"...in returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength..." Isaiah 30:15
One of the things I love about missionary life is retreats. When daily life entails the hard and never-ending work of teaching students (at the hospital and at Kibuye Hope Academy), patient care, hospital infrastructure development, difficult leadership decisions, and keeping households running with food on the table and clean clothes, etc. in a limited resource setting, it can be easy for us to lose sight of the beauty of our team community and the presence of our Heavenly Father through all the daily ups and downs. Retreats provide the opportunity to take a break from the fray and to refocus on each other and on the Lord and His calling on our lives. But of course it has been difficult to plan time away during the pandemic. We've had two Serge company-wide conferences cancelled, and, because we never have all teammates here (someone is always on home assignment), it's hard to make a retreat plan knowing that someone will be missing out. In fact, only about half the people in the below picture will be here in the fall of this year, but hopefully we will have 4 additional team families here and one new teacher who are now in the US. But, rather than continue to wait for an ideal moment that would never come, we decided to seize the opportunity to spend a few days away with the folks who are here at the moment even as we missed those who are gone.
There were lots of obstacles to getting everyone from Kibuye to retreat including health concerns, complicated vehicle arranging for 32 people, and last minute change to a different weekend due to plans at the hospital. It really is miraculous that everyone currently at Kibuye was able to come!
Lake Tanganyika has been rising like crazy over the last year - the trees and the near end of the dock used to be on land! Made for lots of fun waves to play in, though, if you were careful not to step on the underwater tree stumps! Maybe not as ideal for teaching swimming lessons to the littlest kids, but they still had fun, too, and now have the goal to swim to the (nearly underwater) dock when they get bigger.
George led two sessions for the adults on contentment - a theme we all were inspired and challenged by! With lots of teenager helpers to watch the kids, the adults had some personal time each afternoon to reflect and pray which is always a valuable time of retreat.
We also shared communion together, worshipped, and took turns telling our stories - always interesting to hear how God has worked in people's lives over the years. The older kids and teens seemed particularly interested in some of the testimonies.
Smiling faces before car sickness and road weariness hits! Always a challenge to drive on the winding roads - and the roads this trip were particularly muddy and difficult - but thankful for God's protection through the travels.
Our Serge Kibuye team commitment states, "We believe that our team community is given to us by God for the sake of the mutual strengthening and encouraging of its members, but also to be a unique outward testimony of the body of Christ to the greater community of Kibuye, Burundi in which we serve."
Living this out is not always easy -- misunderstandings, disagreements, and thoughtlessness impact us regularly and lead to hard conversations. But time away together reminds us of how much we love this community, of how precious these friendships are, and of how God has been faithful to us for so many years. There are big transitions ahead, but we hope and pray that the perfect love of our Heavenly Father will continue to carry us through no matter what. Please pray for that with us -- that we would persevere together in the love of our Father remembering His care for us rather than despairing over the big and small problems of each day.