The Rev. Carolyne Adhola ’23, Diocese of Bondo, Anglican Church of Kenya
In January 2023, I participated in a 3-week Cross-Cultural Education Program (CCEP) in Costa Rica through Virginia Theological Seminary. My experience was fascinating. From the Mother’s Union (MU) group which was founded on July 29,1929, I experienced oneness in Christ and different affirming ways of spreading the good news of Christ. For example, MU offers hospitality, friendship, and unconditional love to women, children, youth, and men in the community. Conducting contextual Bible Studies monthly, giving help to the needy, visiting the sick, distributing school supplies and doing activities to raise funds for the Church were each remarkable lessons I learned from them. At Biblica Universidad I learned the impact of liberation theology. Since 1922, the institution has been advocating for women’s liberation through education and deconstruction of patriarchal dominance and by training and creating leadership spaces for women. The reality is seen in the ratio of different genders in the faculty and by Costa Rica making history electing the first female president in the Caribbean, Laura Chinchilla Miranda (2010-2014) .
More fascinating were my Spanish language classes every morning, (estoy feliz de que puedo hablar un poco de español). The cooking and dancing classes were amazing: l learned how to cook “arroz y frijoles” differently and we shared the meals together. Socialization moments for dancing, particularly salsa, cannot be understated. I built relationships, felt love, and showed love to people from diverse cultures. The sharing of meals and dancing space with a partner gave me a sense of connectedness. Playing volleyball together, irrespective of gender and status, was also a life-giving affirmation of the importance of sharing God’s unconditional love with the “other.”
Sitting at a round table learning from Anglicans/Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Jews, evangelicals and other faith communities enriched my Anglican Communion identity through their ecumenical and interreligious witness and hospitality. Sharing a meal together at my host’s home with all the different faith communities and their singing different songs for me as a sign of farewell was interculturally and relationally empowering.
I have learned that vulnerability is not a weakness, but it is accepting that I am not perfect, and I can learn more from the “other.” My take-away from my CCEP experience is to love and accept people as they are, and to understand that God’s mission invites us to learn other cultures and appreciate the diversity in God’s creative world.
My intercultural experience from this CCEP will contribute significantly to the relationship with my VTS family and to my ministry across the world. I have connected the MU coordinator from my Diocese with the MU coordinator of Anglican Diocese of Costa Rica and my hope is that they will learn from each other. Muchas Gracias to the Seminary Consultation on Mission, the Center for Anglican Communion Studies and to the entire VTS leadership for sponsoring my cross-cultural immersion in Costa Rica.