First Medical School Graduates at HAU!

On Friday, December 21, Hope Africa University graduated its first class of medical students!  Our friends, Joel and Janette Miller, are currently serving in Bujumbura and were able to participate in this historic event.  Visit their blog for more photos of the graduation ceremony.

We are excited for these young doctors and also eager to be in Burundi for next year's graduating class.  Please pray that these doctors would have a heart of service and sacrifice for their country.  We pray that those who are continuing their education in a residency program in another country would be drawn to return to Burundi when their training is complete.

Congratulations, Hope Africa University Medical Graduates of 2012!      


Checking in with photos

(from Heather)
December is evidently high season for French microbes.  The McCropders have recently hosted germ invasions including pink eye, ear infections, colds and coughs, and the stomach flu.  I was waiting for someone to post a blog documenting the unbelievable number of microbe manifestations.  And then I realized that perhaps I am the one with the most energy to write that blog, since every other McCropder adult has been sick or is currently sick.  So you readers could pray for health for all of us here… and maybe especially for those who will be traveling for Christmas.

While I’m checking in, I will include photos of some events here (outside of class and between viruses) in the last few weeks…
Enjoying a Christmas festival downtown

Building Snowmen

Singing Waving in church

Celebrating a birthday

Celebrating another birthday (and then another)

 Skiing (Jason and Carlan behind goggles)

Eating dinner with friends (as usual)

Watching a curling competition

Attending a tea party for young princesses

Gathering to sing Christmas carols

Recreating St Nicholas 

And for the adults, lots and lots of studying


Book of the Month: Fierce Compassion

Resurrecting the category of blog posts entitled Book of the Month,  I would like to introduce my very favorite book of 2012:  Fierce Compassion, by Kristin and Kathryn Wong. 

Fierce Compassion recounts the true story of Miss Donaldina Cameron, who courageously rescued Chinese girls who were sold into slavery in San Francisco in the early 1900s.  I loved this book for the amazing story itself, for the inspiring example of the heroine, and for the captivating writing style that kept me turning pages late into the night.

The stories and the backdrop are fascinating for themselves, especially thought-provoking in light of current events including modern immigration trends and human trafficking awareness.  Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about Chinese immigration to California at the turn of the last century.  In hopes that many of you will also have the opportunity to read this book, I will refrain from explaining the story.  Suffice it to say that Donaldina Cameron lived a life of tremendous adventure (including daring police raids), heartbreak (lost love), and satisfaction in hard work (rescuing slaves and changing the tide of slavery at the time). 

One aspect of her story that particularly struck me is the way in which she began her tremendous work.  It all started when an old family friend told Donaldina about an opportunity to teach rescued slaves in Chinatown, San Francisco.  Donaldina first told the woman that she was definitely not qualified for that sort of thing.  When encouraged to consider trying it for just a year, Donaldina agreed try it… for a year.  It’s amazing what great things can follow a willingness to give something a try. 

Fierce Compassion is a beautiful and inspiring true story of how Donaldina Cameron’s convictions, struggles, and dedication were used by God to bring justice and compassion into brokenness.
You can find this book for yourselves here.   


A Wee Gift from the McCropders

Haven't finished your Christmas shopping?  Don't know what to get for that last person on the list?  Someone on the list you don't know very well in terms of gift preference, but you're at least sure of how to spell their name?

Well we've got just the thing for you.  As another way to share our lives and work in faraway places, we took a collection of Alphabet Photos during our two years at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya.  You can choose from 2-5 pictures per letter to spell out whatever you want.  Plus or minus a nice frame and you're all set for that last gift.  Or use it for your own home and consider it a gift from us.

The photos all come from the hospital grounds or our neighborhood just around it.  Just click here for the link and download instructions.  We'll be keeping it available for download after Christmas as well.

Whiter Snow

(from Eric)

It was a very pleasant November, with just a hint of snow, and we were starting to wonder whether winter in the Alps meant clear valleys and snow-capped mountains surrounding us.


It has been snowing all week, and then yesterday we heard that "the snow is coming".  Which I guess means the 6 inches up until then didn't count.  And lo and behold, it didn't.  It dumped about 10 more inches in the last 24 hours, and a crazy weather report predicted up to 1 meter (seriously?!) over the weekend.

They don't really plow the sidewalks here, and you can see below how socked in the cars are.  So, I'm kind of wishing we weren't on our last roll of toilet paper.  But my goodness, it is beautiful.  It's been the steady wet snow that sticks to everything with almost no wind, so every last little tree branch is white.  The parking lot in the picture has been the site of many snowball fights and the making of many a bonhomme de neige (snow man).  You wouldn't guess it by how white it still is.

In honor of the Christmas-y scenery and the fact that this may be the last white winter for our families for quite some time, I thought I'd post this song.  A winter song for Christmas time that's not really about Christmas (just like "Let it Snow", "Frosty" and others).  I wrote this song almost 13 years ago, amazingly.  When I met Rachel, she heard it and decided to marry me, so it will always be a favorite of mine.

(free album download here)

The dusting of this frail world begins upon these trees
It stumbles down again
And blankets all the soil that hides
beneath its coat of freeze
So I slip under its covers, I hide under his wings
Opening my eyes to find a plane of newer things

Things that I had brushed aside or powdered into grains
My fragile hands have broken
All of the times I thought that I had come to dance
Above the weaker strains
So I fall into a pile, and I hide under his wings
As brokenness cries out to brokenness, as I begin to sing

Whiter snow, come and go, down underneath my feet
Let your purer grace show all of your win in my defeat
Whiter call, come and fall and fill in all of my tracks
For your end, it still remains
To spring out of the pouring rain, and
Make us new again

Lately it seems you've been finding me lost under
all this blizzard of the swirling deep
Soon it will melt as it soaks me on through
and then covers me again in its sleep

But what you have done is much thicker
It's much higher and wider than words
Covering not that which you could make new and now,
We are unfrozen, you're making us new
And so we run with you in the night
We are lifting our voicing to sing
Just for this moment to be here with you
Held in so tightly under your wings

For more snow pictures from this past week, click here


Why French for Africa?

Learning French to work in Africa?

Oui.  In 2010, when our team was in earnest in our search for a long-term location (we settled on Burundi December 2010), we were drawn especially to places that not many people were working.  The main reasons for this were that we had been given a community, and we felt that this gave us increased capacity for "emptier" places (as expats went), as well as wanting to minimize dependency issues.

We talked with people all over the continent, and one of the first observations I made was that there were so few people working in Francophone Africa.  This piqued my curiosity generally about Francophone Africa.  Here is what I learned.

Depending on how you count it, there are 31 countries in Africa with French as an official language.  This represents 355 million people, with an expected rise to 750 million by 2050.  This is in contrast to 24 African countries that have English as an official language.  The number of people in the Anglophone countries is a bit higher overall, but this is largely due to the fact that Nigerians outnumber the grains of sand on the shore.

I don't have numbers on the relative spiritual needs of the two language groups, but I think it's safe to say that the Francophone countries are more likely to be Muslim and/or unreached by Christianity.

And interestingly, there seems to be a significant correlation with physical/humanitarian need.  For example, the Human Development Index, published annually by the UN, is meant to provide a global measure of how "developed" a country is.  By this measurement, 7 of the 10 least developed countries in the world are in Francophone Africa.  Burundi is 3rd from the bottom.  Liberia and Sierra Leone (Anglophone) as well as Mozambique (Portugese) round out the list.

And yet, these are the forgotten disasters of the world.  How often does one hear about Niger, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, or Guinea?

So why are so few people there?  I suspect it's because so many missionaries come from Anglophone-predominate countries (US, Canada, Australia, UK, South Korea...), and learning another language is just plain hard.  (You can trust us on that one.)

Given our tools as Christian physicians and missionaries, French study is essential for what God has called us to in Burundi.  However, if we are graced to see our work there completed in 15 years, French language ability will open all kinds of wonderful doors for amazingly needy places.

And I've become a somewhat unabashed advocate for this as well.  If you care greatly about the needs of Africa, and are interested in long-term work, consider French.  It may not be the same lingua franca that it was fifty years ago, but it is still useful for much more than a good vacation to Provence (though that sounds nice as well).