One of the biggest blessings of Uganda Studies Program was developing friendships... with Ugandans, Kenyans, Rwandans, Americans, Canadians & more! After 3 days of being in Uganda, we were already leaving for a 10 day excursion with a completely new band of travelers we had never met before. There was this opportune window during our Rwanda trip to build relationships with the Ugandan Honors College Students.
10 days ahead to learn from one another, experience together, & build connections. I knew that this was just the beginning, but that the relationships developed in Rwanda could last throughout the rest of the semester. On our first weekend in Rwanda, I sat next to Elsa Zawedde—a boisterous, loud, and fun law student—on a venture to a rural Rwandan church service. We sang hymns together with such passion and excitement, that I think it birthed in me a new admiration for traditional music! (and maybe even for the African Anglican church ;] )
The rest of the Rwanda excursion was filled with laughs, tears, stories, and new experiences together. Entering into some of the most painful places of Rwandan history with people that we had just met was not always easy. And we began to learn about the divisions that separate humans from one another. We read about how, “the blood of tribalism often runs deeper than the waters of baptism”.
I began to see that there was something much stronger going on in our experience than merely learning about Rwandan history.
The wisdom, depth and devotion of our new friends was clear. Our new East African friends didn't just teach us how to religiously iron our clothes, but also engaged in intentional conversations with us about life, God, and the experiences we were sharing together. Some of the lessons that I learned from the acceptance and relational lifestyle of these new friends demonstrated to me that no matter where we come from, Christ desires that we be unified. The waters of baptism... and the grace of friendship... can run deeper than the blood of tribalism. That gave me hope for the semester and beyond, that these friends would remain. And I am happy to say, that 6 months after we left for Rwanda—I continue to call these joyous Africans some of my dearest friends.
~ Dana Jaehnert
Bethel University, USP Fall 2013