Child Life Specialists at Kibuye

By Alyssa

For the last few months we've averaged 60-70 kids on our pediatric service (including malnutrition and neonatology) and another 20+ kids on the surgery service on any given day. One thing I've lamented about the situation for these kids is that they didn't have any stimulating activities available to them. The kids with leg fractures, for example, stay in traction for 4-6 weeks. They feel pretty well but have nothing to do but lie in bed until their bones heal. And one consequence of severe malnutrition is apathy. The most malnourished kids just lie still with no interest or energy to interact with the world around them. Emotional and sensory stimulation (i.e. play therapy) is one of the necessary steps in the treatment plan for them recommended by the World Health Organization - arguably just as important as feeding them, keeping them warm, and treating their infections.

What I've always loved about children's hospitals is the way they go out of their way to make kids feel welcome and cared for. I remember being a 10 year old in the hospital myself and being amazed to find a playroom with so many crafts and toys and activities to help pass the long hours.

Well, I'm excited to announce that we now have Child Life at Kibuye!

Susan and Judith (in the above 2 pictures) visit the 6 different hospital rooms with pediatric patients every afternoon and spend hours going to each bedside to provide attention and care. They provide educational play for all ages, and the kids just light up when they enter the room. It's made my job easier as the patients are less afraid of foreigners now - even scary ones with stethoscopes! And the malnourished and orthopedic patients have especially benefitted from this special attention and love. 

So what is "Child Life?" I'm happy to report that this description from the Boston Children's Hospital webpage actually describes what Judith and Susan are doing with our patients here in Burundi:

Child Life Specialists enhance a patient's emotional, social and cognitive growth during a hospital stay, giving special consideration to each child's family, culture and stage of development.

Using developmental interventions and play, they help patients and families adjust to and understand the hospital and their medical situation. Child Life Specialists:
  • Help patients develop ways to cope with fear, anxiety, separation and adjustment to the hospital experience
  • Provide consultation to the health care team regarding developmental and psycho-social issues
  • Provide preparation and individualized support before and after medical procedures
  • Facilitate developmentally appropriate play, including medical play, at the bedside, in activity rooms and in clinic areas
  • Initiate tutoring services
 But, we have a special added component to our child life program that Boston Children's probably doesn't have. Because who understands child life better than children themselves?! The missionary kids regularly participate in coming to the hospital to play with the inpatients or give eggs to the kids in the outpatient malnutrition program. And of course all the patients and parents love to see them coming!

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14


Maracuja Madness!

by Rachel

Burundi is a country obviously known for its bananas (if by obviously I mean we mention it a lot to people).  We are also able to get pineapples, oranges, and mangoes in season.  Apples are available as expensive imports from Kenya, and occasionally we'll find a watermelon or some gooseberries as well.  It's not a huge variety (and boy do we miss berries of all sorts) but it's good.  One of the available fruits that I haven't yet mentioned is something I had never tried before our arrival in Burundi: the passion fruit.  It's also known locally as "maracuja."  The fruit is slightly larger than the size of a golf ball and when ripe has a deep purple exterior.  The inside is an orangish-yellow pulp with black seeds.  To eat them, we cut them in half and suck out the inside, or use a spoon to scoop it out.  It's a little bit tangy/tart and a little bit sweet, along the lines of citrus.
Ben demonstrating the inside of a passion fruit
 When we moved into our house, now just over 2 years ago, a number of plants were planted in our yard...mostly saplings, but some flowers and vines as well.  Passion fruit is a vine that tends to wrap around trees for growth.  We were hoping to get it (and some bougainvillea) to grow on the brick walls around the housing area, but so far it hasn't attached well.  It HAS flourished, however, propped up by sticks or attached to bushes.  We returned in January to find no fewer than 10 mature passion fruit vines around the edges of our yard, and they have really been producing.  It doesn't seem to be seasonal, and so most weeks we have a "harvest" of 20-40 ripe passion fruits.  You can see one of the vines below, which is actually growing on a loquat tree (apparently a fruit but not one that I've ever enjoyed).  All of the little green globes are passion fruits in progress.
How many passion fruits can you see here?  More than 15!
So, what do you do with passion fruits?  The kids love to eat them, but you can only eat so many, I suppose.  I have been scouring the internet for recipes and have found some winners so far.  I have made passion fruit sorbet in our ice cream maker, passion fruit cake w/ passion fruit icing for Ben's birthday party last March, and last week I stumbled upon a super yummy passion fruit curd (this might sound weird if you've never heard of lemon curd, but it's a sort of spread, like a cross between jam and pudding).  I feel like a passion fruit meringue pie should be possible, but haven't tried it yet.  We'll see what new creations reveal themselves in the weeks to come!  I read online that these fruits are hard to come by in the US, available only in specialty grocery stores and sometimes costing up to $3/apiece so you might have to come visit us if you want to try them. :)  If you find yourself with your own overabundance of passion fruit, drop me a note and I'll send you some recipes.
Passion fruit birthday cake


COTW: The Last Living Child

By Alyssa

Ten-year-old Claver was admitted to our pediatrics service 2 1/2 weeks ago as a last resort. He had been previously hospitalized elsewhere where he was treated for malaria, bacterial infection, and severe anemia. But despite 6 blood transfusions, he continued to be severely anemic. In fact he seemed to have worsened bloody urine after each blood transfusion. The situation was made more dire by the fact that he had 2 sisters who died with the same symptoms - one at age 5 and the other at age 11. His father also has had similar symptoms intermittently in life (and ended up being hospitalized at another hospital while Claver was at ours). And the family lost one baby at birth, so Claver is the only remaining child.

Our initial physical exam revealed a very sick boy with difficulty breathing, extreme pallor, a large spleen (see picture below), and fever. He was barely conscious on admission. His initial hemoglobin level was 2.6 (normal is 12-14).

We kept transfusing him and he kept bleeding. Thankfully we had blood in our blood bank at the time - not always a given here. After a transfusion when he was more conscious, he would cry out, "I'm dying! I'm dying!" His mother cried often, too, seeing her suffering son and knowing he would likely die like his siblings. We added steroids in hopes that that would stop his body from destroying the needed red blood cells. I consulted a pediatric hematologist friend in the US who kindly sent an email to all her colleagues for help with this challenging case. They of course were used to much more information (lab tests, etc.) being available for an ICU case like this, but they rose to the challenge and helped us consider possible diagnoses and treatments. And they even looked at his blood smear slide which we sent back to the US with a visitor. After 4 transfusions, he was still losing a lot of blood and at that point we could no longer get an IV in him despite many attempts. A visiting surgeon came to the rescue and placed a central IV line - something very rarely done here.

After the fifth blood transfusion (at our hospital, 11th in total), he started to turn the corner. He stopped calling out that he was dying and he stopped hiding under the covers. He no longer looked deathly pale. He began to eat a bit and after a couple days started to sit up. We continued his treatment for pneumonia but we no longer needed to give him any blood. And today he happily went home - see him and his joyful mother in the picture below. His father also recovered and came to pick him up. We still don't have a clear diagnosis (probably a familial hemolytic anemia of some sort) and it's possible he could become ill with the same symptoms again, but we'll celebrate the victory today. I really cringed every morning I came into the hospital those first few days expecting to hear he had died in the night. But God saved him. These are the miracles to remember - the glimpses of what will come one day fully when there is no more sickness or death.


Wedding Clothes: A Cultural Window

(from Eric)

One of the wonderful things about crossing cultures is the window it can provide into your existing world.  The world around us now can sometimes be different in just the right way for you to look at your home world with a new light.  Rachel wrote about this years ago in terms of reading the Bible in a foreign language.  A few days ago, in hospital devotions, I had a similar moment.

Pastor Luc was reading from Revelation 19:7-8.  It is a classic passage which describes the church, or the unified group of believers in Jesus, as a bride prepared for a wedding where Jesus (here referred to as "the Lamb") himself is the groom.  It reads:  

"Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to cloth herself with fine linen, bright and pure - for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints."

Pastor Luc then started to talk about traditional Burundian culture.  Though the tradition has been greatly modified for some of the more modern Burundians, it sounds like this practice is still the case in rural villages, and something like it survives even in the cities.  The wedding dress is picked out by the groom, sight unseen by the bride until the moment comes to put it on (right now, many western ladies are having panic attacks at the thought of their husband donning this responsibility).  In addition, at the time of the wedding, the groom gives his bride an entirely new wardrobe, and the bride gives all of her old clothes to other people.  From this moment on, she is clothed by her husband, with nothing remaining from her pre-married life.

I find this is a compelling image.  There is obviously a strong image of trust.  There is also an image of a shifting of one's identity, a belonging now to someone else.  From the husband's perspective, there is a very public image of his provision for his wife.

Pastor Luc was talking about the church, about us in our relation to God.  "the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints."  A gift.  A gift that calls us to trust in the giver.  A gift that shifts our identity from being those who clothe themselves to those look to God for their provision.  I doubt I'll ever look at the Bible's use of wedding clothes the same again.  For that, I thank Burundi and the God who is work in their culture.


2016 Update Video

Thanks, Carlan, for putting together this awesome video for us!  All of the Serge teams presented a video on our work to share in group prayer sessions.  It was shown at our Spain conference last month.  We thought some of you might enjoy it as well.

2016 Kibuye Update from Kibuye Hope on Vimeo.



by Carlan

One of the encouraging and perhaps unanticipated blessings of God calling this team to Burundi is the incredible amount of musical talent present on our team. Readers of this blog will certainly be aware of Eric McLaughlin's guitar and vocal talents but Rachel plays piano and teaches music, John Cropsey has a saxophone in country and has played it for church, Jason Fader had led worship on the guitar to highlight only a few (and sorry to anyone I neglected).

But though she may not draw overly much attention to this, one of Michelle's greatest anticipated joys about moving to Burundi is participating in this musical milieu and partnering with Julie Banks to advance music literacy in all directions, most uniquely our appreciation of traditional Burundian music.

videoSo it is really no surprise that when we were in Bujumbura at the end of our recent trip to visit the folks of Kibuye that music just sprung up around Michelle. In my years of prior service and visitation in Burundi I had never seen such an instrument nor heard it played with such skill in a traditional folk tune. Part drum, violin and guitar, this unique instrument proved mildly difficult for Michelle and Eric to play, which I take as a good sign that it requires substantial practice. I hope you are duly impressed with the umutama (elder gentleman) who demonstrated it for us and sold Michelle the instrument on the spot. Enjoy!


Non-Academic Learning Assessment

by Heather

And another school year has ended.  It’s time to think back over what have we have learned this year.  The kids can tell you about historical events, about the solar system, about books and math and art projects and Kirundi field trips.  And they’ll tell you all about their classmates and their fabulous teacher.  It was an excellent academic year.  It was also an excellent year for non-academic learning and growth in these areas:

1.  Involving the whole family in hospital work:  Of course, our kids have always known that their part in the work here includes sharing (and missing) their dad when he is needed at the hospital all day and many evenings and weekends.  But this year, more than ever before, the girls have been able to participate in hospital ministry directly.  They bring things up to the hospital – like eggs and milk for patients or food for the OR staff when operations continue into the night.  They help with hospital errands, shaking many hands along the way.  They pray for Jason’s patients by name, and they attend hospital celebrations.  Anna loves going up to the hospital with Jason sometimes when he is called to see patients in the evenings.  In fact, she is currently considering a career in anesthesia so that she can work at the hospital with her dad forever. 

2.  Processing Life, Suffering,  and Death:  When our children go up to the hospital with us, there’s no glossing over the realities of suffering, and death.  A few weeks ago, the girls and I gathered some coloring pages and food to bring to a young patient who was recovering after surgery, but we couldn’t find her when we got to the ward where she had been.  A nurse broke the news that the little girl had died in the night.  Our 10-year-old began to cry right there in the hospital hallway.  So our children join us in processing life, suffering, death, and our faith that God will someday redeem all the wrongs of this world. 

3.  Playing Outside:  Lest anyone think that these kids contemplate the weight of misery all the time, let me clearly state that these kids can PLAY.  Every day of the year they romp around outside with the other kids.  They invent games and make up stories.  They play old favorites like capture the flag.  They disagree, and they learn to get along.  They plant seeds and spend a whole lot of time getting dirty.  They organize projects and build forts and create their own adventures. Like this, for example:

4.  Experiencing Pet Care and the Circle of Life:  These two lessons go hand in hand, for better or for worse.  Our girls have loved a lot of pets in the last year – at least 40 that we can remember by name.  Chicks and chickens, guinea pigs, a rabbit, and lots of chameleons (including 12 newborn babies, one of which (Roxy) you see here climbing on a tic tac).  Each pet had a name, each one received heaps of affection and care, and each one has moved on.  Some returned to their natural environments, some were given away as gifts, and some perished.  But no, none ended up on our plates, because it’s awfully hard to eat a pet, even the rooster whose name was Délicieux.

5.  Learning to Trust that God Provides:  Partly through all of these experiences this year, I have seen in new ways that God provides the grace that we need when we need it.  Up until a year ago, I seriously doubted that I could ever live and thrive in a place experiencing such difficult times as these.  Events during these last 12 months have shaken this country, but every single day since the attempted coup d’état last May, God has given grace and assurance of his call here.  We have been really glad to stay right here, and despite difficulties, it has been a wonderful year in many ways.

Thank you always for your prayers for us, for our community, and for this country.


The End of an Era & Drumming Class

by Jess Cropsey

This past Friday (May 13th) was memorable in many ways.  It was Jason Fader's birthday (who is quickly approaching the other side of "the hill"), our 16th wedding anniversary, and also the one year "anniversary" of the coup d'état in Burundi.  It was also Kibuye Hope Academy's final academic day for the 2015-2016 school year.  While there was great rejoicing from both teachers and students, celebrations were somewhat dampened as we faced the reality that our wonderful teacher "Miss S" would be leaving us after 2 years here.  While I cannot show you a picture of her always-joyful face or tell you her real name (she has requested anonymity on the blog), you can see from the photo below that she was a well-loved teacher by her students.  She is an absolute gem, a one-of-a-kind person with a heart that deeply loves all those around her.  She was amazing with the kids, provided them with individualized instruction, hosted terrific parties (for any holiday imaginable), and thoughtfully sought out ways to support their unique life as third-culture kids.  She had a wonderful outreach to the Hope Africa medical students that came to Kibuye for rotations and she was clearly loved by the 9th grade students from her English class at the local school.  We said good-bye to her on Saturday and as we watched her drive away someone commented, "It's the end of an era."  Sad, but true.  To S_, we thank you so much for the ways you have served, blessed, and loved our community.  We wish you the best as you seek what God has next for you.

On a more cheerful note, we managed to squeeze in one new cultural event before the end of the year -- KHA's first official drumming class.  Drumming is a Burundian tradition and you can often watch them perform at important events, like the going-away party for Miss S at the local school a week ago.

Last Monday, the principal brought over the team of 5th/6th grade drummers to give our kids their very own Burundian drumming class lesson.  He did a great job patiently teaching the kids and the boys also were incredibly kind and encouraging in helping our kids.  It was such a fun experience.  We had a second class today and the kids are getting the hang of it!  Maybe someday soon we'll be able to post a video of a bazungu-barundi drumming performance.  Stay tuned....


Podcast: The Talking McLaughlins

Rachel and I were recently featured on the podcast "World to the Wise: Home of the Culturally Curious" in an interview that we recorded in January, just before leaving the US.  The proprietor of said podcast is a long-time friend, David Durham.

Our lives and work continue to intersect with David's in curious ways.  I grew up singing his songs at our mutual home church in Nashville.  I knew that he had invested many years working to write and produce worship music for the Francophone world.  When I moved to France, I found the local congregation singing his songs in French.  Even now, I'm assuming the Banks and Baskins (our teammates currently in language school in Albertville) have become familiar with his song "Mon Ancre et Ma Voile" (My Anchor and My Sail), among others.  David is perhaps the most prolific linguist I know, speaking seven languages.  While we lived in France, I would skype with him weekly, glad to have his help as my virtual language partner.  Top it all of with his son marrying my sister, and I guess you could call our paths inextricably woven.

As I listen to it, I think the podcast has turned out as a distinct way to share different facets of life here, unique from our writing on the blog.  David's focus being the crossings of cultures, there are some good opportunities to go beyond talking about mission and work, but also about cultures and cross-cultural family life.  Click here to listen.


Bursting At the Seams!

by Jess Cropsey

When we first arrived in Burundi in August 2013, there were 16 of us, including kids.  Now merely 2-1/2 years later, our team has more than tripled in size with 52 people officially approved for 2-year terms or longer (although not all on the ground yet).  It has been amazing to see how God has met all of our needs and brought people to us in some really unexpected ways.  

I’d like to introduce you to the newest additions:

Greg & Stephanie Sund came for a 9-month term in 2014-2015.  Greg is an anesthesiologist and Stephanie has a background in nursing.  We really enjoyed having their family with us and were thrilled that they decided to come back on a long-term basis.  Greg's skills are critical given the surgical volume at the hospital and he provided important training for Burundian anesthetists while he was here.  They are currently raising support and looking for folks to join their support team in the hopes of heading to French language school this August.    

Scott & Lindsay Nimmon:  Beginning in the Fall 2016, we will have 18 school-age kids here (24 in total).  With our current, amazing, going-to-miss-her-so-much teacher finishing her term and moving on to another ministry, we were desperately searching for other help with educating our kids.  Scott & Lindsay read about our need and decided to take the plunge!  We are excited to welcome them, a teacher-teacher couple with complementary expertise in social studies & language arts (to my & Heather’s backgrounds in math, science & foreign language).  Their daughter will join our class of six 2nd-graders!  They are raising support now and hope to join us by the beginning of the school year.  If you’d like to help them along their way, click here.  

George & Susan Watts:  George & Susan started their term with Serge one year ago, originally on the Bujumbura team.  George has a PhD in business and was working with the Master’s program in business at Hope Africa University.  Unfortunately, shortly after their arrival the political unrest in Burundi began and has come & gone in waves since then.  After sticking it out for quite some time (road barricades, routine explosions/grenades at night sometimes very close to their house, limited travel around the city, etc.), the Team Leaders in Bujumbura along with the Watts & the Serge Security Team thought it best to relocate their family here to Kibuye for the remainder of their 2-year term.  We are grateful to have them here.  George has many skills that are a huge asset to the hospital in the areas of business & administration.  Please pray that George’s role at the hospital would be clarified soon.  The hospital has recently created its own board and is working on restructuring, so pray for wisdom for the leadership in determining the best role for him.  Susan has dove into daily visits to the pediatric & malnutrition ward at the hospital to bring encouragement & hope to those kids & mamas.  She also recently started an English class for the Burundian doctors.  They have four kids (ages 4-14) who have adjusted well to their new life “up-country”.

Nicole Christenson:  We were the lucky recipients of Nicole from yet another Serge team (hopefully we’re not making too many enemies!).  Nicole was slated to join the South Sudan team, but they had to evacuate last year while she was still raising support and weren’t sure if/when they would be able to go back.  It came up in conversation at our Serge East Africa retreat last year that we were looking for a finance person, and the team leaders for South Sudan told us about Nicole.  Et voila! — She arrived in August and has been helping wade through the financial systems at the hospital and keeping track of lots of receipts for the many projects.  She also goes out of her way to host special events for our kids.  It’s been great to have her here!   (The photo below shows her in costume for Elise's "African Animal"-themed birthday party.)

Tony & Judith Sykes:  Tony and Judith are on loan to us from Engineering Ministries International.  Tony has been working tirelessly with Caleb Fader on the many building projects happening right now in Kibuye, particularly the new hospital surgical ward.  We really appreciate his many years of experience!  

Pray for our team as a whole as we continue to add new people - that we would remain unified in vision and purpose and be a light to this community in how we love each other.