1. Haraka haraka haina baraka. Pole pole ni mwenda. (Swahili: Quickly, quickly brings no blessing. Slowly, slowly is better.)
2. Petit à petit l’oiseau fait son nid. (French: Little by little the bird makes her nest.)
3. Buke buke ni rwo rugendo. (Kirundi: Slowly, slowly goes the journey.)
Proverbs are frequently used in Burundi to indirectly express important truths. Many of them are too complicated and sophisticated for me to understand with my direct American cultural framework (even when translated into English)! But I frequently reflect on these three similar proverbs which I learned when living in Kenya, France, and Burundi as I find their message quite relevant in my daily life.
Practically speaking, I recite these proverbs to myself when I’m overwhelmed by the task at hand - packing or unpacking for cross-continental journeys, catching up on dozens of emails after vacation, rounding on dozens of pediatric patients, facing a to-do list that seems like it will never be completed. Little by little, slowly slowly, one thing at a time. Take a deep breath and be a faithful little bird in taking each next step rather than stressing about all that is still unfinished.
These proverbs are also relevant from a big picture perspective on our team’s life and work in Burundi. Our team recently returned from the Serge mission-wide conference which included over 600 people! The last conference was 6 years ago as it has been delayed the past 2 years due to the pandemic. One of my favorite parts of the conference are the prayer times where each team shares joys, struggles, and prayer needs. Since I hadn’t seen some of these colleagues for 6 years, it was so encouraging to realize all that God has done around the world since the last conference: new churches planted and growing even during the pandemic, new businesses thriving as means of Gospel-transformation, new teams getting started in new countries, children we prayed for who are now 6 years older and doing well, outreach to new people groups, etc. Our team also remembered how much the hospital has grown since the last conference, how God has sustained our team through lots of transition, and how Burundi has developed and stabilized in encouraging ways.
|Medical missionaries at the conference|
|Serge East Africa missionaries|
|Our team sharing prayer requests|
|Some of the current and former Kibuye team members who were at the conference|
Looking back at how far God has brought us in 6 years is encouraging, but often in the present we experience hard times and don’t know how they will turn out. We also heard much during the conference prayer times about present difficulties, concerns, and heartaches. In the day to day struggles it can be hard to see the hand of God and the arc of redemption of all things. These proverbs remind me of the importance of daily faithfulness in small things as we slowly do the work before us one patient at a time, one email at a time, one complicated interpersonal interaction at a time. I believe that 6 years from now, we will look back and be amazed at God’s care for us and for Burundi through all the ups and downs of the slow journey. But today I am encouraged by the missionaries who have been serving for many more years than us and who continue day by day in the small unglamorous work of language learning, making friends, supporting teammates, managing finances, caring for their families, and answering email - for the world’s good and God’s glory.