Cooking With(out) Gas

by Julie Banks

Cooking in Kibuye is always an adventure!  As we have mentioned in previous blogs, Burundi has no fast food restaurants, frozen foods, or pre-packaged treats like applesauce or granola bars.  We make everything from scratch around here.  

All of our stoves use gas, which we purchase by the tank. With our stoves and ovens running for many hours a day, we go through gas relatively quickly.  For our family of four, a tank lasts about two months.  So what happens when we run out of gas?  Or what if there is a shortage in the entire country?

Well, we have been able to find out what that is like!  For several weeks our gas supplier in the larger town nearby has not had any gas.  Even after searching the capital city, we found out that there were no full gas tanks to purchase in the entire country.  Some of us had plenty of gas and have made adjustments to make it last longer.  Others of us were completely out of gas! 

No gas means no oven.  No oven means no bread.  No cookies, cakes, casseroles, or (gasp!) pizza!

My boys had a suggestion: cereal for every meal!  Sounds fun, but cereal is imported and milk is limited.  We divide it among our families every morning when it comes fresh from the cow of a nearby dairy farmer.  Normally, we boil it on the stove (using gas for 20 minutes), but I have been able to do that in the microwave. 

Since we do have to eat real food (sorry kids) we have gotten creative with cooking for our families.  We have enjoyed salads from the garden, fresh fruit such as papaya and passion fruit, and other raw foods that don't require cooking.  

Thankfully we have had relatively good power so that we could use electricity to cook some things.  Here is a glimpse of our creative no oven/no stove problem-solving:

Alyssa made a tasty garlic cheese biscuit in her microwave.

Jess used her microwave to boil eggs…

But the power cut out halfway through!

Susan makes tortillas (and other things) on an electric griddle.

Julie Theissen (who has only been here a few weeks) created this layered tex-mex dish complete with an avocado sauce in her crockpot.

Heather used her crockpot to make cinnamon raisin bread.

This cheese bread was also made in the crockpot!

George Foreman grills have been used to make calzones (since we can't make pizza!)

Potatoes on a Foreman grill are great too!

But without a crockpot or griddle, some of our families’ main resource for cooking has come from traditional Burundian outdoor grills with charcoal. 

This is how Burundians cook all the time, so our local friends have been key to our survival recently.  They have kept the fires going all day so that we can cook vegetables, soups, and even granola over an open fire.

This gas crisis doesn’t really affect most Burundians.  It is tremendously rare to have a gas stove.  So, we have taken the opportunity to venture into the village and eat more of what they eat… for example, goat brochettes cooked over an open flame!

Throughout this crisis, I have to say I have not heard one person (big or small) complain.  The team has risen to the challenge and some have even enjoyed this little adventure!  We know that this too shall pass.  

Many of the beautiful Burundians around us have probably never even used a gas stove, but they cook for their families everyday!

We remain thankful that God always provides.  And we hear that gas tanks are on their way...


Dusty…err, Dry Season

by Carlan Wendler

A dust-covered gardenia blooms outside the ER
Even at four degrees south latitude, we experience seasons here in Burundi. October-May is rainy season with a slight pause around the end of January. Roughly June through September is dry season. Grass dries up and the leaves of bushes and trees are covered in a fine layer of very fine dust. Nights can get cold (for us) and sun-soaked days get warm by afternoon.

The beginning of dry season is associated with harvest. First the corn comes in, then the beans, and finally the rice from the better-watered valleys. Families that were starving during the planting-watering season may finally have enough to eat for a few weeks. Those blessed with plots in the lowlands are putting in another crop of vegetables while others are just trying to keep their kids busy during the break in the school year.

From the point of view of the hospital, malaria cases are finally on the decline though respiratory and diarrheal illnesses pick up as temperatures, dust, and water supplies all change in the dry season.

However, we hope that people stay healthy and safe because as dry season drags on, resources get stretched thin. Last week I learned that the HIV program is changing the way it operates due to reduced funding. This last week we had to recommend a patient go to the capital to look for a medicine for his heart because there was none to be found at our hospital or the hospitals in our province. It hurts my heart and made me regret dry season a little bit…then I remembered Number 9:17-23. I quote it at length…

Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.
One of the waiting room roses showing the strain of dry season

For those familiar with the story, this manifestation of God’s presence with the people of Israel while in the Sinai Wilderness (read: desert) had been instrumental in escaping Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea and had led them through the trackless expanse of rock and sand. The desert was, in fact, the place of God’s revelation to His people. I notice in that passage how many times it says essentially the same thing: they stopped when the cloud stopped and they moved when it moved. Elsewhere in the Bible God employs an incredible economy of words to convey treatises of truth. Why this repetition?

Young boys play soccer in the "grassy" field outside the church
The people of Israel, like the people of Burundi, lived day-to-day, at least while they were in the Sinai Wilderness. They, and we, had to pass through this place and time to learn one very important lesson - to become daily aware of God’s presence and movement. I think the Burundians can teach me much about this, for they don’t seem so bothered by the leaner, drier season. And at least for some of them, this comes from decades of experiencing God’s provision even when things looked bleak. Let me give one example:

I rounded on one 80 yr old woman today who thanked me for merely sitting next to her in the morning sunshine while the student presented the case. It was enough of an example to spark a moment of gratitude in my own heart. Of course, stopping to count my blessings immediately resulted in a greater sense of peace and security - like this dry season contains blessings yet undiscovered. It seems that this octogenarian had likely read Deuteronomy 8:4, recording God’s words to Israel as they approached the close of their sojourn in the desert: “Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years."


Three(!!!) Surgeons

(By Alyssa) 

For years now, one of our most frequent team prayer requests was for more surgeons to join our team here. When our team arrived in Burundi five years ago, Jason Fader became one of only ten surgeons in the entire country. Word quickly spread that there was a skilled surgeon in rural Kibuye and patients began flocking from all over - even from neighboring countries. The Burundian generalist physicians can handle a lot of overnight emergencies for the hospital - C-sections, kids with seizures from malaria, adults with hypertensive crises. But the generalist doctors are not trained as surgeons (other than C-sections), so that means that Jason has been on call every night for months at a time (except for when we had visiting short-term surgeons.) We're so thankful to report that those days are now over! God has answered the prayers of many and provided not one but TWO new surgeons. We introduced the John and Thiessen families on the blog here while they were in language school, but they have now arrived and are settling into life here in Burundi.
The Thiessen family
The John family
Three surgeons! 
Three surgeons walking to the hospital
Dr. Jesh seeing a patient
Dr. Ted operating

The new surgeons have survived their first week of work, but it's a steep learning curve. Only a small fraction of the work surgeons do here in Burundi would be done by general surgeons in the U.S. or Canada. Here, general surgery includes orthopedics, plastics, vascular, pediatric and neonatal surgery, urology, neurosurgery, etc. And they have to learn all the French vocabulary for these complicated surgical cases in order to teach the medical students while they operate and see patients. Please pray for Jesh and Ted as they transition to this missionary surgeon life in Burundi. And pray for their families, too, as they also have a steep learning curve figuring out how to cook and shop and do laundry and watch kids and make friends and stay healthy in rural Africa. We threw them an added curve ball this week when we discovered there is no propane in the country at the moment which means figuring out how to cook without using the gas stoves! But they are persevering through all the ups and downs and we're so happy to have them here. We welcomed them with a combined Fourth of July and Canada Day potluck. 

And the kids put on a show to welcome the arrival of the new families and the return of the Cropsey family. Next pray with us for engineering help!


Kuvyibuha = To Be Fat: To Become Fat

By Jess Cropsey

On Monday, our family returned to our home in Kibuye after a year in the States.  It was a little surreal to drive up the windy mountain road back to our home.  Yes, there are a few new people and buildings, but life and work is much the same as it always has been.  Most of our time the last few days has been spent in our home unpacking suitcases, cleaning, re-organizing, unpacking things that were put into storage, etc.  But we’ve also taken a bit of time to greet some of our closest Burundian friends (an important part of this culture).  We managed to pull enough Kirundi out of the recesses of our brains to greet people.
How are you?
We are well.  How is your family?
They are well.

We’ve also heard some say, “Twari tubakumbuye” which means “We’ve missed you”.  But the most common refrain has been, “Waravyibushe” meaning “You have become fat” which is usually accompanied by laughter and hand gestures around the belly indicating large growth in said area.  One person even went so far as to tell me I had become fat everywhere, including my face.  Indeed, John and I each gained 30+ pounds during our year in the USA due to a combination of lack of self-control and differences in the cuisine. 

Our American diet included lots of meat and dairy (along with plenty of junk food).  The only time I've ever cooked a chunk of meat like this one above in Burundi was for Christmas or Thanksgiving.

Our weekly market order in Burundi -- 
We rarely eat any processed food here since most things are made from scratch.
But these friends aren’t being rude.  In fact, they are paying us a compliment in their culture.  In a place where many people eat 1-2 scant meals a day, being able to eat as much as you want when you want to is a tremendous luxury.  According to the World Food Program, 60% of Burundians are chronically malnourished.  In 2014, Burundi was ranked the hungriest nation in the world according to the Global Hunger Index and hunger levels continue to be ranked as “extremely alarming”.  So, being overweight in this country is a sign of health, blessing, and prosperity.  With this as a backdrop, it’s much easier to take these “compliments” and be reminded how fortunate we are.  I know I will need to remember it in a few weeks when I start to miss chips, chocolate, cheese varieties, breakfast cereal, cheesecake, and many other things that we indulged in during our time in the USA. 

On the up side, we’ve both already lost a few pounds!  By the time we get ready to head back to the USA again, we’ll likely be looking pretty good and receive lots of compliments from Americans about how thin we’ve become.  Then we’ll plump up before we return to Burundi and repeat the cycle all over again.   


Transitions are Hard

by Kayla Hedin
MK Teacher

Some people resist change; others welcome it and even seek it out. For some people, the thought of change incites anxiety, while for others it causes excitement. Although this may be a little uncommon, I like change. I like having new adventures and trying new things. Yet even in my desire for what is new and different, I still crave a sense of control and routine. I know, pretty contradictory. I like change that I create and can somewhat predict, yet most change does not come with control and predictability. So can I really say I like change? I’m not sure.

Moving to Kibuye, Burundi from Lansing, Michigan is by far the most drastic change I have faced in my life so far. This was a change I chose, so I should be fine with this, right? Kind of. I sought out this change, and I knew the transition was coming, but there were many things I felt I was in the dark about and still more things that I feel I do not know. I like controlled adventure, and while moving to Burundi is definitely an adventure, I felt a loss of control in the process.

When I am anticipating or experiencing change and transition in my life—especially if things are not going the way I planned, the transition is turning out to be more challenging than I expected, or there are a lot of unknowns—it is easy for me to fall into negative thought patterns. I begin to trade peace for anxiety, confidence for fear, and faith for self-reliance. I get caught up in the idea that failure in a particular situation would be unbearable and resolve to just try harder.

In the weeks leading up to my departure, this tendency to fear was evident. The smallest upsets in plans made me feel like my world was falling apart. Anticipating the changes I knew were coming and considering the fact that I would also be facing changes I could not anticipate caused fear and anxiety at times. If I am not careful, my concerns, fears, and even resolutions to try harder or do better can become consuming and make me the center of everything. I remember clinging to 2 Timothy 1:7 in the weeks leading up to my departure. I had to remind myself over and over that God has not given me a spirit of fear. He was with me in the midst of my anticipation and is with me still, and I don't have to hold on to the fear that sometimes creeps into my heart.

I arrived in Kibuye near the end of April. As could be reasonably expected, I was both nervous and excited. I soon settled in to a routine and began to learn about how to thrive in Kibuye. Over and over, I thanked God that I had a roommate who had been in Kibuye for eight months to help me in my transition to life here. She was such a blessing and a huge part of why I think I transitioned well at the beginning...But then more change came, and with that, another transition. At the end of the school year, my roommate’s internship came to an end, and it was time for her to go back home to the United States. Other families were also leaving at that time—some for the summer, and some for six months. In a matter of days, the Kibuye I was in looked and felt much different than the Kibuye to which I had arrived.
A goodbye picture with my roomie.
During the first week of families being gone, someone said to me, “Welcome, to June—the worst month in missions.” He went on to explain how June is a month full of change, and that it can be hard. I was definitely feeling the effects of the changes that June brought, and it was such a relief to hear someone (more experienced in missions than myself) express what I did not yet have words for. In the midst of my transitional season, I did not pay much attention to the transitions and changes those around me were facing, and his words helped bring me out of my own little universe and realize that everyone around me was experiencing these changes in different ways. With new families being added to the team, people coming for short-terms, and core families leaving for HMA, the team is constantly in flux, and this can be hard for everyone. In a small, tight-knit community, people’s absences are noticeably felt, and change is something everyone on the team has to face, including the children I will be teaching. With my recent goodbyes to family and friends at home still pretty fresh in my mind, it was not hard to understand how the kids (and adults) probably felt saying goodbye to their friends, and they were already my friends too at that point! Transitions are hard, and a life in missions is a life full of change and transitions.
Our "tunnel of love" to say goodbye to families leaving for HMA.
Yet I have found that it is extremely difficult to maintain a negative attitude in the presence of the Lord, so I am trying to get into the habit of simply sitting in the presence of the Lord when something seems overwhelming or facing a particular change is frustrating instead of resolving to figure things out on my own. By intentionally just sitting in God’s presence, I have begun to experience an unexplainable peace. While my concerns are still real, God’s power is even more real. Even the things that feel impossible become possible in the hands of God. I love how the things that seem huge in my life become so small in the presence of an Almighty God! This is not to say that my concerns and fears don’t matter or that they suddenly just disappear. However, scripture gives us assurance about these things. No matter what season we are in, God is inviting us into his presence. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."

Just because God tells us to not worry does not mean that he has no sympathy for us when we experience difficult seasons. He understands more than anyone else could, and he invites us to come to him confidently. This is clear in Hebrews 4: 14-16: "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." In the Bible, we are told “fear not” 365 times! I think that must be pretty important to our Heavenly Father. We are also repeatedly told that God is with us and are invited into loving relationship with him. These truths have been especially powerful for me as I face changes, both expected and unexpected.

Perhaps transitions never end, even if we stay in the same place all our lives. We still transition through seasons of life, relationships, careers, etc. But through all the change that occurs around us, we can take comfort in the fact that our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I would encourage you to reflect on the way you face change. Is it with fear, anxiety, and worry? Is it with a desire to somehow gain control in the midst of that change? Or perhaps it is with an attitude of self-sufficiency, a confident attitude that you’ll figure things out and everything will be fine. Regardless of the way you face change, in what ways can you invite God to be a part of that? In what ways might he be calling you to deeper dependence on him through the transitions and changes you face?