Some things are easy to write about. And some things are just as (or even more) important, but hard to write about, so they feature less in the blog.
One of the core items of our work here is the education and discipling of Burundian medical students (some are also from other countries in the region: Rwanda, Congo...). It's a primary reason we're here. As Carlan put it, "We're not the best people for this job. Our students are." Burundi has one of the lowest doctor/population ratios in the world, and these students form part of the remedy for a country with no to minimal access to quality health care. So, we educate them. Day in and day out, we are surrounded by uncomfortably large crowds of students. They are bright and talented, and they are learning. They will be a tremendous blessing wherever they are.
But what will they do? What will guide them? Will a good education be a ticket to a land with less need, or a way to simply increase personal prosperity, or will it be a calling, a gift of God for his purposes and not their own?
And this is discipleship. Less tangible. Harder to measure. Like many less-tangible and hard-to-measure things, it is among the most important things of life. We lead bible studies. We teach classes. And more than anything, we live side-by-side with them, and in our brokenness, God's grace shines through.
Currently, we are coming to the end of a 4-month stint with 34 medical students. I will try to share a couple testimonies from them. It is fitting for an American to write about this, just before Thanksgiving, since we are very thankful for these students, for their testimonies, for their growth, and for the opportunity that we have to be part of their lives.
Last Thursday, at our most recent bible study, 4 students volunteered to share testimonies. Normally, these are incredible stories about the students' lives growing up, losing parents in wartime, being put in jail, unexpected deaths of siblings. But this time their testimonies were about their time here at Kibuye. Here is a summary:
One young lady spoke of how she had neglected the church for several years, being sure that God was with her when she did good deeds. But she was haunted by never doing enough, and every year she would promise God that next year, she would do better. She said that here at Kibuye, for the first time, she knows that Jesus loves her, not because of what she does, but because of his love. And this is transforming her. She said that here she saw a miracle: humble specialist doctors. (This is a theme we have encountered.) Doctors who care more for their patients, doctors who pray with them, who lead worship for the staff to sing.
Another lady spoke of how her time with the student outreach group has transformed her. I love these stories. The students from the city are often quite shocked by the poverty here, and form a Christian outreach group, to pray for their patients in the evenings, share with them, and collect money to buy them food or maybe medicines. This is independent of us missionaries, which is probably the best kind of testimony. =) She spoke of how nervous she was going out to talk with these patients, but how the patients put her at ease, and with time she has grown in her capacity to pray and share with them, more than she would have imagined.
The next day, after the final lecture that I gave in the Christian Philosophy of Medicine course (this one on facing suffering), another student asked to talk to me. She said that, prior to coming to Kibuye, she saw medicine as a job. She wanted to do the right thing for her patients, to avoid her supervising doc pointing out her misdeeds. But now, for the first time, she thinks she loves her patients, and she wants to treat them because she has found a new care for them inside her. She said she now sees medicine as a calling, and is trying to figure out what God is calling her to do. She wanted to know about missionaries.
After arriving here, she kept asking her friends what these Americans were doing here. They gave such answers as "Maybe they are just adventurous tourists" or "Maybe they've always wanted to live in Africa" or my favorite "Americans do all sorts of weird stuff! Who knows!?" But she said, those answers didn't pan out. We had our little kids with us (another common theme), and she couldn't even imagine bringing her little kids up to the country from the capital. She recognized that we were here to try and follow God, to serve Burundi and to see him glorified here. She wanted to know how we decided that was what God was calling us to do. So we spent an hour talking about how much potential she has to glorify God in her country, about keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, and about exploring possibilities with her church to join together and maybe send out some doctors to serve.
These words are joy and life to us. We know that we live out these things so misshapenly, with so little grace, and often so much frustration. And yet we believe ardently that here, seeking God and his will, we can all together find the source of life and of joy. And so to find our students recognizing this same true source, is a great encouragement.