31.8.15

Long-Anticipated Arrivals

The number of North Americans at Kibuye has more than doubled after an influx of new and returning friends over the weekend.

The Cropsey family is back; praise the Lord!  And our teacher has returned; hooray!  We have missed them every single day this summer, and this picture shows how glad we are to have them back:

Arriving with the Cropseys, the Caleb and Krista Fader family is here to continue learning Kirundi before jumping into all the work ahead.  The urgent need for Caleb's engineering skills has been quite apparent, as their first 24 hours at Kibuye included about 20 hours with no electricity.  We hope that Caleb can facilitate getting a generator system in place later this year.  : )  In the meantime, we love having them here with their adorable 1-year-old, Liam.

Also, Nicole has come from New York to help in the business office, among other things, for which we are very grateful.  We really look forward to getting to know her.  Below you see her first experience in front of the church at Kibuye as she was introduced to her new community yesterday.

And pictured above on the left, the Jesh and Julie Thiessen family from Canada has arrived as well.  Jesh, a surgery resident, is here to operate and teach in the hospital for 10 weeks.  They have jumped right in, helping from the moment they arrived, and even before, as they brought all kinds of helpful items for us and for the hospital in their luggage.

We thank God for bringing each of these people here to Kibuye.  Please pray for them as they settle in.



26.8.15

Staring Into the Dark

(by Eric)

A few of us first met Travis in 2010.  He's a family medicine doc like me, and had just come to Uganda to lead Serge's team there.  He's instantly likable.  Intelligent and perceptive, with a heart that greatly loves God.  He's just a couple years older than me, with a wife and three young kids.

Travis has cancer.  A medical anomaly, he was found to have advanced colon cancer several years ago.  He had to leave the field and move back to the US.  He has been through chemo and surgery.  From what I can tell, God has drawn him more to himself during this process.  I'm sure it doesn't always feel that way for him.  And now the cancer is back.

I first met Sarah in 2004 in rural Honduras.  She was getting ready to start medical school, but was already repairing hernias.  She is only person I have ever met who fell asleep taking the MCAT and still got into medical school.  She came and spent time with us in Kenya.  Then she finished her surgery residency and became a post-resident in Zambia, where I had spent two months as a medical student.

Sarah is vibrant and sharp, with an infectious energy.  I was so excited when I learned she would be in Zambia, knowing that she would be a great blessing to the people there.

Now Sarah has stage IV breast cancer.  She might be younger than I am.  She has started chemo.  Surgery is not currently an option, given the spread of the disease.

God, how can you allow this to happen?  I get that nothing can separate them from your love.  I even get that you may heal their hearts and their relationships through the sickness in their bodies.  At least, I sort of get it.  But the question remains:  God, how can you let this happen?

***

Sunday morning at church.  We were singing.

Confession:  My mind wanders terribly during worship songs.  I know this is the case for everybody, but I'm fairly convinced it's more for me.  I analyze everything to death, and plus I'm a musician.  So, I guess I have a hard time not being distracted by the very things that help other people to focus.  

But we were singing about Christ our refuge.  We sang about weak being strong, and Christ being the Lord of all the storm.  About our hope being built on nothing besides Christ.

And praise was flowing from my heart.  Why?  Because of my friends with cancer.  Bad cancer.  Scary, life-threatening cancer.

Because I'm reminded that I need a refuge.  Because we are weak.  Because we are in a storm.  Because all our other hopes are failing us.

***

My teammates poke fun at my tendency to write in a melancholic tone.  And I can laugh along with them.  But I can't seem to stop writing that way.  Because Jesus is the light of the world.  If you stare into the dark, it ought to be transformed by his presence.  If it's not, then it's all for naught.

I can't always find his light.  But sometimes I can.  And that's usually enough for me to continue in the hope that, seen or unseen, his light is always there.  I can stare into the dark precisely because I have hope.

Much of the time, it doesn't feel that dark.  I don't really feel like I need a refuge.  I feel like I can hope in myself, and I'll probably be just fine.  I don't look for the light.  And so, I'm distracted by the chord changes, the timing of the powerpoint slide changes, and just about anything else.

And the point is this:  I'm wrong.  In moments like that, I need the Light of the world just as much, if not more for my self-deception.  Travis and Sarah can't hide it.  Much of the rest of the time, we think we can.  We cover it up, and we play a game to our detriment.  We miss out on praise.

What Travis and Sarah and their families are going through is, in many ways, unique from me.  In other ways, it is an unmasked form of something that is universal.

"Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." - Luke 12:2

"the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you." - 1 Corinthians 14:25

This is very good news.  This must be very good news.  Let us live in the light.

19.8.15

Going Home

by Jess Cropsey

In exactly one week, our family will be getting on an airplane to head back to Burundi.  We have had a wonderful couple months here in the United States, but all of us (even the kids) are excited to go back home.  We've had some discussions with the kids about the "yuck duck" and the "yeah duck" (modeled with two rubber ducks) that harkens back to our cross-cultural training in Colorado.  The "yuck ducks" are missing grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins.  The "yeah ducks" are being able to play with dear friends again, being in their own rooms and having their own toys.

And for me, it really does feel like going home this time.  In Kenya and France, it just wasn't quite the same feeling of being home.  We knew those places were temporary.  As I thought about this, I realized that this will be the first time that the kids & I have left the United States for a place that we've already been to before!  Our first three trans-Atlantic flights were all going to a new & unknown place (Kenya, France, Burundi).  This time, we know what we're in for and what to expect -- the grocery stores, the currency, the food & other items that are available, the roads, the people, the language (to some extent anyways), etc.  We have a beautiful home that we are going back to, a team that has become like another family, and Burundian colleagues who are dear friends and wonderful ministry partners.  

Please pray for us as we travel next week (Wednesday, August 26th - Friday, August 28th).  Several other teammates (new & old) as well as a visiting general surgeon & his family will be traveling at the same time.  It will be a time of transition at Kibuye as a large group of ex-patriates descend upon this rural place that has been relatively quiet for the last few months.  And pray for our new teammates in particular, Caleb & Krista Fader (engineer/nurse) and Nicole Christenson (finance) as they settle into life & ministry with our team.  

A few of the amazing people we've been able to spend time with this summer:













3.8.15

In Praise of American Seasons

(from Eric)

Well, our time in American is more than three months now, with more than that to come before we return to Burundi.  We are probably as settled as we are going to be, which is to say "sort of".

One of the questions we get from people is "what do you enjoy the most about being back in the US?"  This is a good question.  It's good, because it is likely to yield some interesting information for the question-asker, but it's also good because it pushes us, the missionaries in the US, to a useful type of reflection.

Because there are lots of really great things about being back in the US.  The top of that list is our family and friends.  We love being here because this is where so many people that we love and have missed live.   It is here that we get to be a part of birthday celebrations, attend graduations, and see new nieces when they are still newborns.

But we also enjoy ice cream.  We enjoy the quiet serenity of driving after dark on a well-lit road.  We enjoy frank communication styles.  We enjoy Trader Joe's and Target.  We enjoy the way that Americans take so much problem-solving initiative.


Yet I thought I'd mention here one of the things that I appreciate more and more as time goes on:  Seasons.  We've spend the better part of 5 years in the equatorial highlands of Africa.  Both in Kenya and in Burundi, we've lived above 6000 feet, and within 5 degrees of the equator.  (Kenya was less than a degree!)  People almost invariably assume that we live in a hot humid place, and almost all our visitors comment on how great the weather is at Kibuye.  And it's true.  Believe me, we don't take it for granted, since almost all our missionaries friends are sweating it out somewhere else!  At Kibuye, highs range from 60 to 80 degrees (depending mostly on the clouds and rain), and it can dip down into the high 40's at night.  At least, we think so.  No one has a thermometer, and there is no weather service, so we're just guessing.

And yes, it's perfect.  And there is some changing of the environment as the rainy and dry seasons alternately unfold.  But it feels the same.  And as the months go by, I miss the seasons.  I miss being cold, and I sort of even miss being hot (though we can visit Buja for that).

Because the seasons are beautiful.  Right now in Ann Arbor, everyone is outside, taking advantage of the few months of summer.  Fruit trees are producing.  Outdoor festivals are almost every weekend.  It's light until after 9 pm, which is just shocking.  On the equator, sundown is always between 6:15 and 6:30.  One African friend exclaimed that he can't eat dinner if it's still light outside, which is a thought that never would have occurred to me.  But now, we can sit outside after dinner and watch fireflies come out.  Bugs that light up!  Can you believe it!

Maggie understands the seasons.  Ben (who is 4) is a bit hazy on the details.  He gets the order mixed up.  Or he thinks that Fall is when things grow.  But then, the last time he saw the leaves all change color and fall off the trees, he was one.  So, this will be fun to watch.  Apples to pick, sweaters to don, leaves to rake (definitely a blessing and a curse, I know), football to watch.

I'm even glad that we're going to be here for part of the winter.  The burst of warmth when you walk out of a cold wintry day into a warm building is a beautiful thing.  For that matter, walking out into the cold isn't so bad for the first few moments.  Bare tree branches against a clear sky, and everyone sipping their warm beverages.

And the whole thing is such an amazing cycle.  Death, resurrection, death, resurrection.  I'm guessing that the dry and rainy seasons could create the same thing for Africa, but it doesn't hit me the same way (probably because I'm not farming.  And I'm an American).  But every spring feels like the first spring.  Like, even though the season has never failed to come, part of me didn't believe it would come this year.  That, this year, it would just stay gray and cold.  But it doesn't.  And so, if we're wise, we're continually celebrating the season that is before us, because it hasn't been here long, and it won't be long before it's gone again.

It's a beautiful image, both for what it is, and also for what it can teach us.

Happy Summer.