by Carlan Wendler
Do you ever wake up in such a daze, perhaps after a 30-hr call or long week of work, and look around for a minute just to figure out where you are...wondering the whole time if it is evening or morning? Sitting in my bed at the Banga Guesthouse that bizarre but somehow familiar feeling sweeps over me. Where am I? How did I get here?
If you’ve followed our story for long, you know that we’re a group of teachers, doctors, and kids moving to Burundi to serve with Hope Africa University and Kibuye Hope Hospital. I’m the single male on the team, and thus have the privilege of pinch-hitting at “baby-holding-at-the-dinner-table” and a host of other uncle-ish activities. I also have the unique opportunity to interact with this community in a freer, more time-intensive way than a parent or single female would.
I don’t want to make any generalizations or judgments about Burundian culture yet, but so far I have had a lot of help in my language acquisition from passers-by on the 200 m walk between the family homes and the dining hall/guesthouse (where I live). It is easy for me to talk with the plenteous soldiers who mill about the tiny garrison town of Banga. I was even “invited” by an older Burundian gentleman to share a drink yesterday afternoon in the guesthouse lobby (I say “invited” because you know who was going to be buying the drinks).
But with that said, the realizations of life adjustments wash over my heart and mind like waves lapping on the lakeshore - electricity, running water, cellphone and Internet, transportation, snacks, medicines...all of these are substantially less reliable or easy than even they were in France let alone the US. I am a Millennial (born in or after 1980). I am used to having the worldwide web at my fingertips (true story: I had to look up online what the birth year cutoff was for Millennials). Burundi is going to be hard for me. Burundi is going to be good for me.
The rest of the team, apart from the toddlers, have spent from two to twenty years in Africa already. And though I am beyond grateful for the heritage I have from my dad’s minister-dad and my mom’s missionary-dad, this is my trial by fire in African missions. Will I survive? Will I thrive? How did I get here?
In some moments I look around and feel like I’ve awoken in the deep end of Lake Tanganyika. But to my great relief, rest, and joy, I quickly see around me a team of men and women of like, precious faith. It can’t be insane if eight other educated, rational adults have decided to take the same plunge, right? I mean, people don’t go crazy en masse, do they?
In all honesty, having a team of brothers- and sisters-in-arms isn’t necessary to be sane nor will it be sufficient to shield us from the difficulties to come from language and culture learning. But I take heart from the numerous examples of “insane” faith that went before us, men and women who challenged giants and empires, who survived fiery furnaces, lions’ dens, and attempted executions, and who knew the truth deeper than the surface logic - it is always the most rational and beneficial choice to follow Jesus. Always.