I had to write a final essay for my Faith and Action class basically talking about my overall experience in Uganda and what I am taking away from my four months here. It was for a class so there may be some things that are referenced that do not make sense, but I thought a few people might be interested. It is long, but if you are interested here it is!
The last four months have been a life changing experience for me. I am so incredibly glad I came to Uganda. I was unsure of many things, and although I still have a great deal in my life to figure out, coming to Uganda is one of the best choices I made in my life.
When I came to Uganda I came with few expectations or goals. I was tired of being in the United States, and with a great deal of other things in my life. I needed change of scenery and my love of Africa drew me to this program. I never expected to have some of my views so confirmed and/or changed in the four months I have been here. I did not expect to see much of a difference here than in the life I had lived in other countries before, and I was surprised at both how much I knew and did not know.
Since I have come to Uganda my relationship with God has grown significantly. After high school, because of some different circumstances I slowly drifted away from Him and focused too much on me and what I wanted and what I was looking for in this life. I still wanted to know what He wanted for me, but I kept pulling away, and demanding my rights. I really struggled with trusting God, and truly believing that He actually had my best interest in mind.
When I came to Uganda I was a broken person who had only recently begun to be repaired. I had only recently opened up my heart to letting God back in. Upon coming to Uganda I realized that I could not do this on my own. Every other time I had moved I was in the care of my parents with no worries whatsoever. I came here alone. I knew no one and did not really have a clue what I was getting into. In the time I have been here I have really learned how to lean on God. I have spent a good deal of time trying to grow closer to Him. I have spent more time seeking out what He wants and just trying to be more aware of His voice and be guided by God and God only. Faith and Action has been a good class for that. Although I do not agree with things that are said, or always love the class it has caused me to think about my relationship with God and this world. When I go home I want to continue trying to work on my relationship with God, and growing in Him.
I love the USP and Ugandan community. I have to admit making friendships with Ugandans has not been the easiest even for me. A great deal of this is because of the way men act here. Many times I just get hit on not talked to and that frustrates me. On the other hand, I absolutely love Honors College, especially the girls. They have truly just welcomed us in and I feel so comfortable with them.
I do love the way that people use ‘presence’. It is difficult for me to just sit sometimes and literally do nothing at all for long periods of time, but I think it is great the way they all care for each other and show their love through their presence. As Taylor speaks about how you have to interact with another culture on their level, I think that it has been a great growing and learning experience to be on the same page as people. I hope to learn how to be more ‘present’ even in the hustle and bustle of the United States and take what I have learned here about people and apply it to those back in the United States.
At the same time I love the USP students. The community that has developed between the thirty-two of us in these past four months astounds me. In many ways I have no desire to go ‘home’ where relationships are so much more confusing and not near as just simply good solid friendships. Although being with the same people all the time can be infuriating at moments, I love the people that are here with me. I love the way that we take care of each other and truly just look out for each other. I feel as though I have grown so close to the people here, and I wish that I did not have to leave them. I really want to work on my friendships when I get home and take a real look at them. After being here, I do not want to settle for friendships that are not as solid, or even just as true caring as the way we are together here are.
There are six of us girls that have grown even closer than most. Although I have a good relationship with everyone here the six of us are like a family. We all have our ‘place’ and we have grown together in such a way it is truly as though we are sisters. We are the family that we do not have here for each other. One of the most difficult things about leaving is going to be saying goodbye to the family I have developed in them.
As for the staff I do not have an overall strong opinion. I feel as though they are all given a great many roles to play and that it is hard to balance all that. It makes me truly appreciate the resources that people have in the United States, to be able to hire a great number of staff to fulfill so many different positions. However, one of the most frustrating experiences I have had here in reference to staff is just the way classes and grades are so different. I am someone who cares a great deal about my grades and that is what my focus is on. To not be given any and on top of that to be put under a different grading system was not easy for me at all. I feel as though giving grades can be better for some people, and also a better explanation of how we will get our grades for all our classes at the end of the semester would have been extremely useful and helpful for my time here.
Faith, hope, and love are spoken about in the bible as some of the most important aspects of our relationships with both people and God. How we handle and have these three things affects how we live our life.
When we discussed ‘faithfulness versus effectiveness’ from Mere Discipleship it really showed me how much our faithfulness had an effect on everything else. Although I cannot say that I agree with everything Lee Camp states in his book, I do appreciate how he believes we need a stronger faith in God and when that happens we will become more effective. I struggle with this because I want to be effective; that is one of my greatest goals. I am in social work because I want to make a change in at least one person’s life. I do not believe that the “end justifies the means” that Camp talks about and explains how that is destructive. I do think that the means is extremely important and perhaps something that many people forget. My goal is to be effective through being faithful and by doing things the right way, even if both of those are difficult at times.
Hope is something that I feel like many people give up. Personally I know I have lost hope at times in my life when I got hurt or confused. Since I have been here it is has been so incredible to see the hope many people have despite their circumstances. Compared to the majority of the world I have an easy life. I have food, a house, a family, and I do not fear that I will wake up and have nothing. I know that I am taken care of, and that when I graduate I will capable of carrying on my life and will be able to take care of myself. I have the ability to have health insurance, a car, a place to stay, and money to pay off my bills as well as invest for my future. Yet those who have the most seem to have the least hope, whereas it seems as though people who have so little are filled with such hope. They long for a better life and they do not lose hope. I respect that so much about the people here who have been living the same way for so long, yet have such hope about life and everything. They do not give up, and they do their best no matter what their circumstances are.
Love is not always easy to demonstrate. It is something that can be both hard to receive and give out. The community that I have seen develop simply among the USP students has truly demonstrated what real love should look like. The 32 of us were tossed together in a new country, culture, with people we had never seen before. All of us were force to interact with each other and become friends even if in ‘real life’ we would never have interacted with each other. As a result of this we have all come to love each other in such an unconditional manner.
When only 32 people are together all the time at moments it is difficult. To always be around the same people, they are bound to drive you crazy once in awhile. However, I feel as though I have made true friends. Friends who love me dearly, who care about me, for no reason other than the fact that they love me. The way we have all grown together and the way we all interact with each other truly shows me what love should look like in this world. It is not distorted; it is not for someone’s own benefit, or just cause we feel we have to be around each other. It is a result of truly caring about each other. We have a community similar to how Compassion suggests a group has one. “Compassion is not an individual character trait, a personal attitude, or a special talent, but a way of living together”.
When I came here I thought I had a lot of my vocational decisions figured out. Whenever someone asked me what I wanted to do with my life it was an easy answer, I was going to work in international adoption. I have a passion for Africa and international orphan children especially. When I began my practicum here my whole plan got thrown for a roller coaster ride. After working in some parts of international social work I was all of a sudden very unsure if that is what I really wanted to do.
In the beginning of the semester Gwen had us read Human Rights and Social Justice in a Global Perspective. In it there were a couple chapters that hit me, mostly ones that contained human rights. There is a quote on page 20 that says “social workers may find themselves in a bind trying to recognize the right to one’s culture as well as one’s human right’s”. I think that it made me realize that international social work is more than just put this child with this family. It is a blending of cultures and a great deal of work. Although I still love this area I am just not sure if it is really what is for me.
After rural home stays when our whole group was at Sipi Falls, some of us began talking about social work and specifically adoption and foster kids. During this conversation it hit me. I had forgotten why I went into social work. I had forgotten the passion I had for life, justice, and children being properly taken care of. At the end of that conversation I realized how much I want to work in social work in the U.S. for a while. Although I am still in-between some different ideas and still not sure, I feel like I do have a better grasp of what I want to do and what God wants me to do, especially with the gifts and passions he gave to me.I cannot say that I am sure of what my purpose in life is. I am not sure if anyone ever really knows that, but I want to do my best to figure it out. Right now my purpose is to be in Uganda and do the best that I can in my life here and in what I am doing here. Right now my purpose is to be the best I can be. However, our purpose changes I believe throughout our lives and I will simply always try to be the best I can be with whatever it is. I know I mess up a lot and that I still have a great deal to learn, but I want to live my life for God no matter what I do. I know that that phrase sounds cliché but I truly do. God has done so much for me in my life, and I want to live my life for him, no matter where that takes me.
Identity is a difficult thing for me. I feel as though I have several and that leads me to be confused about who I really am. Sometimes it seems as though I have a few lives that I lead because of the different friends I have and the different places I have lived. It is difficult sometimes, as I do not know where my heart lies. I love the life I led growing up, but I feel as though I have changed so much since I began college.
I have lived in four countries, four states and at least 15 houses throughout my life. I have always struggled with who I am. I have always defined myself as the oldest of three sisters, someone who loves sports and the ocean. I was the girl who was from Africa who did not want to come back to the US. I am the girl still learning to adjust to life and find myself.
Coming here has taught me a lot. I chose to come here because I knew I needed to do something other than what I had been doing for the past two years. I had hoped to maybe understand myself better, and find myself. Although that is not what happened I think I have come to better terms with my identity.
My identity in Christ is the most important to me. As I said before I desire to please Him and to be sure that He is the center of my life and all my relationships at all times. My identity in Him does not involve anyone else; it keeps the world out and only him in my viewpoint. My identity in people has always meant too much too me. I value what people think in me and my goal when I leave is to stop worrying about what people think of me and only care what God thinks of me. I want to make decisions for myself and no one else.
My identity in my family is to be the best daughter, granddaughter, sister, cousin, and niece that I can be. I know that I do not always succeed in this, but I want my family to be proud of me. My family has stood by me all 20 years of my life. When there was no one else in this world there they were, always next to me encouraging me. Coming here only made me realize how important they really are to me. Although I would not see them during this time anyways the convenience of being able to call them or know that if I really needed to I could see them was wonderful. I realized how much I truly miss them and how much I love them.
Being here in Uganda was and is such an amazing experience for me. In so many ways I am not ready to go home. I am not sure how to take everything that I learned and apply it. I have some ideas obviously, but life is different in both countries and it is hard to reconcile where I stand on some issues. I tend to think about everything that I do here in a different way than I do in America. I am thankful for the month that I will get before school begins to adjust. At the same time I am not sure if once you have lived overseas you can really ever completely adjust because you see life so differently. Once you have been exposed to the rest of the world you can never go back. For that I am eternally grateful.