Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pictures: I need 1,000 words to describe them!

We stopped by the equator on the way to Rwanda

Chapati, fried flat bread that's sold on the street here.

Banana Trees

Some boys in Kampala at Off-Tu's street ministry.

Boys who live at Off-Tu, on our walk home from school.

Jackfruit. I really have no words to describe it, but it's good.

Kampala, where we do street ministry with Off-Tu.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Off-Tu Mission

One of the main reasons I am here in Uganda is to do my junior social work field experience (internship).  I am doing my internship at Off-Tu Mission, which is headed up by Johann and Katherine, a German missionary couple, and employs a team of Ugandan nationals who work along side the German missionaries. I am involved at Off-Tu in three main areas: Off-Tu Academy, Off-Tu Children's Center, and Off-Tu's Urban Children's Ministry Program

I spend time in the mornings at Off-Tu Academy, a school with approx. 170 students in baby- P5 (what Americans would consider pre-school - 5th grade). My time at the school consists of teaching PE each Tuesday morning, teaching Bible stories and verses and having enrichment activities that go along with the Bible story,  teaching American stories and songs, and just getting to know the students during break times. I've also had the opportunity to serve lunch, help conduct a disciplinary meeting, and go on home visits to parents of the school (starting this week I'll actually be doing a lot more of these and over the semester I will get to help create a new intervention program for families of students, which I'm super-excited about!). There's a children's library here on UCU's campus, so I've started taking books to read to the classes I'm given. The Uganda children have oftentimes never seen a storybook, so they LOVE having story time with me.

In the afternoons I usually walk home from school with the 11 children who live at Off-Tu's Children's Center (while they are part of the same mission, the two locations are about a half-mile walk through the banana trees). I spend the afternoons with the kids at the Children's Center, serving them tea, playing games, reading to them, helping them prepare supper, etc. I really enjoy my time there getting to know these children and build relationships with them. The children taken in by Off-Tu mainly come off the streets; some are orphans, some have families that are not able to take care of them.  Julius (my field instructor) and I have decided to augment my schedule so that I will be able to spend more time with the children at the Center. While I enjoy the school, there is no way I could get to know 170 kids between now and December, so I'd really like to invest my time in the 11 who live at the Center. I've already been able to spend one-on-one time with most of the kids, but Julius and I are going to be making my mentoring and counseling with the kids more intentional. I'll also be reading their files to get to know their stories.

The final area I'm involved with is the Urban Children's Ministry Program. Each Tuesday afternoon, a group of Off-Tu workers, volunteers, interns, and some USP students go into Kampala to minister to children living on the streets. Kids end up on the streets for a number of reasons: poverty, abuse, abandonment, child sponsorship scams, but the bottom line is, they all need to be shown Christ's love! We alternate weeks between Retrack, a day home for boys living on the streets, and Naguru Remand Home, a juvenile detention center. When we visit, we put on a program consisting of songs, testimonies, a skit that correlates with the theme of the day, and a Bible lesson. Afterwards se serve snacks and talk with the children. It's been amazing for me to see the thankfulness demonstrated by these children. Each week when they give testimonies, they tell us how thankful they are for what they have-- how convicting for me when I have so much more, and am not anywhere near as thankful! It's also awesome to see the boys who are Christians and the way they are shining lights in these dark places, and the awesome testimonies they have for the other kids to see!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This Do in Remembrance of Me

This past weekend was my first weekend without traveling or homestays, and it was the first time I was able to attend worship on campus. To give you a little bit of background, Uganda is a primarily Anglican nation as it was colonized by the British, and the Church of Uganda is actually one of the largest provinces of the Anglican church worldwide. All this to say Uganda Christian University is affiliated with the Church of Uganda, an Anglican body. I had never had much exposure to the Anglican church, all I knew of the America's version, the Episcopal church, and with the issues they have been having in recent years, I was nervous about what I was getting myself into church-wise when coming here.

 I've been to a couple of Anglican functions already, including the "enthronement" of a new bishop, so I have already observed the ceremony and liturgy of the Anglican service. I think I've always had a little bit of a negative conception of liturgical style churches, but I've been really impressed. The words of the responsive readings are so spiritually deep, and I've had the opportunity to talk to some Anglicans here are genuine Christians, believing in Christ's redemptive work, not their own merits, and wholeheartedly seeking after Christ. These people are saying the words of the liturgy from the heart, not just out of instinct or as the result of rote memorization (although if you here the same words every Sunday your whole life, those are definitely factors). Also, for my Faith and Action class we just read some articles about liturgy and the Anglican church, and it's convicted me that even at home in my non-liturgical service, my worship can be simply out of habit, and my heart and mind could be miles away, not there to serve the Lord, learn more about Him, or worship Him.

Sorry for all that background, anyway, I attended campus worship, which is less liturgical and more casual than parish services, for the first time this past Sunday. I know that the Church of Uganda preaches the gospel faithfully, and that while there are some things I disagree with (i.e. baptizing babies), I know my own convictions well enough that I am not going to be swayed, and three or so months isn't going to kill me. I was good until we got to the end of the service, and it was announced that we would be celebrating communion. There are a plethora of different beliefs held about communion: transubstantiation, consubstantiation, saving grace, sanctifying grace, mere symbolism . I had no idea what beliefs the Church of Uganda holds to regarding communion. I was feeling a little uneasy. As people went up to receive communion from the priest and deacons, I was praying about what I should do. On one hand, I don't want to take part in a practice that goes against what I believe to be a faithful interpretation of scripture. On the other hand, from all I know of the Church of Uganda, it's pretty legit, and Paul definitely pushes the concept of unity of the Body of Christ when he writes about communion in 1 Corinthians. I also didn't want to let the fact that the communion process itself (serving the elements, etc) was different than I was used to get in my way, because, honestly, none of us observe communion exactly the same as Jesus and His disciples did in the Upper Room.

Long story short (well, not really short :) I ended up taking communion. So did the majority of USP students, but the two other girls from Cedarville that were there did not. We were able to talk about it afterwards and they were wrestling with a lot of the same thoughts as I was. My first though, as I walked back to my seat was "oh, goodness, this is real wine," followed by "this reminds me of the bourbon chicken at Chuck's," followed by a lot of doubt and prayer. If I was really following in obedience to Christ by taking communion, why would I have doubt? If I really had an attitude of self-examination and celebration of Christ's death and resurrection, then why would I be thinking about Chuck's at all?? The communion issue continued to bother me that day.

Later that afternoon, as I was going devotions, I flipped open Our Daily Bread, and saw the title for that day "Celebrating Together." The scripture for that day was 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.The author was talking about the first Sunday of October, which happens to be World Communion Sunday, and how "it is a time to observe the Lord's Supper with a special awareness of celebrating together with our brothers and sisters and Christ around the globe." How perfect! Reading the devotional really gave me a peace about my decision, and while I am going to look further into the Church of Uganda's beliefs on communion before deciding to do it again, I am really glad I was able to stand together with Christians from another culture. I'd highly encourage you to check out the devotional:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Classes at UCU

It's been about 6 weeks in Uganda now. When I look back, it feels like it's gone fast, but at other times, the days seem to drag by so slowly. I have 72 days left here. I have a countdown in my day planner. Pathetic, I know. I am realizing that I would be more than happy if God's plan for my life involved me living in the United States for the rest of my life :) I miss the most obscure things, too. I miss my speckled mint green countertops. I miss the fall leaves. I miss Alpha Baptist. I miss having clean feet. I miss my American professors. I want to eat sour cream.  I MISS MY WASHING MACHINE! I would give my left lung to go back to this summer and golf with my dad. Don't get me wrong, I am loving it here and it's an awesome adventure.

Classes here are quite the experience. In addition to my junior social work practicum ( I will talk about that more in a later post), I am taking three classes: Faith and Action, East African History 1800- Independence, and East African Politics Since Independence. Faith and Action is taught by an American, the director of the Ugandan Studies Program, and everyone in USP is required to take the class. In Faith and Action, we do a lot of readings, writing,  and discussions pertaining to how Christian should relate to other cultures. It's interesting, especially since USP participants come from a variety of backgrounds and have very different views of how Christianity should be practiced, what missions should like , and even the scope of Christianity/definition of a Christian. The assigned readings and discussions aren't stupendous, but I've had some great discussions with other students one-on-one, and have had some awesome personal Bible studies as a result of the topics brought up in class.

 My other two classes (history and politics) are classes just for American students, so everyone in the classes is a USP student, but not all USP students are required to take these classes. These classes are taught by Ugandan professors. In keeping with the Ugandan teaching style, the classes move at a super-slow pace and give a lot of background information. We're in our 5th week of classes now, and in my politics class, we're still under colonialism, and in my history class, we're up to the kingdoms in East Africa in 1300 A.D.  As Americans, we are left wondering when we'll actually get to material that fits into the scope of the course. I have to keep telling myself that I am still learning things, even if they are not what's listed in the course description. The professors also have a tendency to repeat a sentence 3 or 4 times, or  explain something way more thoroughly than seems necessary. At the same time, sometimes their accents are hard to understand, and we students are left in the dark. The first couple weeks were hard, but I think I'm getting used to the teaching style now.  Also, the material the professors cover in class is pretty much verbatim to the assigned readings, so it's difficult to have enough self-discipline to do my readings. Each of those two classes just have two papers for the whole semester, the longest being 8 pages maximum, and then a cumulative essay test. It's nice not to have a ton of work, but also nerve-wracking, because each assignment really matters! The papers also seem to come all at the same time. Of the four papers for these two classes due all semester, two are due on the same day, Wednesday of this week. AACK!!!