24.3.17

Serge Kibuye - a brief history

(By Alyssa)

Last month our whole team vacated Kibuye for a weekend (thanks to a couple of visiting doctors who stayed behind) to spend time together at Lake Tanganyika in Bujumbura. We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to play, swim, worship, pray, eat, and laugh together and we're so thankful for the Serge Member Care staff who came to facilitate our retreat and care for us all. A team retreat was especially valuable at this time because, as you can see from the picture, our team has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. We no longer all live in one building where we run into each other multiple times a day for small talk and tall talk. In fact, there are some teammates who I may not see for days at a time as our paths and work don't typically intersect. Connecting in a significant way requires a lot more intentionality. So making fun new memories together and bonding more at our retreat was especially beneficial this year.

In integrating new teammates, I realize that we also have welcomed many new blog readers over the last couple years - grandparents, parents, friends, and supporters of our new teammates. I've loved getting to know several teammates' parents who have come to visit us at Kibuye - and the missionary kids are always happy when anyone's grandparents are around! But I suspect that many of you have not scrolled back through the blog archives to its beginning in 2008 and you may not be aware of how the team formed or how exactly we ended up in Burundi. So I thought I'd offer you a short-ish recap. For those who have been around for awhile, you can enjoy the trip down memory lane and remembering just how little and cute the kids used to be - and how young Jason Fader looked!

So back in 2007 - 10 years ago! - the McLaughlin, Cropsey, and Fader families officially formed the McCropder team. At the time that meant 6 adults and 1 kid! The three families were all in Ann Arbor, Michigan for medical training and got to know each other through Knox Presbyterian Church. They were all planning individually to pursue long term medical missions, and, as it dawned on them that they would all finish training the same year (2009) with complementary specialties and similar goals, they realized that God had brought them together not just to be friends but to serve Him together in Africa. (And yes, Carlan Wendler is also in this picture who was interested in the team from its inception and officially joined when he finished his training in 2012.)

2009. The McCropders (with 6 adults and 5 kids) arrived in Kenya to begin the 2 year post residency program at Tenwek Hospital through Samaritan's Purse. I think I actually took this picture for them - not knowing that we would be long term teammates heading off into the unknown together before long. 

During the two years at Tenwek, God really grew the team - in numbers through me and Baby Ben,  but primarily in developing a deeper shared vision and philosophy of ministry forged in the challenges and joys of life and medicine in a developing country. They were two years of wrestling with patient deaths and suffering, gaining experience as new attending physicians, discovering the joy of teaching and discipling African medical interns and residents, learning from and being mentored by more experienced medical missionaries, and growing as a community of friends and colleagues. 

The team's vision was honed to the following: 


2010 included exploratory trips to Madagascar, Burundi, and Liberia seeking a place where the team could live in community and serve the "least of these" while educating and discipling national medical professionals.
McLaughlin family visiting Burundi and being welcomed by Bishop Elie Buconyori
Bishop Elie, also Rector of Hope Africa University, was a visionary man with great faith. He began HAU while in exile in Kenya, moved it in faith to Burundi before things were quite stable, and he began the medical school at the request of the president with minimal faculty. He was praying and hoping for doctors and teachers to come train the future physicians of Burundi. God crossed our paths in a unique way and the rest is history! Team members visited Burundi twice more in 2011 before plans were finalized to move there after the two years in Kenya.
We also got to meet the first class of HAU medical students and work with them for a week at Kibuye Hope Hospital. We found them to be bright, enthusiastic learners - great hope for a nation with 3 doctors per 100,000 people. 
And one of those med students then visited us in Kenya! Alliance is now completing his surgery residency in Gabon and we look forward to welcoming him and his family back to Burundi when he finishes. 


We said goodbye to Kenya in 2011 and the thirteen of us (plus Baby Sammy in utero) headed back to the US to do support raising, locum tenems work, and tropical medicine training before going to Burundi.

We were thrilled when Serge (then World Harvest Mission) agreed to courageously take on our whole team as the first Serge missionaries to Burundi! This picture was taken at our assessment and orientation in Sept 2011. 

2012-2013. Ten months of French language school in the Alps was not quite the glamour we expected, but we survived - and learned a lot about God's strength in our weakness through the process. 

And then, finally, in August 2013, we arrived in Burundi (8 adults, 8 kids)! We first spent three rough months in intensive Kirundi study in Banga, Burundi, but then we were thrilled to settle into our new Kibuye home. 
Our first team retreat in Burundi - visiting the nearby waterfalls. 
The six doctors headed off to the hospital while the two teachers homeschooled the kids

Then the team grew (2014)...

And then there was an attempted coup d'état in Burundi (2015) and the team shrunk temporarily...

But then it grew again and we welcomed many fun visitors, too, for Christmas 2015. 
We enjoyed getting to know our Burundian colleagues...
...and we learned a lot even as we taught each new class of medical students. 

We attended Serge's company-wide conference in May 2016 and got our first picture with our new teammates 

And here we are at Kibuye, Christmas 2016 - 19 adults, 24 kids - yes, the kids definitely have us outnumbered these days! Thankfully we have great teachers to provide an excellent education for these adventurous, funny, sweet, creative, third culture kids! 

And coming soon in 2017...the return of the Wendlers, the Sunds, and Lauren! And in 2018....the arrival of two post residency program families (2 surgeons). 

We're thankful for how God has brought us all together through the last 10 years - certainly through unexpected twists and turns in the journey, but always with His Presence and grace sustaining us. Please pray with us that others would see the love we have for one another and be thus drawn into the Gospel to the glory of God. 

17.3.17

COTW: Blind Matthieu

By John Cropsey

A couple weeks back I received a call from a long-time missionary in Burundi, Barb Vibbert.  She told me about a man named Matthieu who was somewhere in the range of 102 - 104 years old.  He was a longtime friend of their family and they noted on a recent visit to his house that he was no longer seeing well.  He was told in the capital city, Bujumbura, that he was “too old” to undergo surgery, and so he sat for two years at home with no hope of seeing again.  Two weeks prior to the Vibbert’s visit, he had to blindly attend his wife's burial.

Matthieu's Burundian surname means “to run away” in Kirundi.  This is because he was born during the events of World War I and his mother was fleeing for her life while pregnant with Mathew as the Germans fought to maintain control of central Africa.

His amazing story continues.  Matthieu later came to hear about Jesus when the first Free Methodist missionary, Jonathan Wesley Haley, arrived in the early 1930’s.  Haley was a Canadian who began his missionary career in South Africa and slowly made his way to Burundi overland.  That was no small feat in those days.  Matthieu is credited as being the very first Burundian to come to Christ through the ministry of JW Haley in 1935, making him the oldest Burundian Free Methodist.

The Vibberts brought Matthieu to our clinic and led him through the clinic short-cut “back door” given his feeble state.


It was my pleasure to find on Matthieu's exam that he had cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the world.  It was good news because cataracts are a reversible cause of blindness.  At the end of the exam, Matthieu's son (Butoyi) and “garde du malade” (who is no spring chicken himself) told me he was also having some difficulty seeing.  Sure enough, he also has advanced cataracts and needs surgery.

Matthieu's surgeries went great despite the “gestational age” of his cataracts.  Getting them out was like trying to deliver twin post-term behemoths!






As Matthieu was being assisted out of the operating theatre with the help of his son and my janitor, Aristide, Aristide stated, "Matthieu is my grandfather."  I attempt to clarify if he meant “grandfather” in the general African sense, like, he’s an old man from my village, or literally, his genetic grandfather.  “Yes, my real grandfather.”  If that’s the case, then the slightly less blind son of Matthieu must therefore be an uncle or something, so I asked Aristide.  “Yes, that is my father,” was his matter-of-fact response.

At that point it was pretty cool to think I had three generations of Matthieu’s family standing in front of me in the theatre, but then it quickly hit me that one of my staff, who has worked for me for over a year, has let his grandfather sit at home in blindness (and now his father as well) without bringing them in for an examination.  Okay, okay, the other option is that Aristide may not be overly confident in my skills yet and was going to wait another year or two before risking his relatives under the knife:)  Either way, it is just another reminder of all the barriers there are to delivering care in a place that has never had access before, even for families with means and connections like Matthieu.   Imagine what prevents the poorest from making it to us.

A happy Matthieu with his son and two grandsons a day after his second cataract surgery



5.3.17

The Africa Class

(from Julie)

This is my first entry on the team blog!  Our family arrived in Burundi about six months ago.  While Logan and the other physicians and administrators are busy at the hospital, the other half of the team is busy helping teach the team’s children at Kibuye Hope Academy in our newly built three-room schoolhouse.

There are currently 6 kindergarteners, 6 second graders, and 6 students 4-7th grade.  We have two full-time teachers, Scott and Lindsey Nimmon, but all the moms, our team intern, and even the team accountant pitch in to do the best we can to give our children the best education possible. 


We choose to see our remote location as a benefit, and an opportunity to give our children a completely unique education that they may not have had if they lived anywhere but Africa.  Thus for the first time the team is offering “The Africa Class” to our kindergarteners this year.  Somehow I was recruited to teach our youngest students all about Africa.  Believe me, out of all the adults on our team I am probably the LEAST qualified to teach this class, but we are diving in and I am enjoying the opportunity to learn right along with them!


The Africa Class meets everyday and is exploring one country at a time, finding it on the map, learning what language the people speak, researching its flag and coloring their own version of each flag.  The children are really looking forward to having a complete book of African flags when we are finished!  It’s so fun discovering the meaning behind each brilliantly colored flag.  For example, did you know that Malawi changed its flag for two years (2010-2012)?  Just ask one of our kindergarteners… they could tell you all about it!  


The kids love poring over their maps, and even though they can’t read most of the names, they can point right to Algeria, Botswana, Chad, and more.  They probably could even tell you a couple facts about many of the countries like what they eat, what they wear, and what the major crops are.

The class is full of discovery, wonder and imagination.  We dance, we sing, we pretend to ride to class on a camel.  We try to experience as much of each African nation as we can from culture to climate and maps to music.

- We charmed a make-believe snake in Tunisia, tasted chocolate while passing through Côte d’Ivoire, and traced the journey of the Portuguese settlers to Angola.

- While learning about the Copper Belt in Zambia, we designed our own experiment to watch copper turn green.  

- We pretended the Fader’s house was Ethiopia, and we were greeted at the door by Heather who treated us to an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

- The Mclaughlin’s house became Kenya as we tasted chai and heard all about their time there. Ben loves to remind us that he is African because he was born in Kenya.  

Everyday is an adventure!  

- We imagine ourselves living in a giant Tanzanian baobab tree, we pretend we are gorillas from the Odzala rainforest in the DRC, we sing in Arabic while wondering what it might be like to truly be thirsty and not have water available.   


- We traced our hands and designed our own henna artwork while stopping off in Morocco, walked like an Egyptian through the halls of our school, and formed a mud hut out of clay while journeying through Nigeria.  We found sugarcane growing nearby, solved a Somalian riddle and acted out a well-known South African folktale.  


The kids love to pray for people to know Jesus all across this continent.  We talk about poverty, starvation and war.  But we also marvel at the beauty: the islands of Seychelles, the snow-capped mountains of Lesotho, and the ability many Africans have to carry everything on their heads!  


If you or your children would like to discover more about Africa along with us, I would recommend a children’s book called “AFRICA is Not a Country.”  It counters stereotypes while celebrating the diversity of Africa in its cultural traditions and modernity.  Meanwhile you can pray with us for Africa, for Burundi, and for our school, Kibuye Hope Academy – both teachers and students.  Pray they develop a love for this continent to which God has called us.  

The children’s curiosity is contagious.  It’s a joy to be a researcher, adventurer, and discoverer along with them.  We look forward to watching these young ones grow up in this beautiful place called AFRICA.