I traveled to
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
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
Shortly after returning from
The value of presence was hands down one of the biggest values I learned while being in
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.” It was only after reading this that I could ever have hoped to really understand the aspect of presence in
While I continue to reflect on my experiences in
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.
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
- “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.
 Kolini, Emmanuel, True Reconciliation in
 Nouwen, Henri, Mcneill, Donald, Morrison,