Monday, 31 October 2011

A book review of Compassion

In Faith and Action class this week, we've started discussing Nouwen's "Compassion" and I thought this summary and reflections in the review would give blog readers a chance to imagine the conversations we are having in Kivengere classroom block for the next two weeks! 
Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life

Here was a book review that I liked:

Will I get in trouble for posting the amazon picture of the book??? And could it be a cornier book cover?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

African Thunderstorm

Coming storm by Nick Duke
An African Thunderstorm
By David Rubadiri
From the west
Clouds come hurrying with the wind
Here and there
Like a plague of locusts
Tossing up things on its tail
Like a madman chasing nothing
Pregnant clouds
Ride stately on its back
Gathering to perch on hills
Like dark sinister wings
The wind whistles by
And trees bend to let it pass
In the village
Screams of delighted children
Toss and turn
In the din of whirling wind
Babies clinging on their backs
Dart about
In and out
The wind whistles by
Whilst trees bend to let us pass
Clothes were like tattered flags
Flying off
To expose dangling breasts
As jagged blinding flashes
Rumble, tremble, and crack
Amidst the smell of fired smoke
And the pelting march of the storm.
 (Culled From: A Selection Of African Poetry-Longman)

I love the imagery of this poem, I love that the language is like the storm.  I like the allegorical way of questioning the “west”, the storm that rides in and disorganizes, that is lapped up by the children and women (the weak, ignorant, naïve?) but ultimately is abrupt and harsh! 

For current and coming students, I think you’ll relate to the description of the storm in a literal sense as you have/or will experience African rain storms of different varieties in different settings!

But I also thought those reading this poem would appreciate knowing a bit more about the author so here’s a bit more to know:

Poet, novelist, playwright, university professor and diplomat, DAVID RUBADIRI was born in Liuli, Malawi, in 1930. He attended King’s College, Budo, in Uganda from 1941 to 1950 and thereafter studied at Makerere University, where he graduated with a BA degree in English Literature and History. He went on to the University of Bristol in England (1956-1960), where he obtained an MA degree in English Literature.

Rubadiri became Malawi’s first ambassador to the United States and the UN after independence in 1964, but fell out with President Hastings Banda in 1965.  As an exile he taught at Makerere University but was again exiled during the Idi Amin years. Rubadiri then joined the University of Nairobi and also had a brief stint, with Okot p’Bitek, at the University of Ibadan (Nigeria), at the invitation of Wole Soyinka. He spent his remaining exile as Professor of Education at the University of Botswana. After Banda’s death, Rubadiri was again appointed Malawi’s Permanent Representative to the UN.

He subsequently became Vice-Chancellor at the University of Malawi, before he retired in 2004. His novel, No Bride Price criticised the Banda regime and was, along with Legson Kayira’s The Looming Shadow, one of the first published works by a Malawian.

Rubadiri ranks as one of Africa’s most celebrated and widely anthologised poets to emerge after independence.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

To Be Among

Rare Photo of Mother Teresa

What is so compelling about Mother Teresa, about Shane Claiborne, about Dorothy Day, about the thousands of saints who have lived among the people they served?

That they lived among the people they served.   I think after the "poverty" section of Faith and Action, many of us as students (wife of lecturer included) felt that our class conclusion is that relationship is the best means of rectifying poverty---material poverty, spiritual poverty, relational poverty, etc.   I remember a line in a psychology text book in college that has always stuck with me "proximity is the number one determinant of relationship".  Now obviously with the explosion of internet connections, etc, I'm sure there are arguments that this is not as true as it used to be.  But nonetheless, the common sense reality of this statement has been very true in my life.  Whether it is friends from my neighborhood as a child, or friends on my halls in college, or my neighbors now (in my mid-thirties), it is true that we know and care about the people that are literally close to us.

So, we all concluded that relationships is the most natural way to "help" people--- that when we have genuine relationship with others we are more able to assist in relevant ways, to not become false "saviors", to know the systems that oppress and work to change them, to act from love not guilt, to rectify environmental stresses that relate to our communities... Therefore, if we are called to serve a certain population in need (materially poor, socially poor, lonely, widowed, orphaned, mentally ill, etc), we must be in genuine relationship with them (best done by living in proximity to them).  And if we don't have that specific call, then we are called to address the "poverties" that are occurring in our home communities by pursuing relationships that lead to wholeness for all.

What is so unique and meaningful for USP students is that for one semester they are genuinely in relationship with Ugandans, as family members, as fellow college students, as residents at UCU, as members of church, and diners at local canteens (snack shops), as shoppers, and footers (ones who walk everywhere), as ones with privilege and perspective, and ones who are in need teaching (hand-washing, peeling matoke, killing chickens, hoeing a garden, etc).   For this semester, unlike in a short term mission trip, students are living as a college student among college students in a college town.  Like their life at home, but in Uganda.  This relational reality closes the gap, moves us from those with answers or help to those who live in the midst of all the struggles and all the joys.

As a class, we'll soon move to the topic of compassion, and in echoing this conclusion that we came to in the poverty section, we'll see that our christian compassion is not about stooping down to help the unprivileged, but rather stooping down to become one of the "unprivileged."  Christ's salvation of us was not possible without his incarnation--taking on our human form.  And so we also, are not called to save others from our outside position but rather to share salvation with each other from within the community.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Rural Home Stays

USP students are off on rural home stays this week. Some are in Serere, just north of Lake Kyoga, while others are in Kapchorwa, on the foothills of Mt. Elgon. This week, their only task is to participate in the lives of their host families, much of which revolves around agriculture. Depending on the season and the weather, USP students help their families plant, weed, harvest and process a wide variety of crops including maize, matooke, groundnuts, cassava, sweet potatoes, and coffee.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Cultural Incidents, Rob Bell & Book Covers

Alumni Perspective--the following post is from a January 2011 student, originally posted on her blog

Cross-cultural incidents. This is something we talked about over and over again in our classes and debrief time in Uganda. We even talked about adjusting back home and how we may have reverse culture-shock. However, I was very unaware at the form this would take upon my return.

I remember first arriving in Uganda and being surprised at how little actually did surprise me or result in some sort of cultural incident. I was actually very frustrated at first. My trips and extended time spent in India prepared me for cultural experiences very different from my everyday American cultures that I found myself frustrated with how unexciting Uganda seemed at first. The traffic didn’t really seem that bad to me compared to India. There were more animals on the streets in India (and more exciting ones). Indian dress and foods were way different, and some of the foods in Uganda even came from India. Basically I was disappointed. Could I ever love Uganda as much as I loved India? At first I thought no. But man…I was so wrong. Uganda now has just as much of my heart as India does. Funny how God works.

Despite the fact that some of the typical cultural incidents that many in our USP group had were not incidents that necessarily occurred for me, I had a few that were unique and unanticipated. However, rather than focusing on my cultural incidents in Uganda, I want to share my experience with cultural incidents upon my return home.

I felt very well prepared for returning home. I had done the reverse culture-shock thing before. I anticipated what would irritate me, what struggles I would have. However, I did not anticipate what specific incidents would set me off the way they did.

One thing that I was incredibly sensitive to coming home was anything politically related and things dealing with Westernized Christianity. It was only a couple days before we flew home that Osama Bin Laden was found and killed. I remember sitting on the plane and receiving a newspaper. The front page was a picture of Americans in NYC celebrating. I felt sick to my stomach, and I still feel sick every time I think of Christians celebrating his death. However, this is not my focus for this blog, so again, I will move on. Just know that I had an increased sensitivity to these types of things.

The newspaper on the airplane was just the start. I want to share one specific incident for you that I was not anticipating. I am sure most of you reading this have some knowledge of Rob Bell and his latest book Love Wins. My time in Uganda helped me become comfortable with tension in the sense that I am very okay asking questions and not having answers concerning faith and just life and all that that entails. I heard about the controversy surrounding Love Wins, and this caused me to be intrigued enough to want to read it. So one day about a week or two after I returned to the States, my sister and I walked into a Christian book store to look for the book. I searched through the shelves and found the Rob Bell section. They had a number of his books, but I was unable to find that one. I finally asked a clerk who worked there. She kinda looked at me like I was ridiculous and with a seemingly condescending laugh declared, “Umm, no, we won’t sell that.” The first thought that ran through my head, “Are you kidding me?!?! At least half the books you sell in this store can be argued to be unbiblical but you won’t sell a book that offers a hopeful perspective and emphasizes the love of God?” I didn’t vocalize this, but my face probably was showing what I was thinking.

Despite my irritation, my sister and I continued to browse the books. We made our way down the devotional isle. This is where things only got worse. Glancing through the books, there was on in particular that caught my eye. On the cover was a picture of an American flag…and then…I saw the title: God’s Promises for the American Patriot. Long story short, I freaked out. One of my thoughts, “They won’t sell Rob Bell’s book, but they’ll sell this piece of crap?!?” Now to be fair, I literally judged a book by its cover (which we grow up being taught not to do) and the content was not as terrible as the cover made it sound to me. However, the cover was enough to set me off. I left the story fuming. Ask my sister…she had to deal with me. I was angrier about this than I had been about anything else in very long time. It takes a lot to get me angry. Trust me. For some reason, that was enough. A million thoughts and questions ran through my head about Christianity and American Christianity and politics and everything else related.

I never expected walking into this book store that I would leave so angry over such a small thing.
I am not just telling you about this for the sake of telling it. I want to tell you what I learned from this experience. I learned that being overly-sensitive all the time (even if it is something you are passionate about) is not the most appropriate way to get through life. If I continued to snap at every little thing that bothered me because of my sensitivities, I would become a very cynical person to be around.

It is okay to be passionate about issues, but we must express our thoughts in the context of love and grace rather than anger and judgment. There have been many occasions that I have been off in my thinking on an issue. I have been illogical at times. I have been stubborn. I have been ignorant. We all have our moments of this. I don’t know everything. Part of the reason I have become so okay asking questions without answers is because I acknowledge that I know very little. So why should I judge people and their thoughts, especially if those thoughts were thoughts I once had? I don’t know people’s hearts or minds the way God does. All I know is that I am called to love people and loving means extending grace. Granted I need to seek to proclaim and protect truth, but this must be done with love and grace an open-mind to the work God is doing in people’s lives and my own.

Love conquers all.

Help me, Lord, to extend grace and love instead of judgment and anger…but help me to seek and protect truth. Help me compromise where I need to compromise and stand firm where I need to stand firm.

-Zalwango Megani

Meg (Spring 2011)
Huntington University

Friday, 14 October 2011

Luwero Weekend

One of the objectives of the Cross Cultural Ministry Practicum is for students to “develop a deeper understanding of their own faith, vocation and identity, informed and challenged by their Ugandan experience.” To do this we seek to engage and interact with those who are living and working in Uganda, and to learn from them.

coaster ride to Luwero! 
(photo credit: Julie Darcey, fall 2011)

This past weekend the class went to Luwero district an hour or so north of the capitol city of Kampala, within the greater Luwero Triangle. The Luwero Triangle is the area from which the current president, Yoweri Museveni fought his guerilla war from 1981-1986, to take power of the government in 1986. The five-year war was bloody and devastating. Twenty-five years later people in Luwero are still deeply affected by it, both psychologically and physically. On the Luwero trip, we heard from local church leaders and Ugandans who are working to build and strengthen their communities.

On Friday afternoon we visited a war memorial/mass grave, acknowledging the past and how the past has shaped the current reality of the area we were visiting. 

We spent the better part of the day Saturday at a Child Development Center (CDC) run through funding from Compassion International in the small town of Nsawo. In the US we hear of countless opportunities to sponsor children around the world. Visiting this CDC was an opportunity to see and learn what it looks like on the receiving end of that funding. The center at Nsawo serves approximately 270 children, providing them with basic support, medical care, spiritual direction etc. What is particularly impressive about this site (one of 260 in Uganda) is that sponsorship funding from Compassion has to go directly to the children and programming. The site itself, the building etc. was built by the community, because they appreciate and value the work Compassion does with the children.

We joined in the morning devotions, and then split up into the five classes that broke out of the whole group. The afternoon was spent playing games with the kids. It was a typical tropical rainy season day… early morning rain soaking the ground, the sun coming out heating things up making for a somewhat hot, sticky afternoon running around. Oh, but it was a good fun time!

At the Nsawo CDC
(photo credit: Jacob Bowdin, spring 2011)

"I've got peace like a river..."
(photo credit: Julie Darcey, fall 2011)

Tea Time!
(photo credit: Jacob Bowdin, spring 2011)

Later that afternoon/evening we heard from two church leaders; the Anglican Bishop of Luwero, Bishop Kisekka over afternoon tea back at the guest house, and Fr. Gerrie Wamala, a Catholic priest after dinner. Both leaders shared their experiences of working with and for people who are living through very challenging circumstances- still reeling from war, the dependency that subsequent government handouts has created, the influx and devastation of HIV/AIDS and lack of education/resources. The Bishop spoke of the holistic approach to his work, empowering people to rebuild their own communities and providing for their physical as well as spiritual needs.

Father Gerrie spoke of and radiated hope. He brought with him a young woman who was born HIV+. He has walked with her and encouraged her as she struggled through the loss of her parents, her own diagnosis, the challenge of high school and the painful stigma that came with her disease-- a disease she did nothing to earn. She graduated top in her class, and today is on a government funded full scholarship to university in Kampala. She has hope and a future. 

Students with Fr. Gerrie after church 
(photo credit: Jacob Bowdoin, spring 2011)

Sunday morning we attended a lively mass with Fr. Gerrie in rural Luwero. It was a dancing, singing, joyful time with them! Ah, we were blessed. 

Sunset sky in Luwero

Post by: Rachel Robinson, IMME Coordinator

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Humility & Learning

Student Perspective--the following post is from a fall 2011 student.


Being at my practicum site has enabled me to learn even more about serving and learning in another culture and the connection between the two. I am learning many practical things that will help me in my future career but the way I am learning them helps me to learn about culture now. Being at my practicum site requires me to have more humility in order to learn from the staff and patients there. It enables me to engage with people in a non-invasive way, allowing me to meet people and learn more about the culture. By interacting with the staff, I have also had insights into how Africans view the self from the outside whereas Westerners tend to view it from the inside instead.

When I visited my practicum site for the first time, the doctor who I will be working with told me that if I use humility I will learn a lot more from the staff. I decided to keep this in mind during my following visits. In my practicum class, I was assigned a reading that reinforced this concept even more. We were required to read from Cross Cultural Servanthood. One of the main topics was humility. Duane Elmer, the author, says that, “humility is the posture of a servant.” Characteristics of humility, as described by Elmer, are lowliness of mind, gentleness of spirit, and meekness of attitude. I think that this is what Dr. Dixon was meaning as he told me that I would learn more through humility. Although I plan to be a doctor someday, I do not know as much as the people who are at the clinic. They know more about how things work in the African context. I have learned about diseases and healthcare but it has been through a western viewpoint. They have more to teach me if I am willing to lower myself and have an accepting and open attitude. I will be able to learn much more by doing this than by thinking that I know some things better than they do. 

I can also learn from the patients, who do not even know that they are teaching me and who may not see me a student of their culture. I was learning to give immunizations one day and many of the mothers were thanking me. I can understand why they would thank me to some degree; I technically was giving their children something to prevent diseases. However, I felt that I should be more grateful to them because they were being my teachers, even if they did not know it. They were teaching me how to someday become a better medical professional by allowing me to interact with them and their children. They were also teaching me as I was working with their records. I got to meet them, learn their names, and find out where they are from. By interacting with them, I felt that I was learning more about their culture. I think this is what Taylor means when he talks about being able to, “enter, sensitively and appreciatively, into that other man’s world, not, first, in order to talk more effectively about his Lord but in order to see what the Lord of that world is like.” Although this focuses on religion, I think it can be applied to all aspects of life, like the medical field. I did not go to the clinic with the mindset of telling them how to run things. I want to learn from them, the staff and patients both. To do this, I need to listen to them and see how it is that they do things.

The Doctor I am working under, Dr. Dixon, told me some of his philosophy in practicing medicine while we were touring the clinic. He mentioned showing compassion towards the patients and also having a sense of humor with them. I think this reflects Taylor’s idea of African’s inter-related and wide-spanning view of self because it shows an approach to medicine that encompasses the entire being. He told me that with HIV patients he automatically starts treating depression by showing compassion and humor. Although they may not be depressed, it may come later and he wants to prevent or lessen it. This is different from the U.S. where doctors will treat only the disease that the person has come in for. All other problems or potential problems don’t necessarily get addressed even though they may be connected. We see these as problems that can arise from the inside and we will fix them when those changes on the inside occur. Africans, on the other hand, believe that outside forces can affect your health as well.

My practicum site has allowed me to engage in very beneficial learning experiences. It has reinforced the concept of humility that Elmer wrote about. I would not be able to learn as much from the other people at the clinic if I cannot humbly ask for their guidance. Being at the clinic has also reinforced the idea of having a scattered self that can be affected by outside forces.

Angelina (Fall 2011)
Bethel College (IN)


Sources Cited:

Elmer, Duane. Cross Cultural Servanthood. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

Taylor, John V. The Primal Vision. London: SCM-Canterbury, 1963.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Worship in Uganda

Student Perspective--the following post is from a fall 2011 student.


I love theology. And I can also be a very critical person. Those two habits sometimes make a difficult combination in worship. Even at home, when I’m sitting in church, I’m often analyzing and judging the message or the worship style while the service goes on. The Calvinist tradition (to which I belong) puts a high emphasis on sound doctrine and on Christian education. I’ve been drilled with theology since kindergarten.

The habit of critiquing has gotten worse since coming to Uganda. To be fair, I’ve only been to a few worship services since coming to Africa, but all of them have left me feeling unfulfilled. I don’t know how much the bad taste in my mouth has to do with the Anglican tradition, the specific services I’ve been to, or maybe just my high expectations for African worship turning out to be unrealistic. Whatever the reason, I’ve found myself unable to fully worship God since I’ve gotten to Africa.

The problem, I believe, has to do with what John Taylor calls “the language of myth”.(2) What irks me about the worship here is how the worship leaders and even the pastors just seem to say whatever feels right at the time. Maybe it’s just my analytical self, but it seems like many things that are shouted in the heat of a worship song don’t really make sense, let alone apply to what the song is saying. Similarly, the sermons often seem so scattered and frankly like the pastor is making it up as he goes. Another pillar of Reformed Christianity (this might get old) is the pure preaching of the Word. My ears are always listening for revelation from the Bible, not just from the mind of some preacher. It’s probably obvious that I’m frustrated with the worship so far. I’ll give an example of something from this morning’s sermon to illustrate what I mean. This is a rough quote from what I remember the pastor saying: “When we leave this building, we forget about worshipping Jesus and we rob him of what desires from us.” And then immediately following, “Hallelujah!” and a chorus of amen’s from the congregation. Really? It seems a little somber for a hallelujah- amen, don’t you think?

But, since reading Taylor’s explanations about the difference between the language styles of Africans and Westerners, I’m able to overlook most of the “flaws” that I perceive in African worship. I try not to fall into the category of the European writers that Taylor says attribute Africans’ difference of outlook to “a retarded development of the African consciousness” (page 27).

In our discussion in Faith and Action on Taylor’s book, our lecturer pinpointed the difference between the two ways of perceiving the world which have been revealing themselves in my worship experiences. He said that myth is concerned with reality, while logic is concerned with truth.

It is precisely at this contrasting point that I find myself so often during worship here in Uganda. Here I am, sitting in the pew like a good Calvinist, testing and weighing the logical truth of the doctrine being proclaimed from the pulpit, while everyone around me is immersed in the meaning of the language of myth they receive in the spirit of worship.

At the end of each service, I always feel a little unfulfilled. And looking around during worship and afterward, I start to realize that I’m really the only one. The spiritual language of myth works here, in worship just as much as in regular conversation. As much as I want to critique the way they conduct their worship, the people of Africa are teaching me a valuable lesson about letting go and losing myself before the face of God. By the end of the semester, whether I’m fluent in the language or not, I hope to be able to more fully engage in the reality that is African worship, and learn to find the meaning therein. Hallelujah? Amen.

Joe (Fall 2011)
Dordt College


Source Cited:
Taylor, John. The Primal Vision. London: SCM Press, 1963.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

From Ink to Paper to Heart

Alumni Perspective--the following post is from a January 2011 student, originally posted on her blog


I turned on the fireplace. I sat down in my rocker. I made my cup of tea. I read. After a few weeks of waiting for the right time, I have finally read the letter than I wrote to myself over 4 months ago in Uganda.

What has did my heart feel? Hope. My heart was smiling as I read this letter. Despite the fact that I desperately miss Uganda and often look back on it in tears because of my longing to be back there, this letter reminded me of how absolutely beautiful the Uganda chapter of my life was. Before I say more, I want to share the letter with you all. That seems to be the best way to allow you to enter into my heart and thoughts.


So…you’ve been back in the States for over four months now. I suspect the past four months went by fast, just as your semester in Uganda did. Maybe by now Uganda seems like forever ago, but I know the memories are still strong in your heart…I pray they always will be. Do you remember the way Uganda changed your heart and mind? Always hold onto that.

I know you are probably looking back at Uganda with with smiles and tears. Smiles for the many joys experienced and the relationships you built, especially with your family–tears because you’re missing it desperately and nobody around can truly understand. But take’re not alone in that. Others who were there in Uganda with you are feeling it too, and God is with you. And remember, there IS a part of you that remains in Uganda and always will.

You have learned a lot these past few months in Uganda. Some of these lessons are truths you may have forgotten, although I am praying you held onto them. In case you haven’t, here is a reminder of the some of these lessons.

1. Love conquers all. Truly.

2. It is crucial to embrace every single moment God has given you. Everything that can happen to you in that moment is happening…so breathe in deep and embrace.

3. Humlity in relationships is key. Remember, it’s not all about you. Everyone has something to offer.

4. Be present. Always.

5. His grace IS sufficient.

6. Living faithfully should be your goal. Seek to live faithfully daily. One moment at a time.

7. Starting and ending each and everyday on your knees makes a world of difference.

8. Always keep an open hand and an open home. Be a person and place of refuge.

9. Always extend grace. Always forgive. Remember Rwanda.

10. Dont’ get caught up in legalism. Simply live as Christ whispers each step.

11. Discipleship is SO important. Do you have a mentor? Are you discipling others?

12. Prayer should be constant. Prayer truly can move mountains. God is faithful in all things…even the small things.

13. Every relationship should be focused around Christ. Even with those who may not know him.

14. How you spend (or don’t spend) your money and other resources matters. Are you following a budget? Are your resources helping others?

15. Fasting isn’t something for certain people…it’s for everybody. Are you regularly fasting?

16. We need to be advocates for those who can’t hep themselves. Are you allowing yourself to have this role?

17. You have a family in Uganda who loves you deeply and whom you love deeply in return. Are you keeping in touch with them? Are you praying for them daily?

18. God allows  you to live your dreams because He has planted those dreams in you.

19. Fostering the community you find yourself in is incredibly important.

20. Take up the crosses that have been yours all along.

21. God is bigger than class, than race, than denominations, then political party, than culture…don’t limit Him.

22. “This is grace…” Re-read Compassion.

23. Don’t get caught up in time. Think back to your rural home stay.

24. Family is greater than any biological definitions.

25. Community trumps individualism. Remember…individualism and materialism are products of American culture, not Biblical truth.

26. It’s okay to seek tension. It’s okay to question.

27. Community will help you carry the burden of this broken world. Don’t allow yourself to be paralyzed by the hurt you see.

28. Live intentionally, humbly, and persistently. 

29. Don’t forget Ecclesiastes 3:11
          ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.’
 Praise God, eh? He made Uganda a beautiful chapter. He let you live that dream, so don’t let go of the other dreams and visions He’s planted in your heart.
 Never forget the Uganda chapter of your life…and hey, who says that chapter is closed forever?
 Remember…love deeply, hope desperately, seek earnestly, feel honestly, live faithfully, and embrace always…
 ‘In Christ alone, my hope is found…’
 Lord, I pray that I will never forget my time here. You have used this time to break me. Even just thought of leaving is shattering my heart into pieces. But I’ve already seen You begin to create something even more beautiful out of the brokenness, and now Uganda is sewn into my heart forever. Praise you for that, Lord.
 I pray that in four months from now, my heart desperately continues to ache for the place and people of Uganda, and yet I pray that I am also rejoicing as I reflect back on the time I’ve had here and the joyful memories from here that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
 I pray that I will know and love you more than the moment I am writing this. I pray that I am continually seeking to live faithfully. I pray that I have formed new relationships and that I am fostering them daily.
 And I truly hope, Lord, that I am starting and ending every single day on my knees before Your throne…
 Lastly, I truly pray that every breath I breathe is a testimony of your love and grace…

–Zalwango Megani

There you have it. Four and a half months ago, I wrote this letter to myself sitting alone on my bed in a small room in a convent in the middle of Uganda.
I will be honest and say that some of the lessons I did begin to forget, but I am hopeful. This letter pricked my heart. It pricked my heart to press on. To keep loving. To keep living faithfully. To remain humble.

My semester in Uganda was a beautiful chapter of my life that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Part of my heart is still in Uganda and will forever remain there, and I took part of Uganda with me in my heart when I left…and that will forever remain in my heart.

God is good, eh?

Love. Love conquers all. Love is what this world needs more of. Love is what will change the world. Love moves mountains.

My heart is smiling…and my heart is aching…

I am thankful for both of these.

Meg (Spring 2011)
Huntington University

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Surprisingly Open

Student Perspective--the following post is from a fall 2011 student.


When I arrived at my host family’s home last Saturday morning, I felt as though I had prepared myself as much as I could. To me, being prepared meant that I should be open to just about anything happening. In one sense I was right, but, the more time I spent with my family the more I realized that I had expected to be culturally shocked and observe abnormal things. My openness was limited to only the eccentric. However, my experience during the first weekend of my home-stay was quite the opposite.

My host mother was completely laid-back and made me feel like her home was my home the moment I stepped in the door. I did not feel like a guest at all and that was fine with me. Momma-Deborah simply included me in whatever task she was doing, no matter how monotonous it happened to be. She made no attempts to entertain me or cater to me. After spending time with me for only an hour or two, Momma-Deborah went to take a nap and left me by myself. I found this a bit odd because that would not be the normal behavior of a host in America. The next day when my mom went to work and left me alone in her house for six hours, I honestly thought that was the worst gesture of hospitality I had ever seen. I tried to practice patience and acknowledge the fact that my host parents needed to work as much as possible in order to survive, but at the same time I was very disappointed.

Why hadn’t Momma-Deborah even tried to spend more time with me or at least do something meaningful with me? I appreciated the she made me feel comfortable in her home but I was frustrated that the only activities she engaged me in were chores and watching soap operas. I eventually came to a place of acceptance and decided just to try to get through the two weeks and then leave the experience far behind me.

Fortunately, my heart and attitude towards my home-stay changed drastically when I read and discussed the book Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer. A major aspect of servanthood, according to Elmer, involves openness “As we welcome people just as they are and invite them to join us just as we are, it becomes a sacred event reflecting what Jesus did for us- providing us with a healing relationship” (Elmer, 43). When we discussed Cross-Cultural Servanthood in class, it was pointed out that to be a servant, one must be open in the way that Elmer suggested. That concept in itself is not necessarily groundbreaking but when I took it further and reflected on my home-stay, this perspective of openness changed my whole outlook on my experience with my host family.

I came to appreciate my host mom and dad so much for choosing to be themselves around me. By being exactly who they are, my host parents were inviting me to be exactly who I am. What greater way could they possibly have shown hospitality to me than to include me in their personal family life as a member rather than a guest? Additionally, I now find it positively profound that my host parents left me in their home for many hours at a time. Initially I completely missed the point, which is most likely why I was left disappointed. Now, I’m in awe of how they were able to show me how much they genuinely trust me as a part of their family in such a short time.

When I think about this in comparison to American hospitality, it became all the more clear how Americans can so easily distort the meaning of openness within hospitality. Over the summer, a good friend of my mother’s was going to let us use her house so we could have a place to get ready for my mom’s wedding. When we were about to arrive at the house, the friend called and told us that she would be arriving late and even though the house was open, she requested that we not enter. She apparently didn’t feel comfortable with us being in her house while she wasn’t there. I used to not think twice about this but now I question why a “good friend” showed such a lack of trust while my African host parents who barely knew me were capable of trusting me so deeply with their home and their personal lives. Furthermore, the protocol of decent American hospitality involves making ones home perfectly clean and putting on a very formal, often fake façade. My host parents exemplify the hospitable openness of a servant not by only giving me their trust but also by choosing to refrain from making any sort of impression on me. Impression management has never made me feel a part of any family, no matter how much effort is put into it.

According to Craig Sorti, the fact that I was initially offended by the actions of my host family would make this a Type 1 situation. I failed to understand the meaning behind my host parents’ actions. I expected them to overemphasize welcoming me as an American host would. Now I expect them to act how they do because I’m understanding more and more the African way of hospitality and openness.

Mary (Fall 2011)
Eastern University

Monday, 3 October 2011

You are most welcome!

The other day, Mark and I were at the Entebbe airport and there was a marketing sign up for some tour company and their catchy slogan was "You are most welcome".  I was laughing because if you've lived in Uganda for any period of time, you know what that means.  But if you've just landed in the country and are  bursting out of the arrivals gate, your passport stamped, your body exhausted but your spirits high, you walk out and think "what did i do that warrants a 'you're welcome'".  

I use this as our intro to what we hope to be a communal blog-- a pre-processing, an in the midst of processing, a post-processing.   We hope that through each personal experience and the resulting written accounts, we can be present together as aliens and residents in Uganda and in our home countries.

An author you have or will read says, "presence is the debt of gratitude we owe each other" (John V. Taylor).  As prospective students, as current students, as alumni and as staff,  we look forward to how we can gratefully share, grow and learn together.

You are most welcome!