Non-Academic Learning Assessment

by Heather

And another school year has ended.  It’s time to think back over what have we have learned this year.  The kids can tell you about historical events, about the solar system, about books and math and art projects and Kirundi field trips.  And they’ll tell you all about their classmates and their fabulous teacher.  It was an excellent academic year.  It was also an excellent year for non-academic learning and growth in these areas:

1.  Involving the whole family in hospital work:  Of course, our kids have always known that their part in the work here includes sharing (and missing) their dad when he is needed at the hospital all day and many evenings and weekends.  But this year, more than ever before, the girls have been able to participate in hospital ministry directly.  They bring things up to the hospital – like eggs and milk for patients or food for the OR staff when operations continue into the night.  They help with hospital errands, shaking many hands along the way.  They pray for Jason’s patients by name, and they attend hospital celebrations.  Anna loves going up to the hospital with Jason sometimes when he is called to see patients in the evenings.  In fact, she is currently considering a career in anesthesia so that she can work at the hospital with her dad forever. 

2.  Processing Life, Suffering,  and Death:  When our children go up to the hospital with us, there’s no glossing over the realities of suffering, and death.  A few weeks ago, the girls and I gathered some coloring pages and food to bring to a young patient who was recovering after surgery, but we couldn’t find her when we got to the ward where she had been.  A nurse broke the news that the little girl had died in the night.  Our 10-year-old began to cry right there in the hospital hallway.  So our children join us in processing life, suffering, death, and our faith that God will someday redeem all the wrongs of this world. 

3.  Playing Outside:  Lest anyone think that these kids contemplate the weight of misery all the time, let me clearly state that these kids can PLAY.  Every day of the year they romp around outside with the other kids.  They invent games and make up stories.  They play old favorites like capture the flag.  They disagree, and they learn to get along.  They plant seeds and spend a whole lot of time getting dirty.  They organize projects and build forts and create their own adventures. Like this, for example:

4.  Experiencing Pet Care and the Circle of Life:  These two lessons go hand in hand, for better or for worse.  Our girls have loved a lot of pets in the last year – at least 40 that we can remember by name.  Chicks and chickens, guinea pigs, a rabbit, and lots of chameleons (including 12 newborn babies, one of which (Roxy) you see here climbing on a tic tac).  Each pet had a name, each one received heaps of affection and care, and each one has moved on.  Some returned to their natural environments, some were given away as gifts, and some perished.  But no, none ended up on our plates, because it’s awfully hard to eat a pet, even the rooster whose name was Délicieux.

5.  Learning to Trust that God Provides:  Partly through all of these experiences this year, I have seen in new ways that God provides the grace that we need when we need it.  Up until a year ago, I seriously doubted that I could ever live and thrive in a place experiencing such difficult times as these.  Events during these last 12 months have shaken this country, but every single day since the attempted coup d’état last May, God has given grace and assurance of his call here.  We have been really glad to stay right here, and despite difficulties, it has been a wonderful year in many ways.

Thank you always for your prayers for us, for our community, and for this country.


The End of an Era & Drumming Class

by Jess Cropsey

This past Friday (May 13th) was memorable in many ways.  It was Jason Fader's birthday (who is quickly approaching the other side of "the hill"), our 16th wedding anniversary, and also the one year "anniversary" of the coup d'état in Burundi.  It was also Kibuye Hope Academy's final academic day for the 2015-2016 school year.  While there was great rejoicing from both teachers and students, celebrations were somewhat dampened as we faced the reality that our wonderful teacher "Miss S" would be leaving us after 2 years here.  While I cannot show you a picture of her always-joyful face or tell you her real name (she has requested anonymity on the blog), you can see from the photo below that she was a well-loved teacher by her students.  She is an absolute gem, a one-of-a-kind person with a heart that deeply loves all those around her.  She was amazing with the kids, provided them with individualized instruction, hosted terrific parties (for any holiday imaginable), and thoughtfully sought out ways to support their unique life as third-culture kids.  She had a wonderful outreach to the Hope Africa medical students that came to Kibuye for rotations and she was clearly loved by the 9th grade students from her English class at the local school.  We said good-bye to her on Saturday and as we watched her drive away someone commented, "It's the end of an era."  Sad, but true.  To S_, we thank you so much for the ways you have served, blessed, and loved our community.  We wish you the best as you seek what God has next for you.

On a more cheerful note, we managed to squeeze in one new cultural event before the end of the year -- KHA's first official drumming class.  Drumming is a Burundian tradition and you can often watch them perform at important events, like the going-away party for Miss S at the local school a week ago.

Last Monday, the principal brought over the team of 5th/6th grade drummers to give our kids their very own Burundian drumming class lesson.  He did a great job patiently teaching the kids and the boys also were incredibly kind and encouraging in helping our kids.  It was such a fun experience.  We had a second class today and the kids are getting the hang of it!  Maybe someday soon we'll be able to post a video of a bazungu-barundi drumming performance.  Stay tuned....


Podcast: The Talking McLaughlins

Rachel and I were recently featured on the podcast "World to the Wise: Home of the Culturally Curious" in an interview that we recorded in January, just before leaving the US.  The proprietor of said podcast is a long-time friend, David Durham.

Our lives and work continue to intersect with David's in curious ways.  I grew up singing his songs at our mutual home church in Nashville.  I knew that he had invested many years working to write and produce worship music for the Francophone world.  When I moved to France, I found the local congregation singing his songs in French.  Even now, I'm assuming the Banks and Baskins (our teammates currently in language school in Albertville) have become familiar with his song "Mon Ancre et Ma Voile" (My Anchor and My Sail), among others.  David is perhaps the most prolific linguist I know, speaking seven languages.  While we lived in France, I would skype with him weekly, glad to have his help as my virtual language partner.  Top it all of with his son marrying my sister, and I guess you could call our paths inextricably woven.

As I listen to it, I think the podcast has turned out as a distinct way to share different facets of life here, unique from our writing on the blog.  David's focus being the crossings of cultures, there are some good opportunities to go beyond talking about mission and work, but also about cultures and cross-cultural family life.  Click here to listen.


Bursting At the Seams!

by Jess Cropsey

When we first arrived in Burundi in August 2013, there were 16 of us, including kids.  Now merely 2-1/2 years later, our team has more than tripled in size with 52 people officially approved for 2-year terms or longer (although not all on the ground yet).  It has been amazing to see how God has met all of our needs and brought people to us in some really unexpected ways.  

I’d like to introduce you to the newest additions:

Greg & Stephanie Sund came for a 9-month term in 2014-2015.  Greg is an anesthesiologist and Stephanie has a background in nursing.  We really enjoyed having their family with us and were thrilled that they decided to come back on a long-term basis.  Greg's skills are critical given the surgical volume at the hospital and he provided important training for Burundian anesthetists while he was here.  They are currently raising support and looking for folks to join their support team in the hopes of heading to French language school this August.    

Scott & Lindsay Nimmon:  Beginning in the Fall 2016, we will have 18 school-age kids here (24 in total).  With our current, amazing, going-to-miss-her-so-much teacher finishing her term and moving on to another ministry, we were desperately searching for other help with educating our kids.  Scott & Lindsay read about our need and decided to take the plunge!  We are excited to welcome them, a teacher-teacher couple with complementary expertise in social studies & language arts (to my & Heather’s backgrounds in math, science & foreign language).  Their daughter will join our class of six 2nd-graders!  They are raising support now and hope to join us by the beginning of the school year.  If you’d like to help them along their way, click here.  

George & Susan Watts:  George & Susan started their term with Serge one year ago, originally on the Bujumbura team.  George has a PhD in business and was working with the Master’s program in business at Hope Africa University.  Unfortunately, shortly after their arrival the political unrest in Burundi began and has come & gone in waves since then.  After sticking it out for quite some time (road barricades, routine explosions/grenades at night sometimes very close to their house, limited travel around the city, etc.), the Team Leaders in Bujumbura along with the Watts & the Serge Security Team thought it best to relocate their family here to Kibuye for the remainder of their 2-year term.  We are grateful to have them here.  George has many skills that are a huge asset to the hospital in the areas of business & administration.  Please pray that George’s role at the hospital would be clarified soon.  The hospital has recently created its own board and is working on restructuring, so pray for wisdom for the leadership in determining the best role for him.  Susan has dove into daily visits to the pediatric & malnutrition ward at the hospital to bring encouragement & hope to those kids & mamas.  She also recently started an English class for the Burundian doctors.  They have four kids (ages 4-14) who have adjusted well to their new life “up-country”.

Nicole Christenson:  We were the lucky recipients of Nicole from yet another Serge team (hopefully we’re not making too many enemies!).  Nicole was slated to join the South Sudan team, but they had to evacuate last year while she was still raising support and weren’t sure if/when they would be able to go back.  It came up in conversation at our Serge East Africa retreat last year that we were looking for a finance person, and the team leaders for South Sudan told us about Nicole.  Et voila! — She arrived in August and has been helping wade through the financial systems at the hospital and keeping track of lots of receipts for the many projects.  She also goes out of her way to host special events for our kids.  It’s been great to have her here!   (The photo below shows her in costume for Elise's "African Animal"-themed birthday party.)

Tony & Judith Sykes:  Tony and Judith are on loan to us from Engineering Ministries International.  Tony has been working tirelessly with Caleb Fader on the many building projects happening right now in Kibuye, particularly the new hospital surgical ward.  We really appreciate his many years of experience!  

Pray for our team as a whole as we continue to add new people - that we would remain unified in vision and purpose and be a light to this community in how we love each other.