01 April 2012

Cultural Differences...and How We're Really All the Same

Last week we had a Spiritual Conference at RTC. I wasn't able to attend every session but the ones I did were great. There is something so powerful to me every time I got to Chapel at RTC. Something amazing about being in a room surrounded by men and women from all over Africa. I can't describe it exactly. It's powerful to me knowing that despite all our different backgrounds we all ended up at the same place: at RTC at the same time. And maybe there's something about knowing that despite the fact that we come from all over the world, we are united by our common faith. I have so much to learn from them. We took communion on Friday and having the opportunity to experience communion with people from around the world was so special. [Actually it was more than special, I'm just having trouble putting it into words.]

Anyway, we also had a cultural afternoon on Wednesday as part of the week. It was full of skits, songs, dances, and a lot of laughter. It made my day. And my week. It was so fun to see the students sharing bits of themselves, their countries, their cultures. There were traditional songs, marriage ceremonies, and dances. Plus skits reflecting things they've learned this semester. I think the best part was sitting there, often not understanding the words/language, and yet still being able to enjoy everything with those around me. Laughter and humor are contagious. I decided that there's something joyful and almost spiritual about sitting in a room of people and laughing together. It breaks down language barriers and cuts through divisions. I think laughter [at least genuine laughter, not the laughing at others kind of laugher] bonds people in a powerful way. When we learn to laugh with people who are different than us, we share something with them.

I was struck [again] by how thankful I am to be here, in Uganda, and at RTC. I love these people so much! And consistently humbled that I have the opportunity to know them and learn from them.

And I also realized [or re-realized] that deep down we're all the same. The marriage ceremonies might be different but the premise is the same: two people joining their lives together. The languages might be different but the songs are still about trusting God. Our cultures are different, but I am constantly reminded that people are people. I wrote about this last month...how pain is pain, joy is joy. And this week I discovered that laughter is laughter. Shared experiences, especially ones that create strong emotion [sadness, laughter, etc.] bond people in mysterious ways. And for that, I am grateful for this week. For a chance to enjoy time with my African brothers and sisters. A chance to learn with them and about them. A chance to hear them worship and a chance to watch them laugh.

South Sudanese students sharing songs
about God in Juba Arabic

Traditional Masaai song

Congolese marriage song/dance


I love RTC students!

RTC School of Music...amazing to hear them sing!

Side note: Several students asked me why I didn't share anything about American culture. 'American culture' is a funny thing and hard to explain. We don't have songs to sing when people get engaged or cows that are given. We don't have the same emphasis on 'traditional songs'. I was glad I wasn't asked to share anything because I have no idea what I would have shared!


  1. Happy Birthday and Auld Lang Syne? And, you could sing the Alma Mater and explain the idea of a school song?

  2. Emmanuel AkatukundaApril 2, 2012 at 3:22 AM

    thanks Rachel for sharing. your presence and ministry at RTC adds another sweet dimension to our spirituality.

  3. @Lisa: Good ideas! I didn't think of any of those. Although, I'm still glad I didn't have to share because I wouldn't have wanted to sing anything in front of everyone, even if I had an idea. :)

  4. Caleb FetterhoffApril 9, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    Hey, Rachel,

    This cultural day looks like it was a great time! Thanks for sharing about it; I would have loved to have been there to hear the traditional songs and see the ceremonies; I wonder what Maasai music is like? :-) And in answer to your side note, you could have sung "Oh My Darling Clementine" or "My Old Kentucky Home" as an example of traditional American music! :-)

    1. Thanks, Caleb! I think you would have really enjoyed the music. It was so fun to hear and see everything! And thanks for the suggestions...I hadn't thought of those! :)