22.5.15

KHA Year 2

by Heather

Kibuye Hope Academy has adjourned its second year of classes.  We hope that these 8 students will treasure as many happy memories of this year as we teachers will.  Memories like kid-organized parties in the guava tree fort during recess time.

And kindergarten science experiments.

Field trips

And everyday moments like math class.

Abraham's creative phys ed classes, usually held outside except during rainy season downpours.

The year-end Festival of Cultures celebration, at which the adult guests could identify very few of the flags that the kids can identify.

The girls will likely not forget Abraham's art class including this Michelangelo simulation.

Nor the chicken coop that he helped them build for their chicks as an extra-curricular wood shop learning opportunity. 

We hope the kids will remember some of the Kirundi that they have learned from our Kirundi teacher.

And they should certainly remember loads of laughter

and some silliness

and lots of love.

We are thankful for the joy of teaching and learning with these kids, even when their energy far exceeded ours.  
We are also very grateful that our fabulous primary teacher plans to return for another year here at KHA. We are blessed.

18.5.15

Coup Contrecoup

By John Cropsey

Where to start?

As of the last post, we had no idea who was going to be running this country.  Well, the dust has settled a bit and President Nkurunziza has successfully out-maneuvered the putschists.  Most have already been tried and imprisoned except for the head general who remains at large for the moment.  The President is now "tiding-up" his government as we speak.  Jess and I will not soon forget our 15th wedding anniversary that coincided with the coup, that is for sure.   

That same day (before the coup attempt), one of the new families on our sister team in Bujumbura decided they had had enough of weeks of protests, cancelled classes, and gunfire.  They packed-up their Landcruiser and four kids and headed our way.  Little did they know along their 2.5 hour track through the mountains that a coup had occurred.  Per Murphy's Law, we were unable to reach them by phone to warn them, so we were all holding our breath for an hour plus until they blissfully unaware, meandered into Kibuye.  They were wondering what all the police and army activity was along the way.  We were thanking God.

From there on, my days have been full of talking with my national friends, phone calls, emails, fact finding, team meetings, BBC/Reuters, social media feeds (thanks Joel and Jessica), prayer, and nightly Serge security committee meetings made up of individuals living in 5 different countries.  All borders and the airport were closed for a few days.  So, that made decision making easy.  Sit tight and wait things out.

The day after the "coup" was the Battle for Bujumbura between the putschists and the loyalists.  Key targets to capture:  Presidential Palace, International Airport, Party Headquarters and the granddaddy of them all, the National Radio Station.  They got started early around 4 am followed by a day of contradicting info flowing out of Buja, "so and so has captured this, no they didn't, we have no idea...."  What we do know is that the next day, our ranks surged with expat refugees.  Our numbers maxed out at 44 expats at Kibuye this weekend.  

In honor of coup - contrecoup day, the US kids faced off against the visiting Canadian kids for a riveting game of capture the flag at Kibuye.  I'm sad to report, our peace-loving Mennonite Canadian friends came out on top.  To top off the refugee experience, two of the Canadian families picked-up lice in their previous temporary "shelter" on their way to us, so that added to the effect.  Greg tossed in a UNHCR bucket laying around his place to capture the spirit a bit more.

The next day, we drastically reduced our numbers as Sunday was "departure day" for half of our team.  I'll spare the details for security reasons.  Deciding who goes and who stays is an arduous process requiring tons of input from all constituents (the missionary, spouse, team leader, mission, parents, in-laws, national partners, embassies...).  

We are very thankful for our security committee at Serge.  It is made up of folks who understand real risk on the ground:  an Ebola doc who's served in not one, but two outbreaks; others who have lived through African coups, rebel attacks and medivacs;  another did covert kingdom work behind the Iron Curtain back in the day...  Yet, they are outside of our situation and thus a bit more objective then those of us in the mix. 

I like how one member of the committee put it:  "The voice of caution will most often be from those outside the situation - informed, clear headed, spirit-led.  The voice of risk comes from those in the midst - passionate, focused, spirit-led.  Both need to be heard and both need to be spoken in faith, trusting God's lead.  The former is what we add to what you have, with Jesus leading the way."

We are feeling a bit of the post-coup bleus and the void left by "departure day".  My wife and kids are gone, the Sund house is empty, the quad-plex Canadians' camp numbers are dwindling....  But, we continue to ask God for wisdom, guidance and joy and for Him to use us to be salt and light in the midst of a sea of fear and the unknown.

As I wrap up this beast of a blog post, I want to acknowledge a couple of things.  First, I am so proud of this team (and our refugees) who have not let fear rule.  They have looked to God and kept their confidence in Him.  There has been calm and peace in the midst of the storm.  Second, I have added a bit of humor into this blog, mostly as a coping mechanism, I'm sure.  This is no joke.  Many of my Burundian friends are deathly afraid as they re-live some of the darkest trauma this planet has to offer.  My heart aches for them.  I am begging God to bring a glimpse of his everlasting peace to this people, here and now.  As I write, 110,000 Burundians are huddled together, exposed to the elements in refugee camps in Rwanda, DRC and Tanzania with cholera already ripping through a large camp in the latter.  

Pray for God to intervene.  Ask God for the seemingly impossible.  Pray for men to humbly put their brothers and sisters above their desire for power and self-protection.  Pray that God's people will shine bright as members of different political parties and tribes.  May they show a nation how to love, dialogue, and find true peace.     








14.5.15

Coup d'État

by John Cropsey

Dear Family and Friends,

We want to give you a brief update from Burundi.  Yesterday, May 13th, from the best we can understand, a coalition of generals committed a “coup d’état” while the president was attending an East African heads of state meeting in Tanzania concerning the current political crisis in Burundi.  The generals have closed all borders and the international airport, partly in an attempt to keep the president from returning to the country.  The president is stating the “coup” has failed.  It is unclear who holds what amount of power at this time.  

In Bujumbura, there was much celebration where the heart of the opposition to the president is mainly based.  In our area, reactions were reserved and all remains calm for the moment, but the president has much broader support “up-country” where we are.  The coming days will tell us much about where this country is headed.  A counter-coup attempt could ignite broader violence.

So, we ask for your prayers:
  • May peace and justice reign in this place so long ravaged by war and injustice.
  • May the church lead by example, loving even their “enemies” in times of tension and fear.
  • May leaders respond wisely to the quickly changing situation.
  • May God give us, our national partners and our mission wisdom in making decisions about our team.
We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.  At this point, we are not getting much more information than what is already available on international news.  

Thanks for your prayers for us and the people of Burundi. 

4.5.15

More Adventures in the Primary School

by Jess Cropsey

As some of you faithful readers may remember, I wrote about Ecole Primaire de Kibuye (the local primary school) a few months ago.  There have been some exciting developments lately, and I wanted to share those with you.

1.)  Four of the team kids are now students at EPK!  A few weeks ago, Elise & Anna started attending French twice a week with one of the classes that I teach English to.  During that time, I take Micah & Sam to the pre-school class.  For the most part, they’ve all done a great job and it’s gone relatively smoothly.  Please pray that this will allow them to develop more relationships with Burundian children and acquire more language skills.  Pray for wisdom for Heather and I as we consider increasing the amount of time they spend there next school year.

2.)  The new classroom for the 8th year students is well on its way to completion.  The parents raised the money to get the basic structure up (bricks, roof), but lacked sufficient funds to add the finishing touches — door, windows, sidewalk around the classroom, concrete floor inside, blackboard, student desks, etc.  Thanks to one of our donors, the classroom will be ready for next year’s class! 




3.)  A new principal has recently been added to the school to work with the existing principal and supervise the older grades (7th-9th).  She seems really great.  Please pray for her as she transitions into her new role.

4.)  A parent meeting was convened a few weeks ago to discuss the construction project at the school and to think about ways that the parents can be involved in the school.  During the meeting it was decided that groups of parents would come once a month for a work day.  The first one was today and there were probably at least 100 parents outside working on the grounds. 



5.)  Our partner at Kibuye, the Free Methodist Church, is exploring a possible partnership with an educational organization that has a lot of experience working with schools in Rwanda.  They are wanting to expand to Burundi.  I’ve heard a lot of great things about this organization and I think they could be a huge resource for teacher training and curriculum development.  Please pray for God’s clear guidance as to whether this would be a beneficial partnership for the school.  

6.)  Over the last few months, I’ve been working on gathering supplies for next year.  Thanks to those of you who are participating in the “Adopt a Teacher” project (an Operation-Christmas-Child-type box for the teachers here).  I have also gathered enough supplies (I hope!) to provide each of the 1,000 students with a small bag of basic school supplies.  These items will be sent out on a shipping container from Michigan in August.  If you’d like to participate, I have some ideas of other ways to help out, so let me know (jesscropsey@yahoo.com).   

7.)  In February, the team kids started a Kirundi class twice a week with Madame Thérèse, the pre-school teacher at the primary school.  We had a great field trip to her house on Friday.  Blog soon to follow with more on that adventure!   


I don’t need to tell you how important education is, but it is particularly critical to Burundi’s future.  Since Burundi is the second most densely populated country in Africa, people struggle to have enough food for themselves, let alone have anything leftover to sell.  As families continue to grow (the average woman has 5-6 children) and land gets divided up into even smaller pieces, it will be impossible for farming to continue as the primary source of food and income.  This is one of the many reasons why education is so important here.  The next generation needs other ways to make a living.

So please join me in praying for this school and its teachers, administrators, and students.  And for each of us as we interact with the school in a culture and language very different than our own.  I hope and pray that we will be a blessing to each other in different ways.     

30.4.15

Porridge, Rice, & Beans

A new department at Kibuye Hope Hospital has instantly boosted patient comfort, healing, nutrition, and general morale.  A hospital food service program has begun and has been enthusiastically received.

Until recently, the hospital did not have any food service available.  Family members of patients would bring food that they cooked over fires outside the hospital wards, but patients often ate poorly due to financial constraints related to hospitalization.  Some even went days without food.  

Approximately one year ago, hoping to improve patient nutrition, we started to investigate what it would take to provide simple, nutritious meals for inpatients.  John Ellis, a long-time friend and advocate for Kibuye Hospital, submitted an application to the Herman Miller Cares organization, requesting a grant to help with the costs.  And Herman Miller Cares awarded the grant to begin a Kibuye Hope Hospital feeding program.

In early February, the new food service department began distributing nutritious porridge each morning. 

 Last week, the service expanded to offer an evening meal of rice and beans for each inpatient as well.  Below you see dinner preparations in the hospital kitchen.  

It is no small task to prepare 400 meals per day (200 each morning and 200 each evening) over an open fire.  We are thankful for a new Burundian director who competently organizes the service.  Several employees have been hired to sort the rice, cook the food, and wash the dishes.  The 220 pounds of rice pictured below should last for about two weeks.






27.4.15

Pray For Burundi

As for everything, our hope for Burundi is in God.  For the future peace, light and prosperity of Burundi, we are, as always, dependent on God.  Thankfully, he is good, and he is faithful.

And so we pray for Burundi.

From now until the end of the summer, Burundi is in a particularly challenging situation, because it is election season, which, especially in Africa, creates opportunities for increased tension but also for increased peace and unity, and obviously we want the latter to be the outcome for Burundi this summer.

Holding to this belief in the importance of prayer, we are enlisting the prayers of anyone who would join us.

Quite simply, if you would commit to pray every day for Burundi from now until the end of the summer, then please email us at drsmcl@gmail.com, and we will send you a weekly update with specific prayer requests.

Join with us and millions of Burundians in praying for this wonderful country and its wonderful people.


23.4.15

In Only Four Months

(By Alyssa)

I recently returned to Burundi after four months HMA in the US. From emails from teammates as well as from missionary training, I expected some things to have changed during my absence. But, wow - I completely underestimated to what extent! When you live in a rural setting and daily struggle with limited resources and "facing African realities", it's easy to think that progress is too slow. Hopefully this blog post will be an encouraging reminder to my teammates as well as to our friends that this corner of the world is indeed developing!

 (Above and below) Burundian physician housing. The above picture is taken from the vantage point of my front yard. McLaughlin's house is just to the right of the picture. In less than four months a site has been chosen next to our houses, funds have been raised, ground broken, and significant construction has been completed including a roof, windows, and walls! We look forward to welcoming our Burundian colleagues to the neighborhood. 

And speaking of neighborhood, we now have four long term missionary houses completed and occupied. My house (shared with our MK teacher) is the first in the below picture followed by Faders and Cropseys. (McLaughlin's house is just behind the photographer.) The kids are loving running back and forth along the shared backyards - we enjoyed a fabulous game of Capture the Flag together on Saturday! Oh, and that Land Cruiser on the right is also new. Our team now shares three vehicles - a 15 passenger van, a small car, and the Land Cruiser. All the vehicles are white - evidently Jason's preferred color for cars. Actually I think he's oblivious to the aesthetics of the vehicles - just as I'm oblivious to what is under the hood!


So now that everyone lives in their newly constructed houses, the quadplex below is empty. It served us well for over a year and now it will be perfect for hosting visitors. You can see that Carlan & Abraham left some tree saplings behind in apartment 1 to welcome the next inhabitants.  

 And it will be easy for us all to greet new visitors on this newly widened path between our houses and the quadplex.

And below we have the other big change in the neighborhood - the Miller family! We miss the McLaughlins as they begin their HMA in the US, but we are happy that their house and some of their clinical roles are being filled in their absence by Drs. Joel and Janette Miller and kids. The Millers have been missionaries in Burundi longer than we have and have graciously hosted us innumerable times in Bujumbura. And now they are not just sweet friends and colleagues at Hope Africa University but neighbors, co-workers, and MK classmates. We're so thankful for their willingness to fill in at this time.

Happy birthday, Janette! 
Miller family with hospital behind
And speaking of missionary kids, the girls wanted to demonstrate the hard work on their garden (which didn't exist a couple months ago). Burundian friends have confirmed that learning to hoe is actually part of the curriculum of elementary school in Burundi, so Elise, Mekdes, and Ella are right on track! You may remember that one of our first Kirundi phrases learned was "The woman hoes"- maybe not such a useful phrase in English but very relevant in a country where subsistence farming is the primary occupation!
 Significant progress has been made on the new church (on left above, on right below) - including many archways, a bell tower, and trusses for the roof. As I understand it, the construction is primarily being done by church members themselves, one brick at a time. This is the church where we worship on Sundays. 
 And, look! Another new path! So much for our frisbee field. Actually it was prime for ankle spraining so better to use a different field for frisbee, and the landscaping looks great. You can't tell in the picture but it is actually outlining the design of the Burundian flag - pretty creative! 

 New student dorm (above) complete and occupied by approximately 60 medical and nursing students

New building on right above and below - the new Salle de Staff. I'm astounded at how fast this building went up. Ground had not been broken when I left 4 months ago and it has been completed and in use for weeks now. This was a huge need as prior to this there was no space big enough to hold all the hospital employees. While some days it seemed like "there's always room for one more on the bench," that wasn't actually true! All hospital staff and students begin each day here with devotions at 7:30am, and the room is also used for morning report, student lectures, hospital meetings, etc. And now no one has to stand outside or crowd in the doorway straining to hear! 

 (Above and below) The inside of the Salle de Staff
New students. Currently the fourth year medical students are at Kibuye - the first time we've had 4th year students as formerly that was considered a pre-clinical year. The med school program previously was a 7 year curriculum (including undergrad) but has now been decreased to 6 years. The fourth year students are pretty green but they are making progress at the end of their four months at Kibuye. And I'm sure they'll have grown leaps and bounds by the time they graduate in 2 1/2 years.

Porridge for patients! I'm so, so happy to see my patients being fed porridge each morning. Most are chronically malnourished and live in extreme physical poverty so I was never sure if they were being fed in the hospital. Now I'm sure they are eating at least one nutritious meal per day. Thanks to many of you who have made that possible! 
 Above is a 10 year old boy significantly improved after arriving comatose with meningitis. It continues to astound me how God heals these kids who would be hospitalized in intensive care and likely on ventilators elsewhere in the world. This is not new but is an encouraging reminder especially after I spent some time visiting the pediatric cardiovascular ICU in the US and was discouraged thinking of how few resources we have comparatively in Burundi. 



"Lenscrafters" at Kibuye - benefitting the eye patients and the hospital

New paintings with Bible verses throughout the hospital
A new classroom (on left above) at the primary school where Jess teaches English, where Sammy and Micah attend Kirundi school, and now where Elise and Anna attend French class
New water reservoir benefitting the hospital and us - hopefully this will make a big difference in reducing water shortages as the dry season begins in a couple months
New ariel view of the hospital from Kibuye rock with the student dorm (blue roof) visible on the right and the new church (with tower) left of center
Some things don't change. I love these familiar sights of colorfully clad patients and visitors at the hospital (above) and happy kids helping with small siblings (below). 


Thanks for joining me on the tour!