Marsupial Moment

By Julie Banks

This year I find myself teaching Science for the first time at KHA.  My degree is a Bachelor of Music with a major in Vocal Performance, so it seems somewhat natural for me to teach music, composers, drama, dance, and other such arts.  But Science is different.  Daily I’m surrounded by these doctors who were Biology and Chemistry majors and would be far more qualified to teach our students’ science class. But here I am!

Thus far our Sonlight curriculum has had us exploring all sorts of interesting and exotic animals.  Many days we read books, look at pictures, and do worksheets and crafts.  Probably much like a North American Science class.  But I’m sure our conversations about our real life experiences with these animals are much different than the conversations you might hear in a 3rd grade classroom in the States! 
KHA 3rd Graders: Alma, Ben, Zeke
These MK’s, or “Third Culture Kids,” absolutely amaze me with the knowledge they already have just from living this globe-trotter life their families have been called to embrace.  Alma, Ben, and Zeke have lived and traveled all over the world!  Between these three precious ones, they probably have traveled to somewhere between 20-25 countries!  One has plenty of Arctic Canadian wildlife stories, another has ridden a camel at the Pyramids of Giza, another’s car was invaded by wild monkeys.  They’ve seen wildebeest graze the savannah and giraffes stretch their long necks to feed on acacia branches.  They’ve encountered hippos in the wild, and stared wide-eyed at kingly lions.  Sometimes physician training takes our families to Asia where our kids have had the chance to see pandas in their Chinese home, or ride elephants through the jungles of Thailand.  These three kids have even seen the rare spectacle of penguins that live on the beaches of South Africa.

But this week I finally found an animal (and a continent!) that they have never seen:  Australia’s beautiful kangaroo.  These marsupials are a true wonder from their soft pouches to their knock-out punches.  I tied a “pouch” onto their bellies and we stuffed little “joeys” inside and took them for a bouncy ride.  

We even tried eating greens like a kangaroo!  

Next I snuggled the triplets into their own cozy pouch (read: missionary-sized duffle bag) to watch a video of kangaroos bouncing and boxing. 

What a fun day.  We learned.  We laughed.  I thank God that He is challenging me to stretch past my comfort zones. 

We are four weeks in to the school year and today my son casually asked me the same question many adults love to ask 8 year olds, “What’s your favorite subject in school?”  And do you know what?  I surprised even myself by saying “Science!”

Well, I guess this music girl did end up bringing a little “drama” into Science class after all!


Magic Feet

by Lindsay Nimmon

"Mama always said there's an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes. Where they're going, where they've been. I've worn lots of shoes. I bet if I think about it real hard, I could remember my first pair of shoes. Mama said they'd take me anywhere. She said they was my magic shoes." Forest Gump shared this little insight with a lady while sitting on a bench, waiting for a bus in the movie by the same name released in 1994. Mama may have said something slightly different if she had lived in Burundi. Here, you can tell an awful lot about a person by their feet -- where they've been, perhaps their occupation, the economic constraints on their lives.

In Kibuye, most of the time, there are no magic shoes taking people places. There are just the bare feet of our neighbors. These feet are covered in red dirt from the dusty paths they tread on each day, from the fields they hoe and cultivate. These feet are covered in soot from standing and raking in piles of charcoal. These feet are calloused and cracked from years of walking many hours to their places of work.

People’s feet are their primary mode of transportation most of the time. Children walk for water or chase their family’s goats through the countryside. Teenagers play soccer in a field by the church. Men herd cattle and push bikes loaded with merchandise.

When feet don’t work well, life in Kibuye is particularly challenging. That long walk to work and the physical labor that follows is slow and even painful. It means falls when the paths become slippery mud in the rainy season. 

Some feet get covered in shoes only for church on Sunday or a special event. These shoes are scrubbed and dried in the sun - sometimes after each use. They are prized and cared for as such.

The bare feet of villagers here may not take them anywhere as Mama said, but their feet do take them everywhere they need to go. The places they’ve been are embedded in the lines on their soles. Feet in Kibuye tell a story - a story of poverty and need, of hard work and tenacity, of strength and long-suffering.


Global Missions Conference Africa 2019

(by Eric)

As some of this readership knows, Rachel and I met each other in Louisville, Kentucky in 2003 at an annual event called the Global Missions Health Conference.  We have been back to that conference a half dozen times since then, including a bit of a capstone last year, when the we (the couple who met there) moderated a panel on "Marriage and Missions".

Halfway around the world, a sister event was established in Nairobi, Kenya, about 7 years ago.  This GMHC (rebranded this year to GMC-Africa) had a few partners from the West (or "Global North", i.e. the USA and Europe), but is truly an African run and led event, where Christians, especially in health professions, gather together to share about the question: "How do we pursue the mission of God in his world?"

For several years here at Kibuye, we have offered a small sponsorship of senior medical students at Hope Africa University to attend this conference.  Sometimes we've had as many as a dozen of them take the long bus ride to Nairobi, and their report has always been excellent.  However, early September being a bit of a difficult time for our teammates to travel (e.g. end of summer, start of school), it's been a challenge to get there ourselves to participate.  

This year, I was pleased to get to travel with our Burundian Medical Director at Kibuye, Dr. Gilbert, to GMC-Africa.  The two of us had a great time together, and I got to see a few old friends from Kenya (in addition to some HAU graduates now studying in Kenya).  The sessions were truly encouraging, especially regarding the quality of the African leaders and speakers.

So, what is an African-led missions conference like?  Generally, two things stuck out to me.

1.  Wholistic Mission Comes Much More Naturally to Africans

As someone who has thought a lot and presented multiple times on the wholistic nature of the Gospel and the Mission of Christianity, I have often received responses from my fellow Westerners like "Wow, I've never really thought about this before."  The presenters at this conference took the question for granted.
"Wholistic mission is looking at the total needs of the total person because the total man is broken."
"We say 'Complete the Task".  But we have not asked 'What is the completed task?'"
This guy, Rev. Dr. Dennis Tongoi kept me scribbling notes the whole time, thinking "that's what I've wanted to say!"

I'm so glad that our African brothers and sisters have resisted the false dichotomy of word and deed.  Another presenter asked "If you had to choose to only read your Bible (without praying) or only pray  (without reading the Bible) for 2 years, which would you choose?"  Answer:  "I hope you think that is a ridiculous question.  May the day come when we react the same way to the idea of 'Should we be doing word ministry or deed ministry?'"

2.  Call to the Global South

As the below table from the Pew Forum shows, the global distribution of the world's Christians has shifted dramatically in the last century (see also this article from the Washington Post).  The "Global South" is the term used to refer to Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  Note from the last column that most of the World's Christians live in the Global South today, a percentage that is only expected to increase in coming decades.
Given this reality, the question that (rightly, I think) preoccupied the African audience of this conference was "What are we going to do about it?"  The prevailing sentiment was that it's time for Africa (and yes, Shakira was quoted) to step up and lead, and not wait for other countries to get on with the work of Christianity in the world.  There was a definite willingness to continue to partner with brothers and sisters (like me) from the Global North, but they emphatically wanted to see this task as their task as much, if not more so, than a task belonging to another culture.

And from what this conference displayed of the leadership potential of that Global South, I was encouraged to hear it.


The Saga Continues

Summer is the Empire Strikes Back of the school calendar. Everybody goes off on their own adventures, but Han gets frozen in carbonite and Luke loses a hand. It’s not until we return to school and everyone is back together that we are able to save Han and defeat Jabba together. Sure, the Empire is building another Death Star, but you know that by the end of the school year we are going to be clapping our hands out of time to the music with Lando and dancing with Ewoks. 

In case my analogy is unclear, I look forward to the start of the school year in Kibuye. I appreciate the book recommendations my students have to offer from what they have read over the break. Their insights into Endgame and what might come next in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are worth evaluating together. A new school year means a new round of Learning Experience Days is before us, another era of history to explore, new books to dissect, and another year of fellowship as a team. 

Despite all the excitement of a new year, there are also some key characters missing. There are now four Kibuye Kids attending high school in Kenya. The dynamic in our Kibuye classroom is different without them and parents and siblings feel their absence. It is not just these few missing people, but we all have loved ones who live half a world away from Kibuye. It is almost as if the Empire is building a new Death Star, but the Rebellion remains scattered. 

Many of the people who make a place feel like home are missing. It can feel as though there are perhaps multiple homes. Life continues in those multiple homes even as life continues in Kibuye. It is a difficult reality that our loved ones experience suffering while we are far away. Several of us on this team have suffered the loss of a loved one in the past two years. Many of our friends and family members who are far from us have experienced disease, divorce, or death. Just this morning, my family received news of friend diagnosed with a rare condition causing multiple cancers throughout her body. 

Simply put, this school year brings with it an array of emotions and spiritual challenges. I want to be present for so many people in so many different situations. I especially want to be there for those who have lost a loved one and for those whose prognosis is terminal. I want to make things better.

In the opening scenes of Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark adrift in space, says he hoped to pull out one more surprise and miraculously make it home. He has come to the end of his resources. Although Tony is saved by someone else in this particular situation, there comes a time for all of us when our ingenuity, our strength or agility, our charisma, or sheer fortuitousness will not prevail. When difficulties come for us or for our loved ones, when push comes to shove, to what or whom can we turn? 

Unsurprisingly, I am no one’s Luke Skywalker. I cannot make boarding school closer to home, heal the terminally ill, or save anyone. Praise God, that He has given us a Savior who is good, faithful, and all powerful who can address each of these struggles. Jesus knows intimately our burdens, fears, and circumstances. Jesus does not rescue us with an Iron Man snap of his fingers. No, our rescue required much more than that. My sin demanded the shame and brutality of the cross. Christ bore the annihilating blaze of God’s wrath for me. No mere snap of the fingers, but a descent into the raging chaos of Hell was necessary to secure my salvation. To seal the deal, Jesus rose from the dead to ensure that nothing would ever separate me from Him again. 

In Fellowship with others is where the victory that Christ has claimed is most assuredly felt and realized. God has brought us together as the body of Christ and Jesus himself bears our burdens and those of our loved ones, near and far.  This school year, I am most excited to see Jesus transform lives and carry each of us into deeper relationship with Him. 


Boarding School: Blessings, Losses, and Trust

(by Heather Fader)

In this season, I cannot yet write a comprehensive blog post about the subject of boarding school, as we are in the throes of transition to this new stage of life.  We are one of the three Kibuye families whose children have begun high school at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya.  Without a doubt, it is a fabulous opportunity for our kids to be at such an incredible place.  At the same time, this brings changes that must be processed and losses that must be grieved.

Rift Valley Academy is an absolutely phenomenal school.  Alumni attest to that, including Jason and other family and friends.   And after attending orientation there this weekend, I am beyond impressed with the staff, academics, dorm life, student care, family support, and school culture.  RVA’s vision is well-thought-out and extremely well-executed: 

Burundi Girls turned RVA High School Students

RVA Cafeteria - impressive!

RVA Chapel - Students gather here 5x/week

And the students generally thrive and grow to love it.  These young people are bright and brave.  The two returning RVA students from Kibuye, Jonah (grade 12) and Matea (grade 10), are quite settled and happy there.  Even my brand new ninth grade daughter, while perhaps slightly homesick and at times overwhelmed, is having a great time with old friends and new friends.  She is giving positive reports on her classes and teachers as well.  We are confident that she and the other Kibuye kids will continue to thrive there.    

But. Even so, my heart just aches as I miss my child.  Our missionary callings involve a lot of separation and loss, but for many of us, this separation is among the very most painful. 

Burundi families at RVA this past weekend

So we remind ourselves to remember what we know to be true.  God is loving and faithful and good, and he loves my child more than I ever could.  He has already shown such grace in bringing these four Kibuye kids to such an amazing place where they can learn and thrive at RVA.  He works in ways we do not understand in order to bring about growth that we cannot even imagine.  He is present in new dorm rooms and present in the tears of the mamas missing their children.  He can redeem all things.  He answers prayers. 

“The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something, and you enter God’s realm where everything is possible.  He specializes in the impossible.  Nothing is too great for his almighty power.  Nothing is too small for his love.”  - Corrie TenBoom

Ella moving into her new dorm room

Maddy (friend from Bujumbura), Anna Fader, and Ella Sund outside their dormitory

The students from Burundi on the first day of class.  Please pray for these five.