WhatsApp: The Community Communication Cure

by Jess Cropsey

You would think that people who live right next door to each other would find it relatively easy to communicate.  Indeed, it is usually easy, but people are busy or not at home and it can be time-consuming to wander from house to house looking for that onion that you need to finish making dinner.

"Back in the day" (meaning 5 years ago when our team first landed in Burundi), we communicated the old-fashioned way:  face-to-face.  Our internet was almost non-existent at the time and texting by phone was the only other decent alternative.  Once our team began to grow (and after internet became more reliable), the wise Susan Watts proposed forming a WhatsApp group to help us communicate more easily with each other.  Plus, it seems to be the preferred method of communication for many Burundians since you can get a 30-day package of unlimited Facebook and WhatsApp for a mere $1.30.    

This is now our go-to method of disseminating information and there are at least a dozen different groups of various combinations of people (Kibuye Hope Academy faculty, various committees, doctors, ...).  Here are some excerpts from these groups that will give you a sneak peek into our daily community life in Kibuye.  

The "Kibuye Core Group" was our first WhatsApp group and includes all missionary adults on the team.  It can be used for any variety of purposes, most of which you are unlikely to see on a WhatsApp communication chain in the USA.

And with the team Thanksgiving feast coming up on Saturday, you can expect the "Exercise Group" to be buzzing.  (Frankly, this group needs to be renamed since it includes all women whether they exercise or not :-).

Other frequent texts on this group include...
If you see Child X, please send him/her home.  
Anyone want to run at 4:30?

We even have one called "Milk" that lets us know how much we owe each month for the fresh cow's milk that is divvied out and delivered to our doors every day (thanks to the amazing Susan Watts).  And if you're looking for someone to take your milk because you'll be out of town for the weekend, this is the place to go!

The very best part of WhatsApp is that it makes communication to North America so easy.  We (the Cropseys) have a group for each side of the family and can easily send & receive quick pictures or texts about what's happening in everyone's lives.  One little way to help us stay better connected.  Thanks WhatsApp!



Learning Eggs-perience

As a history teacher, I enjoy telling stories. Fortunately, my students at Kibuye Hope Academy love to hear a good yarn. Tales of my youth in Appalachia garner some special interest. Accounts of a little Uncle Scott being chased by turkeys and horse-sized dogs always produce some snickering. However, their reaction to hearing of how my family slaughtered chickens on my grandparents’ farm was received with slightly less enthusiasm. Hearing these stories is educational in their own way, but nothing can replace the hands-on learning of a KHA learning experience day. 

Aunt Julie T. orchestrated an in-depth study of chickens that took us from the classroom, to the chopping block, and into the kitchen. Elementary students learned about the use of informational texts as they put together presentations on how to raise and care for chickens. The middle schoolers researched their questions about chickens online (which came first the chicken or the egg?).  We learned that chickens are attracted to red and the fear of chickens is alektrophobia.

The term, alektrophobia comes from the Greek myth of Ares, Aphrodite, and Alectryon. After Alectryon failed to deliver a timely wake-up call to Ares and Aphrodite, he was turned into a rooster and cursed to announce the coming dawn forevermore. You can learn about this story and so much more at www.chickensinliterature.com (it’s a real site). 

Once the students had gathered some general chicken knowledge it was time to apply it in the field. With the purchase of several local chickens, some hot water, and a couple Burundian guides, the students learned how the chickens get from running along the paths of Kibuye to our dinner tables. A few moments fraught with stomach churning for those of us with weaker constitutions quickly passed into a fascination with feather plucking. Every student was engaged in the following dissection (even if not everyone was strictly hands-on during this hands-on activity), and pointing out the different organs, naming their functions.

After a large dose of hand sanitizer, the kids were off to the kitchen to learn about eggs. The middle school baked quiche and frittata while the younger students made deviled eggs and omelets. We feasted together as we listened to the presentations from the different grades prepared earlier in the day. It was another successful KHA learning experience day, where students and adults delighted in learning together.   

Although we never solved which came first, the chicken or the egg, we did learn what to call a chicken that stares at lettuce … chicken sees a salad. Get it? Chicken sees a salad, chicken caesar salad. One of the consequences of being a middle school teacher is that jokes like this become hilarious, and this was by far the best chicken joke in day laden with many egg-cellent puns.  


Love One Another: An Exhortation for US Election Day and Everyday

(from Eric)

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love another, for whoever loves has fulfilled the law."  Romans 13:8

One of the frequent questions we get here in our time in the US is "What's it like to walk into this moment of America's political culture?"  It's a complicated question to answer, but I do feel like there is one Christian exhortation I can unequivocally add to the discussion.

Love one another.  If you cannot love your brother that you see, how can you say that you love God, whom you haven't seen?  And loving God and loving one another are the two greatest commandments.  All the law and the prophets hang on these commandments.  Without love, I have nothing.  (These are all direct citations from the New Testament.)

How does this normally play out in life?  Mostly, we are concerned with being right.  If I'm right, but I'm not necessarily loving towards others, then that's not ideal, but at least I'm right.  The Bible stands in stark contrast to this, saying effectively, "That's impossible, because love is the fulfillment of the law."  If I am not loving, then I am wrong, in the deepest sense.  I haven't just missed it a bit.  I haven't lost style points.  I have utterly missed the mark.

But, I say, making right and wise choices is a means of love.  For example, as a parent, my love for my child insists sometimes on difficult, right choices sometimes.  That's true.  But I can use it as an excuse to prize my rightness over love.  Just as in the parenting example, though a right decision can be a manifestation of love, I can still be right without loving.  In which case, Jesus says I have utterly failed to be right.  Love is not secondary.  When love is subordinated, we have run off the tracks.

Read James 3:13ff about wisdom.  Read 1 Peter 2:19ff about unjust suffering.  One cannot divorce justice and righteousness from these ideas, but the unexpected feature of them both is how selfless love is the foundation.  There is no starting place besides Love.


Every aspect of our lives needs this exhortation every bit as much as America in the wake of Election Day.  My marriage needs it, as does my relationship with my children.  My church needs it as they interact with each other.  Our team in Burundi needs it.  For, as an old friend of mine says, "the only people without issues are dead people".

I may often be loving.  But I am also quite focused on being right.  Both of these things have to do with why I am in Burundi.  However, as I interact with others, my strongly held opinions can make me unloving as well.  Thus the danger is always there.  So the persistent drum beat of love is always there in the Bible, to remind us of what we all too easily forget.

The Romans quote above says that love is the debt we always owe to each other.  Why?  Why are we indebted to one another?  Because we are indebted to Jesus for his great, underserved love for us, and he calls us to pay it forward.  He sacrificed for us.  Then he calls to sacrifice for one another.  This Sacrifice is the key, I think.  Love will call us to sacrifice.  It will call us to bear one another's burdens.

We cannot subordinate love, neither towards each other, nor towards the world around us.  We cannot build good systems, administer good medicine, teach correct practice, and not love each other.  Correction:  we can probably do this, but we cannot do it and fulfill God's mission.  We cannot come close.  For this is the core of the mission.  This is our continuing debt.  This is life in abundance.


So, for all of us who struggle to love, here are a couple questions for self-examination that I hope are helpful.  I hope that they will be helpful for me as I write them:

  • Is my first thought as I read this "Yeah, people aren't loving towards me!  They're too concerned about being right!"?  May God show us our hearts and lead us to repentance.  
  • Am I curious what God is doing in the life of the person (or people) that I see as obstacles to what I think is right?  Can I imagine that my love for them for them might be more important in God's eyes than me getting it right?
  • Am I hoping for genuinely good things in the life of the person that I see as an obstacle?  Can I pray that God will truly bless their lives with good things?  Can I thank God for making them and for loving them?


Burundi missionary history

(By Alyssa)

Jess recently wrote a post about hidden talents from our visitors and how they encourage us. I'd like to add another visitor to that list. We recently welcomed a visitor who was born here in Burundi in 1948! We learned so much from her about Burundian missionary life decades ago. Here are some snippets of stories that might interest you, too:
  • Several of her missionary aunts and uncles attempted to come to Burundi in 1941 on a ship named the ZamZam. While crossing the Atlantic in the middle of WW2, however, the ship was bombed and sank. The missionaries were rescued and one of Faith's aunties even was able to rescue her typewriter! Here is the gravestone for one of her missionary aunts (about 2 hours away from us in Kibuye): 
  • World War II was still raging when Faith's parents came to Burundi in 1943, so they traveled through the South Atlantic instead. That meant taking a ship from California around the Southern coast of South America and on to Cape Town in South Africa. But unfortunately their passports arrived two days after the ship left California! Their colleagues went on the ship and her parents were able to arrange a flight from California to South America. Then they waited for a month in Uruguay before a freighter could take them across the South Atlantic to South Africa. From there they traveled north on trains and boats to Burundi. The entire journey took 6 months! 
  • Their first child died in Burundi in 1944. 
  • Faith was their third child and she was born at home in 1948, though a doctor from Kibuye Hospital came to stay with her mother for one week. 
  • Her father helped build and lead a church in a place called Kayero. The church is still being used - they were having a meeting there when we arrived! And they are building a new one, too, so the congregation seems to be thriving there.
    The church built by her father at Kayero
    The field where she used to play as a kid outside the church
    Her childhood home still being lived in by the current pastor's family
  • In those days, Burundi was called Ruanda-Urundi and was under Belgian rule (the Belgians had taken over from the Germans after WWI.) Faith remembers when the king of Belgium came to visit. A fellow missionary kid was asked to clean up the outhouse in case he should need to use it. In the process, the child lit a match which caused the outhouse to go up in flames just as the king arrived! (The child was ok.)  
  • Faith remembers being in 6th grade when Burundi gained their independence. 
    The scenery is gorgeous around Kayero
    This is called the German Cliffs - there is an old German outpost here from before WWI
    And Karera falls are not far from her childhood home 
  • She was in school in Mweya for several years (currently a Bible training college with the dorms still in use.) 
    Visiting Mweya (about 45 minutes from Kibuye)
    Barb and Wayne Vibbert, who currently live in Mweya, first arrived in Burundi in 1976, so they knew Faith's parents but she was already grown up by then
    Exploring Mweya
    Faith with her dorm in the background
    Faith's old classroom - she's pointing to where the class of students being actively taught sat while the others did work on their own (one room schoolhouse). As the oldest child in the school her 8th grade year, she was responsible for teaching the younger ones how to read! 
  • For 10th grade, Faith's family was in the US. Midway through her 11th grade year, her parents returned to Burundi. She didn't see them again until she was midway through college! 
  • Faith's parents retired from Burundi in 1979. 
  • Faith began working as a laboratory technician at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya nearly 40 years ago and she plans to retire in 2019, so she wanted to take this opportunity to see her childhood home for the first time since the 1970s! We first met her and Annette (Canadian respiratory therapist who traveled with Faith to Burundi) when we worked at Tenwek from 2009-2011. Both Faith and Annette offered helpful expertise and teaching to our staff and students in their respective areas. 
It's so interesting to me to learn about the Burundi of 70 years ago. But I'm thankful that it only takes me 24 hours or so to get to the US rather than 6 months! Burundi was as beautiful as Faith remembered. Some things are the same such as the colorful Burundian fabric and the traditional farming tools, but she noticed great improvements in education and healthcare from her day, so that's encouraging. I wonder what Burundi will be like 70 years from now when our missionary kids come back to visit!