I had a phenomenal time in Burundi! I can say with great certainty that there were very few moments of the trip that I did not enjoy (even the 17 hour flight home had its moments). It was the December before last, at Friends Summit 2014, that I first encountered members of the Burundian Friends Church. I was impressed and intrigued by their great joy and humility, and when I heard, in the late winter of 2015, that the next Saltshaker would send a team to Burundi, I was excited by the possibility and signed up. Unfortunately, due to political unrest within Burundi last summer, our trip had to be postponed until this summer. However, the actual timing of it allowed our team to be present in Burundi for the transference of leadership from the Legal Representative (a position of paramount importance within their church structure), which was an incredible event to witness and celebrate with our Burundian brothers and sisters.
Here are things that stood out to me as I reflected upon my time there:
-I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity that the trip presented to build new friendships with both other team members and Burundian Friends. I made many new friends (like our driver, David) that remain in Burundi, but I hope I can visit again soon.
-I was touched by the great joy and authenticity of their worship of God, and I loved the opportunities that we had to dance and sing with them. It was awesome to observe the happiness that radiated from their smiling faces and to see how boldly they proclaimed the goodness and glory of God.
-We might have been there to show our love to our Burundian friends, but they too, showed there great love for us in many ways, through unceasing acts of hospitality, graciousness, and kindness. I was quite impressed by the way in which they selflessly gave of their time (almost all of the leaders have busy schedules) to be with us and to go with us to visit remote church locations.
-Domitien, the previous legal representative, said in his speech, as he passed off the mantle of leadership to his successor, that, “A great man is a man who makes others great.” I was amazed by how humble and servant-oriented Domitien had remained, even though he was in a position of great influence and power, and his words and deeds stand as a powerful challenge and witness to me.
-I loved traveling across Burundi! As previously mentioned, we visited some churches that were in fairly remote locations, so we would often spend several hours driving on a main highway, only to get on a dirt road (a road might not be the right word here, maybe more like a very rough trail) and drive on that sometime before we could get to our destination. We had many fun adventures traveling and many exciting moments when we would turn down mountain passes or inch slowly down from the side of a cliff. The Burundian countryside (the large majority of their nation) was beautiful! There were large hills and mountains seemingly everywhere, covered in beautiful green trees and plants, a scene that would be interrupted quite frequently by farming plots were women and children hoed the ground and planted crops. It was really neat to see such a different change in scenery, especially one as beautiful as theirs.
-God was working mightily in Burundi. I loved observing how the Burundian church was actively acting upon their faith and desiring to be more effective Kingdom workers and to spread the Gospel. I had the privilege to hear the testimonies of both our cook and driver, both of which were incredibly powerful, and spoke volumes about how actively God had, was, and is working in Burundi. I appreciate the fact that God and His Kingdom are incredibly culturally transcendent and how God is calling every tongue and tribe to “come and dine” with Him.
-I also enjoyed the opportunities that we had to bless and work alongside of our Burundian friends, whether it was helping to clean up the fire damage and knocking down walls in a dormitory at a Friends’ seminary or assisting in the construction of rural churches (among many other things), it was just such an wonderful experience to be able to show them our love by rolling up our sleeves, getting dirty, and being with them, exercising what I now see as one of the most powerful forms of ministry, the ministry of presence.
-I also have many great memories of playing cards at night with the other members of our team in the lovely guesthouse we stayed in, and getting to know each member of the team, some for the first time and others more deeply. Shopping together in the busy (mostly) open markets of Kitega and Bujumbara was another highlight for me and learning to haggle well was certainly a challenge! We also got to go to a wildlife preserve and see hippos and go to a “zoo” and watch gigantic alligators eat guinea pigs alive! We had a lot of fun together and I praise God for how well we all got along and did ministry together.
Thank you all again for your support and making this possible. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about it all, I would be happy to answer them. I am ultimately reminded that we serve a great God and are active parts of an unshakable Kingdom which has members from all nations! I leave you with these insightful and encouraging words from Francis Frangipan, “Beloved, I say, let your fears go, lest they make you fainthearted. Stop inspiring fear in those around you and now take your stand in faith. God has been good and He will continue to manifest His goodness. Let us approach these days expecting to see the goodness of the Lord manifest. Let us be strong and of good courage, for the Lord will fight for us if we stand in faith.”
With much love and gratitude,