Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Lira Trip

Last weekend the Uganda Studies Program Cross Cultural Ministry Practicum class went to Lira.  Leaving on Friday afternoon we drove 6 hours north in a packed vehicle, passing through sun and rain, and seeing the Nile, monkeys, fields of sunflowers and a different region of the country.  

Our first stop on Friday night was Sankofa Cafe in Lira town.  A cafe started by Americans, it is now a business that employs Ugandans and teaches them skills.  The students got to hear from one of the managers about their business and enjoy pizza!  A successful stop all around.

On Saturday morning we headed to Otina Waa.  This is a ministry started by an American couple that includes children's homes, schools, a cafe, and a shop among other things.  Below Bob is telling the students about the ministry's history and vision- he is a very engaging speaker as you can see.


We then got a tour of the property that included an education on hydro form bricks.  Bob was pretty excited about the construction going on!  The group had a chance to ask lots of questions and then enjoyed lunch at the ministry's cafe.  

After lunch we headed to Hellen's shelter.  This is a home for abused women and children, started by Hellen, a former police officer in Uganda who saw a need for such a place.  Her story and ministry is inspiring, we got to ask questions and share time with those at the shelter.  Below Katy, Erica, Mariah, Christa, Autumn and Kaisha get to know Hellen.

The whole group gathered for a picture during our visit.

Liz getting to know some of the kids!

After a rain storm on Saturday we had a time to debrief and discuss what we had seen.  Sunday morning we went to a local church then hit the road to make it back to Mukono.  The trip was thought provoking, contained many new experiences and sights, and helped us all see ministry practiced in different ways within Uganda.  

Written by Gwyneth Jones, USE/SWE coordinator

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Africa, Anglicanism and Advent

‘Bonding Time: The Nativity in Townsville’ by Jan Hynes, 2007.

Many USP students come to Uganda aware that they will study in Africa.  But many of our students do not come from liturgical backgrounds and therefore discover in various contexts that they are also learning about worshipping in Africa, and also learning about anglican tradition in worship.

Those of us raised in liturgical backgrounds are also re-learning anglicanism in this context.  In East Africa, anglicanism is primarily low-church in its worship style.

But, for the sake of this audience, I thought I'd share one link that includes a good description of the season of advent.

Also for our alumni and current students, I found this cool advent activity to use with children in a variety of settings:

Any alumni and current students who have relevant resources to share about your experience with anglicanism and advent, please do share!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Rural home stays- Kapchorwa

Here are a few photos from a full, fun week had by IMME students in Kapchorwa over rural home stays. 

The USP van climbing up the Mt. Elgon escarpment:

Dropping off Kate at her new home for the week:

A misty morning out visiting students:

Joe picking coffee with his host father:

It is the thick of coffee harvesting in Kapchorwa. A bucket full of harvested coffee cherries (the technical term!):

Katy and our program driver Vincent getting out of the rain in the families sitting room:

Katie and her host mom and niece:

Michael harvesting coffee with his host brother:

Heading home after a morning of picking with a bucket full of beans-I-mean-cherries:

Program associate Jordan taking tea with Wesley at her home stay:

The beautiful Sipi Falls:

Nellie helps her host parents prepare chicken for dinner in the kitchen:

And at the end of the week, we all gathered at The Crows Nest for debrief. Program coordinator Gwyn here, sandwiched between Daniel and Joe:

Lots of fun and games at debrief:

And hiking of course:

A group of us at the base of Sipi Falls:

- posted by Rachel Robinson, IMME Coordinator

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Easing the pain of this world

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

Hurt. Pain. Struggle. Poverty. Loneliness. Desperation. Hopelessness. Brokenness.

These were some things I saw and/or experienced during my time in Uganda. But that was not all. I also experienced the following.

Joy. Healing. Hope. Dreams. Vision. Wholeness. Love. Peace. Fulfillment. Reconcilation.

Not only so, but I also experienced and saw all of these things in the few short days I spent in Chicago over this past weekend.

Despite the fact that inner city Chicago may appear very different than Uganda, there are many similarities. There is a lot of hurt to be seen. A lot of poverty. A lot of desperation. A lot of hopelessness. There is also a lot of joy. A lot of love. A love of peace. A lot of hope.

We discussed in Uganda how it can often be easy to feel overwhelmed by the hurt we see and experience. The world is so messed up; how can I even begin to bring relief to such a broken and desperate world… especially when I am so incredibly broken and desperate myself?

This question was addressed in the book Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, which we read and discussed in our Faith and Action class. The authors concluded that this burden can only be eased and addressed effectively through community.

"One of the most tragic events of our time is that we know more than ever about the pains and sufferings of the world and yet are less and less able to respond to them.

…When there is no community that can mediate between world needs and personal responses, the burden of world can only be a crushing burden. When the pains of the world are presented to people who are already overwhelmed by the problems in their small circle of family or friends, how can we hope for a creative response? What we can expect is the opposite of compassion: numbness and anger.

…If we let the full content of newscasts enter into our innermost selves, we would become so overwhelmed by the absurdities of existence that we would become paralyzed.

…The Christian community mediates between the suffering of the world and our individual responses to this suffering.” (pg. 50-53)

It is true that the pain of this world can become a burden. We can feel paralyzed. How can we help? How can we bring hope in the midst of pain and hurt and despair?

The authors of Compassion argue (and I would argue in agreement) that community is key. Whether we find ourselves in rural Uganda, in a brothel in India or in inner-city Chicago, we will not be effective without community.

Why is this? Community grants us support and encouragement. Life is hard. I would argue that not a single person has an easy life. Some have harder lives than others, but we all have struggles. Community offers the support and encouragement we need to keep going when our strength is running dry. Community helps us bring together our gifts and use them as one. Community helps us remember that we are not alone.

No matter where God leads us in life, there are a couple of things that will be true for all of us. 1. We will be somewhere. 2. That somewhere will be full of hut and needs in one form or another.

Don’t let the burden of this world overwhelm you. Participate in the community that surrounds you, and allow this community to keep you from filling up with numbness and anger. Don’t let yourself become paralyzed. This world is full of hurt and pain, but through God there is also love and healing and reconciliation.

Embrace God. Embrace community. Embrace love.

Meg (Spring 2011)
Huntington University

Friday, 11 November 2011

Poverty Critical Insight

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

 The past couple of classes we have started addressing the issue of poverty. In the context of being a student in an undeveloped country I get to see the Western idea of poverty everyday. When I say this I am referring to the idea that “poverty is the lack of material resources and possessions”(Corbett Fikkert, 55).  I have had several cross-cultural experiences the past few years through mission trips, work, and now studying abroad. In every instance I have had contact with the materially poor. In 2006 I had my first trip outside of the United States for a missions trip to Mexico. The key phrase that God gave me that week was “Don’t feel pity for the poor, but rather feel compassion for them.” Five years later that phrase is still working on my heart and the way that I view missions.

The past two summers I have lived and worked on the Navajo Reservation for a mission’s organization. Since I was on staff I had the opportunity to see and hear how different groups saw poverty. The constant from week to week was that they had a skewed vision of what poverty was. They thought that if they painted houses and played with kids for a week then their job was finished and the families they “helped” were now better off. Bryant Myers is quoted in “When Helping Hurts” by saying that, “Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of Shalom in all its meanings” (Corbett Fikkert 62). In the two chapters that we’ve read so far this books has done a great job of highlighting the fact that poverty presents itself in many different ways; “social poverty, poverty of community, poverty of being, and poverty of stewardship” (Corbett Fikkert 62-63). 

The groups I met every week were leaving out the core issues that were causing material poverty on the reservation. They didn’t see that over eighty percent of Navajo’s have been affected by alcohol and that eighty percent have also been abused physically, emotionally, and even mentally. Some parents didn’t necessarily want their kids to hear about Jesus at our programs, but dropped them off every day because in their eyes our program was a form of free childcare four days a week. Others in the community know that they can get their houses painted for free so every couple of years they play the system and get a new color for their house. The groups only ever saw what they were doing while they were there, but failed to realize that they may be aiding to the endless cycle of poverty and poor stewardship on the reservation.

How does this relate to my stay in Uganda? I finally get to live with a family that, by my standards back home would have been considered poor. They have no running water, seldom have electricity, and don’t own a car. However, they aren’t poor. In fact, many other Ugandans would even consider them wealthy. Just having milk available to me everyday is a privilege many Ugandans don’t have. In just two months my idea of poverty has already started shifting. In all honesty, I don’t know where my mind will settle on this matter if it ever does settle.

There are so many similarities to what I saw on the Navajo reservation to what I see in Uganda. I see beautiful people who I need to have compassion and love for as brothers and sisters in Christ. It was so encouraging to read a chapter Shane Claiborne’s “Irresistible Revolution” and read this,“I talked to my neighbors and homeless friends about “vow of poverty,” they either laughed or gave me a puzzled stare. “Have you ever been poor?” some asked. I began to see how myopic my vision was, and how narrow my language. It reeked of privilege. So I would suggest we need a third way, neither the prosperity gospel nor the poverty gospel but the gospel of abundance rooted in a theology of enough.” (Claiborne 171-172)

He later goes on to quote Proverbs 30:8-9 where it says, “Remove me far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” This quote by Shane and this passage in Proverbs fits very well with what I’ve seen, felt, and even read in “When Helping Hurts.” In poverty stricken areas like Uganda and Native American Reservations we can easily promote the prosperity gospel or poverty gospel. This is too easy and does not preach the true gospel. I love the title “When Helping Hurts” because that is precisely what I see so often. Too many times I have been asked for money just for being white, both on the reservation and in Africa. It is as if I am a walking prosperity gospel. If I try and change that idea of me and try to live a life of poverty then I will be doing so on my own terms and looked at the same why Shane experienced. We must preach a gospel of contentment through a Lord that provides.
This semester has already changed the way I view those in poverty. In being able to live in a home many westerners would call poor I now have a better perspective on what goes on in the lives of people here. Yes, many struggle to place food on the table, but the images seen on tv back home don’t show how happy these people are with the little they have. They don’t need to live in a house with three bathrooms and own two cars. That is not poverty. Poverty changes from country to country, household to household, and person to person. When listening to the Anglican Bishop of Luweero this weekend I took away a quote that I will remember for years to come, “Westerners have watches, but don’t have the time. Well, we Ugandans don’t have watches but we do have the time.” In a world of appointments and schedules I need to remember this quote and live it out. The end of poverty, of any type, starts with building relationships and allowing the people you are trying to help to become more than just a face. I may not know how to end all poverty, but reaching in my wallet won’t do anything. Instead I need to reach out my hand and say, “Hi, my name is Daniel.”

Daniel Ensign (Fall 2011)

Works Cited

Claiborne, Shane. “An Irresistible Revolution.” Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Corbett, Steve &Brian Fikkert. “When Helping Hurts.” Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Cry, the Beloved Country

The last couple times I've been teaching Henry Nouwen's Compassion, I've felt the urge to have a story and/or imagery to link to the profound claims he's making in his book.

Although Cry, the Beloved Country also stands on its own, I feel there is a relationship between the life of compassion that Nouwen describes and the life and vision of Alan Paton.  He lived out a life of solidarity in South Africa--in his relationships and in his pursuit of justice for all people in his country.

I'm attaching a link to the end of the movie, perhaps to inspire alumni or prospective students to track down the book (as a literature major, books always trump movies), or the movie which is also well done and faithful to the tone and intent of the book.

Cry, the Beloved Country. (The end) - YouTube Aug 2008 - 3 min - Uploaded by I2Bdude
This is the end to Cry, the Beloved Country. Amazing movie and brilliant book written.

Monday, 7 November 2011


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

Okay, so 534,389 means nothing…but basically, I learned a whole lot of things in Uganda, and this is one of them.
When you read that word, what thoughts came to mind? Do you see tension as having a positive connotation or a negative one? People often view tension in a negative light, but I am learning to appreciate tension. I owe this partially to my time in Uganda.
Now let me clarify a few things. When I say I’m learning to appreciate tension, I am speaking of healthy tension. But your next question may be, “What is healthy tension?” I see healthy tension as allowing yourself to feel the weight of the complexity of this world, of this life, and of faith while also feeling the certainty of God’s character, of hope, and of faithfulness.
This world is broken. People suffer daily. We feel pain. We feel hurt. We feel loneliness. We watch those around us suffer. We watch the world falling apart. We see and hear of children starving. We sit and watch as people turn against one another. We see and hear and participate in bloodshed. In war. In torture. In hurt. In lies. In judgment.
Yet God is love. God created the world. God created us. God loves the world. God loves us. God is good. God is faithful. God is our hope. God is just. God is merciful. God extends us grace. He is our strength. Our promise. Our life.
Sometimes reconciling our knowledge and experience of this life and of this world with God’s character and His promises seems hard. But here’s what I have realized…it doesn’t have to be so black and white. Gray area isn’t a bad thing. I don’t think it is anyways.
When I first went into my Uganda semester, some of what we discussed in Faith & Action wasn’t sitting well with me (to begin with). Why? Because we were challenged on things I have assumed as truth for many years now. It was even harder because we would read one book that “answered” a question one way and the next book would answer the same question a different way. What should I think? What is truth? Who is right and who is wrong? I was uncomfortable because I used to always think it had to be black and white. Yes or no. Right or wrong. Through discussions, readings, prayer, and a lot of thinking…I concluded that gray is okay. Tension does not have to be a bad thing. Not all things are black and white.
My classes in Uganda coupled with my experience living there helped me learn to embrace tension. I not only allow tension, but I appreciate it and at times welcome it.
I don’t have all the answers, and many of my questions may forever remain questions. But here is what I know for sure…
I am called to love God.  I am called to love people. I am called to seek to live faithfully each day. I am called to be a light to the world.
Beyond that, I welcome the gray.
I do seek truth, but I also recognize that there are many things in which God has kept a mystery to humanity.
Uganda helped me recognize this and appreciate tension for what it is.
Webale Uganda. Nkwagala nyo.
Meg (Spring 2011)
Huntington University

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Rural Homestays through Wesley's eyes

Wesley and Rachel at well
It's always an adventure going to villages where muzungu sightings are rare. It is even more of an adventure when you are staying in that village for a week with a local family you have never met before.

Patrick and Joy are the proud parents of 5 boys (now all young men) and have spent their entire lives in the area of Kapchorwa. Patrick is the headmaster of a school about 30 minutes (walking distance) from their home, while Joy teaches at a school roughly 45 minutes away if you cut through the coffee beans and cow fields. While teaching is their career, Patrick and Joy are also subsistence farmers along with 80% of Ugandans. 

You may wonder why Patrick and Joy walk so far to go to work, but having a car is obsolete when you live on the side of a mountain with very few roads. Several times over the course of the week I found myself asking “Is this real life”? Like when I woke up in the middle of the night, climbed out of my mosquito net, walked around the cows, and through the coffee beans to go to the latrine.

View of Sipi Falls and Kapchorwa Area

Like when I walked half-way up a mountain to fill up a jerry can of water from a small spring flowing off a cliff. Like when I milked a cow (and got chased by one!). Like when I walked and walked and walked with two of the neighbor girls that spoke absolutely no English, not knowing where they were taking me until we made it to the top of this incredible rock that over looks the entire city…..I could go on and on about the past week of my life and how adventurous it has been, but that’s not the point at all. The point is that there are hundreds of beautiful people in a beautiful, mountainous city near Kenya that matter to God.

You may be wondering by now why we went to Kapchowra to begin with, and the answer to that is life. To live life with these people and share The Life with them. As I have said before, and I am sure I will say again, God is already present in Uganda. I did not come to tell them about Jesus, for they already know. I have come to give, experience, and live Love. The kind of love that only comes from the Father and His Church.