Almost without a doubt, the number one question that we get asked after finishing a presentation (of which there have been many these past few months) is, How safe is Burundi? That's a difficult question. It's difficult on many levels--we don't really know, we maybe know but don't want to put the country in a bad light, we want to reassure family and donors, and then again, why does it matter? People want to know because they are curious, because they care about us, because they've heard stories. Really, Burundi was engaged in civil war until just a few years ago. Can it possibly be a safe place to be?
The answer we give is that we think so, and the country seems to be at peace so far. Before deciding on Burundi we spent a lot of time talking to ex-pats and Burundians about the political climate, stability, danger for citizens and residents, etc. We are not knowingly taking our small children into a dangerous place to live, where there is guerilla warfare or drug trafficking or kidnappings happening every day. Will war come again, and will our lives be endangered, and will we have to be emergency airlifted out of the country to safety? I suppose these things are always a possibility. But at this point they do not seem likely. And we have weighed the risks and decided that there is always some danger no matter where you live, be it in a large US city with muggings, a high school where some random kid could come in with a gun and a temper, or a small town with a railroad crossing where people are occasionally killed in auto accidents. Is there more than average danger in Burundi? Perhaps, but not much.
We felt incredibly safe these past two years in Kenya. It's been one of the most stable countries in Africa for the past 40 years. And yet. Remember the election violence that suddenly erupted just a few years ago. Things happen. One never knows. But despite that, we never felt like our lives were in any danger at Tenwek. Our kids played in the front yard. We drove around the country with impunity. There were cautions we took, of course--no driving after dark, avoid certain roads known to be "dangerous," don't travel by yourself. So there is an element of, be smart as an American living abroad, and you will probably be fine.
The question remains, what if there is more than average danger in Burundi? Would that dissuade us from going? What about all the need in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, DRC, northern Africa? If God called us there, would we not follow His leading? Someone once said, the safest place to be is at the center of God's will. We seek His will, and step out in faith. We count the cost, but consider it a privilege to lay down our lives for Him, no matter what that looks like. I can't say right now if our team would stay in Burundi if things became unstable. It's something we will have to decide as doctors, as parents, and as missionaries. We pray that things will always be safe and peaceful, that our families will be kept from all harm and sickness. You can pray that with us, every day. And if someday that changes, we will continue to seek God's will and follow His leading.
"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety." --Psalm 4:8