One of the hardest parts about living in Burundi is learning to hold the hardness of life together with the beauty, joy, and love that is found here. 1 John 3:2 says, "Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is." Basically, while Christ did come and bring us Heaven after death, we are still waiting for when he comes again and brings the new heaven and new earth that will be without pain and suffering. It is the already, and the not yet and is our reality, whether we see it or not. But in this part of the world, it is unavoidable.
This past year I taught writing to an American boy who lives in Congo, and he expresses it well in a poem he wrote about his country:
Fleeing, Praying, Helping
Sad and beautiful country
This poem shows the understanding of a child that the world is not good nor bad. It is both at the same time. There is fleeing, praying and helping that exist together. There is sadness and beauty alongside each other. There is violence and peace in the same places. This 10-year-old boy encourages me to follow him in his acceptance that this is how the world is and to see both as equal realities.
A place that our team experiences this dichotomy most acutely is in the Hospital. I want to spend a little time sharing a little of what happens at the hospital where our team serves.
When the team arrived in Kibuye in 2013, there was already an eighty-bed hospital with about ten houses for staff. Now, the hospital has around 350 beds and there are about thirty houses for doctors This is a large change and has created more chances for doctors to be trained, to be given jobs, and for care of patients in and around Burundi. The hospital is connected to a university in Bujumbura, the largest city in Burundi. Therefore, many medical students come to Kibuye to do their internships needed for school. The services include OB GYN, pediatrics, urgent Care, Family medicine, ophthalmology, and surgery, along with food distribution, and courses for medical students taught by the doctors, discipleship and prayer. So far Kibuye has graduated around 310 African doctors since 2014. It is quite a large operation happening!
Below are some pictures of graduation celebrations, our team (+some visitors) moments of teaching and surgery. Everyone hard at work!
I asked several doctors here what the hardest and best parts are about the hospital. Overall, their responses reflected the simultaneous hope and suffering that I have come to understand over my year and a half here. One med student said that the best part is “when I get to see a patient happy because she was able to help them. But the hardest part is to see patients get worse and worse and to be unable to help them.” This is the already and not yet. Yes, there are some amazing things happening here, and people are healed who would never have had a chance without this hospital. And there are still people that die because the world is what it is.
One doctor told me that the best part is "watching a lady hold her first baby after multiple losses" and getting to be a part of that moment. The greatest challenge is seeing a patient whose illness you recognize, whose treatment you know, but also knowing the treatment isn't available in this country, and is too expensive. Yes, there is hope, but often it feels like there isn't enough.
I think the most notable line in the poem Congo is "Fleeing, Praying, Helping". Sometimes, the problems weigh so heavy that I do feel like fleeing, but really the answer is to pray. To pray that God would help us feel the sadness, see the beauty amidst it and move forward to help. This is an exhausting state to live in, but I wouldn't change it, because it reminds me how much I need to depend on God to help me live in the world we have been given.
I will leave you with an illustration. My roommate Jenny was an occupational therapist before she was a teacher. She has used this skill to love and work with the children in the hospital who needed help in that area. One child she worked with was an 8 year old girl who came in for malnutrition. When she arrived she could hardly sit up on her own, was very weak, and seemed to have some sort of mental and physical delay. Many people said that her situation was too hard and unknown, and that there was no way to help her. But God kept putting her on Jenny's heart, and every day she went to pick up this little girl, play with her, stretch and use her muscles, and try to make her laugh. Over the next few weeks, she started to walk on her own, to recognize Jenny, ask when she was coming, and get herself out of bed when she saw her walk into the room. She began to play, smile, and enjoy herself; all things no one ever thought she would be capable of. Jenny said a hard goodbye to this girl she had grown to love as she was releases from the hospital having made some improvements. Months later, this little girl came walking and smiling back into the hospital, all chubby and strutting like she owned the place. How good is our God!!
Telling you this story could go many ways, but what I want to highlight is how this miraculous story is an example of sadness and beauty, of already and not yet. It is representative of the healing that happened on this earth when Jesus brought the kingdom down. And yet, we are still not in the home we were made for. Just as this girl's healing happened in a hospital, which was not her home. We can only continue to pray that little Joy will grow knowing the Lord and eventually find her eternal home with our Lord and Savior.
Joy at the beginning of her stay doing some exercises with Jenny:
Joy when she came to visit a couple months later:
This picture has nothing to do with the hospital, I just love it a lot. These girls were SO EXCITED to have their pictures taken, they just couldn't control their giggles!
(It's also the only picture on this blog that I took, the others were taken by a number of different people in our community).
Please just pray for this place. For the people who live and work here, and for those who come to stay at the hospital! Thank you all for your ongoing support and care. Love to you all.
As a graduation present for finishing my surgical residency my in-laws bought me this printer:
It seems like there are always comings and goings here at Kibuye, with the comings of course being more fun that the goings! We wanted to take chance to introduce you to some of our new current/upcoming teammates.
First of all, we are really excited that after many years of prayer for an engineer to support Caleb Fader in his many crucial roles at the hospital, we were approached by an awesome couple that has been living in Bujumbura for the past few years. Craig is a mechanical engineer and Vanessa has a masters degree in sustainable development. They and their two young children, Wren and Bram, are currently raising support in the US and are hoping to arrive at Kibuye sometime in January. If you'd like to help support them, click here.
Secondly, as we've posted about many times before, teachers are essential to our team's health and longevity here at Kibuye because they shoulder the majority of the task of our kids' education. We have absolutely loved having our current three teachers here these past several years, and are thrilled to announce that one of them, Jenny Sorondo, has decided to stay on as a long term teammate and teacher. She'll be needing extra support as well as she transitions from short term to long term (if you're interested, click here).
Joining Jenny in fall of 2023 will be a new teacher, Meg Strickland. Meg is currently teaching elementary school in Georgia and will be coming to work at KHA for two years. You can support her here. And finally, speaking of teachers, we are still in need of one more teacher starting in the fall of 2023 for (preferable) middle school ages if you or anyone you know is interested in hanging out with some totally awesome, fun kids (not that I'm biased).
And, while I'm mentioning new teammates, I also wanted to introduce Dr. Selina Thomas. Selina arrived at Kibuye in June through the Samaritan's Purse Post Residency Program for two years (and hopefully longer!). While we have had, and even currently now have, post residents serving at Kibuye before, Selina is our first primary care/non-surgeon. She's residency trained in family practice, which means that she's very versatile. We've enjoyed getting a chance to have her rotate around on our different services and she has been a great asset.
|Kibuye Pediatrics Team|
and I am drawn again
to wrestle with the cantankerous back door lock
in order to walk out onto the back porch.