Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kenya and Tanzania

Wow, so much to catch everyone up on! I'm a little behind, so I'll send out another couple of posts soon~ In the meantime, here's a little blip from our trip through Kenya and Tanzania:

At the end of last month, John, a couple of Kampala friends, myself, and about 70 Cornerstone Ugandan friends all jumped on a couple of buses and headed out on a 24 hour bus ride through western Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. The drive was long, but absolutely beautiful:

The view from our "rest stop" in the Serengeti desert of Kenya

The destination was Arusha, Tanzania at the foot of Kilimanjaro, for a 4 day conference called the "Jesus Conference". Predominately Christians, but also Buddhists, Muslims, and folks from other religious backgrounds all gathered to "think, talk, act, and love like Jesus", seeking to understand His teachings on reaching out to the fatherless, widows, and poor. The conference has been running for at least 4 years, and is organized by a group called "The Family", aka "The Fellowship", aka "the group behind the National Prayer Breakfasts worldwide", founded by Doug Coe, a former and current advisor and friend of multiple world leaders. Meeting around the person, life, and teachings of Jesus, whom the Buddhists consider a great teacher, the Muslims consider a prophet, and Christians consider to be the Messiah, has proved to be a great uniter of this incredibly diverse group of people, and a beacon of hope for future inter-religious peace, understanding and collaboration. Certainly important differences in perspectives about Jesus were held, but the nature of the meeting was not to disregard differences in deeply held theological convictions and spiritual experiences, or forge a new universalistic religion, but rather to gather together on the common ground that all shared: a deep respect for the life and teachings of Jesus, and a belief that they can help inform efforts to love and serve the poor, widowed, and orphaned. The conference drew about 350 people, from 23 countries around the world, including Japan, Nepal, India, USA, Norway, Ecuador, and multiple African countries. We had a wonderful time of friendship, meals, rest, recreation, workshops, and speaking sessions on youth mentoring, school development, and many other humanitarian aims. A truly amazing group of people, our team felt honored and privileged to share ideas and experiences, build relationships and support, and glean some wisdom which will help guide our future efforts in Uganda.

Upon arrival, we were welcomed by Maasai dancers and watermelon juice

A view of the pool and castle-like architecture of our gorgeous Nagurdoto Mt. Lodge in Arusha

It's the rainy season here, so unfortunately Mt. Kilimanjaro was mostly clouded in, but we were able to catch a couple of glimpses, and we had a hard time believing the scale. We'd see dark spots in the clouds as they drifted by, but didn't even imagine it was mountain, as the scale seemed impossibly large. Fortunately, the water-bottle labels were cloud-free, (so I improvised :)

This is Esteban, one of the friends in my small group, who happened to be from Ecuador. Having difficulty understanding the African accents, I was able to help out by translating for him. He was one of only three Spanish speakers at the conference, but we happened to be in the same small group, and even seated next to each other when I discovered his difficulty. Never thought I'd be using my Spanish in Africa, but then again, God seems to weave some pretty wild twists into His plot! He seems to have quite sense of humor, and a flare for the improbable ~

Okay all, thanks for reading this far! I hope this message finds you all doing well, and again, I should have some more updates coming soon...