Somewhere Between the Iron Age and the Information Age
Walking down the dirt path that somehow exists more or less in the same place it has for generations despite being washed out annually, I cross three women climbing the hill. They chat amiably one with another in their formerly-bright colored wraps, now dusty with time and toil. They carry hand-fashioned hoes over their shoulders - a broad metal blade with a smooth eucalyptus pole inserted through an eyelet, held in place by a single nail. This is farming as it has been practiced for a thousand years. But when one woman pulls a cellphone out from some hidden fold of her garment, we are instantly transported to the 21st Century. The Iron Age meets the Information Age in Burundi.
The little ironies abound. A young woman in skinny jeans and a second-hand designer blouse carries a big basket of vegetables on her head shares the road with a girl in her school uniform carrying a laptop bag in the same fashion. Villagers struggle to have reliable, clean water but somehow always have Coca-Cola available for purchase. A truck that looks like an early 1960s model pulls up and twenty bright-faced soldiers toting shiny AK-47s pile out. The ancient language handed down from Bantu predecessors now includes words like "ordinaturi" for computer (ordinateur in French) and "Internet". We live in a paradox.
But isn't it true that God has placed us exactly here? Not just geographically and vocationally, but something else. I read David's description of the wicked disappearing like grass that burns up and I think of the traditional Burundian method for preparing a field for planting. I read of a Jewish carpenter washing his disciples feet and recall that peculiar reddened wash that comes off my own feet every time I take a shower. Because our God is eternal, our faith is ageless - somehow at home in modern, medieval, classical and ancient epochs alike. And as I sit typing on my computer by candlelight, I settle into a durable stillness that though times may change, our God remains.