By Michele Robbins, Pastoral Intern, Epworth Berkeley United Methodist Church
Our mission team of 9 persons from Berkeley, CA. is preparing to visit at least two Communities of Shalom in Uganda for two weeks in January. The purpose of our trip is to nurture international friendship, engage in cultural exchange, and assist two regional Shalom trainers in offering a second round of ShalomZone Training to over 200 Ugandan coffee farmers, teachers, seamstresses starting their own businesses, and community health workers focused on HIV/AIDS mitigation in rural areas.
During the trip, we will be immersed in three distinctly different regions, each one is unique in its religious, economic, and cultural characteristics:
Hoima region, in Western Uganda, is a very poor area with high HIV/AIDS incidence. The focus in this area is on community health and rural development. There we will meet with Father Paul and Brother Julius who lead Sustainable Action for Rural Sectors (SARS)– an NGO that is supported in part by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, WorldHope Corps, and Communities of Shalom.
Jinja, near the source of the River Nile in Uganda, is growing economically as the people focus on health concerns and economic community development. We will attend a prayer service in a Mosque and meet with Muslim farmers to learn more about their community. We also have been invited to speak and participate in local Pentecostal, Baptist, and Methodist worship services.
We also plan to meet the coffee farmers in Mbale who grow the coffee we drink at coffee hour at church. Their Fair Trade co-op called Delicious Peace includes farmers Jewish, Muslim, and Christian farmers that have learned how to work together for the common good. Fair Trade is one of my passions, so this part of the trip will further my knowledge of how communities are made stronger through Fair Trade.
This mission trip will definitely challenge my current social location as I have never been outside of the United States. I have grown up as a privileged American who until about five years ago took my privilege for granted. I have met many people from around the world and have loved to learn about their culture, but it has always been from the comfort of my own community. This trip will take me out of that box and immerse me in a culture very different from my own.
My future ministry, I believe, will include Communities of Shalom and Fair Trade products for justice. This trip will strengthen my knowledge in both and give me personal connections to people I can work with through the United Methodist Church and its ecumenical partners.
Shalom, Salaam, Peace,
Michele Robbins, seminary student at Pacific School of Religion and pastoral intern at Epworth Berkeley UMC
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