Serge Kibuye - a brief history

(By Alyssa)

Last month our whole team vacated Kibuye for a weekend (thanks to a couple of visiting doctors who stayed behind) to spend time together at Lake Tanganyika in Bujumbura. We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to play, swim, worship, pray, eat, and laugh together and we're so thankful for the Serge Member Care staff who came to facilitate our retreat and care for us all. A team retreat was especially valuable at this time because, as you can see from the picture, our team has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. We no longer all live in one building where we run into each other multiple times a day for small talk and tall talk. In fact, there are some teammates who I may not see for days at a time as our paths and work don't typically intersect. Connecting in a significant way requires a lot more intentionality. So making fun new memories together and bonding more at our retreat was especially beneficial this year.

In integrating new teammates, I realize that we also have welcomed many new blog readers over the last couple years - grandparents, parents, friends, and supporters of our new teammates. I've loved getting to know several teammates' parents who have come to visit us at Kibuye - and the missionary kids are always happy when anyone's grandparents are around! But I suspect that many of you have not scrolled back through the blog archives to its beginning in 2008 and you may not be aware of how the team formed or how exactly we ended up in Burundi. So I thought I'd offer you a short-ish recap. For those who have been around for awhile, you can enjoy the trip down memory lane and remembering just how little and cute the kids used to be - and how young Jason Fader looked!

So back in 2007 - 10 years ago! - the McLaughlin, Cropsey, and Fader families officially formed the McCropder team. At the time that meant 6 adults and 1 kid! The three families were all in Ann Arbor, Michigan for medical training and got to know each other through Knox Presbyterian Church. They were all planning individually to pursue long term medical missions, and, as it dawned on them that they would all finish training the same year (2009) with complementary specialties and similar goals, they realized that God had brought them together not just to be friends but to serve Him together in Africa. (And yes, Carlan Wendler is also in this picture who was interested in the team from its inception and officially joined when he finished his training in 2012.)

2009. The McCropders (with 6 adults and 5 kids) arrived in Kenya to begin the 2 year post residency program at Tenwek Hospital through Samaritan's Purse. I think I actually took this picture for them - not knowing that we would be long term teammates heading off into the unknown together before long. 

During the two years at Tenwek, God really grew the team - in numbers through me and Baby Ben,  but primarily in developing a deeper shared vision and philosophy of ministry forged in the challenges and joys of life and medicine in a developing country. They were two years of wrestling with patient deaths and suffering, gaining experience as new attending physicians, discovering the joy of teaching and discipling African medical interns and residents, learning from and being mentored by more experienced medical missionaries, and growing as a community of friends and colleagues. 

The team's vision was honed to the following: 

2010 included exploratory trips to Madagascar, Burundi, and Liberia seeking a place where the team could live in community and serve the "least of these" while educating and discipling national medical professionals.
McLaughlin family visiting Burundi and being welcomed by Bishop Elie Buconyori
Bishop Elie, also Rector of Hope Africa University, was a visionary man with great faith. He began HAU while in exile in Kenya, moved it in faith to Burundi before things were quite stable, and he began the medical school at the request of the president with minimal faculty. He was praying and hoping for doctors and teachers to come train the future physicians of Burundi. God crossed our paths in a unique way and the rest is history! Team members visited Burundi twice more in 2011 before plans were finalized to move there after the two years in Kenya.
We also got to meet the first class of HAU medical students and work with them for a week at Kibuye Hope Hospital. We found them to be bright, enthusiastic learners - great hope for a nation with 3 doctors per 100,000 people. 
And one of those med students then visited us in Kenya! Alliance is now completing his surgery residency in Gabon and we look forward to welcoming him and his family back to Burundi when he finishes. 

We said goodbye to Kenya in 2011 and the thirteen of us (plus Baby Sammy in utero) headed back to the US to do support raising, locum tenems work, and tropical medicine training before going to Burundi.

We were thrilled when Serge (then World Harvest Mission) agreed to courageously take on our whole team as the first Serge missionaries to Burundi! This picture was taken at our assessment and orientation in Sept 2011. 

2012-2013. Ten months of French language school in the Alps was not quite the glamour we expected, but we survived - and learned a lot about God's strength in our weakness through the process. 

And then, finally, in August 2013, we arrived in Burundi (8 adults, 8 kids)! We first spent three rough months in intensive Kirundi study in Banga, Burundi, but then we were thrilled to settle into our new Kibuye home. 
Our first team retreat in Burundi - visiting the nearby waterfalls. 
The six doctors headed off to the hospital while the two teachers homeschooled the kids

Then the team grew (2014)...

And then there was a coup d'état in Burundi (2015) and the team shrunk temporarily...

But then it grew again and we welcomed many fun visitors, too, for Christmas 2015. 
We enjoyed getting to know our Burundian colleagues...
...and we learned a lot even as we taught each new class of medical students. 

We attended Serge's company-wide conference in May 2016 and got our first picture with our new teammates 

And here we are at Kibuye, Christmas 2016 - 19 adults, 24 kids - yes, the kids definitely have us outnumbered these days! Thankfully we have great teachers to provide an excellent education for these adventurous, funny, sweet, creative, third culture kids! 

And coming soon in 2017...the return of the Wendlers, the Sunds, and Lauren! And in 2018....the arrival of two post residency program families (2 surgeons). 

We're thankful for how God has brought us all together through the last 10 years - certainly through unexpected twists and turns in the journey, but always with His Presence and grace sustaining us. Please pray with us that others would see the love we have for one another and be thus drawn into the Gospel to the glory of God. 


COTW: Blind Matthieu

By John Cropsey

A couple weeks back I received a call from a long-time missionary in Burundi, Barb Vibbert.  She told me about a man named Matthieu who was somewhere in the range of 102 - 104 years old.  He was a longtime friend of their family and they noted on a recent visit to his house that he was no longer seeing well.  He was told in the capital city, Bujumbura, that he was “too old” to undergo surgery, and so he sat for two years at home with no hope of seeing again.  Two weeks prior to the Vibbert’s visit, he had to blindly attend his wife's burial.

Matthieu's Burundian surname means “to run away” in Kirundi.  This is because he was born during the events of World War I and his mother was fleeing for her life while pregnant with Mathew as the Germans fought to maintain control of central Africa.

His amazing story continues.  Matthieu later came to hear about Jesus when the first Free Methodist missionary, Jonathan Wesley Haley, arrived in the early 1930’s.  Haley was a Canadian who began his missionary career in South Africa and slowly made his way to Burundi overland.  That was no small feat in those days.  Matthieu is credited as being the very first Burundian to come to Christ through the ministry of JW Haley in 1935, making him the oldest Burundian Free Methodist.

The Vibberts brought Matthieu to our clinic and led him through the clinic short-cut “back door” given his feeble state.

It was my pleasure to find on Matthieu's exam that he had cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the world.  It was good news because cataracts are a reversible cause of blindness.  At the end of the exam, Matthieu's son (Butoyi) and “garde du malade” (who is no spring chicken himself) told me he was also having some difficulty seeing.  Sure enough, he also has advanced cataracts and needs surgery.

Matthieu's surgeries went great despite the “gestational age” of his cataracts.  Getting them out was like trying to deliver twin post-term behemoths!

As Matthieu was being assisted out of the operating theatre with the help of his son and my janitor, Aristide, Aristide stated, "Matthieu is my grandfather."  I attempt to clarify if he meant “grandfather” in the general African sense, like, he’s an old man from my village, or literally, his genetic grandfather.  “Yes, my real grandfather.”  If that’s the case, then the slightly less blind son of Matthieu must therefore be an uncle or something, so I asked Aristide.  “Yes, that is my father,” was his matter-of-fact response.

At that point it was pretty cool to think I had three generations of Matthieu’s family standing in front of me in the theatre, but then it quickly hit me that one of my staff, who has worked for me for over a year, has let his grandfather sit at home in blindness (and now his father as well) without bringing them in for an examination.  Okay, okay, the other option is that Aristide may not be overly confident in my skills yet and was going to wait another year or two before risking his relatives under the knife:)  Either way, it is just another reminder of all the barriers there are to delivering care in a place that has never had access before, even for families with means and connections like Matthieu.   Imagine what prevents the poorest from making it to us.

A happy Matthieu with his son and two grandsons a day after his second cataract surgery


The Africa Class

(from Julie)

This is my first entry on the team blog!  Our family arrived in Burundi about six months ago.  While Logan and the other physicians and administrators are busy at the hospital, the other half of the team is busy helping teach the team’s children at Kibuye Hope Academy in our newly built three-room schoolhouse.

There are currently 6 kindergarteners, 6 second graders, and 6 students 4-7th grade.  We have two full-time teachers, Scott and Lindsey Nimmon, but all the moms, our team intern, and even the team accountant pitch in to do the best we can to give our children the best education possible. 

We choose to see our remote location as a benefit, and an opportunity to give our children a completely unique education that they may not have had if they lived anywhere but Africa.  Thus for the first time the team is offering “The Africa Class” to our kindergarteners this year.  Somehow I was recruited to teach our youngest students all about Africa.  Believe me, out of all the adults on our team I am probably the LEAST qualified to teach this class, but we are diving in and I am enjoying the opportunity to learn right along with them!

The Africa Class meets everyday and is exploring one country at a time, finding it on the map, learning what language the people speak, researching its flag and coloring their own version of each flag.  The children are really looking forward to having a complete book of African flags when we are finished!  It’s so fun discovering the meaning behind each brilliantly colored flag.  For example, did you know that Malawi changed its flag for two years (2010-2012)?  Just ask one of our kindergarteners… they could tell you all about it!  

The kids love poring over their maps, and even though they can’t read most of the names, they can point right to Algeria, Botswana, Chad, and more.  They probably could even tell you a couple facts about many of the countries like what they eat, what they wear, and what the major crops are.

The class is full of discovery, wonder and imagination.  We dance, we sing, we pretend to ride to class on a camel.  We try to experience as much of each African nation as we can from culture to climate and maps to music.

- We charmed a make-believe snake in Tunisia, tasted chocolate while passing through Côte d’Ivoire, and traced the journey of the Portuguese settlers to Angola.

- While learning about the Copper Belt in Zambia, we designed our own experiment to watch copper turn green.  

- We pretended the Fader’s house was Ethiopia, and we were greeted at the door by Heather who treated us to an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

- The Mclaughlin’s house became Kenya as we tasted chai and heard all about their time there. Ben loves to remind us that he is African because he was born in Kenya.  

Everyday is an adventure!  

- We imagine ourselves living in a giant Tanzanian baobab tree, we pretend we are gorillas from the Odzala rainforest in the DRC, we sing in Arabic while wondering what it might be like to truly be thirsty and not have water available.   

- We traced our hands and designed our own henna artwork while stopping off in Morocco, walked like an Egyptian through the halls of our school, and formed a mud hut out of clay while journeying through Nigeria.  We found sugarcane growing nearby, solved a Somalian riddle and acted out a well-known South African folktale.  

The kids love to pray for people to know Jesus all across this continent.  We talk about poverty, starvation and war.  But we also marvel at the beauty: the islands of Seychelles, the snow-capped mountains of Lesotho, and the ability many Africans have to carry everything on their heads!  

If you or your children would like to discover more about Africa along with us, I would recommend a children’s book called “AFRICA is Not a Country.”  It counters stereotypes while celebrating the diversity of Africa in its cultural traditions and modernity.  Meanwhile you can pray with us for Africa, for Burundi, and for our school, Kibuye Hope Academy – both teachers and students.  Pray they develop a love for this continent to which God has called us.  

The children’s curiosity is contagious.  It’s a joy to be a researcher, adventurer, and discoverer along with them.  We look forward to watching these young ones grow up in this beautiful place called AFRICA.


COTW: The Rest of the Story

(from Eric)

Several months ago, I wrote about a tough Saturday, one of those days where the broken bodies and broken hearts seem to pile up until the windows are all blocked and the light seems to be having trouble getting through.  

One of the patients that day was a young lady named Spes.  For reasons that I don't think will ever make sense, she was locked in a room by her husband for 4 months and given only a minimal amount to eat.  Eventually her neighbors descended on the husband and forced him to bring her to the hospital. It looked like too little, too late.  Spes was malnourished to the point of being barely conscious and definitely not able to stand up.  She had an angulation in her spine from tuberculosis which had taken advantage of her weakened state.  She wasn't moving her legs much, but it was hard to know if that was spinal injury or just her general weakness.

The first week was touch and go.  She was in an isolation room because of her tuberculosis, and that unfortunately gave her husband (who remained in the hospital out of fear of prosecution) ample opportunity to go on neglecting her.  He said that she had some kind of mental trouble.  We never saw any of that, but unfortunately both his and her families seemed to feel equally ambivalent towards her plight.  It's hard to get more alone that this woman.  Her breathing was labored, wandering off and on oxygen.

We found out she was pregnant just in time.  She was only 25 weeks at the time.  The day after the discovery, when she started complaining about low back pain, we discovered her pre-term labor, and Rachel entered the picture.  Medicines were given, and thankfully the contractions stopped.  She was transferred to the OB service, but we kept following her.  We talked to Alyssa and Joyeuse the malnutrition nurse about supplementing her diet.  We don't normally have enough food to do this for all the malnourished adults, but given her special situation and her pregnancy, we made an exception.

But she didn't want to eat.  Even her baby didn't seem to be motivation enough to work very hard at living.  Weeks passed.  She was moved into a general maternity ward, where all the other moms provided some much needed social pressure on the husband.  The students on our services got more involved.  They chipped in to buy her medicines.  One student even organized a bag of baby clothes to give her after delivery and collected a very substantial sum (by local standards) to defray random costs.

Day by day, things didn't change.  But as weeks went by, light started to creep in.  She started doing physical therapy.  She regained bladder control and started taking a few steps with her walker.  Given her tenuous home situation, it became apparent that she was staying until delivery.

Then she delivered.  A healthy baby boy with an amazingly uncomplicated delivery.  He had a slight fever and so Logan (covering for Alyssa) got involved and saw the baby through a routine neonatal infection.  Motherhood becomes her.  She engages people more, considers things more, even smiles.  Even her husband seems more engaged.

After ninety days in the hospital, she went home.  I took a picture with her the last day.  I wish I could post it, but given the sensitive story, I decided not to (Her name isn't Spes either, sorry).  She is sitting next to me on her bed.  Her baby is in her lap, and there is a hint of a smile.  In the background, there is another lady, with her hand over her mouth in a classic "can you believe that crazy white doctor taking a picture with her?" moment.

It was a great day, but let's remember some things.  She is going back to the same home and the same family.  She is just starting to recover from paralysis.  She was severely malnourished and now she is breastfeeding a newborn.  The darkness still looms.  I told her that if she makes her follow-up visit next week, that I'll print a copy of the photo for her.  World Relief is promising to go visit her home, as are the local authorities.  The physical therapist sent her with a walker and will see her when she comes back.  We don't know what's waiting for her, but we're trying to help her out.

The darkness still looms, but it wouldn't do to leave this story without remembering a few points of light.  A lonely mother with her new baby.  Seeds of (something a least a little like) reconciliation with her husband.  Unsteady steps with a walker.  A baby saved from certain death.  Doctors-in-training giving sacrificially to meet the needs of "just another patient".

It's not perfect.  It's not even really good.  But there's goodness mixed up in it all.  Quite a lot actually.  Light shines in the darkness, and it is not overcome.


Vivent les Guinea Pigs!

(from the Kibuye Kids)

The kids at Kibuye love their guinea pigs. If you’ve ever had one you will understand just how loveable they are, how fun it is to play with them, and how great it is to look after them. Guinea pigs make great pets because they help little kids learn responsibility, they are cheap to own, and you get to watch part of God’s creation up close. When the guinea pigs you own are about to have babies, guinea pig ownership becomes a science lesson.

Kibuye kids have owned and loved guinea pigs as far back as the summer of 2015. The Miller family came, bringing Twix, Zeus, and Galaxy. It was only the Jason Fader Family, Millers, and Aunt Alyssa (Pfister) in Kibuye that summer, because the others were in America. The guinea pigs thrived. It wasn’t long before one of the pigs gave birth to twins, Panda and Bamboo. Everyone was excited. Later, Twix gave birth to Pistachio and Mustach-io. They were so cute! Galaxy seemed to be the father. As summer neared its end, Zeus got pregnant and gave birth to three babies. The kids named them Mocha, Peanut, and Moosetracks. The next day, there was a dog attack. All of the guinea pigs died. A while later, four new guinea pigs – Milky Way, Natalie, Colonel Popcorn, and Dr. Pepper – came to live in Kibuye. Milky Way and Colonel Popcorn had spiky hair. Colonel Popcorn had a signature pose – he would stand erect, two front legs straight and look kind of off to the side, in a very colonel-like fashion. All of these guinea pigs have somehow met Jesus, in his zoo in heaven where the kids are certain their beloved pets wait for them.

Micah Watts remembers the first time he visited Kibuye. While playing Capture the Flag, he heard the guinea pigs saying, “squeak, squeak.” He enjoyed holding them and playing with them on that visit. Now he lives in Kibuye with his family, and he got his own guinea pig, Imbeba (mouse). Unfortunately, shortly after, she got sick and died. Elise Cropsey and her brothers, Micah and Sammy, purchased a guinea pig, Abraham (named for Abraham Paternoster), at the same time that Micah Watts got his guinea pig. Later, they found that he was a she (Mrs. Abraham). Later, she fell head over heels in love with Charles, Matea and Alma’s guinea pig. After a couple weeks, she got pregnant. The Cropseys didn’t want other people to hold her, so they made a signed notice that said, “Please do NOT hold the pigs.” The notice was signed not only by them but by the guinea pigs too. They put their paws in mud and stamped them on the notice. Later that week, a dog attacked the cage. Mrs. Abraham was never found, but Charles was – an answer to Aunt Becky (Baskin)’s prayers.

Carmel, Benjamin, Clover, Chocolate, Twitter, and Oreo (the bunny) came to live in Kibuye at the same time as Mrs. Abraham, Imbeba, and Charles, bringing delight to Maggie, the Baskin kids, Abi, Anna, and Madeline who was not an owner but an awesome caretaker. When not being held by the children or adults, these guinea pigs enjoyed playing in tubes and Styrofoam boxes. They liked to burrow into the grasses in their cage and play tag with one another. It was so cute to watch! Anna felt like Twitter was the best guinea pig she had ever owned, because, when she held her, she made a twittering sound, and they could have long conversations. When Anna was sad, she could talk to Twitter and be comforted. Unfortunately, the cage that was home to these guinea pigs was insecure and was often knocked open. Despite efforts to secure the cage with bricks, the cage was knocked open, and the guinea pigs escaped. Rumors immediately began to form about how this may have happened. They were never found.

Now, the children enjoy playing with their new guinea pigs – Peanut butter, Christopher, and Frank. Everyone was thrilled to discover Peanut butter’s pregnancy! Aunt Rachel (McLaughlin), the team’s OBGYN, was asked to do an ultrasound on Peanut butter. She said, “yes.” Everyone met on January 13th to proceed up to the hospital to perform the sonogram. When they arrived at the hospital, Aunt Rachel got her machine ready and looked around on Peanut butter’s belly. When the first ultrasound machine didn’t reveal an image, she brought out a stronger one. The audience saw a spine and a head that confirmed her pregnancy. A happy bunch went home from the hospital.

During the first weekend of February while the team was away on a retreat, Peanut Butter had three babies! Feeling more than ecstatic, Anna, Abi, and Madeline became the proud owners of Nutella, Speculoos, and Elsa.

The Kibuye kids’ guinea pigs are loved, cherished, and treasured even after they die. The memories of past and present guinea pigs remain with the kids always. There are always new memories and fun times enjoyed with the guinea pigs, and the kids look forward to owning even more if possible.


Make a joyful noise unto the Lord

(by Michelle, adapted from our blog)

I married into the team in 2015 via Carlan, the ER doctor. My husband and I are currently in France attending language school, along with the Sund family (Greg wrote the previous post). We are now half way though and eagerly look forward to reuniting with the team in Kibuye this September. Yay!  Along with studying French, we’ve had the opportunity to get to know people from the Albertville community along with our local French-speaking church

Our hearts long to be back in Burundi with our team but God has us here in France and it’s exciting to see how He has been using us here even as we equip ourselves for our ministry ahead. 

One unanticipated opportunity came around Christmastime.  During the month of December we had the occasion to participate in a Christmas concert put on by the local church and in partnership with the local town mayor and held in Albertville's concert hall. I was one of the pianists, along with Greg while Carlan worked the lighting. 

This concert was a first for our local French church so we weren't sure how many people would come. After months of planning, rehearsing and practicing the concert day came. The concert hall was nearly full with eager spectators (300-400), many of whom had heard about the concert by the flyers put up around town. Another 400 watched via Facebook livestream. 

In total it was a 2 hour concert of both classical and contemporary Christmas music. The concert had a warm reception and we were called back for two encores!

Greg Sund and I played a beautiful arrangement of Angels From The Realms Of Glory written by Dan Forest for 4 hand piano, cello and vocals. We also played a few solo piano arrangements and accompanied the singers. 

But the unsung heroes of the concert were the behind the scenes people, one of which was Carlan. He was assigned the job of doing all the lighting. This involved him climbing scaffolding and making his own filters for all the lights. Here he is working hard during one of the rehearsals.

In a recent class devotional I was convicted in how I often am so focused on the task ahead that I forget to stop and enjoy and live in the present. At the beginning of language school my mentality was "let's get through this." Yet, as I look back from this halfway point I can see how God is using us and our feeble talents in the here and right now. 

I'll end with this short video clip from backstage at the concert. 



On French Language and Culture

(by Greg)

Our family served in Kibuye for 9 months in 2014-2015.  Since our time in Burundi, we felt God’s call to serve alongside the long-term team working there.  And so, after a year of support raising and preparation, we are currently in Albertville, France, trying to improve our French before returning to Kibuye this summer.

To be honest with you, I actually enjoy studying a new language.  I know, I am a geek.  I know many people who do not enjoy learning a new language, and I hold no ill will toward them.  But I have always been fascinated by what you can discover about a culture through their language.  I enjoy learning new vocabulary, new ways of expressing everyday phrases.  I even enjoy conjugating verbs.  Shameful, I know.

Although our time in France has not always been easy, I have tried to remind myself daily what a gift it is to live in another culture, to explore, to experience life in a new way for 10 months.  I am fascinated by the way different cultures use language and the insight you gain as you study their vocabulary.  For example, as an American I would often use a phrase such as, “I am excited to do this or that”, or “I am looking forward to this or that”.  So, upon our arrival in France, it seemed like a no brainer to me, to translate this word for word from English.  There is a French word for excited almost identical to the English word.  The problem, as I learned about a month after our arrival, is that this expression has a, shall we say, romantic connotation.  I was asked to please stop using this phrase.  Okay, but then how do I express to someone that I am indeed looking forward to something, or that I am excited in the American sense of the word?  I asked my language partner, who is French.  He thought about it for a moment, then said “we don’t really have that emotion”.  I have since asked several other French people, and the best I have been able to come up with is, “j’attends avec impatience”, which translates directly to, “I am waiting with impatience”.  I now use this phrase often, reciting it with as much enthusiasm as I can muster.

There have been other phrases that I find sometimes puzzling, sometimes amusing.  For example, the French do not say a man “grows a beard”, rather they say he “pushes out a beard” (pousser une barbe).  Maybe I have just not been pushing hard enough?  Also, a woman does not “become pregnant”, she “falls down pregnant” (tomber enceinte).  And finally, the phrase “mind your own business” is translated more appropriately as “occupy yourself with your own onions”.  These make me giggle every time I hear them.

The French have many beautiful customs, one of which is “la bise”.  Recently, I wrote a blog post (on our family blog) about how awkward I have been with regards to this French custom of kissing on each cheek when greeting someone (http://beyondourbackdoor.blogspot.fr).   Since writing the blog I have received more helpful advice about how and when to “faire le bise”. One piece of advice involved taking off my glasses before kissing someone, so as to avoid eye injury.  So, this week, in preparation for a “bisous”, I took off my glasses.  I then dropped them on the ground mid-bise, kicked them across the room, shuffled to retrieve them like a blind mole-rat, then apologized for how awkward I am.  It seems I still have a ways to go.

Another troublesome point for me (and other Americans) is the ubiquitous use of “tu” versus “vous”, which mean “you”, tu being informal, and vous being formal.  The point at which two people switch from the formal vous to the informal tu remains to me infinitely mysterious.  There are rules, but at some point in a relationship, which is not clear to me, you switch.  A fellow student found the table below to help us hopeless Americans parse through this issue.  It reminded me of the algorithm for cardiac clearance before elective surgery.  God help me, I love a good algorithm. Now I just need to memorize it, apply it, stop dropping my glasses when I try to kiss someone, and stop giggling when I hear someone say that they have “fallen down pregnant”, and I will be good to go.  I am eager to get back to Burundi and start using the knowledge we have gained here in France.  In fact, I might go so far as to say that I wait with impatience!!!


Transitions: An Ever-Renewing Perspective

(from Becky)

It happened without my consent or attention. I noticed it just a few nights ago. I was putting my little girls to bed, sitting on the edge of the bed scratching their backs, when it hit me, “Wow, I don’t hate this mosquito net anymore!”  I had the same realization the other day when I threw away some old food and didn’t have the gut wrenching guilt that I had experienced in our first few months here.  

We have lived in Burundi now for 4 months.  The transition has been more difficult for us than we anticipated and in ways that were unexpected….i.e. the trash and mosquito nets.  Yet, life has ever…..so…..slowly found it’s new rhythm and patterns.  Trash is no longer an issue of angst.  I was so worried about offending our Burundian househelper every time my kids didn’t eat all of the food on their plate, or when I would throw away a huge casserole that tasted bad from the very beginning. And the mosquito nets…ugh, they sound so fun right? Like a little tent for your kids, a safe little place for them to sleep. But oh no, they have a mind of their own. They grab your shoe, stick to the pillow, hang too low in some places…..it has been a pain. Yet, now, I can see their appeal and the safety that they offer. I actually wonder now if sleeping without them on furloughs will be an issue.  

Transition is a funny thing.  I remember our first week here, life was so different for all of us that I didn’t have the time or ability to teach my kids how to brush their teeth without using tap water, so they didn’t. They didn’t even take a bath the first week. Every single one of your senses is overwhelmed each day and the only thing you can do is take one new reality at a time and deal with it. I pictured it like this. Our world was turned upside down with every single ball floating in space, and each day you grab one of those balls and tackle it.  Day one, the food and water ball, What do we eat here, how do we want our water filter set up? How do we make COFFEE? Day two, trash/compost ball, what can we throw away in front of a Burundian, what needs to be done under cover of darkness? 

To me, it’s a very difficult thing to go through a major life transition like this with 7 kids following behind you.  To tell yourself to only use filtered water is one thing, but to get all of your children to understand this, and do it, is an entirely different challenge.  

I know that our transitions are not done here, and maybe they never will be. Africa has a way of keeping you on your toes. But God has been gracious in this season. He meets us in our weak moments, in the times when buying a plane ticket to America sounds like the best idea EVER. Yet we keep staying, keep going to bed, waking up and taking on another day.  And slowly a love for this life is growing. It’s just a seedling now, I’m not even sure if the sprout has come up above the ground,  but it’s there. 

By God’s grace it’s growing and will one day be a plant…and then maybe even a tree.  A tree of love for Burundi, for Africa, for serving the poorest of the poor in Jesus’ name.  

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 


A Week in the Life...

(from Nicole)

I would like to try to describe a ‘normal’ week of life in Kibuye but, there really isn’t such a thing. This week felt particularly abnormal. 
Over the weekend a group of us took the three-hour trek to Bujumbura to attend the wedding of one of Kibuye Hope Hospital’s Burundian doctors. I have had the privilege of attending many Burundian weddings in my year and a half here – I believe this was number seven but, it was my first in the city. It may have been quite a bit hotter than a village wedding, but it was quite a bit more extravagant to make up for it. Replacing the strands of paper often hung from the church ceilings for decoration, the walls were covered in billowing red and white fabric. The bridesmaids all wore modern matching red dresses, and the groom wore a white tuxedo. At the reception, the wall behind the couple was covered in fabric and twinkle lights, and there were white slips covering all the chairs. 

Some of my favorite bits of the wedding were when a group of girls followed the couples every move throughout the ceremony tossing copious amounts of confetti over them, the bride and groom each surprised each other with an original song which they performed at different points in the day, and as the car took the couple between locations a group of men from the wedding party walked next to and in front of the car resembling the secret service. We bowed out after formally presenting our gift so we could make it back to our friends’ house before dark. Nights in Bujumbura are usually filled with downloading, updating, and skyping. 

Back in Kibuye, on Monday afternoon we welcomed the first of the 27 (!!) total visitors that will be passing through Kibuye this week (as I said, this is not a normal week). One of these visitors happened to be the American Ambassador. As her caravan of three SUVs pulled up we all stood at attention at the front gate a bit nervously, prepared for a very formal welcome, only to be greeted by a few dozen hugs and smiles! She came on Thursday and stayed the night, giving us all a chance to share lunch at the hospital canteen, an informal ‘meet and greet’ / shamelessly ask for selfies, and of course a dessert social. I believe it was the first US Ambassador to visit Kibuye since 1989. Needless to say we were honored, and thankful for the work she is doing.


Botfly Bonanza

by Jess Cropsey

WARNING — The following blog is a little gross.  Read at your own risk.

Our son (8) woke up a few mornings ago with about 15 mysterious bites on different parts of his body.  We thought a mosquito or flea went to town on him at night.  Bug bites of unknown origin are not an uncommon occurrence, so we didn’t think much of it.  After a couple days we noticed that one of the “bites” had come to a white head with a black dot in the center and red lines streaking away from the center.  Well, perhaps this is a jigger (although a very odd place for one) or an infected bug bite.  We tried to give it a squeeze, but it was pretty painful and didn’t prove effective.  We also noticed that some of Micah’s other bites looked infected as well, so we started him on some antibiotics.  Nearly two days later, things weren’t really improving and he complained about them throughout the day.  As recommended by our beloved & talented pediatrician Dr. Alyssa, we soaked him in a nice warm bath.  It soon became clear that something alive was inside those “bites”.  After letting him soak for about 15 minutes, we began the squeezing process.  We lost count after a little while, but we think we removed around 17!  One from his head, his ear, several from his face/neck, armpit, back, leg, etc.  Poor  kid was feeling pretty woozy by the end.  It was traumatic for some and thrilling for others.  

Of course, we decided to look up some information online after we treated him and discovered that you’re not actually supposed to squeeze them out.  (Note to self for a next time we hope never happens.)  Apparently, petroleum jelly will suffocate them and you can then extract them with tweezers.  Fortunately, I think the attempted drowning technique worked pretty well and they came out intact.  

This might go down in the Kibuye infestation record books.  While I am competitive, that’s one record I hope no one else in our family (or on our team, for that matter) ever beats.