Isolation and the Gospel

(from Lindsay)

Over a ten day period and thanks to a low-grade fever in the middle of a pandemic, I have had the opportunity to dwell on the question: What does the gospel have to do with isolation? I grew up as a pastor’s daughter. As an adult, I’ve been a part of faculties at Christian schools and missionary teams. The gospel in isolation isn’t something I’ve considered.

For many, these times are marked by fear, and there are plenty of devotionals online telling us why we shouldn’t fear (trust me, I had plenty of time to read them). I don’t disagree with most of these reflections. It is true, after all, I am less afraid when my eyes are on Jesus. Often, what I hear in these devotionals, however, - though I am sure it is not the intention - is this: people who are strong in faith won’t fear. My brain instantly interprets that and applies it: when I feel fear, my faith is weak, unworthy. Usually, I go on from there to inflicting thirty lashings, punishing myself for all that I and my faith are not. Sound familiar? I don’t think I’m alone in this reaction.

In this time of isolation, I’ve learned to hear Jesus say, “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Isolation reminded me that God sent His Son to save sinners, that in fact He loved me while I was still a sinner. It reminded me that when I feel afraid, Jesus doesn’t say, “You fool, what is your problem? Buck up!” Instead, He reaches down and pulls me up just like He did when Peter sank beneath the waves. Isolation reminded me that it isn’t bravery, productivity, steadiness of heart that saves. It is Jesus. Truly, “In Christ alone my Hope is found.” It is only in Him that I find my all in all. I am certain that, “This is all my hope and peace, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

During Lent, our family has been reading (now from two different rooms of the house) the devotions published by Biola University. In one write up, we were told that, “Peter reminds us to view our present circumstances in light of eternity. It’s so easy to be weighed down by our present concerns, problems, and cares, which are very real and very weighty. But Peter reminds us that these last for ‘a little while’ in comparison to the eternal reality to which we have been called and in which God will ‘perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish’ his children of faith. If we chose to focus on the present sufferings alone, we will find ourselves in the posture of ‘inconstancy’… If we can view our present questions and concerns in light of this eternal promise, we can stand in the posture of ‘fortitude'…It is not a self-induced fortitude—it comes as we stand in the power of the God who raised Christ from the dead.”

When we lack fortitude, the gospel doesn’t come to us and say, “Stop it. You shouldn’t feel that way. Why aren’t you better than this?” It tells us that the “Lamb is both provider and provision, fulsome in both suffering and joy, founder and perfecter, forerunner in the race and the one to whom the company of runners look. Rich or poor, healthy or sick, alone at home or in company, you have a race to run, and you can only endure by means of the Lamb’s provision and not your own.” The gospel doesn’t condemn us for our weakness, it reminds us of our Strength. 

Faith in that Lamb, even “faith as small as a mustard seed" is enough. I don’t have to add to that traits like bravery, and I don’t have to feel ashamed when I feel fear. It is not a sign that my faith has fallen to pieces. Jesus finished work on the cross saved me from my fear and lack of bravery. In the quietness of isolation, I was able to hear the voice of Jesus say, “Your strength indeed is small, Child of weakness, watch and pray. Find in me your all in all.”


When the Hits Keep Coming: Psalm 77 and Covid-19

(from Alexis)

It is difficult to have to write another sombre blog post after only a short while has passed since the post about the robbery, but the whole world is experiencing a difficult and sombre time and Kibuye has not been spared that. Like the rest of the world, the repercussions and precautions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have been affecting Kibuye. Fortunately (or unfortunately as it may be), there are as of yet no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Burundi, however, the concern is that Burundi has not yet confirmed any cases because it has been difficult to get testing set up anywhere in the country (Though we are told testing has officially started).

As such, the team has been bracing for the arrival of the virus by developing and putting into place some new precautionary measures. For example, hand-washing stations have been set up at the gates, only essential personnel are now permitted to go up to the hospital, and Stephanie is heading up an initiative to sew 80+ reusable masks for medical personnel. However, one of the biggest challenges is the same as that which many of you who are reading this post right now are also in the midst of: quarantine, self-isolation, and social distancing measures. Due to potential (but unconfirmed) exposure, several of us have been in quarantine since last Tuesday, required to stay at 6ft away from others at all times and mainly remain in our homes. Even those not specifically quarantined are practicing social distancing measures, staying a fair distance from one another as much as possible. Work has continued for the doctors, but school has been on pause, with a plan to resume next Monday with new social distancing measures in place, but even this feel precarious. These measures, though recommended, have been very hard on everyone, especially in a place like Kibuye where being in community is how we survive.

One of the Gitenge masks that Steph is making

I don't know about you all, but for myself, and as many others on the team have expressed, our lives and communities right now feel as though they are taking hit after hit and there is an expectation surfacing that we are nowhere near the end of this tumultuous season. Before this pandemic took hold, it already felt as though the "ordinary" life of the team had been shattered due to the toll that the robbery took on all of us, but especially for those team members who were directly affected. Now the upheaval from this pandemic has again put "normal" far out of everyone's reach.

For myself, this upheaval has gone even further. As international borders close and airports shut down, short-term team members were encouraged to consider whether it would be better for them to return to their home countries while still possible, or whether to stay and wait out what could end up being a much longer term than they had anticipated. Considering that my internship term at Kibuye was scheduled to end in May, and because no one can predict if flights to Burundi will be available at that time, I chose, with a very heavy heart, to return early to Canada. I made that decision less than 48 hours ago and after a flurry of frenzied activity, caught one of the last flights out of the country along with the John family who are returning to the US for home assignment and for Eunice to deliver her new baby. Some members of the team such as Alyssa, the Wendlers, and the CK Faders who were all hoping to return to Kibuye in the next couple months, now have the opposite problem, where they are stuck in the US.

The team making a "tunnel of love" for the van as the Johns and I headed out

As I sit here in the Dubai International Airport awaiting my connecting flight to Toronto, I have been continuing to read through Eric's book Promises in the Dark. I feel there has rarely before in my life been a time when a topic like this one has been as relevant. In his book, Eric explores chapter by chapter the tension between how God's promises are something that we can experience now, but also not yet. He talks about what it looks like to cling to those promises when we can't see the evidence that they are holding true.

Camping out in the Dubai airport for my 17 hour layover, reading Promises in the Dark

A week ago Saturday, Eric spoke at family worship on Psalm 77.  In this psalm, the psalmist earnestly questions the promises of God. This psalm begins as a lament, crying out to God. The psalmist appears to have been taking "hit after hit" in his life (as the team and many of us as individuals have been recently) and he is bringing his sorrow and questions before God, truly asking whether God's steadfast love still remains when he can see no immediate evidence of it. He cries out, and the interesting thing is that, unlike in many other psalms, he is not comforted. He writes, "When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints". I appreciate this psalmist's perspective because the truth is that sometimes we call out to God and we do not feel immediately comforted. Yet, then in the second half of the psalm, he reminds himself of the deeds of the Lord. He remembers the time that God led his people through the waters of the Red Sea. He remembers that God is massive, beyond our understanding, and that sometimes he leads us through difficult things, not around them, not avoiding them, but heading into them and coming out the other side.

Kayla and I listened to a Tim Keller sermon recently titled "A Prayer of Rest", based on a biblical understanding of Psalm 91, a psalm seemingly about God's promises of peace and security, that helped me to understand this concept. In this message, Keller talked about how Psalm 91 is actually about how God is with us in trouble, not that he keeps us from all trouble, at least not all physical trouble - he does keep us from the everlasting "trouble" and harm of being consumed by our own sins. I would highly recommend giving this message a listen, especially if you are finding yourself with more time at home as many of us are or will be.

This past month, I have been reading through the book of Revelation and just finished the day before I left. I do not claim to understand even a tenth of what is going on in that book though I find it fascinating, but it struck me this time when reading it, that a main theme of the book can more or less be summed up in one half-verse,

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
- John 16:33(b)

Reading Revelation reminded me again that, as Christians, our hope is not ultimately in this world. The world as we know it is going to pass away. The promises that Eric describes in his book, and the promises like those described in Psalm 91, are both being fulfilled now, but also not yet.

One of my favourite C.S. Lewis quotes, that I have frequently been reminded of lately, comes from a letter that Lewis wrote to an American woman who was sick in hospital and who thought that she may be dying. Lewis wrote,

"Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any that we leave behind."

Ironically, this woman pulled through her illness and it was Lewis instead who died three months later. I like this quote because it reminds me that when we experience hardship in this life, we shouldn't be surprised, in fact it should be expected that the world is not "kind" to us...though we live here for now and are called to be present here, our ultimate hope is not in this life, and if some things are not going well for us, that is actually how Jesus said it would be...for now. It reminds us that the ultimate fulfillment of every promise in its truest form will only arrive when the perishable is made imperishable, when heaven and earth are made new. I actually find that a hopeful thought, because it means that I don't need to keep trying to reconcile all of the painful and difficult things that I experience in this life to what I know that God promises. Yet, I also think that we can and do see, in part, ways that God is fulfilling those promises even now, and when we see the goodness of God, we need to keep showing it to one another, reminding one another, and spurring one another on in faith and hope.

Please pray for this community as they brace for the impact that Covid will have in Burundi - in a highly malnourished and immunocompromised population, no one is quite sure what will happen when it comes. Pray for the team for encouragement, grace for one another, wisdom for team and hospital leadership, and capability and resources to face what comes. Pray for them to grow with one another in spiritual maturity, perseverance, and hope. Those are some of the things that I am going to be continuing to pray for them even as I leave. They need your support and prayer as they take up places on the frontlines of where, ultimately, this virus may end up hitting hardest.

(A bit of lovely Alexis artwork her teammates added to this post after she finished it)


A Bee-utiful Day!

The latest learning experience day at Kibuye Hope Academy (KHA) took the MK kids and several adults to the home of 26-year old Leonard, a local beekeeper who began keeping bees at the age of 10. Each year, he burns old honeycomb to attract bees to the seven hives that he has built by hand.

Hive construction begins by drawing a circle in the dirt on the ground. Thin tree branches are then stuck into the circle to form the shape of the bee basket. After this, bamboo stalks are cut in half, the sweet inside is scraped out so that the bees will not eat it, and then the bamboo is woven around the original sticks. Mud and cow dung fill in the gaps of the basket.

Once the basket is ready for the bees, the wide end is closed with a weave of banana leaves while a small hole is created in the narrow end so that bees can enter and begin their own construction. Industrious bees can fill the basket half full of honeycomb in two weeks. Each hive has about 40 honeycombs.

When Leonard collects the honey, he squeezes it from the comb with his hands before filtering the honey and selling it locally. September is the month for honey collection, and he estimates that he gets 10 kilos from each hive. That's 70 kilos of honey!

Leonard smoked the bees by putting a small amount of cow dung on a roofing tile and lighting it on fire.

He pulled out a honey comb to show us.

We were allowed to taste the honey and the honeycomb.

On the way home, one of the kids commented that she thought this was the best cultural experience we've had yet. Much of that was due to Leonard's hospitality and excitement about his avocation. We are grateful for him and many others who don't just teach our kids science lessons but also industry, joy, appropriate pride, an entrepreneurial spirit, and generosity.

These days are the best school days. The opportunity to meet people like Leonard, delight in learning, wonder at God's creation, and come to know our host culture better make all the preparation worth it.



(from Eric)

We've all been reeling since approximately 7:20 pm on Saturday, February 22nd.  It's a bit hard to share on the blog, but we're sharing it here so that you can pray for us.  So that you can bear our burdens with us.

On Saturday evening, the Watts family (minus Jonah and Matea who are at school in Kenya) were having dinner with Kayla and a visiting nurse Julie who is a missionary in Rwanda.  Four armed men broke into their house with the intent of stealing a bunch of money that they mistakenly thought was somewhere in the house.  All the adults except George were tied up.  George got beaten up quite significantly, stabbed in the thigh, and choked for information as he was forced through different rooms of the house in a search for more money that wasn't there.

Through the courageous intervention of a Burundian friend in charge of security, the perpetrators fled with whatever valuables they had found, dropping most of them on the way.  A pursuit of the perpetrators (by Burundian members of the hospital and surrounding community) followed, resulting in the immediate arrest of some, and the continued pursuit of others.  The rest of our team and other Burundian friends who live in the same area had been informed over text immediately and had sheltered inside our homes until the danger was confirmed to have passed.

The Watts family is now in Kenya receiving some needed support and counseling, as well as being with Jonah and Matea.  George's physical wounds are healing well.  Kayla similarly spent some time in Kenya but has now returned.

As the immediate events have unfolded, we have been greatly encouraged as a team by the outpouring of support from our local community here at Kibuye, up through every level of leadership to the national level.  Additionally, all the resources of Serge were quickly and thoroughly mobilized to care for us all during these events.  So many people have given of their time and effort to demonstrate their solidarity with us and the work of Kibuye Hope Hospital.  We are also involved with a number of leadership levels to redesign our security systems so as to prevent such an episode from ever being attempted again.


We're still reeling in many ways.  Our daily lives go on, but it was one of those events that changes the flavor of all that comes afterwards.  Both our hearts inside us as well as the world around us are quite dynamic right now, and we're wondering where we'll land.

There is a sense of feeling violated, and wondering why God allowed this to happen.  There is a simultaneous, intense gratitude for the many ways that we were spared from it being so much worse.  It's truly a strange mix of emotions.

I once heard that we are all looking for people that have scars in the places where we have wounds.  This is true on many levels, and it's part of the reason that our friend Steve, who flew from the States to work with the Watts family and Kayla in Kenya, is such an amazing trauma counselor.  But this fact is never more true than when we look at Jesus.  Our Lord has suffered.  His scars, persistent in his glorified resurrection body, testify of promised healing.  We look to him.

As Kayla wrote afterwards: "In moments when my faith feels weak, I am thankful the object of my faith is not weak.  And in the moments that I don't understand, I am learning to trust His sovereignty."

Please do pray with us.


Our Solid Rock

There are times when the suffering, sorrow and injustices of this world can seem overwhelming. Times when darkness and despair threaten to overtake our sense of peace. It’s at these times that I find it vital to remind myself of who God is. These are the truths that I have retold myself time after time and wanted to share with you here. Let us remember together the sovereign God we serve and worship him with grateful hearts for who he is, the solid rock on which we stand.
Let the images be a reminder of the grace of God shown to us in the beauty and detail of his creation. 

Words to the tune of "My God is an Awesome God".

My God is independent 
He doesn’t need you or me
Yet, he allows us to be 
A joy to his heart and bring him glory

My God is unchanging
He’s the same day to day
In his purposes, promises and ways
He’s the solid rock on which we stand

My God is eternal

Always was and always will be
He sees all time equally
And he knows what is to come

My God is omnipresent
He’s everywhere all the time
There’s no keeping secrets from Him
And, he’s always with me
My God has unity
His attributes mesh together perfectly
No wrath without mercy
And each act is of the whole person of God

My God is a spirit 
He has no physical form
We cannot measure him
He's like nothing we’ve seen or felt

My God is invisible
No one has ever seen God
But he does make himself known
through creation and his Son

My God is omniscient
He knows all things all the time
He knows all things possible
There’s nothing that God can learn
My God is wise
He makes the best decisions
to bring about the best results
by the best possible ways

My God is a God of truth
He does what he says he’ll do
His promises will come true
And we can trust in his word, the Bible

My God is a good God
All good comes from God
And, in his goodness
He was patience, mercy and grace

My God is a God of love,
Steadfast and eternally
Giving of himself to bless me,
As shown through Christ’s death on the cross

My God is a Holy God
He’s completely separate from sin
And he is devoted to
seeking his own honor

My God is a God of peace,
Not confusion or disorder
He acts continually
In well ordered and controlled ways

My God is righteous and just
He always does what’s right
Sin deserves punishment
Christ died on the cross for my sins

My God is a jealous God
He seeks to protect his own honor
For he alone is worthy
He doesn’t want idols in our hearts

My God is a God of wrath
He intensely hates all sin
As Christians we don’t fear God’s wrath
Christ bore God’s wrath for our sins


Creating in Kibuye

Often we find that we would like to have or need something in our kitchens, at Kibuye Hope Academy (KHA), or at the hospital that we are not able to get in country. Sometimes, there is a way to import a needed item but not always. Even if there is a way to import something, it may not be a sustainable, long term solution. It may also not be able to be gotten quickly enough to fill a more immediate need. So, from games to reinforce a skill in the elementary classroom to litmus paper for a science experiment at KHA; from incubators to porridge needed at the hospital, we make it here.

It is not uncommon to come across a recipe that sounds great but includes an unavailable ingredient. Instead of giving up on those lentil sloppy joes, we learn how to make our own barbecue sauce.

When elementary students need to learn how to spell with suffixes at KHA, a file folder together with a pad of stickers and a few 3x5 cards becomes a board game and the answer to the doldrums of repetitive skill practice. Did you know that the poinsettia plant is the answer to your litmus paper needs? Heather did! She made some for a recent experiment wherein the 5th graders learned about acidic and base substances.

The needs at the hospital are also great, but a little ingenuity (and many skills in the department of “handyman”) allows those needs to be filled. Hospital beds - including eight new labor and delivery beds being installed in the new Maternity wing - are essential items made here in Kibuye. Handmade physical therapy equipment and traction weights see patients bodies restored.

Don’t misunderstand, we do our fair share of importing and buying imported goods as we find them in country. But, it is always exciting to figure out a way to fill a need or solve a problem with creativity and available resources.


Hope is a Gift

(from Eric)

Several weeks ago, I was working through a series of questions that my publisher New Growth Press wanted me to answer as they work to promote Promises in the Dark:

The questions are about facing discouragement, feeling weak, and overcoming the fear of hoping.  Good questions that are very much in line with the content of my book.

But it's hard for me to answer the questions, because I am, at this moment, having difficulty facing discouragement, feeling weak, and overcoming the fear of hoping.  Which just goes to show that being able to articulate your thoughts and put them on paper doesn't equal the end of the heart struggles.  My cadre of internal medicine patients at the hospital is having a hard run.  As I'm typing answers to these questions, my colleague texts me to tell me of the unexpected death of a young patient I saw just yesterday.

This is hard for me at the moment because of my patients, but it can be anything - family, friends, life, the world around us, anything - it can be hard to look at our world honestly and find the courage to hope.

The next question reads, "You write about times where you have been afraid to hope due to dire circumstances.  How did you overcome that fear in order to reach for God's promise of hope?"  Have I really done that?  If I have, then why can't I do it now?

In an effort to get some momentum, I start with some exposition on the subject:

My primary job is to care for the sick bodies of poor people in an underserved setting.  I often lose that battle, and because of that, I can be quite guarded in my hope.  "Hope deferred makes the heart sick," says Proverbs.  If someone's hope gets dashed every time they don't win the lottery, we would blame their expectations rather than the winning number.  Sometimes it feels like that for me.  Sometimes the odds don't favor hoping.

The crucial difference between my world and the lottery illustration is God's promise.  God has not promised me the lottery, but something far better.  He promises that he is always present, that he is always at work, that he is for me in my efforts to care for the poor and needy, and that he is making all things new.  We are not called to hope for the sake of optimism.  We are not called to hope based on the natural odds of the world around us.  Christians are called to hope because they believe that God's promises are true, and that he will actually act to fulfill them.  We "factor God in" to our circumstances, and as we do, we find reason for unexpected hope.

The next part draws me up short, because I know I haven't yet answered the part of the question that says "how do you overcome that fear in order to reach for God's promise of hope?"  My writing stutters.  I'm always struggling to hope, even now...  I don't know what to write.  My head has already said its piece, but my heart is finding it hard to trust in the very promises I just cited.

I'm sitting at my desk, looking out at my backyard.  Stuck.

My phone fires off a series of chimes, which probably means a message from a Burundian colleague, given the Burundian habit of chopping a message into multiple short texts.  I'm hoping it's not more bad news.

The message is from a medical-student-turned-colleague who worked at Kibuye for a while before going to work at our sister hospital in the capital city.  I had sent a 24 year old woman with persistent, terminal kidney failure down to see a kidney specialist, though I had no real hope that she would be able to go, or that it would make much difference if she did.  Her kidney disease was too severe (for medical folks, a Creatinine >25 mg/dl) and too persistent (a couple months).  It was shocking that she was still alive, but she didn't seem to have a curable problem.

At any rate, this colleague is texting to tell me that they decided to just hospitalize her and monitor her while giving her some fluids.  After a few weeks, they are now sending her home with basically normal kidneys.  He thought I'd want to know.

I'm shocked.  I'm struggling to hope, even now...  I look back at the half-finished thought on my computer screen.  I wrote that three minutes ago, and now my heart is filled with unexpected joy.

The timing of these events stuns me.  It feels like a brief moment of clarity.  I needed exactly what came.  I shift from staring out the window to looking instead at my stunned reflection.  My driving thought is "I will either live like God is actually, really at work invisibly in the world around me, or I won't.  What will I do?"

I continue the paragraph:

I'm struggling to hope, even now.  The struggle is not resolved, and the fear is not yet overcome.  But in my experience, hope is a gift - even an unlooked-for gift.  Just when I'm so afraid to hope, there is some unexpected goodness, some healing, some newness that teaches me again to hope.


English Club

This past Tuesday afternoon marked the fourth week of English Club, a new initiative which was the brainchild of Jess Cropsey. The idea behind English Club is to get to know our neighbours better by serving and building relationships with kids in the community.

Each Tuesday, forty-five kids from Kibuye come along with Madame Frederique and Madame Therèse, two teachers from the local Burundian school, and meet several adults and kids from our team in the large pavilion at the centre of the compound. From 3:30-4:30 they rotate through four stations, each fifteen minutes long. There is a colouring station, a reading station with picture books from the school, a conversation station, and a games station. The children are divided into groups based on age and the kids from our team help out with the kids in (or close to) their age group. The ages range from about six to twelve.

I lead the conversation station. So far, it seems to be going well! After learning basic English greetings, we have been working on some simple verbs (run, sit, jump) and colours. Last week we made bracelets with a bead of each colour that we have learned about, which was a hit with the kids. My Kirundi is minimal, but Madame Therèse and Madame Frederique are there to help me give instructions when needed. Though I hope that learning some English will be a blessing to the kids (it is a useful language to know for business and work), mostly I hope that this club will be an opportunity to get to know them a little bit. It has been a goal of mine to learn all of the children's names and it has been a blessing to begin to see them around the community as I walk up to the hospital or through the village. Many are children of people who work for the team or the hospital, and it has been meaningful to connect with parents more through getting to know their kids.

One of the best parts is seeing many of the kids from the team interacting with kids from the community. Susan tells the team kids every Tuesday before the club starts that the goal is to "make a new friend" and, though relationships take time, through positive initiatives like this, slowly they are being built.


Do Not Fret

by Rachel

You would think that after (more or less) 10 years of practicing medicine overseas, nothing would faze me anymore.  Seen it all, done it all.  There's something to be said for that...I rarely get nervous about OR cases anymore, and I have more and more anecdotal stories to support my (lack of) evidence for why I come up with a treatment plan.  Yes, now I'm that doctor!  Still, at least once a week or so my colleagues and I gather around and one of us will assert, "I've never seen THAT before."  Usually it's some sort of weird and bizarre medical pathology that we can't figure out.

But recently, I also had an experience that produced no small amount of stress in my life.  Surprisingly, it was just a normal pregnancy and what promised to be a relatively straightforward delivery.  A couple from the capital city came and wanted to deliver here at Kibuye.  I haven't managed a normal straightforward pregnancy and delivery in years.  Of course that's not to say I can't do it, but from the moment they decided to come up here, months in advance, a little seed of fear and doubt planted itself in the back of my brain.  Ten years of bad outcomes started floating up to the surface of my consciousness.  The weight and burden of responsibility fell heavy on my shoulders.  In short, I mistakenly thought that the outcome was totally dependent on...me.

The day arrived.  The baby looked great on ultrasound and monitoring.  Labor was moving along.  And yet I couldn't eat.  I couldn't focus on anything else.  There were a million scenarios and contingency plans going around in my brain.

That very morning, I had been reading from Psalm 37 in Tim Keller's "The Songs of Jesus."  Psalm 37 starts out:  "Do not fret."  Keller's commentary followed with:

"Fretting is a common activity of our age.  It is composed of worry, resentment, jealousy, and self-pity.  It is dominant online.  It chews us up inside while accomplishing nothing.  David gives us three practical remedies....look forward....look upward...get busy with the things that must be done--do good."  

The words, although apropos for my day, didn't sink in until quite a bit later.  I was worrying about things I couldn't control and wasn't responsible for.  Yes, I could do my job and do it well, but ultimately God was in control of this situation.  Worry was chewing me up, and accomplishing nothing.

Well, to make a long story short, everything was fine.  The baby came so fast in the end that my nurse delivered her practically on the floor of the delivery room.  Everyone was happy and healthy.  I walked home after dark with the moon peeking through the clouds, the air cool and fresh after a rain, and breathed deeply in thanksgiving.  I thought back to Psalm 37.  Looking forward...this world is not the end, and our stories are not finished yet.  And what lies ahead is far better than what has already happened.  Looking upward...to the God who knows our hurts and fears and not only welcomes our true feelings but loves us just the same.  And finally, doing good.  For me, I am realizing that inside my brain, where I process and reprocess everything, can be a dangerous place.  Sitting on my bed ruminating about my latest problem helps nothing.  Getting up and thanking God for his presence and his provision need to be my first step, redirecting fretting to praise.  "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him."  --Psalm 37:7


Book of the Month: Factfulness

by Rachel

It's actually probably been years, but we used to have a blog feature entitled "Book of the Month."  There are a number of books our team has read which have informed our views and thoughts.  You're welcome to check them out here.

So, a few months ago I was reading Melinda Gates's new book, The Moment of Lift.  Excellent book, by the way (even though it's not the focus of this post).  I loved getting to read about the amazing work the Gates Foundation is doing to promote the development and empowering of women around the world.  Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of difficulties that women face, and people/organizations around the world working to ensure that each woman is seen as a life that is valuable; in fact, a life that has equal value to those around her.  Apparently, when the Gateses were forming their organization, they leaned heavily on the advice and wisdom of a man named Hans Rosling, a medical doctor and professor of international health.  He too had written a book....so off I went to check it out.

Hans Rosling was a Swedish doctor who spent years working in Mozambique and the Congo.  He then moved into more public health roles and investigated a number of disease outbreaks (including the 2014 West Africa ebola epidemic).  He passed away in 2017, and the book Factfulness was his last work.  Dr. Rosling's premise is basically that the world is a much better place than we think it is.

He uses a number of actual statistics from the world--infant mortality, life expectancy, kids attending school, average household income, even number of endangered species--to demonstrate that while most people interviewed will guess that things are getting worse, statistics show the opposite: that things have actually been improving over the past several generations.  Not only does he use statistics to demonstrate this, but the book is divided into 10 chapters of WHY he thinks we view the world the way we do.

As an American, coming from one of the most affluent countries in the world, who has now moved to Burundi, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, reading the book was actually surprisingly eye opening.  I tend to think of the world as either the "American" camp or the "Burundian" camp, while in reality there are so many more middle countries than either extremely rich or extremely poor.  You can't put Burundi in the same category as South Africa, or Egypt, or Thailand, or India.  Life expectancy and income are much higher for the average citizen of one of those countries than Burundi or Malawi, for example.  Rosling demonstrates that many of us use an "us and them" mentality when we look at the world, instead of recognizing that there are many different levels of poverty and development, and that the difference between a salary of $1/day and $4/day can have exponential benefits for the individual and society.

One of the lines Rosling uses towards the end of the book is this: The world can be bad, but getting better at the same time.  He's not asking us to pretend that everything everywhere is ok.  It's clearly not, and there are many many problems to overcome and injustices to surmount.  But, we can also celebrate the work and developments that have occurred over the last 100 years, even 10 years, as well.  That knowledge can give us hope that our efforts and the efforts of so many are not in vain.

As an addendum, I'm including some of his data graphics below.  The book is full of them, and it's a book that's fun and easy to read.  You can also compare your knowledge of the world to various Nobel laureates, billionaires, scientists, and chimpanzees...and see how you stack up. ;)


Thesis Whirlwind

by Logan

Whew! In some ways it feels like I can finally come up for air. The specialist doctors at Kibuye have just finished a ridiculously busy time, supervising research, editing papers, and judging the thesis defenses for over 40 medical students in about a month’s time. 

Carlan Wendler, Alliance Niyukuri, George Watts, Greg Sund, and Logan Banks chat in between students' theses

Why this sudden sense of urgency?

Burundi recently changed the way that they authorize doctors to practice medicine in Burundi. In the old system, as soon as a medical student defended their thesis (a final research project that is the final step before finishing medical school) they could apply for a license and start practicing as a physician. There was no pressure to finish before a certain deadline, so the work that this thesis project represents could be spread throughout the year. This also means that the work for the specialist doctors that act as “directors” of the students could be spread out as well. If someone was directing 4 or 5 students, they could do perhaps one a month so that the work wouldn’t be overwhelming.  

But a few months ago, the government said they would only authorize these new physicians once per year. This meant that a large group of medical students were suddenly desperate to finish their final research projects before the end of the year. 

What is it like to direct a thesis project?

The student comes to a specialist and asks them if they would be their director. Depending on their workload, availability, and other factors, the doctor agrees. The director helps the student come up with a research idea, review the research process, edit the paper (several times actually — which is more like a book, with an average length of around 60 pages), and help the student get ready to present the research and answer questions about it in an oral “defense.” This represents several weeks to months of work for the student, and several days to weeks of work for the director. 

When the student is ready to defend their thesis, the director recruits two other specialists to sit on the “jury” with them, and after a 15 minute oral presentation by the student, each person has a chance to make comments about the study and to ask questions to the student. 

Jason Fader, Alliance Niyukuri, and Ted John sit on a jury
The whole process from start to finish takes over an hour. Then the grade is given, and the student immediately takes the “Serment de Genève”, the French equivalent to the Hippocratic Oath.  

Just some of the 41 medical students as they take their "Oath" after successfully defending their theses.

This process was then repeated over 40 times between December 6th and January 11th. 

Greg Sund, Rachel McLaughlin, and Logan Banks celebrate with the new doctor Abel Nzoto after he successfully defended his thesis.
As you can imagine, this was an incredibly busy time for all the doctors at Kibuye. There are 10 specialists doctors currently at Kibuye. 41 students x 3 doctors per jury = roughly 123 times that a combination of 3 doctors sat on a jury. Some days there were 5 theses in the same day. That is nearly 8 hours of defenses. Sometimes one doctor would sit on 3 juries in the same day, reading and critiquing research in French for 5 hours. During this month-long period, one doctor actually sat on 26 juries, 9 of which as the director. 

This also meant that all the other doctors at Kibuye (the Burundian generalists and interns in the Stage Professionnel program) all had to pitch in to help the hospital services continue to run smoothly during this time. There were days that I was supposed to be rounding on Pediatrics that I could hardly make it over to the ward. I am so thankful (and I know all of us are) to the other doctors on our services that helped keep things going during this hectic time. Carlan even organized a “Thank You” dessert for our Burundian colleagues.

"Thank you! Thank you! Dear Colleagues!"

We are so thankful for the help from all the doctors at Kibuye. We are so thankful for all of these new doctors that just finished their theses. These 41 new doctors represent so much more than the work that went into the past month. They represent years of hard work -- on their part, and on the part of all the professors that taught them (whether in the classroom or on the wards) how to care for their patients in a compassionate, Christ-like way. 

Forty-one new doctors to help care for patients in Burundi (and beyond). What an answer to prayer!  That makes all this craziness worth it. 

But for the moment at least, I know that we are all ready for a nice long break from any more theses.