Today, I attended my first college class in many years – probably close to 15 years, actually. It’s a Sociology class, which reminds me of the only other sociology class I had years ago in the Haley Center on Auburn’s campus. The classroom I visited today was about 8,000 miles from the Haley Center. It is on the beautiful campus of Africa Renewal University (ARU) in Buloba, Uganda. The class is made up of students from four different countries in Eastern Africa. And today’s topic is… culture. Since this is my first trip outside the U.S., I see this as a great learning opportunity and listen closely to the lecture and discussion. I learn that there are many very different cultures within Uganda alone, its neighboring countries of Sudan, Kenya, and Rwanda, and also each contain many different cultures within themselves.

The teacher, Vincent Byamukama, smiles as he speaks to his students with passion and authority. He engages his students by asking many questions and lively discussions ensue about community, family, and societies. Vincent knows all of his students, they all know him, and they know each other. They are all part of their very own community which exists at ARU.

The interaction is very similar to many U.S. college classrooms, but the classroom itself is quite different. The east and west walls of the room consist almost entirely of windows, which provide a terrific view of several mountain peaks to the east. Although several solar-powered LED lights hang from the ceiling, the natural light that enters the windows provides adequate light for the classroom on this sunny day. The windows also allow the classroom to be cooled with outside air. Although we are very close to the equator, the air is cool and pleasant on this October day at an elevation of 4,000 feet. There are no projectors or smart boards, but a large chalkboard on the classroom’s north wall works quite well. Only the desks and concrete floor resemble most other college classrooms I’ve seen.

I’m able to witness learning taking place today, as some of Eastern Africa’s next generation of social workers are being trained. More importantly, though, values are being instilled and reinforced in these young men and women. Vincent and the other instructors here at ARU teach through the lens of scripture. Today, Vincent use Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 12:12 (the Church has different parts like our bodies), as an analogy of society. Even though I am far from home, I am thankful to be part of ARU’s society for the next several days.

Merrill Hammett