This weekend marked another milestone for our lives here at Kibuye. We graduated another class of 8th graders from Kibuye Hope Academy. Our graduates were Liam Banks and Maggie McLaughlin. This year was unique because it was the first time we graduated a student who has done every year of her education at KHA. Maggie was a kindergartener the first year KHA officially began. Liam’s first year at Kibuye was his 2nd grade year. And here we are, many years later with two 14 year olds! For both the McLaughlins and us (the Banks), these are our oldest and first to graduate Middle School.
Our whole team gathered together and the school was transformed into the stage for the afternoon. Liam and Maggie entered to Pomp & Circumstance wearing graduation caps homemade from cardboard and local Burundian fabric.
Glory Guy, our Middle School teacher, served as Master of Ceremonies and dazzled us all with a colorful speech walking the graduates through all the books they have read in Middle School and the life lessons gleaned from each book.
The four Middle Schoolers (Liam, Maggie, Ben McLaughlin, and Zeke Banks) treated us to a performance of Do Re Mi from the musical, The Sound of Music. I've been their music teacher for 7 years, and have really enjoyed seeing them grow as musicians and singers. Great job guys – you nailed it!
Both Liam and Maggie gave speeches that were thoughtful, insightful, and even funny. The younger generation of Kibuye kids has been blessed by these two older ones who have taught them, played with them, and set a good example as diligent students.
Our three teachers – Glory, Erica, and Jenny – joined together to present them with their diplomas and be the first to congratulate them. Liam and Maggie were excited to officially move the tassel and be declared graduates of Kibuye Hope Academy!
One advantage to our life here at Kibuye is the closeness of our teammates. In many ways we function as a very big family. The kids even call the adults Aunt & Uncle. So it was very fitting for the dads to join the graduates and pray a blessing over them on behalf of all the Aunts and Uncle on the team.
May the Lord bless you and keep you...
After a big thank you to our wonderful teachers, the entire school gave an amazing performance of So Long, Farewell. It was a perfect way to end our graduation, saying goodbye to our teachers who have finished their term with Serge, and goodbye to Liam and Maggie as they will go off to RVA in Kenya next year.
We know the Lord has great things for KHA next year and the years to come. But for now, it was nice to pause and praise Him for this year, this season, these teachers, and these kids.
Aunt Eunice bringing some California flair to the event!
A trip down memory lane with photos of these kids through the years
A number of people on our team enjoy woodworking among their hobbies. Wood here comes very roughly cut, and usually half the duration of any project is just getting things flat and straight. The following project was no exception.
When the Cropseys built their house 10 years ago, a massive eucalyptus tree was growing in the middle of the plot where the house was going. I'm sure John tried to convince Jess to keep the tree and build a tree house in the middle of their new home, but alas, it came down. John did save the root and made a table from it, but it was so heavy that it was nearly immovable.
After the Cropseys moved, I asked John if I could try making something with the wood, and he agreed. So we towed it up to the workshop, closer to the tools:
I wanted to slice it like bread and make a coffee table. I thought the process would provide some exercise as well. We located a massive saw from a previous attempt at cutting wood, and we tried our hand at slicing the stump.
Many hours and sore muscles later, it was clear that this was going to need more expertise (Eucalyptus is HARD), so we contacted the local woodcutters, and they came and worked for 3 days and produced three slices of the stump.
I offered them our saw as payment, since theirs was nearly gone from years of use (as you can see in the picture), and they were overjoyed at the prospect (it was worth more than they asked for in payment), and I was pretty sure we were never going to be buff enough to make use of it. Win-win.
After wrestling the piece of stump into the shop, I started the long process of flattening it and making it smooth.
I inlayed some "bowties" to keep the cracks from extending and filled in some of the deeper crevases with epoxy, before finishing it with a number of coats of varnish, and then made a base out of eucalyptus. It currently sits happily in our living room, adding lots of character, and now I am looking forward to seeing what the other 2 slices could become.
(Feel free to scroll down to just look at pictures!)
It's my turn to write the team blog post and I thought about maybe writing about the 153 kids we saw in sickle cell clinic earlier this month or our process to revamp that clinic and make it more manageable for everyone or about other hospital-related cases, but I instead decided to focus this time on a "normal" Kibuye weekend. Ok, maybe this last weekend wasn't exactly normal, but do we really know what normal is here? I love our life, community, and beautiful surroundings in rural Burundi - and our version of "routine" - but I definitely don't struggle with boredom - always something going on! So here's a snapshot of a Kibuye weekend:
Friday at 5pm:
Nearly the whole team showed up to support Aunt Michelle (who in a prior life was a concert pianist) and her 5 piano students as they performed a piano recital. They all did such an amazing job and were well cheered and celebrated!
After dinner, the adults gathered to begin a mini-team retreat time together. This nice thing about living so close together is that the little kids go to bed and then the big kids/teens babysit so the adults can have evening meetings! Lindsay Kimball, one of the leaders from Serge's Executive Leadership Team, came to visit us in Burundi over the past week, and she was so encouraging to us all both in leading the retreat time and in meeting with everyone over meals, walks, and coffee to listen, care, and pray for us.
During the Friday evening session, we discussed Jesus feeding the 5,000 from Mark 6 from both the perspective of the disciples and the perspective of Jesus. The story begins with the disciples wanting to tell Jesus about all they had done and taught but being interrupted over and over and not even having time to eat. Jesus calls them to a desolate place by themselves to rest. But a great crowd meets them there - and Jesus has compassion on them although it seems that the disciples really just want to send them all away. And then there's the part of the story when they realize it's impossible to feed all the people and they only have 5 loaves and 2 fish and Jesus feeds everyone. "And they all ate and were satisfied."
We reflected on times when it feels like more is being asked of us than we have to give (like the busy sickle cell clinic!) and when our plans for good rhythms and rest have been interrupted. And we talked about how we often wait so long to look for Jesus' presence, care, and help, and we forget to deeply rely on him until we realize that we actually don't have the resources to do the work. We don't have any more than 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to take care of a great crowd. But Jesus longs to bring both rest and satisfaction - usually in a different way than we expect! Jesus somehow fully satisfied the deepest needs of the disciples - and the crowd - in the midst of the chaos. He compassionately showed them their desperate and needy state and then he provided.
He even provided green grass for them to sit on - easy to imagine at the end of rainy season in Beautiful Burundi!
We continued the retreat by moving on to the next passage in Mark 6 where Jesus walks on the water. The disciples are straining at the oars all night long - for hours and hours in the darkness. They see what they think is a ghost and they are terrified!
Logan shared a story of a time when he was walking to the hospital at night when the power was out and he forgot a flashlight - across the field in the picture above but in utter darkness. And then he heard footsteps in the night. So terrifying - until the person quietly said "Amahoro." Amahoro is a Kirundi greeting that means "peace" - similar to shalom. What a relief to hear that quiet peaceful greeting in the night! Similar to the disciples who Jesus brought peace and courage to in the night instead of straining at the oars and abject fear.
In our private devotional time, small group time, and large group time, we reflected on and discussed the applications of these passages to our lives here in Burundi. So often we feel like we are surrounded by overwhelming need - whether needs of patients, students, our families, or the community around us - and we feel like it's too much and we don't have the resources (either time, energy, or physical resources) to do it all. But we keep straining at the oars - trying harder, seeking to be more productive or efficient, hoping to help all the people and finish all the work. But Jesus reminds us that he sees us, he cares, and we desperately need him. He will ultimately satisfy our every need and calm every storm, and he cares about our hearts in the meantime - whether in the middle of the darkness alone or surrounded by crowds in a desolate place. And he also meets us in our labors in community and longs for us to remind each other to look up and see him.
I don't love seeing or remembering my own weakness, insufficiency, and incapacity to do all the things, but this retreat time was helpful for remembering that when I do see those lacks in myself, that's actually a good thing! Jesus shows me compassion and brings himself to my heart in showing me my need for him. Desperation drives prayer as Rose Marie Miller (founder of Serge with her husband Jack) likes to remind us! We would appreciate your prayers for continuing to remember these things as a team.
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Maybe we're lacking for some entertainment around here, but the construction team has been working on taking down an enormous eucalyptus tree over the last couple weeks - climbing up into the highest branches and cutting them off one by one, guiding the falling of the branches with ropes and physics - and it has been fascinating to watch the process. On Saturday it was time for the final step - bringing the remaining tree down into the garden and not into the school or houses nearby! There was definitely some drama as the tree rocked back and forth and they kept axing it at the base - towards the school and away from the school - and I wondered about my own house at one point, too! A team vehicle was used for leverage and pulling - until the rope snapped! We watched from a safe distance and cheered in three languages as the process unfolded over the course of an hour or so - better than Netflix! And in the end the entire tree came down completely with man-power - not a single chainsaw in sight!
And then everyone wanted their picture on the conquered tree!
We had family worship followed by a team dinner. Not easy to feed nearly 50 people, but Rachel thoughtfully ordered special American groceries for Lindsay to bring out and prepared a grand feast for us all. Everyone especially enjoyed the desserts! In a setting where we make everything from scratch, desserts that come in a box are a special treat!
We celebrated with two Burundian friends who had new babies - apropos for Mother's Day!
K-1st grade art class made flowers for their moms
And several of us went to the nearby waterfalls to hike and enjoy the beauty there:
Official description of the falls: "5 cascading waterfalls, a cave, an impressive biodiversity, a beautiful landscape, an arial bridge and a very welcoming population will fill you with joy." Lovely!
And then on to Monday morning where cute patients greet me and you can tell the kids are in school by the bicycle parking lot!
Hospital chapel Monday morning reminding us: Hallelujah; He heals the sick; He raises the dead; He is alive forever; He never changes; He will do miracles; God will do it again!
For those of you who do not know, once a month the school does something called a Learning Experience Day. On these days, we get the whole student body together to learn a topic outside of the curriculum. In the past we have done water filtration, solar power, mushrooms, astronomy, the eye, construction, and much more. This month we learned about archaeology. The students started out with a visit to a virtual archaeology museum and then did their own exploration of how archaeologists use what they discover and know about the time to try and understand the purposes behind what they find. Following this, they went outside and dug in the garden and the sandbox to find the objects previously hidden there. They found things like candles, broken pottery, napkin holders, pieces of trash, bottle caps, and many other random household object.
Next, the kids got to try their hands at making their own pottery. We used homemade clay, taught them the age old method of starting with a snake and winding it up to make the cup, bowl, plate, or whatever else one might want to make.
Following this activity, we headed up to the village where the Batwa people live. This group of people is known for the pottery that they make. See the pictures below of the final products they produce.
Before the pots are fired
After they are fired
As we watched the potters at work, the kids and adults alike were amazed at their ability to make almost perfect pots using only their hands, old bits of broken pottery, and cloth, in less than 10 minutes each. We were even more blown away given that we had just experienced how hard it actually is to make anything out of clay! I think the pictures say more than my words can, so please see the images and videos below of these talented women at work.
After they made the pots, they showed us how they fired them. First they got some brush, caught it on fire, and put it inside each pot to cook that part. Once the insides were done, they put the pots on top of the huge fire pit, there more brush on top to create a kind of oven and let the outsides of the pots cook until they were done. For me, the most amazing aspect of this part was how they not only knew the correct amount of time to have the pots in the fire, but they knew the right amount of brush to put on the fire pit so they would be surrounded by flames for the known amount of time. Again, pictures are better than my words, so please enjoy the ones posted below.
Thankfully, they let us buy some of their pots before we headed back home, and got in a picture with us.
I don’t have a picture of this, but some of the pots have a design on the top that looks like a bunch of little dots all over it. In order to make this design, they take a bit of a banana leaf stalk, braid it over itself, and then use that to roll the design on. The women also told us that they can also make this tool out of pieces of their metal roofs.