Saturday, December 22, 2007

How Can I Express In Words Something so Close to me!

Africa was only a few days ago, but it all seems so far away right now. It’s not the same here and I know I don’t fit in with everything anymore. I’m not going to settle for what I used to be ok with. Africa was more than an experience this semester, it became home for me. The other students I met up with were the most incredible people I have ever met, and this semester they became family, and I miss them every minute.

I traveled to Uganda in the fall of 2007, with 37 other students from across the United States and Canada. Our semester was spent studying at UCU (Uganda Christian University), traveling to Rwanda and other places around Uganda, living amongst African families in Mukono and Soroti. One day a week one fellow student and I did our service learning project at Salama School for the Blind working with the children and the staff of the school. All of these experiences have played a significant role in shaping the person I am today and my ideas for my future.

The first experience while being in Uganda was traveling to the neighboring country of Rwanda for a ten day intense look into the 1994 genocide, where it is estimated that somewhere around one million Tutsi’s and opponents of the Hutu party were slaughtered in one of the worst mass murders in the history of this globe. I remember this experience almost as if it were yesterday, mainly because of the sights and smells I encountered along the way. The trip was filled with long days of travel and discussion. One of the two things that sticks out most in my mind was the trip to Murambi Memorial Center. This was an experience unlike any other. It was the place where 50,000 Tutsis were brutally beaten with clubs, stabbed, and even shot, by the Hutus. I can still to this day smell the awful stench of what I’m sure was the lime that preserved the many bones that were still present at the school, but what seemed like the smell of death. The Tutsis were convinced to go to such places by friends who told them it was a place of refuge and safety. Soon they would come to face the ultimate deception, when all were shot, clubbed, and even chopped up by machetes by the people that told them to come to such a place.

Sitting on the steps outside the center, I began to go through my thoughts, and I kept coming to the same place. Many of the people who were committing such crimes were those people that many looked up to; the priests, government officials, and even fellow family members. From this experience I tried to think of what my role would have been in such a tragic event. I often placed myself in the place of the Hutu priest who was supposedly following after God’s plan for his life, yet he was so easily influenced by the society around him, that not even his faith in God could stop him from participating in such a crime. Rev. Emmanuel Kolini, a Rwandan preacher said this about the church: “The church is made up of individuals who together comprise the church. The church is made up of people. When its people fail to live according to the gospel, then the church fails.” He also goes on to say, “When the church’s people are not living true Christian lives, then the church is powerless in society.” I think much of what I learned from the experience in Rwanda is best summarized by Mahatma Gandhi of India. He says, “I have never seen a Christian.” What was meant by his statement was that he had never met anyone living a truly Christian life. People often only pay lip service, they do not live out what they read, being the Gospel.[1] So how does this all play into my life now? Well often I think back to my feelings about the church’s role in the Rwandan genocide, and I can only try to be change the way I am living. It has been my goal since leaving Rwanda to truly meditate on God’s word, and what it means for my life.

Shortly after returning from Rwanda, right at the start of classes, I was placed in the home of an African family in Mukono, only a short walk from the University. For two weeks I lived with my Mom, the eldest son Ronald, and the youngest of all the children, Denise. The three other children were staying at their boarding schools, so were not present during the home stay. I remember my feelings during the two weeks, feelings of sadness, anger, and happiness. Being able to talk about to share about my day with all my family, as well as hear about their days, provided me a family away from home. Often what was difficult was coming home from school and just staring at the walls for hours until supper was ready, while my momma cooked, and my brother revised his work. This made me feel so bored. This was the first time in the semester, where I really began to notice the significance in the value of presence.

The value of presence was hands down one of the biggest values I learned while being in Africa. It seemed like all my experiences throughout the semester could all boil down to presence alone. Another place where I found myself staring right into the face of presence was during my home stay in Soroti. The rural home stay experience was one of the highlights for me during my time in Uganda. I was paired with another male from the group, and we stayed in what seemed like a castle compared to the other homes around the area. The long days would begin early, as soon as the rooster crowed, and end after the completion of a 1950’s movie about interracial relationships with the family. I would work from the time I awoke, up until around breakfast due to the intense heat surrounding the area. Breakfast was usually followed by a lot of interaction with my family, as well as preparing the next meal. Afternoons were the longest time of the day, as I often sat in one of the huts on the compound, mainly because it was the coolest places around, and just journaled my thoughts, and tried to get a little rest. The evening was the time I looked forward to just about every day. As soon as the sun began to set, Papa and my brothers would take us for a walk up some distant hill, or through what seemed like a never ending forest. It was during such times that I remember feeling as though I was again part of another family. As soon as I would get into bed, Bryce and I would debrief about out days, and what we would usually conclude is that even when we felt so useless and so bored, we were truly seeing the relevance of presence to the African person. It was enough for us to just be there amongst this family sharing our time, experiences, and laughter; they didn’t really ask us of anything else.

The underlying importance of presence can be best defined by John Taylor in his book, The Primal Vision. In it he says, “The Christian, whoever he may be, who stands in that world in the name of Christ, has nothing to offer unless he offers to present, real and totally present, real and totally in the present.” Later on in the book he goes on to say, “A humble reverence that never desired to manipulate or possess or use the other is always a feature of the face-to-face encounter of true presence, and therefore it flourishes in silence.[2]” It was only after reading this that I could ever have hoped to really understand the aspect of presence in Africa. It was often through those quiet boring times staring at the wall in a small Mukono home, or sitting in the cement hut in Soroti, that the value of presence came to be real. For me to be amongst those people was enough. Just to offer an ear to hear, and a hand to hold, and a heart to love, was really all that I needed to do.

While I continue to reflect on my experiences in Uganda as well as try and give you a glimpse into my journey then and now I am reminded of one amazing day back in November of 2007. The weekend was to be three days of lectures and discussion on the AIDS epidemic in Africa as well as involvement in the lives of those that are immediately affected by the crisis that is killing thousands of people everyday. On the last day of the weekend, the group all traveled to Lowero, Uganda, where we spent the day playing with children who were all suffering from HIV or whose parents had died of the disease. Of the 20 or so children that we spent the day with only four were free of the virus. I can remember the one child who I spent most of the time getting to know. Matthias was a 6 year old boy who was suffering from HIV alongside his only other living relative, who was his 4 year old sister. The two were under the care of one 16 year old girl who was forced to grow up faster than the average teenager. At 15, Harriet was made into the head of a household of 7. She herself is actually healthy, yet she struggles to meet the needs of all the sick children in her care. Matthias was just like the average child of his age. Full of energy and enthusiasm, but at the same time was looking for someone to just love him and take care of him. He seemed like a boy despite everything being against him was going to look at the world straight in the face and show that he was different. Just at the age of 6 I could tell he had so much promise for a good future. When I look back at the few hours of one day I got to spend with him I learned one of the most important lessons in my life. I learned that being compassionate for those that are sick is not just feeling sorry for them while sitting in your above average home. Being compassionate is much more than just praying for the innocent child who was never given a fair chance at life. Compassion is something every follower of Christ is called to, but it’s not until I truly understood what compassion was, did I realize I was so far from showing this true compassion.

It wasn’t until after my experience hanging out with Matthias that I was able to finally know what compassion was. Henry Nouwen provides important characteristics of a compassionate person in his book titled Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life. In it he says:

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those that are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.[3]

This is what I have been missing much of my life. I simply thought watching the commercials of children who are starving, and choosing to sponsor them was showing deep compassion. I thought reading the articles in the newspaper and feelings anger for the turmoil around the world, for the thousands of innocent people who were being killed, was showing compassion. I was so far from the truth. Compassion is going to the place of the one that is sick and suffering along with him. Compassion is going into the life of the starving child and experiencing what being “hungry” really means. Compassion is spending the day with a child suffering from AIDS and feeling his pain as much as one can, and showing that child love through a hug or just through sitting in silence. Compassion is not something that should evoke anger with God. God is the only one who truly understood what real compassion was when he walked the streets of the world.

I remember leaving Uganda so well. The day I left the campus of UCU had to be one of the most heart-wrenching days of my life. So much emotion overflowing in one day. Instead of saying goodbye to all my friends at the university, I reminded myself I was only saying I’ll see you later. How can I ever thank the people of the university and Uganda for the lessons they taught me that have shaped me into the man I am today. It was only after listening to a genocide survivor talk about revenge being a game that I realized what true forgiveness is. It was after listening to another survivor or the Rwanda genocide talk about how she is unable to share with us her experiences during the genocide because it was still so painful, that I realized the pain humans can evoke on others. It was living amongst two families in two very different places that I began to really understand the value of presence in one’s life and suffering. It was while sitting on the steps of an orphanage with a sick 6 year old boy that I began to understand compassion. It was watching a blind albino girl worship that I really began to know what never losing faith meant, while at the same time what true love for God looked like. It was during the many hours just sitting with my friends, that I realized we are all in the same place along this thing road called life. It is only when we take the road together life gains its full meaning. It was back in that semester in 2007, that I realized what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ!

- “As a Christian community we are people who together are called out of our familiar places to unknown territories, out of our ordinary and proper places to the places where people hurt and where we can experience with them our common human brokenness and our common need for healing.”- Henry Nouwen, Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life.

[1] Kolini, Emmanuel, True Reconciliation in Rwanda: Address to Students of Uganda Christian University, Kigali: Rwanda. (April, 2006)

[2] Taylor, John, The Primal Vision, SCM Press, London, England. (1963)

[3] Nouwen, Henri, Mcneill, Donald, Morrison, Douglas, Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Doubleday Publishers, New York, New York. (1982)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

This is the True Story of Two Strangers Picked to Live in a Hut!

As I try to recap these last couple weeks for you, I am lost for words to describe the experiences I have had. These last couple weeks really have been the most amazing opportunities I have been given so far in this experience. I have learned so much about God’s love and his presence in the world.
So as I told you before a couple weeks ago, I began my journey to Soroti, Uganda, which tragically was one of the hardest hit places during the recent floods. People lost their homes, crops, and their income from farming. Their crops were washed away or just became rotten due to the large amounts of water filling the land. On Saturday we were transported to our rural host families across the entire district of Soroti. I was paired with one of the other male students Bryce for this home stay. We were the first group to leave with Erica. After traveling for what seemed like a long while amongst 10 feet tall grass, and no roads, only footpaths, we came up to a compound of 4 huts which was the home for Erica. Upon seeing this home first I really couldn’t prepare myself for the home I would be staying in. After getting all of our hopes up about living in a hut, we came up to our home, which if I’m being honest was much nicer than the home I stayed in during my first home stay in Mukono. My family had two houses, one for them, and then an entire second one for Bryce and I. They owned two vehicles, and also had their own water pump in their backyard.. So instead of walking miles to the closest water source we just pumped water for hours in the backyard from the well.
I remember talking with Bryce as we were settling in about how disappointed I was that I wasn’t going to be staying in a hut. I said that is the experience, living in a hut, and we don’t get to even do that. Was I ever wrong. Living in a hut may have been part of the experience for some students, but for us it wasn’t. Instead, we got a extremely loving family, and even participated in the activities that rural families do. There were mornings where we could be caught slashing/cutting the grass with a machete. This was no little task. I am very grateful for the invention of the lawnmower after experiencing this. The afternoons were often spent doing a lot of resting as is the normal for the rural life. Since they sleep little at night, they spend most the afternoon catching up on sleep. There was one afternoon where we worked with the herdsman milking our families cows. We were also in charge of the many goats our family owned. We would take them out in the morning and tie them up to graze, and then would bring them in after dinner for the night. The nights were the best time. This was what I called family time. One evening we spent a few hours climbing up a hill quite close to our home, and got some of the most amazing pictures of the African land and sky. Another evening we walked to the pond that one of my host brothers had dug himself. After that we took a long walk through the African forest behind our home.
I think the highlight of the week was the church service the second day we were there. Our church was very small, and still separated. The women sat on one side of the church, while the men sat on the other. The men and women also used separate offering plates. After the special preacher did his sermon, an elderly women in the congregation got up and began testifying of a horrific experience she had been through. She recalled horrible details of watching 3 of her 4 sons killed by rebels trying to overthrow President Museveni. She even pointed to scars on her own arms where she had been tied by the rebels, and then had a knife placed up to her neck, but she then explained how there was only one thing that kept her from being killed that day. She said that it could only be the grace of God that saved her, and it is from the same God’s forgiveness of her own sins, that she now has completed the difficult task of forgiving the men who killed her own sons.
I felt when we left our family, I was leaving people who showed me so much love, and who took so much time to share their lives with me and Bryce. God really is present here, and I see that now more than ever. Now with only a few weeks left in this incredible experience I am beginning to see clearly why God has me here, and it makes leaving here very difficult. Again thank you all for your prayers and support.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

NDE- Near Death Experiences

So, it has been a while since my last post, and I apologize. We have been having some remarkable experiences these last few weeks. I am beginning to realize how hard it is going to be to go home. This experience truly is life changing.
To start off the USP students and the Honors college students traveled to Jinja in Uganda a couple weekends ago just to relax. We stayed at Kingfisher Resort, which was an amazing place. We stayed in bungalos, which resemble some sort of hut. We had hot water for one of the first times, which actually I haven’t missed too much. Cold showers are something you never get used to, but after exercise cold showers feel pretty good. There was also an amazing pool at this resort, which we all used religiously for the weekend. The food was remarkable also. On Saturday we began the day with some worship and then broke up into groups and shared our timelines and then the four most important things to us in life. As we went around our group, it came time for the guy next to me to share his timeline. He recalled an experience that I could never share. He told us how right before coming to UCU while he and a friend were traveling on a bus, they were stopped by some members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and everyone on the bus was pleading for their lives. The guy next to me and his friend attempted to escape through a window and before his friend could escape he was shot dead, while Moses was able to get away. The LRA continues to kill across Northern Uganda, and there is no way to know when this war will end. That afternoon the group all took a boat trip to the source of the Nile River, which was pretty incredible. The weekend was filled with recreation and relaxation. Needless to say I returned to campus pretty sunburned.
This past week of classes marked the halfway point of the semester. In my African Traditional Religions class we had a Bishop from Northern Uganda who came and spoke to us about the attempts for reconciliation that is currently going on in Uganda. The process is known as Mato Oput. The process has four steps, and the final step being sharing a meal with the criminals. They aren’t looking to punish those that have harmed like many people from the West would say to do. Instead they look for peace through forgiveness. The Bishop was correct in saying that peace will be easier to attain if forgiveness is achieved. Revenge after all is just a game and it never ends. In fact, the Bishop spoke of a time where the people of Uganda will work side by side with those that have killed off many of their friends and relatives. I left this lecture with a brand new perspective.
Now for the best part so far of this adventure. This last weekend I planned a rafting trip for the USP group down the Nile River. We left early Saturday morning and began rafting by 11:00 on Saturday. There were two options for the trip, mild or wild. Some students chose the milder route while I went the wild route. Right from the start the guide in the boat flipped our boat over and taught us what to do if we get trapped under the boat. The first rapid is a class 4, but in the US would probably be a class 5 rapid. Then on the second rapid, which was a class 5 ½ pretty much a tidal wave, looked as though for sure we would flip. As our raft approached the rapid, I felt our boat begin to tip and then saw Bryce go out of the boat. I immediately jumped to the other side of the raft trying to keep it up, which I did successfully, but I ended up being tossed out of the raft in the process. As me and Bryce tried to stay near the raft it seemed like we were being hit by water repeatedly. It was so difficult to gain a breath. We finally hit some calm water and were able to climb back in the boat. Shortly after a few more rapids we had lunch on an island. It was wheat sandwiches and they were amazing. After lunch we paddled through a lot of calm water, but then we came upon our first feat of the day which was Bugugali Falls. We were literally about to go over a waterfall. We were the first to go over. We paddled onto a rock waved to the camera then it was time to go over, unfortunately we went over backwards, and by the look on the guides face it wasn’t normal. We all were able to stay in the raft, but as we came up from under the water, we all were in different places than we were before the waterfall. Immediately after the waterfall we had to paddle hard in order to hit the next class 5. We were one of two boats to take this route. We were the first again, and this time trying to save the boat was unsuccessful. Our boat flipped, and all of us were stuck under the raft. It seemed like a long while before we were out from under the boat, but we all ended up being ok. Fast forward to the biggest rapid of the trip. It is actually the very last rapid. You actually walk your boat on land past the first part of it and then get back in for the last of it, which is called the “bad place.” Our boat of course went straight for the middle and it a great attempt, we flipped end over end, and we were all again in the water. Except this time it was as though it was time to see Jesus. It was impossible to get a breath due to the amount of water hitting us. The only thing I remember is praying there would be a kayaker when I came to the surface and there was, THANK GOD! The rafting was amazing and there’s nothing I really can compare it to in the states. On Sunday morning, I purposely didn’t tell my Mom what I was about to do. 10 students and I bungeed 44 meter or 132 feet into the Nile. We even were dipped into the Nile up to our waist. I remember the feeling at the top not even wanting to do it, but as soon as the countdown started I knew I had to and as soon as he said bungee, I leaped out and I can’t even explain what was going through my head, all I know is it was the most incredible experience of the weekend.
So that’s a little of what has been going on here. We have our midterms this week, and so far so good. This weekend we leave for our rural home stays so I won’t be able to update at all while I’m gone. We will each be staying with a family in the flooded region of Uganda so please be praying for us. I will update after we get back in a couple weeks. Again please continue to pray for our group, they are much appreciated.

Prayer Requests:
-Rural Home Stays- Families and USP students
- Health- some students have been getting sick
- Midterms and Classes

Thursday, October 4, 2007

In Full Swing....

So the home stays are over, which has its drawbacks, but also is a much needed relief. The drawbacks are missing the food my host mom prepared. There were options almost every night compared to at school where we always have rice, beans, and occasionaly some meat. The relief is that I'm back with the other students on campus.
This past weekend the group went into the capital city of Uganda-Kampala. We went in for one of the students birthdays. We at a place called the New york Kitchen, which has some amazing American food. We ended the day by going to a craft market behind the national theatre. Of course we were being offered the "mzungu" price, which is often thousands of schillings more than an African would ever have to pay. I basically came out of that market empty handed. Saturday night some of the students and I went to a sports bar to watch a football game. This is becoming somewhat of a ritual on the weekends. It is amazing to watch a game with hundreds of Ugandans all cheering for the same team.
On Sunday, I went to church here on campus with most of the students here at UCU and it was quite a long service. It began at around 8:30 and ended around 11:30. Sunday afternoon the directors of the program Mark and Abby had an open house for the students in the USP program. This doesn't include the studnets who are living with host families the entire semester, they are refferred to as IMME. Abby prepared some donuts and chocolate chip cookies for all of us, which were fought for by all of us. The one thing everyone seems to be craving is chocolate. It was a great time of getting to know Mark and his family.
The school week so far has been quite busy. Tuesay, Tara (other student from Idaho Falls) and I went to our service project at Salama School for the Blind. We began the day with the Pre-1 and Pre-2 students who read to us using their braille. The teacher, who is also blind, types out a one page story, and then the students read the page. The student I worked with, Adrian, had most of his sight and also spoke English very well. After classes were dismissed we ended the day by playing sports with all the students. Sports is quite the experience at this school. After leaving we came back to the school and the USP students played the Honours College Students of the university in a game of ultimate frisbee. USP made quick work giving Honours College their worst defeat ever- 10-1.
The past week has been quite difficult for Jason (other students from SNU) and I. Jason's good friend Spencer Green, who was an amazing student at SNU, passed away Friday of last week after a long battle with cancer. Please be in prayer for the Green family and Jason and I, in the loss of a dear friend.

Prayer Requests:
- Jason- missed the service of Spencer, he has been pretty torn up.
- Our classes and work
- SNU community in the loss os Spencer
- Just for the USP students in general, very many have become quite homesick.

P.S. Pictures are very difficult to upload here because of how slow the internet is. When an opportunity comes, i'll be sure to post some pictures.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mukona Home Stays

So this past week and a half I have been staying with a host family here in Mukono. The family consists of my Host mom-Joan, her husband is actually working in the United States for some reason, then the children: Ronald 21, Jovan 16, Jovia 15, Jonan 12, and Denise 3. The home is about a 45 minute walk from campus, but luckily there are other students near me who walk as far as I do as well. The first weekend was pretty rough because the family was kind of quiet, so there was a lot of sitting around, but as we got to know each other the time seemed to be going a lot quicker. Jovia and Jonan both left for boarding school the first weekend I was there, so I didn't get to know them as well as I hoped. During the week I leave the house at about 7:00am, and then leave the school around 6:00pm, so by the time I get home I do my studying and then eat dinner, and then bed, not much time for anything else.
At the start of the home stay 3 students and I all contracted a bacterial infection so it made the week horrible, because i was sick all day for 5 days. On Friday of last week I went to my service project at Salima School for the Blind, and it was a remarkable first experience. The school/orphanage is about a 30 minute drive from the school on a very bumby dirt road. Upon arrival at the school, the headmaster took us to the office and told us a little about the school and its history which was pretty neat. The children are all blind, some completely, and others not. It was a sight to see many of the kids running around the school, but then the headmaster told us that many of them have come to know the surroundings and also often play football (soccer) during their sports time. After some histpry, we saw the equipment they use to read and write. The older students use a typewriter that uses brail, while the younger students use a push pad- where they poke holes in certain places to spell letters. At the end of the orientation all the children gathered in one room and they sang two songs for us. the second was all about how even in a society where they are constantly being seen as outcasts, they are still happy individuals, and even when the government does nothing to help them, they are still happy. It almost brought tears to my eyes to see the smiling faces of all the children as they sang. I will have my first work day tommorrow with one of the other students.
This weekend was pretty fun. My host family had some meetings on Saturday at the boarding schools, so i came to the University and did some homework and such. On Saturday my brother Ronald also taught me the proper way to do laundry by hand, so no with broken open knuckles I am a pro at laundry. On Sunday I went to church with my brother Ronald, and then after came home to rest. In the afternoon Ronald and I went with one of the other American students Annie into the capital city of Kampala. We met up with a couple other students and went to an African market to look at jerseys and shoes. We ended the night going to a place to watch the football game between Manchester United and Chelsea, I am becoming quite the soccer fan because of here. I will stay with my host family through the school week, and then return to the campus on saturday.

Pray for:
Sickness of USA students
Classes and the Reading
Host Families

Thanks for all the prayers, I couldn't do this without all of them!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

First Days of Classes

So we were supposed to play a game yesterday, but unfortunately the school's faculty we were going to play went on strike so there were no games. We still had major training which was long, but Bryce and me have decided to only train with the team and just play when we can because we will be traveling a lot on the weekends which is when the majority of their games are. Well this weekend we begin our two week long home stays and i'm so excited about it. I will still be able to get on the internet and such when i'm at school during the day, so no worries there. I started classes also yesterday and they were pretty good, except for the first class I went to the teacher was difficult to understand, but with time I'm sure i'll get a hang of the accent. Then for my second class I ended up being in the wrong class for 2 1/2 hours. The reason was there was that there was an announcement made that cancelled my class, but I didn't understand it because it was in Luganda, so to make the story short I ended up being in the first year education introduction to proffessors and other students. Long and boring!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Life Changed-Rwanda 2007

So this will be a long post, but these last 10 days have been amazing. The week started out on the Saturday, September 1st, when we left the campus of UCU on a 10 hour car ride to Rwanda. Can I start off by saying that Uganda itself has very poor roads, but as soon as you cross the border into Rwanda, there are well paved roads, sidewalks, and cleanliness. We had on oppurtunity along the way to stop at a place called the Equator, which was a coffee shop right on the equator. It was around 8 pm when we finally arrived in Rwanda for the night. We stayed at a guest house near the capital city of Rwanda. On Sunday we broke off into many groups, with 5 of us in each group. My church group went to a very rural church calles Kibungu. The church itself it pretty nuce except for the fact that they have no roof and it began pouring right in the middle of church. See, in Rwanda a law has been passed that stops people from making a certain kind of brick, which is thew brick that the church is using for its structure. The pastor is hoping that soon the law will allow them to start making these bricks again. On this Sunday, 8 different churches had gathered in this one church cause they heard "mzungus"-(white people)- were coming. The church was filled with arounf 300-400 people, and more standing around peeking in the windows. the service was filled with many choirs singing, dancing, and testimonies. Amy and I were the two people to give our testimonies, while Bryce gave the sermon to the church. The pastor ended the service, by thanking out group for coming and sharing with them. When Monday came we drove into the capital city of Kigali, to the Kigali Memorial Center. The center was a memorial for all the lives lost during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. You begin the tour outside looking at massive graves, filled with around 25000 bodies in each. In all 15 graves their are 256,000 bodies from the genocide. After the outside tour, you walk the inside of the center. You read different facts about the genocide and how it was caused. You see movies of survivors recalling the horrific events that happened, including watching their own family members die right in front of them. Then as you move to the pictures of the many victims your emotions start to really change. You end the tour looking at a room of childrens pictures, who were all victims of the genocide. Next to the pictures were facts about each child, including their last words, such as "Mommy where can I run to?" After the tour I just began to think about what all these people must have been thinking in April 1994. Monday afternoon we drove to another town about 2 hours away. On tuesday, my entire outlook on life changed. We woke up early and drove to Murambi Memorial center, which was a school where 50,000 Tutsi's were severely murdered at the hands of the Hutus. We were informed of what to expect at the center, but nothing could prepare me for what i was about to see.
It's so amazing to me how seeing one thing can change your entire outlook on life, and the human race. As i walked into the first classroom at the center, I immediately was overwhelmed by a smell that seems like death. In this first room their were around 50 bodies that has been preserved from the genocide. Room after room, body after body, I just began to really think about the lives that were lost here. The Tutsis were often told to go to places like churches and schools, by people they trusted, but were then just brutally killed in masses. They were killed by guns, clubbed to death, and sometimes even clubbed to death. Young children were sometimes just thrown against walls. There were bodies of men and women, some still with hair, others still wearing the clothes they were wearing the day their life ended. Children were still laying in the arms of their mothers, some with their mouths wide open screaming. As I left this place, i was feeling just about every possible emotion from anger, to sadness. Anger that no other countries tried to help in Rwanda, while others like France even gave the Hutus weapons, very aware of what was going on. the United States itself acted as though they didn't know what was going on, but as we learned most countries did, but sat back and waited for other countries to become involved. After researching a little on Bill Clinton and why he didn't act in Rwanda, i learned that at the end of his presidency, when asked his single biggest regret without pausing he said "Rwanda." After this very overwhelming experience we ended the evening hearing from two survivors of the genocide, both who were 4th year university students. Damas was the male. He described to us a horrific account of constant hiding and fear. Damas was hit with clubs that had nails embedded in them, which then left permanent scars in his head, of which are still visible. His entire family was killed in the genocide, including both of his parents and 4 siblings. he talked about leaving a friend behing that had had his legs cut off. He had no water to drink except for the rain that was coming down from the mountains. When he came out of the forest from hiding the first person he ran into was a priest. He said he felt safe for the first time in 3 months, but then the priest-a man of God- asked him why he hadn't drowned himself in a toilet. Damas told the priest that he would rather be shot or cut up instead. Soon after the genocide ended Damas joined the military at 13 cause it was the only safe place for him to go. Angelique was a female who at the time of the genocide was 11. Angelique was unable to recount her story, because it still is too painfil for her to tell. She did tell us that her entire family was killed as well including her parents and 3 siblings. She did talk a lot about how she has always been alone since. She has no family left no relatives or anything. She moved into some peoples house at 11 as a house girl.
The week was full of things. I even saw the actualy Hotel Rwanda, was unable to get a good picture of it. We also visited the Belgian memorial, which was the memorial of the ten Belgian soldiers that were killed after trying to protect the prime minister who was also killed. The 10 days ended with a relaxing weekend at lake Bunyonyi, which was amazingly beautiful. We got to canoe, swim, and even take a tour of nearby islands.
We got back to cmapus late last night, and immediately saw a huge difference. All the students are back and the campus is flooded with many activities. It poured all night last night so campus is very wet and muddy, but volleyball practice today at 4, and first game tommorrow, wish us luck!

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Part of the group outside the tombs of the previous kings of Uganda
The group after arriving at the university learning traditional African dances!

The Bus part of the group travels in.

View down road next to University.

A view from outside the guest house we stayed in upon arrival in Uganda

Monday, August 27, 2007

Life at UCU

So yesterday we moved into the dorms at the university, and let me tell you what an eye opener. The rooms are tiny, the drawers don't open, the closets are made for much taller men, and we sleep under pop out mosquito nets. The water is absolutely freezing, so much so that i can only bare being under it enough to wash off the soap and shampoo. Yesterday all the guys went and started a game of soccer and ended up playing for a few hours. After we had dinner which was the exact same food as lunch. After dinner it was time for an early night, I went to bed at 9.

Today I woke up at 6:30 with a couple of the guys and went up monkey hill, which is a hill with tons of monkeys. I took some pics and will upload soon. After we had some breakfast and then began orientation in the classroom. We then had a scavenger hunt this afternoon in Mukona, Uganda, we had to find all the things we will need for the semester, had some scares on the hunt, but nothing huge. I met some of the volleyball guys tonight at dinner and will practice with them tommorrow at 5. Anyways the battery on my computer is about to die so I better go. Anyways doing well and healthy.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I've Arrived!!!

Hey everyone, thanks for all your prayers while I was traveling to Uganda. All of us made it here safely yesterday night at about 8:30 pm, and then after getting our visas and all it took about two hours to even leave the airport. So we were all very tired on the way to our home for the weekend. There are two sets of students here from the United States. There is the students staying on the campus, like me, and then the 10 students who will actually be living with host families the entire semester, close to the school and will walk to school everyday. Currently we are staying in a really nice guest house or boarding house. It is huge, and almost seems like we aren't in Africa, but then this morning me and Bryce from Canada went to look at the view and we are on top of a hill and can see the entire city of Kampala. The pictures I have are amazing, but no way to add them yet, but I will post some asap. Today Bryce and I got up at 7:15 to shower, and to our amazement there was hot water, which was awesome. We then had breakfast and then began orientation with all the students and Mark, who is the director of the Uganda Studies Program. We began the orientation by discussing in groups the reasons we came here and what we are expecting from the semester. It was amazing to me to hear how many students families weren't supported of them coming on the trip at all. I am so thankful that so many people have been so supportive of me coming from family to friends thank you all so much.
After Orientation we had lunch, followed by a trip to the Buganda Kingdom, which is the home of all the kings of Uganda who have died. It was amazing to see and hear the stories of the kings who ruled during British rule to the King now who has been King since independence. After the tombs the group all went to the city center and just walked around. It was refereshing to start hearing the African sounds and smell all the African scents again. I am sad that I'm not at SNU, but even after a day with all these other students, we all have so much in common, and I've never gotten along with so many people so well. This trully has to be one of the most genuine groups of people I have met. I'm so thankful I have come on this trip. Tommorrow we will be having church in the morning then be going to the University in the afternoon. We aren'e leaving for Rwanda till Friday, so I should be able to check my email a few times this week.

Anyways thank you all so much for prayers we will need them. I love you all so much.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Final Preperations

Hey everyone, i'd like to first thank everyone for all their support and prayers and i have been preparing for this next chapter in my life. I leave tommorrow for Washington DC and then will fly to Uganda will all the other students Thursday evening. Please be praying for our safe travels. As I have been sittin at home this summer I have pondered many times about what it will be like in Uganda, and what to expect, but from my previous trip to Malawi, I have learned not to go in with too many expectations, because most of them will be different. This past weekend I talked to some of my best friends from back at SNU, and it made me begin to realize how much I really am going to miss everyone for these few months. I know that this trip is all in God's plan, but it has been very difficult to even imagine being away from all my friends at school. I want you all to know that I will sincerely miss you very much, and that I'll be praying for all of you, that your semester goes well and all. This summer has been somewhat difficult as some of you know, but honestly finally being home for a summer with my family and friends was one of the best things for me. I learned a lot about myself and my friendships. To all my friends in Idaho, thanks for one of the best summers of my life, and you better stay in contact with me while I'm gone. To all ym Sports Info family, have an amazing couple seasons of sports, you guys will do great, I am going to miss out on a lot I realize. Anyways pray for me that God will prepare my heart for the adventure i'm about to be on, and also for all the people I will be going with. pray for the people of Uganda that we will come into contact with. Most of all keep God first. Love you all!