Threads of Years Long Gone: Ministers, Babies, and Reasons for Reconsidering Hope

 (from Eric)

On Friday, the hospital inaugurated a new district health office. In addition to being a church hospital and a teaching hospital, Kibuye is the referral hospital for Kibuye Health District, a geographic area of over 200,000 people. Anyone sick in that area goes to one of 18 health centers in the district which refer necessary cases to the hospital. Of course, we also get cases from all over the country and neighboring countries because of specialized care here, but we are the primary hospital for this catchment area, and this health district is administered and supplied by the district health office.

Their office was insufficient and helping them build a better office just outside the hospital wall also liberated some valuable real estate within the hospital that the old office was taking up. So we partnered with them to build a new office building. The building is lovely, and governmental dignitaries were invited to cut the ribbon.

The guest of honor was Burundi's Minister of Health. Newly appointed to the presidential cabinet in the last few months, this was her first visit to Kibuye. Burundi's amazing traditional drummers pounded and danced out a welcoming rhythm as the Minister's vehicle arrived, and we formed a receiving line, of which I was about number eleven.

Burundi's Traditional Drummers with the new district health office

As the Minister proceeded down the line, I shook her hand and said "Welcome to Kibuye." Over the thrum of drums behind us, she said "I know you. I met you in Banga when you were learning Kirundi. You had babies with you."

A journalist caught the moment where the Minister tells us she remembers us

I couldn't believe it, to say the least. Banga? Banga is where our team spent three months in 2013 when we first arrived, fresh from French language school but wanting to get a small smart on Kirundi language study before moving to the hospital.
Future Kibuye kids at Banga.

It wasn't the easiest three months. In fact, the "green soup" that we ate every night for dinner has become a bit of team lore. The electricity and water were usually out, and thus staying healthy was quite a challenge. I remember one night walking outside to see the adjacent hillside aflame (apparently a "controlled" burn for farmers) and wondering where the fire would spread.

During meals, the nuns who ran the guesthouse and restaurant, in order to help out high-chair-less parents (and to amuse themselves), would take Toby (who was about 5 months old) around and greet the other patrons. Apparently one of those patrons was the future Minister of Health, who came to Banga for a malaria training event.

Mama Lea - Toby's favorite nun

Now the Minister is at Kibuye, cutting a ribbon and remembering our team fondly. The ceremony began, and the governor of our province gave some opening remarks. Bishop Deo did a wonderful job discussing the work of the Free Methodist Church's institutions at Kibuye and their involvement in health care, including some upcoming plans. Then the minister took the podium and gave a very favorable speech. She again mentioned to everyone meeting our team in 2013 and remarked on our love for their country. She said that she would like to take a tour of the hospital afterwards, and spend close to an hour being guided deftly by Dr. Gilbert our medical director. All in all, a very successful visit.


The collision of past and present filled me with gratitude. It was the gratitude of someone who had been living on the back side of a tapestry, where all the threads are knotted and seemingly disorganized as they do their best to get from here to there. Then, for just a moment, you're allowed to catch a glimpse of the other side of the tapestry, where a beautiful, complex image has been created by those same threads.

You see that there were a couple stitches way over there, and then the thread disappeared for so long that you thought it was gone, and then it resurfaces in just the right place. And that makes you reconsider the other threads. It gives you hope for the other long-invisible strands. Or maybe this one over here has always bothered you, and you wish it would be gone. But maybe it actually plays a role in a bigger picture. It's been a source of tension, but maybe it's like the musical tension of a passing note to a beautiful chord. Who knows?

No thread makes a tapestry. Rather it's all the threads together. It's the whole of all our lives and days and interactions, woven together by One whose perspective is so much bigger than ours that it's like how the heavens are higher than the earth. It's incredibly hopeful, and also incredibly humbling.

Is that what Banga was for? Probably not, or rather maybe one thing among many. Who knows? The point is that there are these moments where you see a bigger story and though you may not have much more of an idea of what's going on than you did before, you now have a reason to hope that there actually is a bigger story. And that changes everything with regards to how you look at the beautiful and the problematic that surround you even now.

Is that what the Minister's visit to Banga and now to Kibuye was for? Maybe a bit, but she is not just a character in our story any more than we are just characters in hers. Surely God has many plans for her life in so many other domains. And so we see that the big Kibuye tapestry is itself a piece within the tapestry of Burundi, within the tapestry of His kingdom throughout His creation.

It's too complex. It makes our heads swirl. No one could weave together such a complicated web of billions of people's lives into a single beautiful work of art. But if someone could... If someone is, then that One is most worthy of praise.

(On a more personal level, here's a song I wrote a while back on a similar theme: The Weaving of My Days, also on Spotify and other streaming sites)


I Bless the Rains Down in Africa

by Rachel 

If anyone knows anything about Africa, usually they can at least hum the above line from Toto.  It's a great song.  Most of my life I thought the line was "I MISS the rains down in Africa," which I think fits with the longing of the song, but anyway.  I've been thinking about that song a lot lately as Burundi has had a pretty epic rainy season this year.  

Now that we've been living here for 10 years, the dry and rainy seasons (instead of a classic summer/winter pattern seen in northern climates) have become second nature to us.  The rains usually stop in mid to late May, bring in the annual dry season.  Upsides of this would be massive amounts of solar energy for our powerpac, easy drying of clothes on the line, and reliably dry days and nights for outdoor activities.  Downsides would be massive amounts of red dust everywhere!   By September the rains usually return, maybe 3-4 times per week until May (with a one month pause in Dec/Jan).  Obviously if you are a subsistence farmer, these seasons are quite important for the growing of various crops.  In fact, if the rains are late (like a year ago), harvest comes late as well meaning that hunger and malnutrition increase until the harvest arrives.

This year, the rains were a welcome return by the first week of September.  We love the sound of rain on our metal roof, and all the dust washing away.  The profusion of green leaves, grass, etc is pretty amazing in this lush climate.  However, what was NOT normal this year was the volume of rain.  The rains came hard and fast and constant...in fact, there have been weeks where I don't think we saw the sun at all.  There is an aid website called Relief Web that publishes data on things like food security and humanitarian crises.  You can see the table below from the end of December featuring above average rainfall projected through February.  While not as severe as some parts of Kenya, rainfall has been 50-70% more than average this year.

We drove a Burundian friend to Gitega last month and asked him about the community and their thoughts on the rainfall.  He replied that when people see this volume of rain, they worry about famine.  Below are some pictures that Eric and I took on a recent walk around Kibuye.  Notice the brown stalks of corn, dead from flooding, and even the flooded rice patties in the valley.  Rain has also caused some significant erosion behind the hospital as part of the hillside washed away.

Flooding fields and dead corn plants

Erosion behind the hospital

Flooded rice fields

I love rain.  I think it brings green and life and beauty.  But if I was a subsistence farmer living in Burundi, and if my crops died I had no other way to feed my family, I would be worried right now.  Could you pray for our friends and neighbors, that God would provide the right amount of rain for crops to grow?  That they would have enough food to feed their families, even miraculously so?  It's quite possible that numbers will swell in our malnutrition program this spring as well.  You all contributed over $75,000 to that fund in the month of December, which is amazing!  If you'd still like to give, here is the link.

Burundi looked good in this report from November, with only a few regions being "stressed."  This might change in the next report.  Also, as you can see much of the region is in crisis, sometimes due to war in addition to natural factors.