Today is the second day of classes at Uganda Christian University, but before talking about classes or campus life, I am going to give you all an overview of our past week as we took a learning trip to Rwanda.
We (32 American students plus 12 Ugandan students who are members of UCU's Honors College) left campus Saturday morning at 5 AM and drove all day, arriving in Kibungo, Rwanda about 7 PM. Customs crossing from Uganda to Rwanda were the most unorganized thing I've ever seen; it was quite an experience! As we drove through the rural, bumpy, mountainous roads, groups of children that saw our buses started running after us and yelling "mzungu!" (the Swahili word for "white man", which is used all over East Africa). We stayed at an Anglican guest house in Kibungo for 2 nights. On Sunday, our group visited churches in the area. My group visited a church where about 5 parishes came together for the Sunday and all participated with their choirs. They asked us as Americans to sing, give testimonies, and preach. The service was in French, but we had interpreters. It was quite an experience seeing all the Rwandans praise the Lord!
Monday morning we drove into Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. On our way there were again lots of groups of kids yelling "mzungu", but this time, some of them were throwing rocks at our van, and one of our windows shattered. No one was hurt, but we were pretty delayed as we cleaned up all the glass and had to get the window replaced that afternoon. That afternoon we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, and learned more about the history, sides, aftermath, and reconciliation of the 1994 genocide. The church has heavily been involved in reconciliation efforts since then and it's amazing to see how peaceful of a nation Rwanda is, even after such recent tragic events. The forgiveness among Rwandans is amazing, and very convicting for me, as I don't think I could ever look at someone who gruesomely killed my family members and choose to forgive them. That night we arrived at a Presbyterian guest house in Kigali where we stayed the next several days.
Tuesday we visited a church memorial and were given a tour by Charles Mugabe, who was 8 years old during the genocide and hid in the church while his family members were slaughtered by Hutu extremists. That afternoon, we had a speaker, a minister who is working in reconciliation and rebuilding the country, and also Christy, a woman working with Food for the Hungry, doing microfinance and business advancement type work with the Rwandans, marketing Rwandan crafts in the US so the Rwandans can make a profit.
Wednesday we visited the Evangelical Friends Mission and heard from a group of Quaker missionaries whose focus is going into communities, doing development work, while at the same time empowering the communities to make such choices on their own. That afternoon we visited an NGO where they have vocational training for Rwandans, as well as an avenue for the women to sell traditional crafts. This place was strictly humanitarian, not a ministry at all, which really bothered me at first. I am continuing to wrestle with this issue, but then I think, if such an agency existed in the US, I would not be opposed to it.
Thursday we went to Amahorro, which means "Peace from Above," a sewing co-operative where women sew together traditional crafts and then market them both in Rwanda and in the US. They had some very beautiful, well-made things. That afternoon we attended the Kigali Trade Expo, where various businesses and artisans were representing their products and services with informational booths. It was very cool that we were in Kigali the week that this was happening, since it was just a one-time event. It turned out to be mainly a time of souvenir shopping, which is not really up my ally, but it was fun nonetheless.
Friday we left Kigali and drove a few hours to Kabale, Uganda, where we stayed at the White Horse Inn, a resort in the area. It was nice to relax after such an emotionally draining trip, but at the same time, I felt a bit guilty. That evening we had group worship in one of the courtyards, and it was great to be able to worship together. We sang some hymns that I haven't heard in years and it was awesome.
Saturday was a time of debriefing in the morning. It was hard for me because I am not the type of person who likes to share their deepest emotions with people I've only known for 2 weeks. That afternoon was spent at Lake Bunyonyi, which at appox. 6,500 ft. is the deepest lake in Uganda. Sunday was 10 straight hours of driving, and now we're back on campus, ready to start the semester.