During her semester in Uganda, Katie Heidengren ’16 loved spending evenings sitting around the coal stove with her host family, telling stories and singing while the rice and beans simmered.
“I was immediately welcomed into the family as their daughter and sister, no questions asked,” says Katie. “And I quickly came to appreciate how much Ugandans value the importance of presence within relationships.”
Uganda Christian University was a short walk away. There, through the CCCU-sponsored Uganda Studies Program, Katie took classes in contemporary Christianity, traditional African religion, and the Luganda language. The semester abroad was a perfect complement to Katie’s Christian education major and theology minor, and it fulfilled Katie’s desire for a nonhierarchical and collaborative cross-cultural learning experience.
“I wanted to sit at the feet of Ugandans and learn from them,” says Katie.
Katie spent many hours in conversation with her host father, an Anglican priest and graduate of Yale, exploring theology, history, politics, and the impact of factional divisions within the church.
Katie’s interest in church factions had heightened dramatically after her weeklong excursion to neighboring Rwanda at the beginning of the semester. There, she interacted with survivors and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide and visited sites of the carnage. Long-term, Katie plans to attend seminary or pursue a graduate degree in outdoor ministry in preparation for a life of service to the church or parachurch organization.
Katie longs to help disciple others in the Christian faith and to share the many moving and sometimes troubling lessons she has gleaned from her extensive globe-trotting, particularly the decidedly high price Rwanda paid in 1994 when the “blood of tribalism” flowed “deeper than the waters of baptism”—a reality so tragic and powerfully imprinted, it continues to inform her life today.