Thursday, 8 February 2018

Student Reflection: Compassion

Student reflections upon the first month in Uganda have revealed a greater awareness that we, as Americans, have much to learn from Ugandans regarding hospitality and compassion. From the warm greetings of host families to the hours devoted to student learning by field supervisors, Ugandan hospitality is a virtue that has even captured recent headlines in the global refugee crisis. Uganda hosts over 1,000,000 registered refugees (the most of any African country), and the number is increasing by the day. According to a recent inter-agency emergency report, an average of 288 Congolese refugees are arriving through one point of entry EVERY. DAY.(  

USP’s Social Work Emphasis has recently partnered with Refugee Law Project in providing opportunities for social work interns to learn from Ugandan experts who have devoted their lives to helping refugees in this part of the world. Deanna Frey (Senior BSW student from Messiah College) reflects on her first few weeks at Refugee Law Project and a unit within the USP Core Course, Faith & Action

One month.
That’s just so crazy to me! One month since this journey began. It feels longer than that and shorter than that. It seems so much has happened and I am learning exponentially.
Because of the distance in travel time that my internship is from the campus at UCU, I have the privilege to live with a welcoming Ugandan host family part of my week! While there are some logistical challenges with traveling back and forth and being away from campus for most of the weekdays, I am so thankful for a gracious and loving family that creates a little bit of home for me in Kampala, and I look forward to continually getting to know them better.
I am getting into the (fluid) routine of activities at my internship at Refugee Law Project (RLP). So far, I have observed/helped in the registration process for persons with disabilities at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) refugee registration event in Kampala, accompanied and advocated for a client to receive medical assistance at a local hospital, and observed and documented client counseling sessions while simultaneously learning more about RLP’s and Uganda’s policies and services for refugees. All while engaging in these activities, I am witnessing raw and real stories of suffering and pain which produces questions of why I am allotted the privileges and resources which I hold.
In our Faith and Action class on campus, we have been reading a book called Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life which has been pushing me to contemplate my reactions to all that I am seeing and learning. Compassion is so much more than just feeling sorry for another person but instead it should be a reflection of the love of Immanuel – God with us, which calls for crazy love which might put us in some uncomfortable situations. In compassion, there is no “us” and “them” in the distinction of who is blessing who but instead an acknowledgement of mutual brokenness. In this way,“Radical servanthood challenges us, while attempting persistently to overcome poverty, hunger, illness, and any other forms of human misery, to real the gentle presence of our compassionate God in the midst of our broken world.” God is the only one who can bring healing and change and I am a mere and small vessel; but I am praying for his divine gift of compassion that will bring me to love more and love truly.
Alongside learning some of these tough lessons, God has been blessing me with gifts that remind me of his love and his presence such as attending an international church service singing worship songs I love, a visit from a friend from my home university, enjoying fellowship with friends and ice cream, and just witnessing creation’s beauty!
Your love so deep is washing over me
Your face is all I seek; You are my everything //
All fear removed, I breath You in
I lean into Your love. Oh, Your love
These powerful and true words that mean so much to me in this season and I pray they ring too for you too!
Deanna with her host parents Rev. John and Joyce Kateeba

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