Tuesday, 20 March 2018

"Poetry and Readings" Student Blog Post

Monica's Travels 
Monica Knaak


Greetings to all of you from Serere, Mukono and UCU!

I have been putting off writing this blog because I have not known where to start or what to say. This is certainly not for a lack of words, as this semester has been one of lots of writing, but rather deciding how to share with all of you about everything that I have been experiencing, learning and thinking about since the last time I posted. I have really tried to start this blog and have had many different ideas about how to go about this, but today I decided to share with you all a section of a longer poem I wrote this week for one of my classes about my recent experiences in the broader sense of my entire experience. I also am including a suggested reading list based on some of the reading I have done this semester. If you have any specific questions about anything or want to talk to me, please reach out as it is so much easier to talk about life here one-on-one.
Week 1 I was told, “you’re a pilgrim, not a tourist.”
We read that a pilgrimage was about “transformation of the self
Through the forgiveness of sin” (Cavanaugh, 2008, p. 349).
I never knew how true that could be – that I would truly be transforming
In ways I never could have predicted.
It involved “humility…a stripping away of the external sources of
Stability in one’s life…generally traveled on foot” (Cavanaugh, 2008, p. 349).
I didn’t know then what I know now about living daily
With cultural humility, without a sense of stability or routine at times
And with a walk on foot that challenges me.
Although I didn’t know then what it really meant to be a pilgrim,
I jumped on the USP pilgrim train,
Having no clue where it would take me.
Fast forward through 2 months of learning, reading, and listening;
2 months of talking, telling stories, and building relationships;
2 months of experiencing family life and learning the Ugandan ways.
And then “spring break” comes.
And like any good pilgrim, I was ready to engage, learn, and rest.
I met my sweet Serere family in rural Uganda
A mama, a grandma, a 9 month-old sister, a 19 year-old brother, a great aunt,
And 2 girls that were house help but were like my other sisters.
I never knew how fast I could come to feel like family.
They all wanted to sit with me and teach me their ways:
Shelling g-nuts, cooking their specialties, speaking Ateso,
Sweeping the compound, digging in the garden, and so much more.
They taught me how important community is –
They work hard together, eat together, and rest together.
There is something beautiful about resting with family
In the shade in the heat of the day.
During this time of enjoying beautiful views,
I read 
Jesus FeministAfter the Locusts, and 
“Education for Homelessness or Homemaking”
And I thought about the woman I wanted to become.
At the end of the week, I cried when departing, wishing I could stay longer.
As a pilgrim, I walked away with a new family, a new home,
And a better, growing understanding of myself.


My pilgrimage then took me to Sipi Falls.
Where I debriefed and hiked with my monks and friends.
I was returning physically exhausted and unprepared for the week ahead.
I was unprepared to transition back to life in Mukono.


My pilgrimage then took me through
One of the hardest weeks of the semester.
A week filled with tears, emotions all over the spectrum,
Conversations with many monks, and lots of self-learning.
But after a restful weekend of writing, processing, and sleeping,
I was refreshed and ready to be a student again.
While I still needed to ponder difficult questions and topics,
Hear difficult stories, and process many experiences,
I felt once again like myself and able to live well

In this place that I have come to love.


Monica digging with her mom in the garden
Tending to the fire in the kitchen 

After talking about my life as a student, I feel the need to write a book recommendation list because I have read SO many good books and articles this semester that have made me think a lot.
  • After the Locusts by Denise Ackermann – One of my favorites of the semester that is an accessible book of letters on theology and feminism and responses to suffering from a white South African woman post-Apartheid.
  • Compassion by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison – Such a good read about what it truly means to live out real compassion and about the importance of community.
  • Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey – This is the book I read for fun over my rural homestay and it is such a good, quick read that is all about the role of women in the church.
  • “Education for Homelessness or Homemaking? The Christian College in a Postmodern Culture” by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh – An interesting article about the purpose of education and our care for creation.
  • Community 101 Reclaiming the Local Church as Community of Oneness – I only read chapter 1 but chapter 1 was SO good and I am hoping to read the rest of the book at some point.
  • When Helping Hurts – An important look at how we help others as the church and approaches to responding to poverty.
  • Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger – I haven’t yet finished this book, but it is a theological look at wealth and poverty in today’s world.
I am sure this will be a growing list, but I think that’s all for now.

Monica and other students in a Faith & Action class.

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