Student Leadership Initiative, Africa

Seven members of SMU’s recently formed Student Leadership Initiative (SLI) are in Rwanda, Uganda and Johannesburg during May 2012. The students are researching human rights issues and empowerment solutions for three African countries recovering from decades of genocide, war, famine, disease and apartheid. Pat Davis, associate director of the Embrey Human Rights Program, is accompanying them on the program.

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Day 3 in Rwanda – Urukundo (“Love”)

An update from Katie, a sophomore majoring in dance, international studies and human rights:

We went to the last and most sickening genocide memorial this morning, Murambi, a 2-and-a-half drive from Kigali. I don’t care to write or reflect on it right now – my heart has had enough for this week. All I know is that this world is broken and our God is good.

I am currently laying in my bunk at Urukundo (“Love”) with Allison above me and a white mosquito net around me. I feel like I’m in a princess canopy bed. Urukundo is a children’s home run by Mama Arlene, an 85-year-old saint from New Hampshire. She’s just a normal mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, but she called on God to do something in her life and guess what? He brought her to Africa to care for His children.

She is a woman of God and overflowing with love… Her Rwandese assistant, Oscar, is no different. He is a reflection of Christ. This place is home to 43 children. Most are orphans or “throw-away babies” – children who were found as infants abandoned and left behind.

After Mama Arlene showed us around the guest house and the pre-school, she took us to meet the toddlers. Oh my goodness, did they ever touch my heart… 15 little boys and girls, so polite and well-behaved. I was the first to crouch down and open my arms to them – within 3 minutes we all had one baby on our hip and two more holding our hand. We read books to them, we cuddled them, Corbin and Michael gave rides on their shoulders. I love children… I love them. I want to be a mother to every throw-away baby in the entire world.

I had a special friend named Johnny. He is 3 years old and at first I thought he was a girl because of the hot pink floral rain jacket he was wearing. He particularly enjoyed giving me kisses – on my nose, my cheek, my lips. He has big round eyes and a silent chuckle that makes me want to cry – it’s so beautiful. His spirit is so gentle and God has blessed him so much.

We all prayed together, served the kids dinner and then ate our own, and then joined in their daily evening devotion. We sat in a circle, Americans and Rwandans together, and prayed and worshipped and heard the word of God – Isaiah 61:1-4. The Spirit of God moved in that place… 5-year-old Nelly sat to my right and acted very shy. But as we sang “Because He Lives” she looked into my eyes the entire time. She was so pleased that I knew the words. We just sat there, looking at each other, both with brown eyes, and singing to our same God. I hope He whispered the same secrets into her heart as He did into mine: We are all His children. An orphan in Africa and a student in America – we’re the same. Loved by our Lord.

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