The Beauty I See
Dr. Westblade on his travels to Turkey and Uganda
Written by Breana Noble
Dr. Don Westblade is a religion professor at Hillsdale, and he loves to travel. He has lived in Germany and France and traveled to a variety of places such as Egypt and Sweden, but his two most frequented countries are Turkey and Uganda.
As the former advisor of the Hillsdale College Honors Program, Dr. Westblade traveled to Turkey five times with rising Honors seniors to explore the county where Greco-Roman tradition met Judeo-Christian culture. He has also traveled there with non-college groups.
“The history and the people there make it a wonderful place to travel,” Westblade said. “The Turks are very hospitable. They’re very easy to love. Love is an attractive quality in people. That’s the beauty I see in them.”
Dr. Westblade also found beauty in the people of the “Pearl of Africa” when he traveled to Uganda in 2009.
“The people of Uganda are so gentle,” Dr. Westblade said. “They are sincere, inquisitive people. They lack the kind of arrogance that puts you off from a person. Despite the poverty, there’s a lot of joyful people. They may be happier in their poverty than many richer Americans are in their wealth.”
As faculty advisor of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Hillsdale College, Westblade has helped to plan several trips for students interested in working with New Hope Uganda, an organization aimed at helping orphans.
The organization originally served orphans of the Rwandan Genocide, but today children often lose their parents to diseases, especially AIDS. Through New Hope Uganda, these children are given a new family, with parents that they call aunt and uncle.
“[New Hope Uganda] didn’t want to just create an orphanage to warehouse kids. They wanted to rebuild the family structure for kids who lost their parents,” Westblade said. “The kids live with the family, they go to schools as a whole community and are given the life skills that anybody gets as a normal family, so they’re prepared to reenter the world, not only with academic and practical training, but with a spiritual foundation that a family supplies.”
Dr. Westblade hopes to make yet another trip to Uganda this coming summer with College Baptist Church and anyone else interested in getting involved. He believes that Africa is a crucial continent for Christianity.
“I think that the future of Christianity on the planet may depend upon Africa,” Dr. Westblade said. “America is heading off in secularized directions. . . . I just don’t know if Christianity in America is the robust heart of the faith on the planet. Africa is where it’s growing.”
According to Dr. Westblade, those at New Hope Uganda describe Christianity in Africa as “a mile wide and an inch deep.” The dedicated Hillsdale professor hopes to be a part of deepening the religion. He explained how students at Hillsdale do not ask the same type of questions that those in Africa ask.
“They wanted to know what color Adam was,” Dr. Westblade said. “They thought Adam was the first white man. They thought Adam was my father. They didn’t believe he was their father. We had to deal with the issue of Adam being the father of all people. That, biologically, the Africans and I were distant brothers and sisters. They were really delightfully surprised to hear that Adam was their father, that Genesis applied to Africa.”
Based on his experiences, Dr. Westblade sees travel as a wonderful opportunity.
“It obviously expands our horizons,” he said. “It exposes us to people who think in a different way. It’s inspiring to see the grandeur, the majesty, the variety of the world’s landscapes, and the size of the world. Travel is a thing against insularity and for inspiration. The world is full of interesting people to meet. We say [the defining characteristic of Hillsdale] is the people; in the world, it’s also the people.”
Above all, one of the most important parts of travel for Dr. Westblade is the missionary aspect of it.
“Love means benefiting other people. There’s no greater thing with which to benefit other people than the most valuable, precious thing in all the universe,” he said. “You can bring people money, you can bring people food, but you’d be shortchanging them if you withheld God. The Gospel’s not called good news by mistake. It seems loving to me to tell people what the good news is.”
Breana Noble is a freshman at Hillsdale College and plans to study Politics and Journalism. She writes for The Collegian newspaper at Hillsdale and works as an assistant in the Hillsdale College Athletics office. Breana is also involved in Swing Club, Young Americans for Freedom, College Republicans, and “The Nest” Bible Study.