Our life in Kibuye is pretty comfortable. We have a nice house with appliances, indoor plumbing, and tile floors, all luxuries that most Burundians don’t have. We (now) have relatively reliable power, water, and internet. So when people ask me, “What’s the hardest thing about living in Burundi?”, my answer has always been pretty immediate — being away from family. Yes, for sure there are a host of other challenges including cultural and language barriers, limited resources, and conflict. But the hardest for me has always been missing out on time with family and sharing special events like birthdays, holidays, and family vacation. We’ve had nieces and nephews that we never got to hold as babies. While I appreciate how travel and communication are much easier than they once were, that separation has always felt like the biggest sacrifice, only now the scope has widened.
Last weekend, 3 Kibuye families dropped off their kids at Rift Valley Academy (RVA) in Kenya, a boarding school for missionary kids. The Watts were the first brave souls from our team to embark on this venture. Faders and Sunds sent their oldest girls there last year. This year, it was our turn too. For 4 years, I have watched these parents grieve sending their kids away and navigate parenting from afar. I’ve listened to their pain and watched them weep. I don’t know why it surprised me how incredibly hard it was to leave our daughter Elise (8th grade) last Friday.
And yet as our family considered the situation, we remained convinced this was the right choice for Elise. In her 7 academic years in Burundi, she’s had an age mate twice for less than a total of 1-½ years and both were boys. Over the last few years, one after the other of the older kids she was grouped with have gone away to RVA. She’s longing for friendship with others her age in her heart language and we can’t provide that for her here in Kibuye. She needs discipleship, social interaction, extra-curricular opportunities, and a larger community.
Lord willing, tomorrow I’ll be getting my 4th covid test in 12 days (technically 5 since one guy decided to give me both throat & nose tests in the same sitting) and after a negative result the following day, will be released from a 7-day quarantine at a hotel in the capital city. I’m looking forward to seeing John and the boys again but I know that grief will linger as I walk by Elise’s empty (and now always clean!) bedroom, set 4 plates on the table for meals instead of 5, or realize that I don’t need to order as much produce each week or do as much laundry.
Please pray for Matea (11th), Anna (10th), Micah (9th), and Elise (8th) as they transition to a new year at RVA (and the Sund kids too). While Micah & Elise are the new ones this year, even returning students have adjustments to make as school is so different with masks and social distancing. Pray that they would grow academically, socially, spiritually, and emotionally. And don’t forget to pray for their parents too.