos called to inform us that he knew exactly where the box and GoPro camera were.

The next call we got was from the DRC’s military. Cosmos had been arrested as a spy. Yikes! The military saw the box, the camera, and the parachute and got understandably ruffled by it. Suddenly, the mission had gone as horribly sideways as the parachute had. So we called some friends in Uganda who called some generals in Uganda who called some generals in the DRC, and Cosmos was released that same night. Talk about a misunderstanding. We got the camera back, but they took the flash drive so we couldn’t replay the descent from the edge of space. I still have my request in to the government for it.

Not everything went exactly as we planned, but who cares, right? A couple of things will go right for you, and a couple simply won’t. God doesn’t keep score, and you shouldn’t either. When we are tempted to bring Him only our successes, God reminds us He delights at our attempts even when they fail. The kids still talk about their space mission. That’s what a little bit of availability and a lot of helium will do. Don’t get distracted by the things that have gone wrong or could go wrong. Put a few things in motion to give your life some lift and watch it take flight.

*****

BOB GOFF is the author of the New York Times bestselling Love Does; Everybody, Always; Live in Grace, Walk in Love; and Dream Big, as well as the bestselling Love Does for Kids. He’s a lover of balloons, cake pops, and helping people pursue their big dreams. Bob’s greatest ambitions in life are to love others, do stuff, and most importantly, to hold hands with his wife, Sweet Maria, and spend time with their amazing family. For more, check out BobGoff.com and LoveDoes.org.

(Our humble thanks to Harper Collins for partnership in this devotional today.)