by Rachel

Recently, Eric and I received a special book in the mail entitled Big Knife (Kibugita).  It's special because it's the autobiography of a man who has been very influential over many years at Kibuye, Dr. Frank Ogden.  Our team has now been settled at Kibuye for eight years, which can seem like a long time but is really not much more than the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things.  When we showed up, there had not been a long term medical missionary presence in a number of years.  To be clear, the hospital has run and cared for thousands of patients over the years with excellent Burundian staff and physicians, but without another western physician there, we didn't always have a good background as to how the hospital started, who started it, and the stories of comings and goings over the years.  Whose house was that?  How did this project get started?

Of course, since our arrival, we've had the privilege of meeting and visiting with Frank and his wife Carol many times.  Other visitors have come as well to fill in some pieces and regale us with special stories about who used to live in this or that house, when that tree got planted, the tales behind several gravestones.  It struck me as I read through the biography that I don't think we've ever shared the story of Dr. Ogden on our blog.  In fact, even though it was many years before we met him in person, Eric and I might never have gone to visit Burundi in 2010 had it not been for him.  He recruited one of our friends to visit Kibuye in the mid-2000s, while our friend was still in his medical training, and when we put out a broad request for ideas for our future team, our friend contacted us and said, "Hey, have you ever heard of Kibuye?"  So, for that and many other reasons, we'll always be thankful to Dr. Ogden!

It was enjoyable for me to read through the pages of his book because I could visualize almost all of his stories, from crazy surgical cases (including a ruptured uterus that happened 9 months prior to surgery) to crazy road trips (my favorite was the time he and his family drove 1000 miles from Burundi to Nairobi to pick up his brother, only to arrive and discover that his brother had actually flown in to Bujumbura and they had to drive all the way back!).  He shared details of many different difficulties (such as multiple home robberies and the death of his first wife after colon cancer), and joys (surgical successes, preaching opportunities, and even an entire appendix on plane and helicopter flights).  Dr. Ogden served on and off as a surgeon at Kibuye for over a 40 year time period, starting in the early 1970s.  He earned the nickname of Kibugita (Big Knife) because of his surgical abilities and capacity to perform so many operations in a short period of time!  Due to civil war and health difficulties, his time was divided between Kibuye, Kibogora (in Rwanda), and Nundu (DRC) hospitals, and also included some time practicing back in the Pacific Northwest.  His book featured the stories of many of our friends and current hospital employees who have been faithful to the church and hospital over the years, and I appreciated hearing their histories and contributions as well.

So in many ways, it was great to read a book that shared so many stories and anecdotes from the early years of Kibuye Hospital.  It all serves to remind us that our team is not starting a new work on our own.  We are continuing a work that was begun many years ago and has been carried on the shoulders of many, many people (Burundians and westerners alike).  We didn't begin the work at Kibuye and we probably won't end it, but we are just another chapter in a long story of how God has used a small rural hospital in a small African nation to care for the medical needs of so many.  


Why did the tofu cross the road?

By Eunice John 

 ...to prove it was just as good as chicken!

I’m soy excited to share about something I’ve successfully made THREE times this month (it’s become a Sunday tradition)...drumroll please...TOFU!
Neighbor, MK teacher, fellow tofu-lover Erica and me during our tofu making lesson! She is holding okara, soy pulp, which we collected after straining the blended beans.

A little background first -- at Kibuye, aside from the hospital canteen (which serves tasty food, though limited), there are no restaurants for dine-in or takeout. And there are no grocery stores to run to when you’re missing an ingredient or two. However, one of the blessings of team/community life is that you have regular opportunities to lean on your neighbors as well as practice generosity! You and your family just arrived after 24hrs+ of traveling? No problem - there’s already a meal train set up for you! Need a few extra eggs, 1/2c of cheese, a kg of flour, 2 tsp of oregano...or all of the above? No problem - ask your neighbor or just send a message to the ladies WhatsApp group and there’s a good chance someone will be able to help! 

When it comes to preparing food at Kibuye, I would say that it’s a labor of love. Nearly everything we eat is made from scratch -- breads, salads (with homemade croutons...whaat?!), pasta sauce (no Classico or Prego here, folks), yogurt, desserts...you name it. My kids know that at Kibuye, there’s no McDonalds but they do have Mom-Donalds, Mom-fil-A...you get the idea. 

As a Korean-American family, we eat Korean food regularly and wanted to be able to enjoy it in rural Africa. Knowing that it would be near impossible to find Korean ingredients in Burundi, we either brought some essential ingredients with us in our checked luggage or planned ahead and sent them on a team shipping container. Still, there are many ingredients that you just won’t have on hand, so you’ve got to get creative. I am always amazed at how resourceful and creative my teammates are, truly with everything but especially food. From simple foods to fancier dishes, Kibuye kitchens rock! 

Now, if you were to visit a Korean home, you’ll probably find kimchi in the fridge. What else? There’s a good chance you’ll find tofu too -- and 99.9% of the time, it’s store bought. Nobody makes their own tofu...we buy it! Might I mention that tofu is available in various degrees of firmness: silken, soft, medium, firm, extra firm. Moving on...tofu is not only a low-calorie food but it is also high in protein. We love tofu. 

Tofu is made from soybeans which have been soaked, blended, strained, boiled, coagulated, and placed in a mold to get that nice rectangular shape. Sounds simple enough.

I was thrilled to learn that busoma was made of two parts corn, one part SOY, and one part sorghum. To top things off, dry soybeans are plentiful here and very reasonably priced (you can get 1kg of soybeans for 3000 Burundian francs which is about $1). 

Mind you, during our first term at Kibuye, I tried to FIND tofu. Surely our go-to Chinese restaurant in Bujumbura would know where to get tofu, or perhaps they made tofu in house? Nope. Surely, our vegan Burundian doctor would be able to connect us with his tofu supplier in Buja. Unfortunately, he was unable to bring any back to Kibuye. Well, I was determined to make tofu! 

The trickiest part is probably figuring out the coagulant -- there are many options: vinegar, lemon juice, gypsum (calcium sulfate), epsom salts, nigari (magnesium chloride). Each coagulant results in different textures, tastes, and success rates. From that list, we can get vinegar and lemons. I love being able to make food with ingredients we can find locally or in country, so I tried vinegar. I ended up making tofu although it was more like a sorry slab. Basically, it seemed like a lot of work for little return, so I gave it a rest. 

Fast forward two years later. We’re missing tofu again and with our youngest having several food allergies, including milk, I was once again on a mission to get soy based foods/tofu into our home. I did some more reading and learned about a coagulant that I hadn’t considered before: rice vinegar. This is also likely to be found in the fridge of a Korean/Asian household. Rice vinegar is not something you would think you could find in Burundi. In Kenya, maybe, but not Burundi. But sometimes, we find some rare/random treasures here. Back in the summer of 2018, we were on a family trip in Buja. At that time, fellow Serge missionary, Carolyn Bond, graciously took me around to a handful of stores (we were actually on the search for some fish sauce and a few other household items that I was hoping to find). We had lunch at a little cafe called Maison Crèmerie...a hidden gem. I walked into the store afterward to see if there was anything interesting and what do you know? On the shelf were TWO BOTTLES OF KOREAN BROWN RICE VINEGAR! What?!

I saved that bottle of brown rice vinegar in storage while we were away this past year. I’m happy to report that it’s still good and a successful coagulant! One kg of soybeans produces 2 large blocks of tofu, so I’ve been keeping half of the soaked beans in the freezer for the next batch. Who knew I would be making tofu in Burundi, but here we are. Just a small, but personal joy that the Lord has given me!

Korean Spicy Tofu Stew (Soon Du Bu), one of Ted’s favorite meals.


Pray for Jennifer

 by Rachel 

One week ago, Eric and I woke up to terrible news.  Our area director, Jennifer Myhre, had been in a terrible bike accident.  She was airlifted to a trauma center in West Virginia, unconscious, on a ventilator with bleeding in her brain.  Many of you might have already seen this news either on facebook or because you too are friends with the Myhres, but in case you haven't we are asking for prayer.  Jennifer has made tremendous strides this past week...she is off the ventilator, walking with assistance, cognitively intact but with periods of confusion throughout the day.  She has come a long way, but there is a lot of healing still to go, and she is moving to inpatient rehab this week for at least 7-10 days.

Scott and Jennifer have been our area directors for East Africa since we joined up with Serge in 2011.  I still remember meeting them for the first time.  They had just been named area directors and were moving to Kijabe after many years of raising their family in Bundibugyo, Uganda.  Despite the fact that we were not yet approved as Serge missionaries, they drove down to Tenwek Hospital, where we were living at the time, to meet us and encourage us.  They showed up with literally two giant baskets of produce, a big treat as we were living hours from the nearest grocery store.  I was thinking back on that occasion this past week, remembering special times with Jennifer...how two of the things that matter most to her, how she shows her love and support to us, are generosity and presence.

I don't know how to be a team leader without Scott and Jennifer.  They have consistently had our backs over these past 10 years on the field.  Always encouraging, always cheerleading, always praying for us.  Scott has a special gift of incredible photography of the world around us, but it's Jennifer that puts into words the beauty and longing and struggle and mystery that we experience day after day in our lives.  We needed their presence and their advice last February, so at great personal cost to themselves, they braved multiple rounds of covid tests, a long journey, and 7 days of mandatory hotel quarantine to physically be with us and support us at Kibuye.  It was perhaps the most encouraging thing that happened to us during that year...good friends and mentors, laying down their lives for us, traveling to Burundi, loving us.  Jennifer wrote this blog after leaving.  

Scott has been updating their family blog with news about Jennifer.  If you're interested, you can click here.  Their blog is amazing, so feel free to browse around a bit as well.  Jennifer is really the rock of our East Africa region.  We've never closed a session together without her calling us all to and leading us in prayer.  None of us know what the future holds for her, but please pray with us for complete healing.  Scott has also said that right now that they need "courage not clarity," (I mean, we'd all love clarity but that's not always an option) so please pray for that as well.


A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven

A farewell to the McCropders and the Serge Kibuye Team from John and Jessica Cropsey

To every thing there is a season…

In the case of the McCropders, God ordained for us 4,986 days together.  That is nearly 14 years of life lived together in common purpose on a journey that spanned three continents and four countries, ten of those years as members of the Serge Kibuye Team.  It has been a tremendous honor to be counted among such a band of sojourners.  You have been our everything in so many ways:  friends, family as “aunts” and “uncles” to our kids, neighbors, colleagues, bosses, subordinates, counselors, doctors, running buddies,
piki (motorcycle in Kiswahili) partners, fellow vacationers, and more.

McCropders in the early years

Alma with Uncle John -- looks like she's having fun?

John & Jason tubing on a river in Kenya

A time to be born…  

This team was born under incredibly unique circumstances — 4 specialist doctors from the same church who “just happened” to be finishing their different residency programs (of differing lengths) at the same time, and all with a heart for medical missions. And God grew the team, adding more amazing people, each gifted to meet specific needs and created uniquely to form the beautiful tapestry that is the Serge Kibuye team.  Love, medicine, teaching, music, administration, fear of snakes, humor, patience, vision, construction, pastoring, resilience, language, biblical exegesis, spreadsheets, writing, calm, passion, fashion, IT, hospitality, generosity, frugality — and a million other gifts and quirks have been woven into each of you that made our time with you so amazing. May God continue to bless the colorful mosaic that is found at Kibuye. 

Kibuye Team Retreat -- May 2021

A time to plant…

What has been planted at Kibuye during our years together is mind-blowing.  As we blazed a trail with machetes, axes and hoes for our future houses back in 2013, I remember thinking how exciting/insane it was that our team and Hope Africa University were attempting to develop a teaching hospital so remote it was only a stone’s throw from the southern most source of the Nile, a place Dr. David Livingston died trying to find in vain.  Wild!  Relationships have been developed, wells drilled, buildings built, training developed, healthcare advanced, hospital chaplaincy reinforced, and students discipled. 

A time to harvest…

Despite innumerable challenges — cultural blunders, coups, counter-coups, shortages of many kinds (medicine/water/fuel/power/internet), health emergencies, physical and spiritual attacks, pandemics — God has allowed a great harvest.  We have seen our unofficial team motto come to fruition, We aren’t the best people for this job, our students are.”  Hundreds of medical students have been trained and many of them are now caring for the sick and the poor in Jesus’ name throughout Burundi and beyond.  Thanks to the ministry of our chaplains and students, thousands of patients have committed their lives to Christ while at Kibuye.  Ten thousand plus blind, lame or otherwise infirm Burundians have received restorative surgery and hundreds of thousands have been treated clinically.  The Lord of the Harvest has been at work.  

A time to laugh…

Mixed in with all of that blood, sweat and tears, was a whole lot of fun too — board games, card games, camping adventures, exploring anything and everything on dirt bikes, the weekly ultimate frisbee game, Christmas floor hockey, pizza oven parties, outdoor movie nights — shoot, even our business meetings weren’t too bad.  There is something special about the slower pace of rural mission life (outside of the hospital that is) that affords for such blessings.

Dinner with current and former Kibuye teammates in Nairobi --
July 2021

A time to die… 

As followers of Christ, we are called to bear our cross daily and to die to self. Without death, there is no resurrection. For so many around the world these past eighteen months, that has taken on new meaning, us included. During that time, God used an unrelenting series of events and circumstances to seemingly and unexpectedly be showing us that we had accomplished what He had set out for our family at Kibuye and it was our time to leave. Obeying that call meant the loss of many things for us personally, not the least of which was our much loved team and our physical home in this world, but also the big dreams we had for Kibuye and Burundi. Our decision also had significant, complex implications for our Burundian friends, colleagues, national partners and teammates who have all born a cost for our decision in different ways. Thus, on many fronts, our departure has felt like death.

A time to weep…

In life, and especially in missions, there are a lot of goodbyes, so one of the things we have learned is that saying good goodbyes is really important even though it feels more painful in the moment.  And so, the month of June was spent visiting Burundian friends in their homes, attending special events, saying farewells on our front porch and visiting special/memorable places.  Many tears were shed, especially when we drove away from Kibuye on July 4th and said our final goodbye to our team.  Pray for us and others as we continue to mourn.

Some of our goodbyes to Burundian friends

A time to heal…

Pray for our Burundian friends and partners. Pray that God would allow them to forgive us where we have caused them hurt and loss. Pray for our team as they have to take much of our load when there is already a crushing weight of responsibility. Pray for the eye team to be unified, to learn and to grow.  

Kibuye Eye Team Retreat July 2021

Pray for our family this month. We are dedicating this next month to reflection on the journey we have just completed. Pray for our counselors to be full of wisdom and insight as we seek to understand more fully what God has for us to learn. Pray for insight and repentance for where we have fallen short and faith to trust the riches we have in Christ to redeem us and our brokenness. Pray for hope and our future. We do not mourn as others, because we have hope.  We believe in resurrection. God is still at work weaving His story in our lives and we look forward to seeing where and with whom He will lead us next. We hope to continue the fight against needless blindness in Africa.  

Cropsey family at the waterfalls

We wish Hope Africa University, Kibuye Hope Hospital and the Serge Kibuye Team all the best as they continue to pursue their high calling to train and disciple health professionals for Burundi and beyond.

God has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.  
— Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 (ESV)

And so, we sign off from this blog as writers (not readers). If you would like to know more about the progress of the Kibuye Eye Clinic over the last 8 years and some of the reasons behind our decision to transition out of Burundi, you can read our last two newsletters here and here. If you’d like to continue following our family for whatever lies ahead and receive our quarterly e-mail updates, please write us at johncropsey@serge.org or jessicacropsey@serge.org


A Goat Ate My Police Report (and other stories)


By Glory Guy

Amahoro (hello in Kirundi) to you from Burundi! My name is Glory, and I hail from Nashville, Tennessee and arrived in Kibuye a little over a month ago. I am an MK teacher by trade, and am loving getting to know the children in the classroom while walking alongside these incredible families as a teammate and friend in all that goes on here in our beautiful Burundi. I was received warmly by incredibly kind teammates in Kibuye after several days of travel in early August, but we quickly discovered that my entry period into our lovely Burundi was far from over. Unfortunately, when I arrived, we discovered that one of my bags and two of my trunks had been lost in transit somewhere between Nashville and Brussels. A week later we discovered that my bags, which we expected were lodged somewhere in Brussels, actually never left the United States and sat on the tarmac in Washington D.C., classic. Closely following this bag debacle, my passport and visa paperwork, along with several other teammates’ passports, were stolen out of our car on the three-hour trip from the capital Bujumbura to our rural mountain town, Kibuye. A police report was filed and as I was carrying it to my home, our team goat (yes, you read that correctly) promptly took a running leap into the air and bit off a good piece of the Burundian seal that made the report official. Thankfully the US Embassy didn’t mind. It was a real-life “my dog ate my homework” moment, with an East African twist. In all things in the past four weeks, I am consistently reminded that the Lord is with me as a feel like a jumble of contradictions. He has an incredible sense of humor and is teaching me to laugh at myself and my surroundings, and he is just as present in my tears of exhaustion, confusion, and homesickness. He is in my wonder and my sorrow, unfazed and endlessly kind in both. 

Arriving in Kibuye was a whirlwind of activities and grace, so here are some highlights. 

These are the two seventh-grade students with whom I spend most of my hours these days, teaching Language Arts, Reading, and Writing, and History. They are inquisitive and silly and share my love of coffee and voracious reading. I am teaching them grammar rules and how to write a research paper, while they are giving me a crash course in East Africa life, which includes identifying the caterpillars that will burn me if I touch them, and how to ride a dirt bike. We share in the opinion that our last class of the day is the best one because I reading aloud the first Percy Jackson book, though they insisted they would not enjoy it, they now hang onto every word. Needless to say, I adore them. 

On Saturday morning, my two roommates and I emerged from our bedrooms realizing we were on the same wavelength in our accidental matching outfits. Their welcoming presence has been the most significant reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness in my time in Burundi so far. I’m convinced that Jenny is the real-life Snow White, endlessly kind, bohemian, thoughtful, and strong. Erica is both the bread queen and the brains of the operation in our home, our French language expert, and a constant source of laughter and light. 

Rides to Buja in the backseat of the Land Cruiser, jamming to 70s rock (as requested by the middle schooler) and many, many rounds of twenty questions. As a girl who struggles with severe motion sickness, here are the necessary steps to avoid vomiting en route: 

1. Take medicine
2. Pretend you’re in an action movie (heroes never barf!) 
3. Pray. Mostly this one.

Learning how to take good and thorough notes includes asking students to choose a random topic, spout out facts about it, and organize them in outline format. These students chose Hotdogs. For three kids who live in rural East Africa, who have most likely never seen a hotdog stand on a city street corner, they know a lot of facts about hotdogs. Did you know that annually more people die of choking on hotdogs than shark attacks? (What is my credible source you ask? The seventh grader on the left). 

Sometimes we take read-to-self time to the trees for a change in perspective. The student who appears to be suspended in the air is actually on a swing! 

My brain and heart feel like they are brimming over, with all that I am learning and loving about where the Lord has planted my feet. I explained to my roommates this week that it simultaneously feels like I have been on African soil for a year and a day. It is a check to my pride to lean so heavily on those around me with so many questions, like, “do I wash dishes in filtered or sink water?” “How do you say ‘help me’ in Kirundi?” and “If I hit that gecko with a broom will it come back for vengeance?” Though I feel that I don’t know much, what I do know is that the Lord is good, and He is present with us. In all that is going on in the world, regardless of what continent you are on, He is present, faithful, and stronger than we could ever be. I am consistently reminded that HIS power is made perfect in our weakness. So, we learn to laugh and weep in alternating breaths, and we lean in. 



Administrative Affairs & Lessons Learned

 By Carlan Wendler

“You need a [insert French title of a document you have never heard of here] in order to do that.”

“There is no power, so the computer / printer needed for your document cannot work.”

“The person with the key [to the electrical closet] is not here.”

My expectations to get four errands done in a morning in town, either Bujumbura or Gitega, are frequently tempered by such realities. Sometimes what one can get done in a day is substantially less than what was hoped. This prompts three major reflections on my part. 

First, I am a slave to “productivity.” Or perhaps a better way to describe it is that I idolize getting things checked off my list. Progress. That feeling of moving forward, resolving difficulties, building momentum towards big goals. That is what I love. And though we perceive time as linear, moving from Creation to New Creation, it is false to think of it as a straight line. Maybe it is more like a tapestry, warp & woof, bends & knots coming together to reveal a scene no single thread could ever comprehend. 

Progress sometimes looks like pavement & multistory buildings.

The Burundians I encountered during this last round of administrative errands did not appear to live under such expectations. In fact, they didn’t seem to mind when we were ushered to the front of the line (grimace, sorry everybody). And that is the second observation, the incredible grace & patience of these gentle folk. I know it may be fraught to generalize, especially with such a superficial sampling (hearts may be hard though facial expressions soft), but the flexibility and resiliency of Burundians stands out in my experience as a particularly strong feature of this culture. They are teaching me a lot.

Sometimes we get ushered to the front of the line, only to find that the person we need isn’t available.

Others have written more and better [African Friends & Money Matters] about the priority of relationship over transaction in many African cultures. This has unexpected impact when it seems like one party is seeking to extend the interaction as long as possible while the other is desperate to leave and accomplish another task. Yet at the same time, it means that knowing the right person opens doors…or finds keys, turns on the power, and gets you that form that you need in an instant. Within 15 minutes of finding out that we needed that “Attestation de résidence,” Jason had printed and signed them for us, texted us a photo, and left the physical copies with a secretary who could give them to a house helper who rode on his motorcycle to deliver them to Gitega (30 min drive). We had them before the bankers went home for the day and all ended well…it might also have had something to do with the fact that the banker’s supervisor graduated from the local high school.

So at the end of the day, I think I got a lot more than three out of four errands completed from that trip to Gitega; I got God’s personalized reminder that succeeding in life, progress in maturity, is so much more about the relationships we form & develop along the way than the boxes we get to check. Thank you Burundi!


Summer Arrivals!

by Julie Banks

Our family (the Banks) recently arrived in Burundi after a little over a year in the States.  We completed our first term (5 years) with Serge in July of 2020.  We were already due to have a Home Ministry Assignment in 2020, but as we all know, this past year proved more complicated than we had anticipated.  Our HMA was extended, providing our family time to pray about our future, process our past in Africa, and cherish the present time with family and supporters in the States. All things considered, it was a great year for our family. We were thankful for the opportunity for Logan to rejoin the faculty of Cox Family Medicine Residency practicing “Western” medicine for a season, to travel across much of the United States seeing supporters and beautiful sites in the US, as well as grace and time to participate in counselling and preparations to rejoin the team at Kibuye.  We arrived in Burundi on August 1st, with a feeling of coming home, for which we are so grateful.

But this blog is not about us.  Our family was not the only one to arrive this summer!  In fact, this summer was quite a busy time of missionary arrivals to Kibuye!

Caleb and Krista Fader arrived with Liam, Gavin, and Jono after two years in the States.  Caleb is diving back into all things Engineering while Krista is taking on many important roles within the team and local community.  Liam will be starting 2nd grade while Gavin is beginning Kindergarten.

Dr. Ted and Eunice John arrived with Toby, Amos and Timothy after a little over a year in the States.  Ted is back at home in the Operating Room while Eunice is joining the faculty of Kibuye Hope Academy and helping with many jobs around the missionary compound.  Toby will be starting 1st grade at KHA this year.

The Wendlers arrived in Burundi after a year and a half in the States with new baby Isaiah and 2 year old Gabrielle.  Carlan is eager to be back in Urgences (Emergency Room) while Michelle is making their newly finished house a home for their family.

Glory Guy also arrived this summer from Nashville, TN.  She is a teacher who will be serving at KHA for two years.  She has served with other Serge teams in the UK, and we are so glad to have her join our Kibuye team.

Our family is settling back into our home in Kibuye.  Logan is the primary acting FP/OB right now working in the Maternity service, operating in the OR, as well as OB and internal medicine clinics.  Julie is jumping back into life on the compound and is preparing to teach French and Music at KHA where Liam will be in 7th grade and Zeke in 5th grade.

All of these arrivals over the summer could each be a lengthy blog post in and of themselves.  With the arrival of these 19 people, none of our journeys went smoothly!  Among us we experienced unexpected delays due to weather, surprise positive Covid tests, non-covid sicknesses.  Not all of us received our luggage - which meant complications with medications, contact lenses, and other necessary items. Six of us had our passports stolen upon arrival.  Plus lots and lots of Covid tests, masks, social distancing, and struggles traveling with busy toddlers and crying babies!  

But… we all made it!  We are all fine.  All luggage did finally arrive – praise the Lord! And we are ready to join in the efforts at Kibuye, each doing our part in the missionary community, at the hospital, and in Burundi.  God has called us each here for such a time as this.  We are happy to be with our colleagues, holding up each other’s weary arms in this spiritual battle we are a part of.  (ref: Exodus 17:12-14)

Thank you for praying us all here.  As many of us have arrived this summer, there have been some tearful departures as well.  So please continue to pray for our team as we are all in transition.  From the doctors at the hospital to the little toddlers of the team.  We are all in transition and we need grace, patience, and mercy as we all readjust.


Journey of Grace

by Rachel

Two masks are always safer than one...

Travel in, to, and from African nations has always been a challenge.  Airports are crowded and chaotic, flights are sporadic and often changed.  There are visas to purchase, sometimes at the airport and sometimes ahead of time, occasionally on websites that don’t work, and even once in awhile, an exit visa to procure before you can leave your host country.  You can never check in online, and the internet doesn’t report flight updates (due to the “low likelihood of accurate information”).  Upon arrival into said international airports, there are many forms to fill out, many lines to stand in, and not always many people who speak your preferred language or understand the fact that you may not know what you’re doing.  Once you’ve made it through the gauntlet, your luggage might or might not have arrived and if not, who knows where it is and if/when it will ever arrive (and if it does arrive, where it should be held or sent to so that one day you will see your luggage again).  Finally, will someone be there to pick you up?  Hopefully yes, because your cell phone doesn’t work in this country. 

As residents of various African countries for now 10 years, our family has accepted this level of craziness as a necessity in order to travel.  We jump in knowing it will be hectic and chaotic but also having a pretty good sense, by now, of how this is all going to go down.  I know what lines to stand in, what forms to fill out, and even can converse with the customs agents, a bit.  We know what’s likely to cause trouble, when the next flight will probably be available, what the form for lost luggage looks like, and when our missing bags stand a high likelihood of arriving.  So, we know what the process is and we have decided that it’s worth it to get to where we want to be going.

And then, 2020.  


When our country's airport reopened in November, it was a whole new ballgame.  Covid tests needed to be obtained to both enter and leave the country.  People were often not clear on the timing of the test (2 days? 72 hours?  From boarding or arriving? when the test was taken or when the results were issued?) or what type of test was necessary.   Quarantine was necessary for a few days, then a few weeks, then depended on the incoming test results, at home or at a hotel, and the list of hotels approved for quarantine changed often.  It felt like every week the rules changed, sometimes while people were actually in transit.  We had teammates get stuck in multiple other countries, sometimes for weeks.  Positive tests, false positive tests, mistimed negative tests that needed to be repeated.  So many covid tests.

Like many of you, Eric and I had travel plans cancelled.  We recognized that we needed a vacation and watched and waited as new regulations arrived, were changed, were dismissed, were reintroduced.  We made plans…maybe a trip to Tanzania, or Kenya, or…but in the end, the risks and costs of travel seemed too high (not even the risk of getting sick, which is always a possibility, but the risk of getting stuck somewhere or not being able to return to our home in Kibuye).  

So finally, it was time to return to the US for our every 3 year annual “home assignment.”  We hadn’t been on a plane in 21 months, which is pretty much a record for us (and when you live in one of the world’s smallest countries as an ex-pat, is pretty remarkable in my opinion).  I booked our airline tickets and made arrangements for a short vacation en route.  And I will admit to you, I was scared.  I had been looking forward to our break for so long that I was afraid something would happen and I would be disappointed yet again.  2020 for so many of us was a year of constant disappointments, uncertainty, and fear...and it felt far too dangerous to hope for anything anymore.  I felt like one more experience of dashed hopes might send me over the edge.

We wrapped up our time at the hospital and headed down the hill for our covid tests in Bujumbura.  Our flight was scheduled for a Wednesday night, and so in order to make sure we had results in hand we needed to get the test Monday before 1pm so we could hopefully receive the results Tuesday before 9pm (we were told that we could maybe do the test Tuesday and get results Wednesday, but there was a good chance that the results wouldn't arrive before we needed to board our flight, so).  The day of our test results I could hardly eat.  The hours crawled by and every time Eric got a text message I got a sinking pit in my stomach, convinced that it was the guy who had gone to pick up our test results, telling us they were positive.  But that night, we had five pieces of paper in hand, confirming five negative test results.  

Thankful for our travel buddies, Steve and Mary Wiland.   At the airport, good to go!

Our plane was on time the next day.  We had no problem with our connecting flight.  All our luggage turned up.  And other than a slightly late airport shuttle to our hotel, the flight went as smoothly as anyone could have hoped for.  Well, other than the fact that Toby used 10 barf bags between the two international flights, but that’s another story. ;)  Jet lag was minimal, the vacation was wonderful, and we were reunited with family a week later.  Most boring travel story ever.

I’m tempted to skim over this story and move on instead of pausing to reflect on what COULD have been and what WAS.  I often find myself dwelling on and retelling the disasters and bad outcomes, instead of reflecting on God's providence and unseen miracles in the mundane, "boring" parts of life.  Now, I don’t write any of this to minimize the pain and suffering of many others’ trips and journeys.  I don’t know why our trip was so much smoother than others’ trips and it’s certainly not because God loves us more or we prayed harder or anything else.  But in reflecting on this whole experience, I'll admit that my fear came from a lack of control over the circumstances.  And maybe on some level I felt like God was going to “take away” this good thing (a break, a longed for vacation) in order to teach me another lesson, instead of giving me what I felt like I needed.    

This past year has caused me to be afraid to hope for things, fearing they will end in disappointment.  I wonder what it says about my view of my loving heavenly Father, that I feel like he’s up in a distant heaven waiting to push a button and “ruin” my life.  Is it not true that my heavenly Father knows what I need, more than I do, and is so happy to bless me with it?  This has been a hard season for all of us, and I don’t know what lies ahead.  But I do feel like we need to be able to hope, to look forward with great anticipation, knowing that perhaps my plans won’t come to fruition but there are good things waiting for us all the same.  We don't always know when or how, but in the waiting I can hope and rest free of fear, knowing that a good God loves me and is directing my steps.  

A friendly "hippo" goodbye on our last morning.  We'll be back in Burundi after Christmas


I heart MedEd

(by Jenn)

Jenn teaching on rounds

Medical Education. Not something I thought I'd really get in to, but I love it!  When we arrived to Kibuye 2019 for a two month vision trip, my role was mostly observational, helping out and seeing patients, but mainly seeing how things work working in an underdeveloped, underserved hospital in Burundi.   When we returned in January 2020, I was mostly in a clinical role - seeing patients on wards, answering questions from generalist doctors who were seeing a complicated case in the outpatient clinic, and teaching some didactic sessions for the medical interns.  Slowly but surely, however, I started taking on more and more of the "medical education" (MedEd for short) component of the work that is done here.  

Six of our most recent graduates from the "Stage Professionnel" program - the one-year rotating internship for doctors who have just completed medical school. 

For the documentation of grades for medical students who are doing their clinical rotations during the latter part of their medical education, they have abook called a "carnet" in which the professors write down a grade for the rotation they have just finished. The profs are in charge of writing the grades, but it's my job to collect the grades, enter them into our spreadsheet, and return the carnets back to the students.  And guess what. I've loved this. "That's weird." you may say.  Well, through this process, I've been able to get to know the names of the students and get to interact with them even when they are not on the peds service.  Sure, it takes time and effort, but I'm glad I've had this responsibility for a bit.  

Students discussing a question I just asked during Peds Journal Club
Sometimes they are intense! Sometimes we just discuss what was done well or what was done poorly in a study. 

Another fun thing that is new is that we are now having a Peds Journal Club two times a month.  I pick articles and alternate between French and English. French so they have a better chance of fully understanding the article which increases the chance they will discuss the article and English so that they are encouraged to at least attempt to read medical literature written in English. Why is this necessary? Every medical student has to write a thesis paper for which an extensive literature review is necessary. Why English you ask? The majority of medical literature is in the aformention language which for all of them is a second laguage.  Wait.  Did I mention this was voluntary for the students!?! They still come!  ◡̈ 

A lecture being given as part of our curriculum for the Stage Professionnel program

Other new(-to-me) responsiblities are organizing lecture schedules for our medical intern program (Stage Professionnel program), giving some of those lectures, teaching medical students after rounds, giving weekly pediatric lectures to the medical interns who are rotating on peds, etc. 

Dr. Christmas teaching about pneumonia to those who are currently on the pediatric service (medical stuednts, nursing stuednts, and residents). 

Dr. Christmas was a student at Hope Africa University, worked at Kibuye Hope Hospital for some years, and is currently in a pedatric residency program in Egypt. He is spending this month with us here at Kibuye.  It's so encouraging to see God's work in the lives of people here! Expecially when it's a stuednt of this system who is now here teaching! ◡̈ 

Michael teaching in the OR.
This image was posed to social media by one of the HAU medical students. 

So all that to say, we love our jobs/roles here and we are so grateful that God chose to put us here on this team!