26.12.13

Ziplocks, Laughter, and Locking the Door

by Heather

Well, I learned three lessons this week.  Lessons about Ziplocks, laughter, and locking the door. 

On Sunday, six McCropders visited a church in a nearby village.  We arrived and were shown to our seats.  Guests like us sit on the stage in the front, facing the audience.  The service included baptisms, introducing the new district leader, and presenting gifts like chickens and bananas.  It was a lovely service until... right after the part where we greeted the church (that is, entertained the church with our rudimentary Kirundi)... Abigail, who had been unusually quiet for a five-year-old, murmured something about a stomach ache.  I whipped out a Ziplock bag, not a moment too soon.  The Ziplock caught MOST of the disaster, and I found some more on Jason’s sport coat when he stood up later in the service.  Our seats up there on the stage made it tough to be discreet.  Lesson one:  always travel with a Ziplock bag.

The service was several hours from completion, so I took the kids outside for a little fresh air.  Next door in a classroom building, some chickens were awaiting distribution in the church service.  Anna gave each chicken a name, set them up on the school benches, and began to teach them French.  This seemed pretty normal to me, or at least normal for Anna.  The others in the room, however, found the whole scene entertaining.  Laughter lifted the stress of the vomit fiasco, and lesson two became clear:  laughter helps to put mishaps into perspective.
When the chickens entered the church service, we accompanied them and stayed for the duration of the service, which ended at about 2:30pm.  We stayed for lunch and arrived home by about 4:30.  Upon entering the apartment, we discovered a mishap which challenged me to put lesson two into practice.

Somehow, evidently, unfortunately, Abi’s chicken, Ebony, was inadvertently locked in the house.  Ebony ate everything edible, and she made a VERY VERY BIG MESS.  Worst of all, she discovered one of Anna’s pet chameleons… and killed it.  : (   She also laid an egg on Abi’s bed.  We were hoping that Ebony was so miserable while trapped in the house for an entire day that she would never want to come in the house again, but alas, she seems to have decided that Abi’s bed is the only place she wants to lay her daily eggs.  Lesson three:  always make sure all your pet chickens are outside before locking the door.

We certainly will continue to learn many lessons in the year ahead, but I'm glad to have these three down now.

21.12.13

Christmas Container

 By Alyssa

Christmas has arrived at Kibuye for the McCropders in the form of an enormous 20 ton red box! Our container is here! The container has been in Burundi for about 6 weeks but has been held up in customs and it finally was given clearance to come to us this week. Amazingly, the ministry of health requested that customs not charge duty on the container due to our service to Burundi - the customs officials initially said no to that - and then, inexplicably, changed their minds and didn’t charge us duty. Incredible! After the container was cleared, it took another couple days to identify a truck and driver - days full of rain and mud up here - and then the container made the final trek on Wednesday morning. After traveling from Michigan across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, through the Suez canal, missing the boat in Oman, avoiding Somali pirates to arrive in Tanzania, and then traveling overland from Tanzania to Burundi, I think the last 3km were actually the most difficult part of its journey. We’re thankful that the 2 1/2 hour drive from Bujumbura to Kibuye is well paved until the very end. But the last few kilometers of dirt/mud created certain challenges for our container as you can see below. 

 First view of our container coming down the road

 Tight squeeze
 Stuck in the mud - Jason on his way up to the hospital
 OB consultation on the road
 Many attempts were made to get the truck out before the Busoma truck came to the rescue
 Lots of curious onlookers

Can you find John Cropsey?

But, the small hospital-owned truck came to the rescue and pulled the large semi out of the mud. And then the unloading process began. Thanks to John & Jason’s hard work, there was no wasted space in that container. It took them months to get everything fit in there perfectly and we weren’t quite sure how long it would take to get it unloaded. But the truck needed to get back to Bujumbura and the container had to be unloaded before it could be tipped off the truck and placed on the concrete slab. A team of strong men worked tirelessly all day taking ~300lb crates from our container to our houses.  And there was much rejoicing as everything seemed to be intact and undamaged! It didn’t even rain to speak of - remarkable during the rainy season. Ropes were placed to keep the curious onlookers at a distance. The workers at one point asked what the washing machine was - they couldn’t imagine a machine to wash the clothes. Everyone on our team had a role to play in the unloading process. But we weren’t absent from the hospital completely. In the midst of the craziness, Jason operated on a post partum lady (after discussing the case with Rachel), Carlan met with the medical director concerning administering narcotics at Kibuye, and I lectured midwife students on examining a newborn. This really is perfect timing for the container’s arrival as hospital work ramps up to full time for us January 2. God has indeed heard and answered our prayers and our hopes in His timing! 


 We all enjoyed watching for the container's arrival! 
 The kids were praying for the container's arrival just at the moment that they heard it going by their school window! 
 Even Toby watched the events of the day

 Very tightly packed container! 
 The most exciting event of the unloading for many
 Very heavy crates!
 The kids are very excited about their bikes, too! 
 Preparing to tip the container off the truck

 Sorry to the corn
 10 men with sticks/logs for levers moved an 8500lb container into place on the blocks. Incredible ingenuity of practical physics! 
 An empty container
Container in its new home

As we unpack picture frames and familiar belongings - many of which we haven’t seen for years - it feels like we’re really settling in. We have officially moved to Kibuye now that the moving van has arrived. I realized in seeing teammates’ things that, while we’ve been close friends and teammates for 4 years now, I’ve actually never known them in a stable settled place. I’ve never seen the many McLaughlin musical instruments, Carlan’s homemade bookshelves, Cropsey’s furniture, Anna’s bike, or Jason’s tools. We’ve traveled for four years to Kenya, the US, France, Burundi with only what could fit in 50lb suitcases. What a joy it is to make this our home hopefully for many years to come! I also think of the many people making this event possible for us - our parents who stored our things for us and cheerfully helped us pack and move them to the container, my sister’s high school friend who has been praying nightly for our container to arrive as she feeds her newborn, the ladies in my church who threw a container shower for me before I left Birmingham, many friends at Knox Presbyterian church who have gifted us with games and folding chairs and so much else, and myriads of friends and family and supporters praying for this event and caring about these details. Urakoze cane (thanks very much)!

19.12.13

Advent, Promises, and Their Fulfillments


(from Eric)

"Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel." - Luke 2:25

Long ago, the wisdom of the Christian church decided that every year they would reenact the waiting of the coming of the Messiah, that it would remind us how to wait for his coming again.  And here we sit, at the end of that advent season.

Advent.  "Coming".  Coming of what?  The coming of that which was promised to us.  In the case of Christmas, it is the coming of a person, Jesus, but the fulfillment of every promise would flow in his wake.  God bringing his kingdom.

In a very true sense, our team has been celebrating the fulfillment of a promise since our arrival at Kibuye six weeks ago.  There was waiting.  There was unsettledness.  There were difficulties.  There was yearning.  There was a sense of God's calling, of his destination, but it was not yet manifest.  So we waited.  And it felt sometimes like it would never come.  It felt like maybe we should stop waiting, and start getting on with something more "useful".

And now we're here.   And we're celebrating.

Andrew Peterson sings: "It was harder than we dreamed, but I believe that's what the promise is for."  To sustain us in the difficult times.  And the more faithful the promiser, the more weight his promise carries.

And it's because it's hard to wait that we have to celebrate.  We have to celebrate and remember the fulfillment of the long waits, of the great promises, that we would learn to wait patiently and faithfully for the other promises that have yet to be fulfilled.

Simeon waited long for "the consolation of Israel", which seems pretty vague to me.  But even if he was specifically waiting for a Messiah, the misconceptions about Messiah-hood that abounded in Jesus' time would lead us to believe that Simeon wasn't expecting a newborn baby.

But then he saw him.

And the joy of a promise fulfilled was his.  It was joy enough.  For he knew that he could now die in peace, just having seen God's great promise fulfilled.  There is a satisfaction there that I rarely, if ever, can call my own.  Which is odd, given that I too believe that Jesus' birth was the coming of God's great salvation.

The yearning remains.  Why?  Because there are promises yet to be fulfilled.  Here at Kibuye, we celebrate, but the yearning remains.  Our arrival is far from an end in itself.  It is much more of a beginning, and we await what will be.  All of creation is still waiting for what will be.

Consider, along with us, the places in your life and in the world where the final fulfillment of the promise has not yet come to pass.  Then, consider Simeon.  Consider Israel waiting thousands of years.  Consider us now at Kibuye.  Consider all the thousands of tiny advents that indeed have already come to pass.

And let us wait.  Let us wait in expectation.  Let us wait well, for the One who promises is faithful.

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." - Galatians 4:4 

14.12.13

Team Time

This weekend we have set aside two days for dedicated team time.  Yesterday we headed out together in the van to see some beautiful Burundian waterfalls.




After a picnic lunch, we returned home for reflection time focused on themes from the book we are studying together, Paul Miller's "A Praying Life."

This morning, in true Burundian fashion, we hoed in the garden.  “Kurima," one of the first Kirundi verbs we learned, means “to hoe."  Below, “Alyssa ararima.”


At the moment we are in Gitega, a nearby city, for lunch (and fast internet, hence the blog pictures).  We are thankful for the community of the team.  It's fun to spend designated team time together, and even better, it is a gift from God that we can enjoy daily life together on normal days as well.

We are all hoping that the next blog post might announce the arrival of our shipping container.  It is scheduled to make its way to Kibuye on Monday!  

6.12.13

Merry Christmas from Burundi


For more information on what we're up to and for alternative Christmas gift or year-end giving ideas,
visit our new website at www.kibuyehope.com.

4.12.13

Book of the Month: The Fate of Africa

(By: Eric McLaughlin)
 
 
I like to borrow books from the Faders.  They are focused readers.  Not exactly the place to go for leisurely fiction, but if you want some good perspectives on Burundi, Africa, International Development, Culture and Theology, Raising Kids Cross-Culturally, or Poverty Alleviation, they have some good choices.

So I borrow them from time to time, interspersed with some Agatha Christie and Stephen Lawhead to balance things out, and it leads to some very formative discussions.  In France, Jason was slowly working his way through a veritable tome that frankly scared the literary daylights out of me.  It was about 800 large pages with small print and small margins.  It was called "The Fate of Africa" by Meredith Martin, a history of the continent's first fifty years since independence.  The giant scope of the topic did nothing to alleviate my anxieties, but as Jason solidly extolled its merits, I decided to give it a go.  After I did, John devoured it in a record 10 days (pressured speech, spending sprees, and other clinical signs of mania being absent at the time.)

Though it is not for the faint of heart or the person with only a passing interest in our fair continent, "The Fate of Africa" is definitely worth the effort.  He starts with the beginnings of the independence movement with Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, and Egypt, and moves slowly forward, giving fascinating case stories of different countries at different times.  He's pretty equitable, so by the end, there aren't many countries left that you haven't heard a good bit about.  If you've ever been taken by a desire to have places like Malawi, Equatorial Guinea, and Central African Republic be more than a blank name on a map, then here's your chance.  The stories are very engaging, sometimes almost spellbinding, usually in their awfulness.

The reason Jason never made this a Book of the Month post is that it's hard to summarize something so huge, but I'll give a few things I took away:

1.  Martin has done his research really well.  The scope of his discussions necessitate that you often take his judgements at his word, but in general, I find myself trusting him.
2.  For several decades, the fate of African countries was strangely caught in the crossfire of the Cold War.  Western powers would support a despot out of fear that communists would gain a foothold there, and vice versa.  African leaders would play this dynamic up to their advantage.
3.  The Algerian War with France resulted in the end of the French government at that time, with General de Gaulle being called into power by popular acclaim, not a legal process, to restart the French republic.  It's interesting, since many military coups in Francophone Africa were by former soldiers of his, who took over the government, when it seemed defunct.
4.  Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) was led by a frankly racist white government that seceded from Britain to avoid Britain being able to set any eventual timeline for future black rule.  Mugabe's subsequent actions are still unjustified, but it's interesting to know what he was up against.
5.  The UN debacle of Somalia was unfortunately timed right before the Rwandan genocide, making everyone more reluctant to intervene than usual (plus all the Americans were watching a famous White Bronco car chase).  The story of Rwanda (and Burundi) is fascinating, especially as to how the conflict spread into Congo, and led to the toppling of the regime of the largest country in Africa.
6.  The first African head of state to lose an election and leave office was in 1991 in Benin. 1.9.9.1.  Wow.
7.  Nelson Mandela really was incredible, and his successor's bungling of the AIDS crisis is almost as incredible.

Lastly, I would have loved to hear him talk more about the one country which seems to be an exception to bad leadership, stagnant poverty, and an ever-widening gulf between rich and poor - namely, Botswana.  Quiet little Botswana somehow turned it's mineral wealth into a middle class and solid developmental progress and democracy.  How?  What did they do differently?  I guess any good non-fiction book leaves you with a good reading objective for the next book.

But I keep checking the Fader's bookshelves for a book on Botswana, and nothing has shown up yet.


2.12.13

Au Revoir, Sarah Storm!

Sarah Storm, a 2013 high school grad, traveled to Burundi with us in August to help facilitate our language study by watching the kiddos.  It was a tremendous blessing to have her as part of the team for the past four months.  

She has graciously entertained our children during our numerous team business meetings.  She also would stay at one of the homes on Wednesday evenings so that we could meet for our alternating men’s/women’s groups and book study.     


She spent a significant portion of her time reading to our children, and since our container has yet to arrive, it’s been the same books....over and over again!


Most importantly, she watched the kids on the weekdays so that the adults could do full-time Kirundi language study. 


She supervised many playtimes involving bottlecaps and blocks.  


Sadly, higher education is calling her name, and so she leaves us to carry on with the next stage of her life.  Thank you so much, Sarah, for loving and caring for our children.  We wish you the best as you start college.  Tuzosubira hanyuma!    


26.11.13

A Birthday Chicken

by Heather

The story really started the day we arrived at Kibuye.  Someone gave us a welcome gift:  a rooster.  Our kids adored it, fed it popcorn kernels, attached a leash around its leg, and took it for walks.
It was a great pet… for a day… until it made an enormous ruckus at daybreak.  This meant trouble.  Within hours, the older kids polled the team:  Kill or Keep?  Anna lobbied her hardest, informing everybody of the many reasons to vote “keep.”  She wrote out some persuasive arguments, including “he is important to other chickens,” “he is educashional,” “he is innocent” and “parents can get work done when their kids are playing with him.”  Despite these efforts, after two days of 6am racket, the rooster became Rooster Curry for dinner. 

Since that fateful dinner, the children have been on the lookout for an opportunity to acquire another chicken.  A hen, actually, in order to avoid the 6am disturbance and to see if it would lay eggs.  Anna suggested a hen for Abi’s birthday present.  So we forked over 4000 francs (less than $3) and brought home a shiny black hen for Abigail’s 5th birthday today.   

The kids are loving it, and it made an easy birthday party theme here where there are no party supplies to be bought.  Egg races, pin the wing on the chicken, and frosting chickens on the banana cake.  Best of all, a real chicken to provide weeks of “educashional” entertainment until we all get hungry for chicken curry. 




21.11.13

Getting to Know the Locals


by Jess Cropsey
One of the more important objectives for this two months at Kibuye (before diving into medical work in January) is to get to know people in the local community and at the hospital.  We recognize the importance of relationships, particularly in this culture, and we are also aware that an influx of a large group of foreigners might make some people uncomfortable.  So, we’re trying to be intentional about building relationships.  This can take various forms.
Rachel & Alyssa have both given lectures (in French!) to the midwives and nursing students who are currently at the hospital.  Others have had planning meetings with administrators at the hospital and at the university.    
For some of us, athletic events are an appealing way to get to know people. 
 All of us (including the kids) have taken at least one visit to watch the drumming class which happens every afternoon after school (and lasts for hours).  It’s fun to listen to them from our apartments.
 Visiting the construction sites of our new homes is another enjoyable activity, and there are plenty of workers with whom we can practice some Kirundi.  Pictured below is the McLaughlin house which has made a lot of progress this past week.  The Cropsey house is also under construction, but not as far along.  The other houses will be built after these two are finished.  Jason, Carlan, and John have all purchased their own hoes so that they can join in from time to time.
 Today, a contingent of the team paid visits to several of the local community leaders.  Apparently, there is a proper order for all these things (start at the top and work your way down), so we’re thankful for the nationals here who can offer us guidance.
Please continue to pray for us in these first few months as we establish relationships and continue with language learning, both of which are crucial for long-term life and ministry here.