Help Save our French Language School!

by Greg Sund

Communication is the key that unlocks relationships. We all know this, however, when you become a missionary living and working abroad, you become more acutely aware of this truth and are reminded of it every time you walk out of your front door. Without the ability to speak French, our team in Burundi would be completely ineffective in what God called us here to do -  to teach, to disciple, and to build relationships with those God has brought us here to love and to serve.

A significant part of our team’s journey was a year spent at the Centre Chrétien d’Enseignement du Français (CCEF - aka Association Française d'Enseignement Biblique), a French language school in Albertville, France. For over 50 years, this small school has been laboring tirelessly, year in and year out, to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12), training those whom God has called to bear witness to the Gospel in Francophone countries. The impact that this school has had in France and across Francophone Africa cannot be overstated.  Founded in 1967, it has equipped nearly 3,000 missionaries working in 36 countries around the world. During our family’s year in Albertville (2016-2017) we were taught alongside missionary families heading to Senegal, Gabon, Chad, Togo, DRC, Benin, France and Burundi. These are families that, because of their ability to communicate in French, are now caring for the sick and the hungry, teaching children to read and write, training doctors and nurses and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who have not yet heard it. 

Over the course of my life, I have had a small number of teachers who have made what I would consider a significant impact on the direction of my life and on the quality of my character. My two language teachers at CCEF are among that list. Years later, I remain deeply grateful for the work they are doing, and for all the ways they served and equipped me to serve in Burundi.

Sadly, because of a series of lockdowns in France and the inability of most of those who were on track to study at this school to obtain visas to travel to France, CCEF has been hit hard and is on the brink of financial collapse. We are asking all of you who are able to consider making a financial contribution to keep the doors of this amazing school open, so that this vital work can continue, so that missionaries can continue to be trained in the French language for many years to come, so that the Good News of Christ can continue to be proclaimed, in word and in deed. Would you consider making a donation to this cause? If so, you can make a tax-deductible donation at this linkAlso, please take a minute to watch this video (look for Michelle on the piano at 5:17!), to meet the teachers who have had such a significant impact in our lives and in the lives of those we minister to. 


(video)Team spotlight: Eunice John - A glimpse into her life at Kibuye

by Julie

It might seem somewhat obvious what the physicians on the team do at Kibuye.  Although in reality their life as a physician is very different than a "normal" physician in the US.  But still, we have found that explaining the medical work comes a bit more naturally.  The question that is more complicated to answer is, "So what do you do at Kibuye?"  A question directed to the wives and moms who are not physicians.  Somehow it doesn't quite cover it to say that we teach classes at our team's elementary school, or that we are also a "stay at home moms," or that we prepare meals, do laundry, and plan activities for our kids. It's so much more than that!

Recently our teammate, Eunice John, was asked by Samaritan's Purse to put together a video in which she shares a little bit of their story in medical missions and what her life at Kibuye looks like.  Ted and Eunice went through the World Medical Mission's Post-Residency Program at Kibuye for 2 years.  Long-time blog readers will remember that this is the same program that sent the McLaughlins, Cropseys, Faders, and Alyssa Pfister to Tenwek Hospital in 2009-2011.  

We are so thankful that the Post-Residency Program sent us the Johns, and that they decided to join the Kibuye team long term!  They are currently in California raising support and making preparations to return to Burundi later this year.  I know I am inspired by the woman that Eunice is.  She is a wonderful mom and a gifted teacher.  But more than that, her heart for the Lord shines through in all that she does.  I was encouraged by her video when she posed the question, "Are my kids missing out?"  I know I often ask myself that very question, as life in Burundi means no parks, museums, sports teams, take-out, English-speaking church, extended-family time, and other things.  It's easy to question our decision to live in Africa.  But Eunice said that the two things that don't change, no matter where you live, is the Mom and the child.  Our calling as a mom is still the same no matter where we live. (We just have fewer resources at our fingertips in Kibuye!)  Thank you, Eunice, for your inspiration and for sharing your heart with others.

Enjoy this video as it gives you a glimpse into missionary life for Eunice!




 By Alyssa 

A lot of this past year has felt like the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter morning to me. Christ has come, and his sacrifice on the cross opened the way for us to individually and collectively approach our Heavenly Father. The curtain of the temple that separated us from the Most Holy Place - the Holy of Holies - was torn in two immediately at Jesus’ death so we could access God Himself despite our sin and uncleanness. This is good news! 

And yet we are still waiting. Waiting for everything sad to come untrue. Waiting for the pandemic to end. Waiting for tiny premature babies and malnourished children and laboring mothers to get the care they need. Waiting for broken systems to be made new. Waiting for a world without suspicions and accusations and mistrust. Waiting for racial justice. Waiting for shalom - for physical, emotional, spiritual, relational health and peace. Waiting for resurrection. 

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Ps 27:13-14

The veil of darkness

transformed to the brightest light.

The most dreadful end

became the most beautiful


The depth of despair

fades to reveal HOPE everlasting.

The curse of death,

defeated by eternal life.

Author unknown

Friends shared the above poem with me this week, and it has been an encouragement to me. At times on this earth - including in rural Burundi - we see darkness, despair, and the curse of death, but that is not the end of the story. Light has broken in and brought everlasting HOPE. Christ has indeed conquered death. And this is just the beautiful beginning of the story that will be told for all eternity. We see dimly now, but one day it will all be clear. We only need to wait for the Lord. 

So where have I seen light breaking through recently? (All pics from the last 2 months)

Team Good Friday service

Beautiful Burundi - Karera Falls 

Waterfall adventurers 

Solidarity with women in Burundi with special fabric for International Women's Day

Rainbow over Kibuye Hope Hospital

New pediatric building - official opening coming April 16! 

Play area for hospitalized kids - first of its kind in Burundi!

Kids getting fed in the outpatient malnutrition program thanks to generous donors

Serge Area Directors Scott and Jennifer Myhre sacrificially undergoing multiple Covid tests and a 7 day hotel quarantine in order to come encourage our team at a crucial time 

Little ones surviving despite the odds 

And bringing joy even when they don't feel good

Saturday morning bike ride 

Affirming meetings with Burundian leaders of Hope Africa University, Kibuye Hope Hospital, and the Free Methodist Church 

Graduation of more doctors for Burundi

Teaching medical students 

A weekend away with friends including a hippo sighting (to my right)

More Beautiful Burundi landscapes

Safe travels even on muddy roads during rainy season

Sweet patient going home after months in the hospital due to a serious wound and malnutrition thanks to help from the Needy Patient Fund 

Sharing the burden of pediatric care and student teaching with Dr Jenn - and celebrating discharges together, too, like these twins

And this baby with congenital heart disease and prematurity going home after 3 months in the hospital

An ice cream treat during an exhausting day trip to Bujumbura for meetings

Hanging out with these awesome middle schoolers every Thursday afternoon

Rift Valley Academy team kids home for term break just in time for Easter. Hooray for negative Covid tests and lots of travel mercies! 

And finally, remembering that this is where I want to be! One year ago I was participating in Easter activities (Passover Seder service, Good Friday, Easter morning, Serge prayer time) alone in front of a computer screen at the beginning of the pandemic with no idea when I would ever get back to my Burundi home, team, patients, students. It took months of waiting, but God brought me back here in His timing and sovereignty. And thus I can trust Him to bring redemption to the things still broken around me today. 

And if you got this far in this long blog post, here is some entertainment for you - the blooper reel of the waterfall adventure as several teammates try to "help" me on the natural slip n slide. No worries - no one was injured in the making of this video! 😄 And laughter and fun with teammates are definitely glimpses of light in the darkness, too! 


You Know You're a Kibuye MK When...

Missionary kids share a culture like none other.  I (Heather) grew up in Wisconsin, pretty unaware of the global missionary kid (MK) experience... until I met my MK husband.  His mother wisely predicted that we could be dealing with a bit of a culture gap, so she gave me an insightful, humorous little book entitled “You Know You’re an MK When….” The book lists 500 experiences that are more or less common to missionary kids but that might seem bizarre to people from, say, Wisconsin.  The little book sparked some revelations about the world between worlds where Jason had grown up.

Recently our 12-year-old discovered this little book, and she loved every page.  She giggled.  She felt validated.  She read it to her friends, and they all nodded and laughed to see their idiosyncrasies called out in print. 

 So in case you wonder about peculiarities of the Kibuye kid culture, here’s the condensed version of the highlights:

You Know You’re a Kibuye MK When…”. 

-  You can introduce yourself in three languages, but you don’t always know how to answer the question, “Where are you from?”

- You know about the visas stamped in your passport, but you didn’t know that visas are also plastic cards in a wallet.

-  You flew across an ocean before you could walk.

- Tree-climbing comes as naturally to you as breathing. 

-  You watch nature documentaries, and you imagine how that animal or insect would taste if it were grilled or fried.

-  You think that kool-aid packets and peanut butter are excellent Christmas presents.

-  The vast majority of your clothes are hand-me-downs.

-  Your wardrobe also features some eye-popping designs.

-  You speak with authority on the comparison of international airports.

-  You sort your friends by continent and country.

- Someone brings up the name of a professional sports team, and you get the sport wrong.

- You believe that football is played with a round, spotted ball.

- Rain pelting down on a corrugated metal roof is one of the most soothing sounds in the world.

-  Fitting 15 or more people in a car - or on top of a Land Cruiser - seems normal to you.

- You refer to gravel roads as highways.

- Lizards crawling on your face don't bother you. 

- You own appliances with three types of plugs, know the difference between 110 and 220 volts, and know when to use an adapter and when to use a transformer. 

- You eat all of the food on your plate, and usually the food that fell on the ground, too.

- You are loved by dozens of aunts, most of whom are not actually related to you.

- You know how to remove a jigger from your own toe.  Or a botfly from your siblings.

-  Someone has to explain to you that the double yellow line in North America means only oncoming traffic can drive on that side of the road, even when there isn’t any oncoming traffic… and you don’t understand why. 

-  You go to a church you have never been to before and find your picture on their bulletin board.

- Your family zealously conserves chocolate chips.  You use only half a bag when making a double recipe of cookies.

- You have never called a 1-800 number in your life.  In fact, you aren’t sure what an 800 number is.

- You resent having to wear shoes.  You haven't worn any shoes since last Sunday.

- You are always thankful when you turn on the tap and find that there is hot running water.

-  You receive Christmas cards all year round.

- Apples are a rare treat, but papayas and passion fruit grow in your yard.

- People have eaten your pets.

- You love many people in different places, and you have begun to understand that Heaven is the only place you can always call home.


(adapted from “You Know You’re an MK When…”  by Andy and Deborah Kerr)


Burundi Birds

 (by Rachel)

It took moving to Africa 12 years ago for me to develop an interest in birds.  Birds in America aren't "just birds", but they were to me.  When we moved to Kenya, we started to get interested in the fantastic birds all around us, which led to us purchasing Jonathan Scott's Safari Guide to East African Birds, which is a little like Africa Birds for Dummies.  Lots of pictures and not too much time lost in the small difference between this starling and that starling.  We enjoyed taking the book on safari and spotting different birds.

Then baby Maggie decided that Jonathan Scott was her favorite book.  We spent countless hours pouring over the picture pages with her always laughing at the Lappet-faced Vulture and the Southern Ground Hornbill.  Our lives as pseudo amateur African birders was cemented.

Here in Kibuye, the birds are still fun, if not as diverse as Kenya.  Our kids enjoy noticing a new bird they've never seen before, and figuring out what it is.  Right now the elementary kids are doing a bird unit in science and can frequently be found outside, staring through a pair of binoculars.

Sam apparently prefers looking at the camera.

So, here is a brief tour of some Kibuye birds (noting that Burundi at large, especially at Lake Tanganyika, has much broader bird diversity than this).  We're not great at bird photography, so we'll use some stock images.

Hadada Ibis - eBird
Hadada:  Ask any kid at Kibuye to impersonate a Hadada call, and they will nail it.  This chicken-sized ibis can't seem to fly without making noise, and is our collective alarm clock.
black kite, black kites : Story of Africa
The Black African Kite: Our most common raptor also makes quite a bit of noise, often staging epic battles with the Pied Crows (see below).  There are a few trees in Buja where these birds nest in scores, and you can literally see 50 take off together.
File:Black-headed weaver (Ploceus cucullatus bohndorffi) male nest  building.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
The Black-Headed Weavers: showed up at Kibuye about 4 years ago.  The whole noisy flock picks a tree (seemingly preferring to share a nest with the raptors?) and starts making a nest.  We're told the females peck at the nests that the males make.  If it falls, they are an unworthy mate.  So Kibuye kids have often collected the nests, which are truly a marvel.
Heron (Grey) – www.wildengland.com
Grey Heron:  Though we don't live on water, the valley streams nearby are apparently enough for a few of these herons to call Kibuye home.
Paula Gilhooley…African Paradise Flycatcher – travelswithpaulagilhooley
African Paradise Flycatcher:  Always colorful and sometimes with the awesome long tail feathers.
Red-chested Sunbird - eBird
Various Sunbirds:  "Wow, the hummingbirds are beautiful here," says the visitor.  "We don't have hummingbirds.  Those were sunbirds." say the Kibuye kids (respectfully!).  We have several varieties that are beautiful and love the hibiscus flowers behind our house that Carlan planted when we moved in.
Hamerkop - Wikipedia
Hamerkop (Rare): Afrikaans for "hammer head", we've only seen this duck-sized bird maybe a half dozen times in Burundi.  When you see one, you start looking for the nest, which can be as big as 8 feet across!
Ross's Turaco - eBird
Ross Turaco:  Last year, our boys came home wanting to look up a nearly chicken-sized bird in the bird book.  They saw this one and said "yeah, that's it" (very nonchalantly).  They were right.  It's possible that it's just one bird, but we've been seeing it occasionally ever since then.

Pied crow - Wikipedia
Last and Least:  The Pied Crow might be cool if you've never seen a crow like this before, but they are the bane of local bird life.  "Murders" of Pied Crows are everywhere.  They squawk terribly all throughout the day.  They have eaten lots of baby chicks and maybe some other small pets, in addition to quite a bit of our Easter candy one year.  But no list of Kibuye birds would be complete without them.