by Rachel Buikema
I have only four weeks left in my nine-month term at Kibuye. I’m very excited to be going back to family and friends in the land of Krispy Kreme and Chick-fil-A, but I can already feel my heart breaking as I prepare to leave this place.
For the past eight months I’ve been helping to teach the children on our team. Before coming to Burundi, I had never travelled outside of North America. That didn’t stop me from deciding to come here for nine months. I do not speak French or Kirundi (the local language), I had never met anyone on the team, and I was coming all by myself. I also had no teaching experience. I had no idea what I was doing! A few weeks in, one of my teammates asked me what was the bravest thing I’ve ever done. Without hesitation, I said it was coming here. I knew so little about where I was going and what I was going to be doing. I have been blessed to see God’s grace carry me though.
I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder a couple years ago. My anxiety kicked into high gear about a month before leaving for Burundi. I felt like I was going to throw up almost every day. I normally love food, but not only was I not hungry, the thought of food was revolting. I was dreading saying goodbye to my loved ones for nine months. There were days when I thought that I was not going to be able to go through with this. I was terrified of the future and I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.
Had I known what that was going to be like before signing up for this, I probably would not have agreed to come. I certainly don’t regret coming—the opposite is true. I’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to see the incredible work going on here. I was only able to do that by God’s grace and because we do not have to take the future nine months at a time.
Max Lucado has a wonderful book called Traveling Light (I highly recommend it!) in which he examines the 23rd Psalm. Each part of the psalm corresponds to a burden that we often bear unnecessarily. The chapter about the burden of worry really resonates with me. He begins with some examples that seem absurd: a four year old who worries how she will ever pass a calculus class or an eight year old who worries if he’ll be a good parent. That’s simply ridiculous to think about. They don’t need to be worrying about such things yet.
Psalm 23:2 says, “He leads me beside still waters.” God is not behind us, waiting for us to move forward, but rather he is in front of us, clearing the way and encouraging us to follow. He gives us guidance when necessary. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The key phrase there is “in time of need.” Just as an elementary school teacher would not teach his students what they need to know in college, God does not give us all of the help that we need for the future right now. He gives wisdom when the time comes. So by the time that four year old gets to calculus and that eight year old becomes a parent, they will have what they need in order to be successful in their calling. By the time I arrived in Bujumbura (the capital city), God had given me the strength I needed to get to that point. He has continued to provide what I need as I need it throughout my time here.
As I reflect on my experiences in Kibuye and look ahead to the next chapter in my life, I can feel the anxiety welling up inside me again. How can I manage another transition of this magnitude? Every single day I need to remind myself of God’s promises. I’m working on abiding by Matthew 6:34: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Instead of splitting my mind between today’s to-do list and tomorrow’s tasks, I need only focus on what’s happening now. There are so many things we could worry about: How will we cope with the loss of a loved one? What will we do if we lose our job? How will we possibly get through all of the hardships that will inevitably come? God will provide help at the right time. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, and we serve a God who keeps His promises. Where he calls us, he will equip us.