Administrative Affairs & Lessons Learned

 By Carlan Wendler

“You need a [insert French title of a document you have never heard of here] in order to do that.”

“There is no power, so the computer / printer needed for your document cannot work.”

“The person with the key [to the electrical closet] is not here.”

My expectations to get four errands done in a morning in town, either Bujumbura or Gitega, are frequently tempered by such realities. Sometimes what one can get done in a day is substantially less than what was hoped. This prompts three major reflections on my part. 

First, I am a slave to “productivity.” Or perhaps a better way to describe it is that I idolize getting things checked off my list. Progress. That feeling of moving forward, resolving difficulties, building momentum towards big goals. That is what I love. And though we perceive time as linear, moving from Creation to New Creation, it is false to think of it as a straight line. Maybe it is more like a tapestry, warp & woof, bends & knots coming together to reveal a scene no single thread could ever comprehend. 

Progress sometimes looks like pavement & multistory buildings.

The Burundians I encountered during this last round of administrative errands did not appear to live under such expectations. In fact, they didn’t seem to mind when we were ushered to the front of the line (grimace, sorry everybody). And that is the second observation, the incredible grace & patience of these gentle folk. I know it may be fraught to generalize, especially with such a superficial sampling (hearts may be hard though facial expressions soft), but the flexibility and resiliency of Burundians stands out in my experience as a particularly strong feature of this culture. They are teaching me a lot.

Sometimes we get ushered to the front of the line, only to find that the person we need isn’t available.

Others have written more and better [African Friends & Money Matters] about the priority of relationship over transaction in many African cultures. This has unexpected impact when it seems like one party is seeking to extend the interaction as long as possible while the other is desperate to leave and accomplish another task. Yet at the same time, it means that knowing the right person opens doors…or finds keys, turns on the power, and gets you that form that you need in an instant. Within 15 minutes of finding out that we needed that “Attestation de rĂ©sidence,” Jason had printed and signed them for us, texted us a photo, and left the physical copies with a secretary who could give them to a house helper who rode on his motorcycle to deliver them to Gitega (30 min drive). We had them before the bankers went home for the day and all ended well…it might also have had something to do with the fact that the banker’s supervisor graduated from the local high school.

So at the end of the day, I think I got a lot more than three out of four errands completed from that trip to Gitega; I got God’s personalized reminder that succeeding in life, progress in maturity, is so much more about the relationships we form & develop along the way than the boxes we get to check. Thank you Burundi!


Summer Arrivals!

by Julie Banks

Our family (the Banks) recently arrived in Burundi after a little over a year in the States.  We completed our first term (5 years) with Serge in July of 2020.  We were already due to have a Home Ministry Assignment in 2020, but as we all know, this past year proved more complicated than we had anticipated.  Our HMA was extended, providing our family time to pray about our future, process our past in Africa, and cherish the present time with family and supporters in the States. All things considered, it was a great year for our family. We were thankful for the opportunity for Logan to rejoin the faculty of Cox Family Medicine Residency practicing “Western” medicine for a season, to travel across much of the United States seeing supporters and beautiful sites in the US, as well as grace and time to participate in counselling and preparations to rejoin the team at Kibuye.  We arrived in Burundi on August 1st, with a feeling of coming home, for which we are so grateful.

But this blog is not about us.  Our family was not the only one to arrive this summer!  In fact, this summer was quite a busy time of missionary arrivals to Kibuye!

Caleb and Krista Fader arrived with Liam, Gavin, and Jono after two years in the States.  Caleb is diving back into all things Engineering while Krista is taking on many important roles within the team and local community.  Liam will be starting 2nd grade while Gavin is beginning Kindergarten.

Dr. Ted and Eunice John arrived with Toby, Amos and Timothy after a little over a year in the States.  Ted is back at home in the Operating Room while Eunice is joining the faculty of Kibuye Hope Academy and helping with many jobs around the missionary compound.  Toby will be starting 1st grade at KHA this year.

The Wendlers arrived in Burundi after a year and a half in the States with new baby Isaiah and 2 year old Gabrielle.  Carlan is eager to be back in Urgences (Emergency Room) while Michelle is making their newly finished house a home for their family.

Glory Guy also arrived this summer from Nashville, TN.  She is a teacher who will be serving at KHA for two years.  She has served with other Serge teams in the UK, and we are so glad to have her join our Kibuye team.

Our family is settling back into our home in Kibuye.  Logan is the primary acting FP/OB right now working in the Maternity service, operating in the OR, as well as OB and internal medicine clinics.  Julie is jumping back into life on the compound and is preparing to teach French and Music at KHA where Liam will be in 7th grade and Zeke in 5th grade.

All of these arrivals over the summer could each be a lengthy blog post in and of themselves.  With the arrival of these 19 people, none of our journeys went smoothly!  Among us we experienced unexpected delays due to weather, surprise positive Covid tests, non-covid sicknesses.  Not all of us received our luggage - which meant complications with medications, contact lenses, and other necessary items. Six of us had our passports stolen upon arrival.  Plus lots and lots of Covid tests, masks, social distancing, and struggles traveling with busy toddlers and crying babies!  

But… we all made it!  We are all fine.  All luggage did finally arrive – praise the Lord! And we are ready to join in the efforts at Kibuye, each doing our part in the missionary community, at the hospital, and in Burundi.  God has called us each here for such a time as this.  We are happy to be with our colleagues, holding up each other’s weary arms in this spiritual battle we are a part of.  (ref: Exodus 17:12-14)

Thank you for praying us all here.  As many of us have arrived this summer, there have been some tearful departures as well.  So please continue to pray for our team as we are all in transition.  From the doctors at the hospital to the little toddlers of the team.  We are all in transition and we need grace, patience, and mercy as we all readjust.


Journey of Grace

by Rachel

Two masks are always safer than one...

Travel in, to, and from African nations has always been a challenge.  Airports are crowded and chaotic, flights are sporadic and often changed.  There are visas to purchase, sometimes at the airport and sometimes ahead of time, occasionally on websites that don’t work, and even once in awhile, an exit visa to procure before you can leave your host country.  You can never check in online, and the internet doesn’t report flight updates (due to the “low likelihood of accurate information”).  Upon arrival into said international airports, there are many forms to fill out, many lines to stand in, and not always many people who speak your preferred language or understand the fact that you may not know what you’re doing.  Once you’ve made it through the gauntlet, your luggage might or might not have arrived and if not, who knows where it is and if/when it will ever arrive (and if it does arrive, where it should be held or sent to so that one day you will see your luggage again).  Finally, will someone be there to pick you up?  Hopefully yes, because your cell phone doesn’t work in this country. 

As residents of various African countries for now 10 years, our family has accepted this level of craziness as a necessity in order to travel.  We jump in knowing it will be hectic and chaotic but also having a pretty good sense, by now, of how this is all going to go down.  I know what lines to stand in, what forms to fill out, and even can converse with the customs agents, a bit.  We know what’s likely to cause trouble, when the next flight will probably be available, what the form for lost luggage looks like, and when our missing bags stand a high likelihood of arriving.  So, we know what the process is and we have decided that it’s worth it to get to where we want to be going.

And then, 2020.  


When our country's airport reopened in November, it was a whole new ballgame.  Covid tests needed to be obtained to both enter and leave the country.  People were often not clear on the timing of the test (2 days? 72 hours?  From boarding or arriving? when the test was taken or when the results were issued?) or what type of test was necessary.   Quarantine was necessary for a few days, then a few weeks, then depended on the incoming test results, at home or at a hotel, and the list of hotels approved for quarantine changed often.  It felt like every week the rules changed, sometimes while people were actually in transit.  We had teammates get stuck in multiple other countries, sometimes for weeks.  Positive tests, false positive tests, mistimed negative tests that needed to be repeated.  So many covid tests.

Like many of you, Eric and I had travel plans cancelled.  We recognized that we needed a vacation and watched and waited as new regulations arrived, were changed, were dismissed, were reintroduced.  We made plans…maybe a trip to Tanzania, or Kenya, or…but in the end, the risks and costs of travel seemed too high (not even the risk of getting sick, which is always a possibility, but the risk of getting stuck somewhere or not being able to return to our home in Kibuye).  

So finally, it was time to return to the US for our every 3 year annual “home assignment.”  We hadn’t been on a plane in 21 months, which is pretty much a record for us (and when you live in one of the world’s smallest countries as an ex-pat, is pretty remarkable in my opinion).  I booked our airline tickets and made arrangements for a short vacation en route.  And I will admit to you, I was scared.  I had been looking forward to our break for so long that I was afraid something would happen and I would be disappointed yet again.  2020 for so many of us was a year of constant disappointments, uncertainty, and fear...and it felt far too dangerous to hope for anything anymore.  I felt like one more experience of dashed hopes might send me over the edge.

We wrapped up our time at the hospital and headed down the hill for our covid tests in Bujumbura.  Our flight was scheduled for a Wednesday night, and so in order to make sure we had results in hand we needed to get the test Monday before 1pm so we could hopefully receive the results Tuesday before 9pm (we were told that we could maybe do the test Tuesday and get results Wednesday, but there was a good chance that the results wouldn't arrive before we needed to board our flight, so).  The day of our test results I could hardly eat.  The hours crawled by and every time Eric got a text message I got a sinking pit in my stomach, convinced that it was the guy who had gone to pick up our test results, telling us they were positive.  But that night, we had five pieces of paper in hand, confirming five negative test results.  

Thankful for our travel buddies, Steve and Mary Wiland.   At the airport, good to go!

Our plane was on time the next day.  We had no problem with our connecting flight.  All our luggage turned up.  And other than a slightly late airport shuttle to our hotel, the flight went as smoothly as anyone could have hoped for.  Well, other than the fact that Toby used 10 barf bags between the two international flights, but that’s another story. ;)  Jet lag was minimal, the vacation was wonderful, and we were reunited with family a week later.  Most boring travel story ever.

I’m tempted to skim over this story and move on instead of pausing to reflect on what COULD have been and what WAS.  I often find myself dwelling on and retelling the disasters and bad outcomes, instead of reflecting on God's providence and unseen miracles in the mundane, "boring" parts of life.  Now, I don’t write any of this to minimize the pain and suffering of many others’ trips and journeys.  I don’t know why our trip was so much smoother than others’ trips and it’s certainly not because God loves us more or we prayed harder or anything else.  But in reflecting on this whole experience, I'll admit that my fear came from a lack of control over the circumstances.  And maybe on some level I felt like God was going to “take away” this good thing (a break, a longed for vacation) in order to teach me another lesson, instead of giving me what I felt like I needed.    

This past year has caused me to be afraid to hope for things, fearing they will end in disappointment.  I wonder what it says about my view of my loving heavenly Father, that I feel like he’s up in a distant heaven waiting to push a button and “ruin” my life.  Is it not true that my heavenly Father knows what I need, more than I do, and is so happy to bless me with it?  This has been a hard season for all of us, and I don’t know what lies ahead.  But I do feel like we need to be able to hope, to look forward with great anticipation, knowing that perhaps my plans won’t come to fruition but there are good things waiting for us all the same.  We don't always know when or how, but in the waiting I can hope and rest free of fear, knowing that a good God loves me and is directing my steps.  

A friendly "hippo" goodbye on our last morning.  We'll be back in Burundi after Christmas


I heart MedEd

(by Jenn)

Jenn teaching on rounds

Medical Education. Not something I thought I'd really get in to, but I love it!  When we arrived to Kibuye 2019 for a two month vision trip, my role was mostly observational, helping out and seeing patients, but mainly seeing how things work working in an underdeveloped, underserved hospital in Burundi.   When we returned in January 2020, I was mostly in a clinical role - seeing patients on wards, answering questions from generalist doctors who were seeing a complicated case in the outpatient clinic, and teaching some didactic sessions for the medical interns.  Slowly but surely, however, I started taking on more and more of the "medical education" (MedEd for short) component of the work that is done here.  

Six of our most recent graduates from the "Stage Professionnel" program - the one-year rotating internship for doctors who have just completed medical school. 

For the documentation of grades for medical students who are doing their clinical rotations during the latter part of their medical education, they have abook called a "carnet" in which the professors write down a grade for the rotation they have just finished. The profs are in charge of writing the grades, but it's my job to collect the grades, enter them into our spreadsheet, and return the carnets back to the students.  And guess what. I've loved this. "That's weird." you may say.  Well, through this process, I've been able to get to know the names of the students and get to interact with them even when they are not on the peds service.  Sure, it takes time and effort, but I'm glad I've had this responsibility for a bit.  

Students discussing a question I just asked during Peds Journal Club
Sometimes they are intense! Sometimes we just discuss what was done well or what was done poorly in a study. 

Another fun thing that is new is that we are now having a Peds Journal Club two times a month.  I pick articles and alternate between French and English. French so they have a better chance of fully understanding the article which increases the chance they will discuss the article and English so that they are encouraged to at least attempt to read medical literature written in English. Why is this necessary? Every medical student has to write a thesis paper for which an extensive literature review is necessary. Why English you ask? The majority of medical literature is in the aformention language which for all of them is a second laguage.  Wait.  Did I mention this was voluntary for the students!?! They still come!  ◡̈ 

A lecture being given as part of our curriculum for the Stage Professionnel program

Other new(-to-me) responsiblities are organizing lecture schedules for our medical intern program (Stage Professionnel program), giving some of those lectures, teaching medical students after rounds, giving weekly pediatric lectures to the medical interns who are rotating on peds, etc. 

Dr. Christmas teaching about pneumonia to those who are currently on the pediatric service (medical stuednts, nursing stuednts, and residents). 

Dr. Christmas was a student at Hope Africa University, worked at Kibuye Hope Hospital for some years, and is currently in a pedatric residency program in Egypt. He is spending this month with us here at Kibuye.  It's so encouraging to see God's work in the lives of people here! Expecially when it's a stuednt of this system who is now here teaching! ◡̈ 

Michael teaching in the OR.
This image was posed to social media by one of the HAU medical students. 

So all that to say, we love our jobs/roles here and we are so grateful that God chose to put us here on this team!