by Jess Cropsey
Our life in Kibuye is pretty comfortable. We have a nice house with appliances, indoor plumbing, and tile floors, all luxuries that most Burundians don’t have. We (now) have relatively reliable power, water, and internet. So when people ask me, “What’s the hardest thing about living in Burundi?”, my answer has always been pretty immediate — being away from family. Yes, for sure there are a host of other challenges including cultural and language barriers, limited resources, and conflict. But the hardest for me has always been missing out on time with family and sharing special events like birthdays, holidays, and family vacation. We’ve had nieces and nephews that we never got to hold as babies. While I appreciate how travel and communication are much easier than they once were, that separation has always felt like the biggest sacrifice, only now the scope has widened.
Last weekend, 3 Kibuye families dropped off their kids at Rift Valley Academy (RVA) in Kenya, a boarding school for missionary kids. The Watts were the first brave souls from our team to embark on this venture. Faders and Sunds sent their oldest girls there last year. This year, it was our turn too. For 4 years, I have watched these parents grieve sending their kids away and navigate parenting from afar. I’ve listened to their pain and watched them weep. I don’t know why it surprised me how incredibly hard it was to leave our daughter Elise (8th grade) last Friday.
Of course it didn’t help that we faltered on our final decision multiple times in the days leading up to travel due to a rapidly changing situation with new information from the school about online options, rising covid numbers in Burundi & Kenya, land borders closing in Burundi, changing test requirements for travel, and increased mandated quarantine times, all of which made us second guess this decision.
And yet as our family considered the situation, we remained convinced this was the right choice for Elise. In her 7 academic years in Burundi, she’s had an age mate twice for less than a total of 1-½ years and both were boys. Over the last few years, one after the other of the older kids she was grouped with have gone away to RVA. She’s longing for friendship with others her age in her heart language and we can’t provide that for her here in Kibuye. She needs discipleship, social interaction, extra-curricular opportunities, and a larger community.
RVA is an amazing place with staff who are dedicated to loving and serving students and their families in a wholistic way. Yet as a parent, it feels like such a big loss to send her out of the nest 5 years earlier than most people have to. The cost feels immense and I’m so jealous that other people are going to be the ones to hug her when she’s sad, to make her birthday cake, to help her with a problem, to answer her questions about homework, to make special memories with her, etc.
Elise's dorm, complete with a really nice yard and beautiful view of the valley
Getting settled in her new room
I know the time always comes when parents relinquish those roles, but it just feels too soon right now. And while I know in my head that RVA is a good place for her, my heart is broken and so very sad. I now really understand the feelings that my teammates have shared over the years.
Getting some final snuggles in during orientation
Lord willing, tomorrow I’ll be getting my 4th covid test in 12 days (technically 5 since one guy decided to give me both throat & nose tests in the same sitting) and after a negative result the following day, will be released from a 7-day quarantine at a hotel in the capital city. I’m looking forward to seeing John and the boys again but I know that grief will linger as I walk by Elise’s empty (and now always clean!) bedroom, set 4 plates on the table for meals instead of 5, or realize that I don’t need to order as much produce each week or do as much laundry.
Please pray for Matea (11th), Anna (10th), Micah (9th), and Elise (8th) as they transition to a new year at RVA (and the Sund kids too). While Micah & Elise are the new ones this year, even returning students have adjustments to make as school is so different with masks and social distancing. Pray that they would grow academically, socially, spiritually, and emotionally. And don’t forget to pray for their parents too.
I definitely remember the boarding school reality - Rwanguba DRCongo (7th and 8th grades), RVA - 1973 to Graduating 1977). Reading your blog to Dad and Mom, we all reminisced and relived many of your heartfelt emotions. Yet, I would say to you - peace and gentle comfort in knowing that God has each of His MKs covered under a special grace and love! It wasn't always easy, but it truly gave me so many strengthening points of reference that continue to this day. By the way, I am still connected to every class member of RVA - 1977. A blessed enduring family over the years. And also, thank you for your faithful service at the Kibuye Hospital of my birth (1959). Blessings and prayers for you, all of you!!! David Bates.
Oh, Jess! I had tears in my eyes reading this. How blessed you are to have Elise at RVA. She is surely going to soar. And how blessed Elise is to have a loving mother who adores her sweet girl and lets her know just how much she will be missed.
Such heartache here. I am thinking of my own ninth grader (one year older than your Elise) and imagining the deep grief that I would be experiencing. You are making a great sacrifice for the Kingdom. Thank you. May God give all of you comfort and courage as you make this huge transition, and may Elise flourish in this warm educational setting. May you see His goodness in accomplishing this change, with clear benefits--even unexpected ones--for all of your family members.
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