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Winter Edition
Volume 97, Number 3

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International students
As a child of Rwandan refugees, Agaba Bisengo '06 endured a childhood marked by tragedy. But far from letting her past consume her, Bisengo, a politics major, is determined to make the most of her present opportunities. Pictured in Washington, D.C., where she is participating in the American Studies Program, a program of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Bisengo will be leading a group of 10 Messiah College students to Rwanda for One Hundred Days of Hope, a gathering designed to honor the victims of the country's 1994 genocide.

Extending the global embrace
Shared experiences of a culturally diverse campus enrich everyone’s learning

By Megan (Davis) Scott ’97 and Dulcimer Hope Brubaker ’04

This spring potentially thousands of people from around the world will congregate in Rwanda to celebrate its culture, serve those in need, and honor those who died in that country’s genocide over a decade ago. This gathering, named One Hundred Days of Hope, was organized to bring healing and hope to the people of Rwanda and will span the corresponding 100 days in 2006 as the actual genocide did in 1994. And among those assembled will be Agaba Bisengo, a senior politics major, leading a group of 10 other students from Messiah College who will be there, joining their voices in solidarity with the Rwandan people.

One student’s story

Agaba is only one of many international students at Messiah College who brings firsthand accounts of world events that most North Americans might only catch a glimpse of on the news. Born in the Congo to Rwandan diplomats who had fled their native country, Agaba and her sister attended boarding school in Uganda—until 1994, when civil unrest broke out in Rwanda, and the institution turned them out on the street because it was no longer receiving tuition from their parents. With no way to reach their family, 11-year-old Agaba and her sister had no choice but to fend for themselves. Fortunately, the sisters were not in their native country to see the streets of Rwanda as they flowed with blood during the systematic massacre of the Tutsi people. But soon it became clear that their parents were not coming back for them. The one hundred days of genocide left more than one million people dead—including Agaba’s parents, who had returned to their home country at precisely the wrong moment, and never made it out alive. Agaba was among the 15 percent of all Rwandan children orphaned by the genocide.

In 1996, Agaba’s oldest sister, who was already a resident of the U.S., finally succeeded in securing the necessary paperwork for the other two sisters to come join her. Agaba, who went on to attend public high school in the States, eventually became a U.S. citizen and, today, is a beloved member of a close-knit family of international students at Messiah College. At Messiah, through the love and support of other students, God became real to Agaba for the first time. “I don’t have my parents, but he has been the greatest parent ever,” she says. “And my friends from Messiah are my family.”

Over the last ten years, the international student population has more than doubled at Messiah. This year alone, there are 70 international students from 25 countries studying at the College. Agaba is one of a growing number of students from around the globe who have chosen to further their educations in Grantham. And as Messiah’s increasingly diverse student population infuses the campus with unique stories, gifts, and perspectives, the entire community is enriched.

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