Guatemala and Camu

When I think of that smell of wood and plastic trash going up in flames, my heart fills with love and that love wells up as water in the corners of my eyes. These are tears of truth, not of sadness or joy.

As I write this, it takes everything not to pick up my backpack and breath in the smell of burning that still lingers on the cloth. Yet, last night when I got home from Guatemala I washed and showered and washed again and lathered to get the smell off my skin. This morning I put lots of mouse in my hair to cover up the smell that lingered.

My backpack had almost the same exact smell when I came home from Uganda.

For me, it is a smell of truth and one that connects me deeply to the entire world. Yet, last night on my plane flight home from Atlanta to Nashville I wanted to apologize to the person next to me for the way I smelled. “I promise I don’t always smell like this,” I wanted to say — while deep inside I wished it would never go away.

Smell has a way of bringing you back to a time and place, I know there is a lot of academic research about it — but I’m not as interested in quantitative studies about smell and memory, as I am about the stories. I was talking about smell with a friend recently and he spoke of walking past a woman and the simple fumes of her perfume brought him to the time when he was first falling in love. The smell of Irish Spring soap has a similar effect on me.

Do I quickly wash off the smell of open wood fires because I am afraid to go back to the times and places where I saw women suffering from poverty and patriarchy?

Today in a class — I am auditing a class at Vanderbilt Divinity School on Albert Camu from Prof. Victor Judge — we discussed “The Fall.” Spoiler alert — The story is about a man who is on a bridge and watches a woman about to jump to her death — he says nothing. She jumps — he does nothing. As she screams for help, he neither says or does anything. There is a lot more to the monologue — but the man forever avoids bridges.

I’ve seen the plight of women in poverty and heard about the effects of patriarchy. I know enough to say something. I know enough to do something. I know enough to use my words and actions to say something before, during, or after she jumps off the bridge.

Today in class Prof. Judge said, “Every moment is important and has consequence. Every waking moment has a promise of change.” With my recent experience in the foothills of the volcanoes in Guatemala in the forefront of my mind — my heart erupted and tears streamed down my face. During the intermission I explained to Prof. Judge they were tears of truth. He lovingly replied, “I hoped they were not tears of unhappiness.”

I wrote in my notes:
So what am I to do? There is so much… I am willing. I can continue to organize Sunday morning class spaces (ha ha not fair — I am currently working with imagination and creativity) But (or maybe I should say AND) I am called to be on the ground, smelling of fire, eyes not only welling with the waters of truth, but also the dust from the roads blown by trucks filled with travelers and produce, the sun bringing color to my face instead of using concealer, brushing my teeth with purified water — sometimes afraid, sometimes overjoyed, sometimes at peace, but always present.

Directly after I wrote that, Prof. Judge said, “Those who remain vigilant to combat the plague are the least likely to contract it.”

If I combat poverty and patriarchy, then I am less likely to participate with it.

Hiking a mountain in San Juan, Guatemala.

The Blessed Mother Mary photographed while hiking a mountain in San Juan, Guatemala.

Dignity in Women’s Development

One of the most important things I learned at CSW is the empowerment of rural women is not just about putting food on the table, it’s also about dignity; listening to her voice, her decisions, and her leadership. When organizations create women’s development projects, yet control the way money is spent, the projects, even the teaching, it does not actually empower rural women.  Talking with a friend, we decided the best analogy is that of a street dance.  We gather in a circle, one person steps to the middle to dance, that person joins the circle and another person steps to the center to dance. Rural women must have the opportunity to lead the dance! The power does not lie within the US or other first world countries to “save” or “develop” a group of people. The answers for rural women were not in NYC, but in the rural areas where women are working, living, laughing, crying, and loving everyday.

People doing development work usually have good intentions, but we must evaluate how our actions are hurting a group of people. A perfect example is the Kony 2012 Campaign, which went viral recently on Facebook and Twitter.  Invisible Children’s intentions were good, but they did not see the damage they are doing by “sensationalizing” of a conflict in a whole group of people and denying dignity.

This is the voice of Rosebell Kagumire, a woman working in Uganda for peace, talking about the KONY 2012 campaign: “How do you tell the stories of Africans? You shouldn’t be telling my story if you also don’t believe I have the power to change what is going on!  This 6.5 minute video says it best:
Rosebell Kagumire YouTube

Home

After a long flight, I reached the US.  I arrived in around 1:00pm central and went to my house.  I forced myself to stay awake and made an appointment at the Apple/Mac store at 7:30pm to get my computer fixed (they fixed it before I left but the screen flickered the whole time I was in Uganda). The Apple store in Nashville just so happens to be located at the Mall at Green Hills, this is the fancy, upper-class mall in the Nashville area. Waiting for my Genius Bar appointment, I sat on a chair in the middle of the mall lost and a bit afraid. Afraid of a culture based on consumerism and lost in the sights of wealth and smells of perfumes, food, and new-shiny-clean things.

What does it mean to be home? Is it as the Cheer’s song tells us, “Where everybody knows your name.” or is it “where the heart is?” I do admit that being around people who know my name makes me feel at home — More than anything else this summer I missed being near my dearest friends and family. I also feel at home in places where my heart is full and where I find my truest self being revealed.

Sunday morning we offered communion at my church. My friend and pastor handed me the body of Christ and said, “Welcome home.”

Cultural poverty is a space where people do not have a home. I am one of the most blessed people in the world to feel at ‘home’ in two cultures — Uganda and the States. I feel the tug of both homes and people who love me sometimes I mistake this for being out of place in both cultures but when I think about my true home in the body of Christ — I know that I will always be home and the door will always be open.

Leading Women’s Reflection

On Tuesday I lead a workshop for women in a village near Busia on the Kenyan-Uganda border. When the program was arranged, I tried to explain: wait, I don’t want to lead a workshop, I want to hear from the women. But it was no use, I would lead a day workshop for the women of the region.

I designed the workshop in a way that would allow them to share their songs and stories with me.  I started with a group reflection and study of the story of Deborah.  I wanted to teach them my favorite way to interpret scripture: Read the scripture, feel into the scripture, and then respond out of the scripture.  We read the amazing story of Judge/Prophet/Warrior Deborah (If you haven’t read it or it’s been a while, check out Judges 4:1-24).  The 20 women and I broke up into small groups and then answered questions about the way the characters may have felt in their circumstance.  Then I had them answer questions about what we have to learn from each character.  It was a simple Bible study, but you could tell that the women hadn’t done something quite like this.  Once they understood that I wanted to discuss questions and then share with the group… the lesson worked well.

I shared the way that I respond out of this Scripture based on the last five weeks of my life.  Basically it went something like this:  Deborah is called the Mother of Israel in her victory song because she saw Israel’s oppression, hurt, and lack of leadership.  Therefore, what it means to be mother is to listen to God and be able to lead and provide for your family. In traditional women’s roles, we have been viewed as “property” and that we should be “managed.” Some people say that God wants it that way, but God sees us as beloved and able to be faithful leaders for God.  We can be mothers and women like Deborah and Jael.

During my group meetings it is almost always a man who is translating for me.  This was significant for me in this meeting because I felt like he was accepting my message and helping me to empower these women.

I wanted to hear their songs and stories!  So I talked about the song that was written about Deborah and her story of faith.  I invited them to share their songs and stories of faith.  Like the small groups, it took them a little while to feel free to share, but once they began they were open to share their lives with me.  They shared for over an hour.  Some sang worship songs in their language and songs learned in English, others talked about their marriages, issues of poverty and sickness, struggling for education, having faith in God, and being healed. The Ugandan church has a rich history of testimony and the women need no help or training in how to share the way God has been, is, and will work in their lives!

We took a break and then spent some time interpreting Gen 1:27, being created in the image of God. I focused on having them ask questions trying to discover more about this passage to “feel into” the text.  This turned into a discussion of what it means to be created in the image of God.  I was amazed by their interpretations: they talked about treating everyone fairly because of God’s image, they talked about being made like God, and having God inside of us.  To respond out of the text I asked them to think about how women gain their worth.  We discussed beauty, marriage, and children and then how our worth should be built on the foundation of the image of God.

I emphasized the fact that women are able to interpret Scripture through the Holy Spirit and that you can use this process to interpret the Bible in your life.  This is not always something that women believe about themselves… but it is important for them to know that God has given them the ability to interpret Scripture. —I did the “image of God” lesson on Thursday with a woman’s group and when I was finished explaining the process, one of the women asked what she should do if she cannot read. I had never considered her question and told her to interpret Scripture with a group of women.  Have one read the passage and everyone answers questions in community.

After the workshop, the woman leader who was interpreting for the women’s stories and the image of God lesson asked me how she can share this with her women’s group and if there were more examples.  I told her all she needs to do is be open to the Holy Spirit, keep reading, trying to relate to the text and characters, and then relate the text to her life.  But I am not satisfied with my answer and this question has not left me since she asked it.

There are women’s groups that meet at church every week and there are no women’s Bible studies or curriculum— or none that I have seen or heard (and I have asked).  Churches are lucky to have Bibles, they are extremely fortunate to have hymnals, and curriculum is expensive to print and produce.

What if there were a relevant and culturally sensitive theological curriculum to address the theology of women’s issues and development in Uganda?!

Who would write such a thing? I cannot pretend to take on a task like this as an American woman; however, maybe I could help co-write something that could be adapted, reviewed, and edited by a Ugandan woman theologian.

There are no ordained women in the East African Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  But there are women Priests in the Church of Uganda (Anglican Church).  Today I met with Rev. Joy Isabirye, one of five women to serve in the Busoga diocese.  She is a professor of Old Testament, working on her PhD in ethics in Nairobi, and in her third year of ordained ministry.  She is Rose’s mentor and we went to visit her yesterday.  She answered my never-ending questions with an open heart!  I wish I could type out our whole conversation!  She encouraged me greatly and explained her theological views on polygamy, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, traditional women’s roles, and many other topics.  She also directed me to talk with Rev. Dr. Olivia Nassaka, Dean of Mukono Christian University, about my work. She focuses on theology and women’s issues.  Hopefully I will meet with her this week.  I’ll keep you posted on developments.

Somehow these tangents connect in my head…

It’s been 4 weeks in Uganda and I still wake up in the morning under my mosquito net and think: Whoa, I’m in Africa.

Sometimes it’s not the mosquito net that reminds me it’s the blaring radio music as early as 7:30am.  There is a constant backdrop of pop music played from house windows, restaurants, stores, churches pretty much anywhere there could be a radio playing it is on and usually at full volume.  There is a song I hear literally 5 times a day (I heard it 6 times yesterday).  Actually pretty much anytime I hear it I say to whomever I’m with, I have never heard this song!  (My sarcasm is usually lost on them but I get a kick out of it.) The song is called, Takatiki.  Takatiki is the sound a clock makes like our tick tock.  The song is about a woman who is waiting for her lover to come home, to call, and to be with her.

Last night I went out to listen to live music.  Much of our pop music trickles over to Uganda, but there are many pop Ugandan and African songs.  Another popular song is sung by a man and says, I would rather be with an ugly woman who can produce children and welcome others than just a beautiful woman.  Another one is called Mwami which is the word for husband in Lusoga (it sounds a lot like “mommy” and I originally thought she was calling for her mommy).  A woman is singing to her husband who fulfills her.

Before I left the states, my best friend recommended that I read the book: He’s Just Not That Into You.  (This is the kind of book that only your best friend who loves you and knows your past relationships recommends) I didn’t get a chance to read it, so I brought it with me to Uganda. Basically the book is about the excuses women make for men who may treat them poorly in various situations anything from not calling to fear of commitment to dating other girls it tells the reader to get rid of the guy who is just not into them.  I laughed a lot at myself then I thought about these Ugandan pop songs and the many American pop songs about fulfillment in being intimate with another person.  I am realizing that a lot of empowering women is helping us realize that our worth is not dependent on the men in our lives.

Polygamy has touched so much of this society.  You can see the pain it causes the women and children and the church, for the most part, is silent.  The church does not want to split families and is struggling to address the even deeper issue of poverty.  I want to know what goes through the heart and mind of the third wife and what about the lives of her children?

Friday I went to a culture day with Mukwaya (my teacher/introduction leader friend).  It’s the African version of solo and ensemble where every school choir in a district sings for judges.  Each culture day has a theme to educate the community and has numerous performances.  First each choir must sing the East African Anthem then they compete with speeches, traditional songs, original compositions, and traditional instruments.  This culture day was about the East African Community. I learned that Uganda, Rwanda, Brundi, Kenya, and Tanzania are in a partnership and will soon have one currency.  The speeches and some of the original compositions were advocating for open trade between the countries and have a single language, Swahili.  One of the original compositions talked about poverty and how the east African community is helping to end poverty and children suffering. (I kept thinking I hope this is more like the European union and not NAFTA.)

The traditional songs and instruments were my favorite!  There were no endongos, but there were many children playing the endingidi (thumb piano) and endungu (bow harp).  It was sometimes hard to hear.  I had a really good seat for the anthems, but it got REALLY long and REALLY hot inside the hall space, so I gave up my seat to get some air outside.  When we came back we stood in the back but Mukwaya made sure to translate the songs.  One of the songs was about being a barren woman.  She went to the witch doctor and he blessed her and then she had twins!  The kids energetically acted out the whole thing ha ha!

Ugandan School Song and Dance 100_0271 100_0272

Almost every day this week I have visited with a woman’s group or choir.  I love the time I get to spend with the women because each group is different and I never know what to expect and I always learn something new!  Thursday I met with a group of women who have a development project where they teach women to sew for 5000 shillings a month (that’s $2).  I met some of the women sewing, some with their babies at their feet.  They learn on paper bags, but eventually they are able to make cloths to sell or find a job in town.  It was originally made for the women in the church, but now they have opened it to the community.  This church has a fantastic choir they taught me three songs.

I love choir rehearsals without the instruments present or when the power is out.  Almost every church, in which I have been, has an electric keyboard. I have yet to meet a woman piano player. It was explained to me that men play the instruments because a woman does not have time to learn. The instrumentalist uses one of the 10 drum loops on the keyboard and plays it behind every choir song. Many piano players do a great job of playing by ear and they transpose each of the songs using the black keys.  Yet, it is always TOO LOUD.  It is impossible for me to teach a song with a drum loop and someone trying to figure out chords in the background.  So, I usually ask them to learn the song with me, then I helped them learn the accompaniment.

Kawala UMC DancingSAM_1937

I have to constantly tell myself to slow my speech, especially when teaching.  Today I was in a group and no one was willing to translate, so I spend 1.5 hours speaking slowly to a room full of blank stares by the grace of God we learned the song, “Draw Me Close to You.”

Saturday I went to a beauty parlor, mostly because I wanted the experience to see how and where women get their hair done, but I also wanted to get my toes painted.  I waited for about an hour and watched a weave put into a woman’s head and some other women get up-dos and then put on a gomsei.  My pedicure took about an hour I don’t think my feet have ever been cleaner!  The boy scrubbed my feet!!  I had to ask him to stop because I was worried I would not have any skin left! The basin for my feet was filled with burning hot water, so I knew that it was clean and the water for the clippers was steaming too, so I felt pretty good about the whole thing It cost 15,000 shillings, which is about $6 and my toes look great.  However, my feet became dusty again the moment I walked outside!

Thank you if you are still reading — I realize this is just a random assortment of thoughts and experiences… but I have to share these experiences of a lifetime and find a way to process the privileged that I own in order to have them!

Food, taxis, and dancing!

I am sitting in my living room eating a pineapple.  It is a treat for me in the States, but I have pineapple almost every day here.  You can pick a good pineapple for about 2000 shillings, about 80 cents.  That is a treat for Ugandan families, but I am able to indulge in the best pineapple I have ever had daily.

My favorite Ugandan food is peas over rice.  I do not like peas in the states, but here they cook them in a salty, orange colored sauce that is delicious.  Sometimes I will eat chicken with the same kind of sauce.  Diet here consists mostly of of posho, which is like a corn porridge (I’m not fond of the consistency), red beans, and rice.  They also have motoke, which is plantains cooked into a soft “mashed potato-like” substance.  For bread they eat a lot of chipati, which is like a thick flower-tortilla (they are delicious when they are hot off the pan).  Ugandans eat one main meal sometime around 1:00 in the afternoon.  Sometimes they will eat something light in the morning and around 9:00pm.

I mostly take a peanut-butter sandwich with me to eat during the day.  They make delicious peanut butter roasted fresh from peanuts!!  The other interns and I usually eat dinner at the house and we do our best to cook with what we have.  I try to buy vegetables (mostly egg plant and onions) and then put it over rice.

As you know from my last post, I spent last weekend in Jinja with Rose.  I met Rose through email before I came to Uganda.  She is the President of the United Methodist Women in Uganda and my primary contact.  She works as a supervisor in building construction, is earning her masters in building development, has two beautiful daughters named Rita (8) and Patience (6), is a pastor’s wife, and spends the majority of her “free” time working on women’s development projects.  Rose and a few other UM women are currently training a group of 30 women to create their own chicken farms as well as grow and sell mushrooms.  Rita and Patience are in boarding school because many middle class families do not have the ability to raise enough money for their children to go to good schools while being able to transport them to and from school.  I met the girls last week at a “visitation” day.  Having a musungu visitor on that day was quite the event.  I gave them one of my “Fancy Nancy” books from the states and read it to them – by the end of the book I had over 15 children straining to see the pages.  I explained, “Fancy Nancy likes to speak French like the people in Rwanda!”  It was hilarious reading Fancy Nancy through the eyes of Rita and Patience.  They looked at the pictures and asked, “Is it Christmas?!”  “No,” I explained, “She just likes everything to be fancy all the time.”

Moses, Rose’s husband, is a recent Masters of Divinity graduate from Africa University, a United Methodist graduate institution to train church leaders in Africa.  Africa University’s state’s offices are in the same building as GBHEM, so I have heard a lot about AU and it was great to meet an alum.  I talked with him a lot about the theological teachings and understandings of the African church and UMC.  His MDiv project was about the way a specific United Methodist Church in Africa address and cares for people who are HIV/AIDS positive.  We had some very interesting conversations!  He invited me to preach at his church on Sunday and we were able to talk a lot about the congregation and the message, so I felt very comfortable.

On Monday morning before I journeyed back to Mokono, Rose and I went to the fabric store to buy fabric, buttons, and sash to make me a traditional dress of Ugandan women called Gomez.  I am invited to a traditional wedding initiation this Saturday!

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were filled with appointments with women’s groups in Kampala area.  I was informed last week that it would no longer be best for George to drive me in the intern’s car, so I found other means of transportation.  I learned how to use public transport with Rose in Jinja.  It is cheap, hot, dusty, time consuming, and fascinating!  Public transport consists of old VW-looking vans that are hand-me-downs from Japan and called “taxis.”  The joke in Uganda is, “How many people can you fit in a public taxi?” — “One more!”  There are 4 rows of 3 seats usually filled with four people and two people ride in the front seat.  There is a driver and a man who rides in the first set of 3 seats and collects the money.  He hangs out the window and tries to gather more people in his taxi.  To hail a taxi you basically stand or walk along the side of the road until one picks you up.  There is one road that goes to Kampala, so you basically get in and then you tell them when you want to stop by saying, “Stage.”  You have to watch your bag because sometimes professional pick-pockets ride the taxis.  I only ride taxis by myself during the day, when it is safe.  At night I have an escort and on Thursday evening Jackie and Tony invited me to stay in their guest room in Kampala!

Each day was a special arrangement where I meet someone in Kampala.  Thursday we met at the post office then someone escorts me to the taxi park where we got on another taxi to the church.  If I ever have a question there are plenty of people who I can ask and will help me – praise God!  However, I have yet to go to the taxi park by myself – who knows where I would end up! They have a new one and an old one and are both as large as two city blocks… it is even more confusing than it looks!

A highlight of my time this week was at Kawala UMC where they taught me a song and how to do the traditional dance.  Mostly they laughed with me as I tried to shake my bottom!  Jackie gave me a lesson when I stayed at her house.  You basically step with your toe and land with your heal, as you try to move your hips up and down — which pretty much giggles all the fat on the lower half of your body.  Ha ha ha… I think I’m ready for the wedding tomorrow :)!

Setting up shop

Yesterday I arrived safely in Uganda! The trip was lllooooonnnnggg…. but I am so glad to be here!  After I got my passport stamped and visa, I walked out of the airport to about 200 Ugandans holding 8.5 x 11 signs with people’s names on it.  It was clear that I was not the only one who had only communicated with their contacts via phone and email.  Quickly scanning the wide-eyed crowd, I saw a sign with the Methodist cross and flames and then noticed my name as well as an UMCOR missionary whom was also on my flight and was meeting with the United Methodist folks here in Kampala.

I am staying in a suburb of Kampala.  The guesthouse I am in is a tri-plex with a yard the size of 1/2 a football field surrounded by a square orange brick wall that is about 6 feet.  Where the left goal line would be is a tin overhang covering a concrete space with a chalk board.  It is used for the United Methodist African Children’s choir to rehearse.  I am hoping to see them in action!

There are 3 rooms in this house.  I am in a small back room about 6 x 10 space with a twin-sized bed covered in a mosquito net… cozy.  There are 3 other interns who have been here for about 5 weeks.  Hannah is a Duke Divinity student and we have mutual friends.  Mille and Daniel are seniors at University of Georgia.

The vast majority of today was spent sitting on my front steps and looking out on the yard filled with banana trees and tropical plants and reading a book.  The church here has some type of workshop going on that the Bishop is a part and things haven’t gotten going yet… Rose said that they also wanted to give me a day to rest from my travels.  I am used to jumping into things when I get to a location that I wasn’t sure what to do with myself.  This goes with a theme that God has been teaching me… Nancy, I’m not in a hurry… more on this later.

This evening Hannah and I walked down the left hand side of the clay street (Ugandans drive on the left side of the street b/c they were imperialized by England) that we live on, to purchase some bread and vegetables.  I did not feel unsafe, but everyone we passed stared at us.  There are about 4 small stands in a row selling the same items.  There were big bags of rice, beans, and flour that could be purchased by the pound.  There are about 5 kinds of bread to purchase and a choice of 6 different veggies and 3 different fruits.  My eye was drawn to these small green tear dropped shaped vegetables.  I asked the sales woman what they tasted like, she pointed to the eggplant.  I asked her how she prepares them and she told me to cook them in oil and add other vegetables.  I convinced Hannah to take a chance and we bought 8 of them, some onions, and tomatoes.  We made a stir-fry dish and added chicken.  The woman was right… they tasted exactly like eggplant.

Later I showed Rose, a friend who is helping to arrange my trip, a picture of the veggies and asked her the name of the fruit in English.  She said Garden Eggs… which makes since because they taste like Eggplant.  She also said that people eat them when they want to have an appetite and they help to make a person hungry.  Ha ha… my first Ugandan adventure in cooking and I pick a food that makes you hungry!!

Going to Uganda

I am not quite sure when I fell in love with Uganda.  I know that it was WAY before I ever heard the words, “Invisible Children” or “ONE Campaign.”  Although these are excellent organizations, they put Uganda on the map in a way that emphasizes the hurt and the pain of the region.  I fell in love with the hope and joy, specifically through the music of Uganda.  While at FSU I earned a World Music Certificate, which allowed me to take a course in African music, and to participate in an African music and dance ensemble at FSU.  Ugandan ethnomusicologist Damascus Kafumbe, who taught he how to play a Ugandan bowl-lyre called (e)ndongo, challenged me to dig deeper in my understanding of how Ugandan women relate with music in religious contexts.

Music possesses the ability to heal, empower, connect, and guide its performers and listeners.  Music frequently engages these abilities in religious practices.  I combined all of my deepest interests into a seven week project in Kampala, Uganda for this summer.  I wrote for an “Imagination Grant” with Vanderbilt Divinity School and they are funding part of my trip this summer.  You know, the money is amazing… but what really makes me excited is that the committee is willing to invest in a project of my combined passions!

The central purpose of this project is to explore women’s leadership and liberation in the Christian church through music and dance practice in Kampala, Uganda.  Much has been written about women’s empowerment in Uganda. [1] The power dynamics have been clearly defined as women suffering from forced polygamous relationships, verbal, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, as well as a lack of power in political and family systems.[2] Many have blamed the church as enforcing powerlessness on women in the name of God. [3] Yet there are also examples of women through the church reforming political and cultural norms, in addition to gaining options for economic independence and wider access to education.[4]

Music is inherently powerful due to the importance it plays in Ugandan culture and is not narrowly defined as just song, but also frequently encompasses dance, drama, and proclamation. Recent studies on music and women in Uganda and east Africa describe music’s value as a tool to educate health practices, [5] cope with domestic labor,[6] testify to deliverance,[7] entertain, [8] build community,[9] and employ the power of cultural performance to encourage liberation.[10] In these settings and others, music communicates ideas and messages that are not always spoken but are culturally or intrinsically known.

This summer I hope to:

1.)   Build relationship with and hear the stories of women musicians in the church
2.)   Analyze the role music plays in the church and society
3.)   Observe the use of music in various religious contexts
4.)   Identify the historical, cultural, theological, and political implications of woman’s leadership in the church in Kampala, Uganda
5.)   Identify explicit and intrinsic women’s issues
6.)   Observe the global church

When I get home, I hope to create a curriculum for the church to discuss the theological implications of women’s performance practices in Uganda.  This curriculum could include themes of vocation, calling, ordination, lay leadership, gift, and blessing.

I am in contact with the President of the United Methodist Women, in the East African Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  She is arranging most of my trip, including the opportunity to meet with women’s groups, choirs, and economic partnerships in Kampala and Jinja.

I leave June 20th.  I covet your prayers as I take this trip of a lifetime.  I know that God is going to change and challenge me in powerful ways.  In the words Nouwen I see this journey as “a way in which I am saying, ‘yes’ to God’s call to, ‘Come follow me.'”.[11]  I am hoping to become more in rhythm and pitch with God’s tempo and melody.

I will be updating my blog with experiences, thoughts, and reflections!


[1] Aili Mari Tripp, Women and Politics in Uganda (Kampala: Fountain Publishers, 2000).

[2] Tinyiko Sam Maluleke and Sarojini Nadar, “Overcoming Violence against Women and Children,” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 114 (2002).

[3] Dorothy M. Casale, “Women, Power, and Change in Lugbara (Uganda) Cosmology : A Re-Interpretation,” Anthropos 77, no. 3-4 (1982).

[4] Fiona Bowie, Deborah Kirkwood, and Shirley Ardener, Women and Missions : Past and Present: Anthropological and Historical Perceptions, Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Women (Providence: Berg, 1993).

[5] Gregory F. Barz, Singing for Life: Hiv/Aids and Music in Uganda (New York: Routledge, 2006).

[6] Fiona Bowie, Deborah Kirkwood, and Shirley Ardener, Women and Missions : Past and Present: Anthropological and Historical Perceptions, Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Women (Providence: Berg, 1993)..

[7] Dorothy M. Casale, “Women, Power, and Change in Lugbara (Uganda) Cosmology : A Re-Interpretation,” Anthropos 77, no. 3-4 (1982).

[8] Lovemore Togarasei, “The Implications of the Dominance of Women in the Zimbabwean Music Industry for the Ordination of Women,” Scriptura 86 (2004).

[9] Karen Ralls and Graham Harvey, Indigenous Religious Musics (Aldershot; Burlington; Singapore; Sydney: Ashgate, 2000).

[10] Carol Ann Weaver, “Kenyan Women’s Music : An Agent of Social, Cultural Change?,” Conrad Grebel Review 12, no. (1994).

[11] Henri J. M. Nouwen, “The road to daybreak: a spiritual journey,” Darton, Longman & Todd, (1997).

World AIDS Day, December 1st 2010

Months ago I decided to write my final paper for my Popular Music and Religious Identity course on the theological issues addressed in the cultural performance fighting against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda.  I decided to analyze the musical text and stories gathered by Gregory Barz in his book Singing for Life: Hiv/Aids and Music in Uganda and the meaning that the music promotes in the lives of the women performing and listening.

Cultural performance is a way to cope with, educate about, and understand HIV/AIDS.  The music gives the performer a way to reconcile the terrible and fearful disease with their own bodies.  Barz demonstrates how women reconcile living with HIV/AIDS through a story about visiting three villages in one day.  Every woman that he talked with in the village said that she was HIV positive.  Barz asked the director of an aid organization named Florence Kumunhyu why she and the women still sing and dance if every woman in the village carried the disease.  She replied, “Well this singing is all we have left to give our daughters.  At the same time we have to encourage the men to stop the cycle.  We cannot give up or otherwise the cycle will never be broken.”

Today in Vanderbilt Divinity chapel service we remembered our brothers and sisters around the world affected by HIV/AIDS.  In the sermon my friend used the story of the woman who had been suffering from bleeding for 12 years (Mark 5:25-34).  This is a perfect story to address women in Uganda who are trying to live positively with HIV/AIDS.  So often the church as viewed AIDS as God’s solution (or punishment) for sin, not as a problem that needs to be prevented and addressed.  We don’t know why this woman has an issue with blood and we don’t know her name, but we do know that Jesus had compassion on her, called her daughter, freed her from suffering, and sent her away in peace (Mark 5:34).

It is my hope that the church will act like Jesus and love and care for those around us who are suffering and surviving with HIV/AIDS — whether they are our next door or across an ocean.

Sponsoring Ben

I just sponsored a child with Food for the Hungry!  I have a friend who was a missionary with them and I have been to 50 concerts where they pass out those cards with children on them and thought… someday I should do that.  My best friend has sponsored a compassion child for years… she inspired me too.

I decided to pick a kid 13 or older because they always get the shaft.  I saw this kid Ben from Uganda and it said that he likes music.  As most of you know, I love Ugandan music because FSU COM of a dear friend of mine from Uganda, so I chose to sponsor Ben… or maybe he chose me?!  His picture is below please pray for him!

Ben from Uganda

Ben from Uganda