Unlikely Missionaries?

by Mary 

I still remember that Sunday at Knox Church several years ago when the "McCropders" (McLaughlin, Cropsey, and Fader families) announced their intention to settle in Burundi and develop the tiny hospital in Kibuye into a training facility for local doctors and nurses. The photos of Kibuye, the statistics on poverty, and the dearth of modern resources and conveniences left me wondering why anyone would sacrifice the Land of Opportunity to minister in a place of such great need. 

View of Kibuye Hope Hospital from "Kibuye Rock", April 2019

My husband Steve and I were enjoying full lives in the Ann Arbor area, complete with 3 (now adult) children, a comfortable home, meaningful work, and a vibrant faith community. Steve grew up in inner city Detroit and was living out his passion and calling for local missions work, with no sense of calling at that time for serving internationally. By natural temperament, Steve was also a reluctant traveler. 

So what does God do with 2 people who are comfortably settled into their local routines yet seeking to maintain willing hearts in the spirit of Isaiah 6:8? He calls them to Burundi, of course!
Steve and Mary in downtown Kibuye, May 2019

Our first unlikely trip came in the spring of 2019 when the Cropseys invited Pastor Tom and Ruth Ann plus one additional couple to bring the "Heart and Soul of a Real Marriage" class to the Serge Kibuye team, to encourage them in their marriage and team relationships. Although Steve and I were the newbies to the teaching team, the other 3 couples who were each invited had scheduling conflicts, so that lot fell to us. Just a year before, Steve and I had taken our first international trip together -- to Israel to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. God's timing is perfect, as that trip greased the wheel of international travel (especially for the reluctant traveler in our marriage). And, although we were new to the Heart and Soul teaching team, both of us had decades of teaching and counseling experience from our various work and ministries back home that could be value-added. The resultant time with the team was such a blessing, and we developed a deep love for them and their work here, along with the country and its people. The longing to return was firmly planted.
"Heart and Soul" team with Serge Kibuye team, 2019

The second, perhaps less unlikely trip, came 9 months later to deliver the remainder of the Heart and Soul class. Having made valuable connections with the team members on our first trip, it was a natural fit for us to return with Tom and Ruth Ann to complete the curriculum. We enjoyed a rich time of teaching, serving, praying and worshipping together, and growing deeper in relationship with the team members and their children. A mixture of joy and sadness accompanied our return home, as we praised God for the opportunities to serve yet wondered if it would be our last team visit.
Returning to chilly Ann Arbor after our second trip, February 2020

But God wasn't finished with us yet. Shortly after our return home, Covid-19 hit hard, and most of our work and livelihood went online. Having more time at home, we completed the years-long task of downsizing our possessions. We put our house on the market and it sold with the first showing, well before we were able to secure another living situation. And the Kibuye team still needed teachers for their children for the imminent school year. It was Steve - the homebody - who messaged me with the link to their plea for teachers! 

As you can imagine, everything moved quickly from there. The team's gracious enthusiasm to welcome us back, combined with our remaining belongings being in storage, our other work now "portable", and the prayer and financial support of so many back home, all converged to bring us back yet a third time to serve in a setting and with people who have captured our hearts. 

This time, our primary duties are to the children. We serve daily at Kibuye Hope Academy where our 50-something year-old selves are daily challenged to keep up with the vibrant and energetic 2nd-6th graders! Classes in Bible, Language Arts, Science, Art, and Physical Education are part of our weekly regimen, and it has been exhausting and wonderful.
"Star Wars Day" during Spirit Week at Kibuye Hope Academy, 2021 

We also seek to be in tune with the needs of families and adults and minister where God leads. In addition, Steve has begun to work with the hospital chaplains, to better equip them for their ministry work at Kibuye Hope Hospital. 

Who would have known that our combined life experiences would bring us to such a place as this...a place where poverty remains the norm, modern conveniences are elusive, and our families are oceans away? God knew, of course. And in the orchestrating, He has blessed us with a new sense of calling, meaningful work each day, rich relationships, and multiple opportunities to respond to His calling and go where He sends. To God be the glory! 

  "Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:
'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?'
Then I said, 'Here am I! send me.'"
Isaiah 6:8

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