Daring to make a Difference

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls, to arrive at it’s destination full of Hope.”

Maya Angelou

Recently I had the privilege of being at a beach resort that had a great small adult pool far away from the large crowds of people.

One morning as I was settling in to read, swim and have quiet times I became aware of several women approaching wearing muslim attire. They then proceeded into the pool giggling and enjoying the water.

Even though I have lived 17 years in Africa I haven’t encountered many people from the Muslim faith and not in a pool.

Soon there were five women in the pool. I was surprised at my reaction which was not very gracious. This encounter was forcing me to check out my attitude. These people were here on a holiday as I was, had the right to the pool as I did, so why did I feel I should be more privileged?

My head was full of many thoughts and I became more and more frustrated as time went on when the husbands joined the ladies. They all were enjoying each other and all wearing “clothes”!

If that wasn’t enough, soon a young beautiful lady appeared in a VERY skimpy bikini! The women and men in the pool were obviously trying to divert their gaze from her but she didn’t seem to mind the awkwardness. She was comfortable with her body and the others in the pool who were definitly different from her.

I was wrestling with all this and finally decided I might as well laugh because it was so strange it was funny.

Soon an African lady came to the pool and even though there was many chairs she decided to plunk down right beside me…chairs even touching! I was getting more and more upset as “My space” was invaded big time.

If that wasn’t enough, soon twelve young college students came into the pool laughing and having fun. I thought there couldn’t be much more room in the water for more!

All this was a great picture to me of how our world is. So many people groups in a pool together. What will we do with that? How will I respond to people as I am faced with so many differences. I definitely didn’t pass the test that day but did come to a realization that God’s love and grace will be the only way to face things that come when we have no control over them.

By the way, I got to know one Muslim couple from Somalia. They are newly married and appeared to be very much in love. The lady with the skimpy bikini is a teacher and a very sweet person who seemed to care deeply for people. The college students were very interesting to talk to. They are doing research on environmental issues in Africa and the lady who plopped down so close to me had a great sense of humour.

I did learn a few things that were more important than a quiet time at a pool. God often gives us encounters that suprise us, frustrates us and shows us what is in our hearts. I know I need to learn to live outside my comfort boat, trusting God for courage and more of His love.

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What do I see

This women saw maize kernels on the ground spilled from sacks of maize. She saw this was food to be gathered maybe for one or two meals. I saw a poor woman picking up small bits of food off the ground and felt sad for her. She saw there was hope for some food, no matter where it was found. Looking through lenses of the possible instead of impossibilities we find a different outcome.

Our friend Ruben often said, “don’t always talk about all the bad things happening. (and he experienced much that was bad) There is lots of bad news but there is lots of good. We need to share good news. That is what helps us to be encouraged and have faith and hope for the future.”

It is good to be aware of what is happening around us but our opinions don’t change anything. Prayer does.

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Cassava

A basket full

This dear lady has walked a long distance to sell her cassava at the market. It is called Umwumbati in Kirundi. In Swahili it is Mihogo.

The cassava plant is a small bush. People use the leaves of the plant, pounding them and cooking them sometimes adding small dried fish called ndagala to the mixture. This dish of boiled cassava leaves is called Sombe in Eastern Congo

The tubers are what the flour is made from. This gluten free flour made from cassava is also called tapioca flour. Raw cassava tubers are poisonous. People grind it and cook it well using it in a variety of ways. Our cook says he sometimes adds the ground cassava to the cooked beans to thicken the sauce.

Bugali, a dumpling type food is a popular part of most meals for most people in Africa. It is made either from Cassava or Maize.

After rice, maize cassava is the third largest source of carbohydrates in the tropics.

Unfortunately these women who have harvested this food do not receive much money for their very hard work. The challenges they face daily are many. I find it a privilege to meet some of them and inspite of these challenges they have ready smiles.

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What are you building?

it takes patience and courage

Encourage one another and build one another up.”

NAJENGA Congo is all about an attitude of building hope by serving people in this region of Africa.

Recently when the well was drilled on our Najenga land, there was a huge expression of hope among the villages around our land. For the first time ever in their lives, accessible water will be a reality for them. Not just water, but clean water that won’t make them sick. It presents a hope that young children and vulnerable adults will be free from the diseases that have come from bad water.

We can see the difference in the lives of children and adults when they have hope.

Education, in a variety of ways, provides hope and a future for people. There are many testimonies of young people we have been able to help get an education because of generous people who have given to make this possible.

I will share with you more of the progress that is happening in Najenga and other projects in subsequence posts.

  Thank you for reading.



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Lemon trees and Perspective

There are many jobs always needing to be done inside and outside of our home here in Bujumbura.  One of these recent jobs has been to cut back the branches of our lemon trees. The huge amount of lovely green lemons we used to have now are huge amounts of sick ones.  There was a need to do something quite drastic.  Today, Ray and Gabrielle, Jean Pierre and Boss began the job of cutting branches.

I was up on the porch farther from the trees, therefore had a different view of what was happening. At one point the tree began to look lopsided with more branches taken off one side than the other.  I shared my perspective about how the tree was looking but until the men stepped back and looked from farther away from the tree did they understand what I meant.

Well, the trees got taken care of somewhat.  Perhaps the trees will again yield some good lemons.  This experience has given me some thought about how much I continue to look at life from”close up” and don’t often “step back” to look from another perspective.

Lately, I have thought about all that has taken place in the years we have lived here in this region of Africa.  Sometimes I have felt there hasn’t been much progress and it takes so much time to get anything accomplished.  Then I am reminded that our years here are all about peoples lives  and relationships, not just a project to be built and done with.

Children have been rescued from ongoing violence, been able to go to school, graduated, and are being healed from physical and emotional trauma.  Even though many have been displaced more than once from dangerous situations there is a resilience in their lives that is amazing

We miss seeing the New Hope children as frequently as we could when they lived here in Burundi but they are well cared for and every few months we can make a trip to Rwanda to visit them.

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This is a grade one class of children from Emmanuel Centre children’s home in the high plateau region of E.Congo.  When these children graduate from primary school some move down to the city of Uvira to live with people who they can stay with to finish their secondary school.  There have been many children we have seen helped to finish school and now there are some entering college and going on to further education.

Thank you to all who have supported these children who would not have accomplished this without your help.

When I reflect on how much has been accomplished in children’s lives these years it changes how I see the future.  If we only see the close up challenges it is hard to see in faith for the future.

Recently I watched a short video on YouTube of an African professor from Ghana speaking.  It is a powerful perspective of how he sees the  future of Africa.  It is called “I see a new Africa…do you see it?”  (a well worth few minutes of your time)  I was encouraged to see the future on this continent differently.

Without vision we all live without hope.

Sir Francis Drake 1577 prayed…..Lord I ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes, and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.

for now,  Mary Anne

 

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Back in Africa

It is 2am here in Burundi and jet lag plus a sore throat and a cold keep me up drinking hot lemon and honey.  My thoughts go to our time in Canada with family and friends, conversations we had and the memories that were made. I treasure each one.

Spending time with our family was a joy.  Over the years we have missed many celebrations with them but I am thankful that this summer there were several opportunities to be together.

I see how strategic our time was in Canada, travelling from place to place endeavouring to be an encouragement and receiving encouragement which came in abundance.  I, we, are part of a big family connected across the world.

This summer, Barney Coombs, a dear man who was a father to us passed into glory.  It was a time of much emotion but also thankfulness for his life and all he gave to us and many others, in faith, wisdom and love. He has left an amazing legacy.

During the time in Canada, a couple of our friends began a battle against cancer.  It is sobering and causes me to meditate on what is important in this earth life and that I am part of an eternal family.

This is from a book by Priscilla Shirer called God is Able

“We are living right this minute on a tiny dot of time within a vast sea of God moments.  The ripple effect of today’s prayer, today’s faith, today’s now, spirals out in all directions for all eternity, bumping somewhere here, affecting something there, all under God’s watchful eyes and wisdom.  Each time we turn to Him, each time we trust, each time we bring our all to the surpassing greatness of His all, we find ourselves instantly connected to every future time zone where His ability lives. We link up across generations where He is already working, present tense, to make His glory known.”

So here I am again in Africa trying to unpack and sort out “stuff” from suitcases and thinking about what is ahead for this next season here.  Transitions are challenging for me and I ask God to help me live in His grace and love, patient and with faith.  One thing Barney, our friend who went on to be with the Lord this summer always said to me was, “don’t react to situations but respond to the Holy Spirit.”  Yes, good advice…… He also would say “if what you say or write is not by faith, in faith, don’t say anything.”  This also is good advice.  Thank you, Barney.

Til next time, Mary Anne

 

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Here,There and Everywhere

These days it is challenging to keep my thoughts and heart responses positive.  News comes from here….there….and everywhere full on with emotional wrenching force.    Hurricanes, floods, fires, terrorist attacks in Europe and North America and  in this region of Africa where we live and many areas of the world  people are living in extreme hunger, poverty and war.

This past week we visited a little village in Congo where we spend time with dear little children with ready smiles, tummies showing through rags and partial coverings on their little dirty bodies.  Hugs and a little bon bon just doesn’t seem like much for such deep needs in their lives.  I wonder how they can show such resilience in the face of more than difficult situations.

These children and the village they are from just survived a few days where rebel militia came through their land with declarations of war.  I can’t imagine the fear they felt hiding in their  little mud huts for hours, and yet they continue to play and laugh seemingly oblivious or at least able to “get on’ with their simple life in a way that I can not understand.

Many people we know have fled in fear from this region where injustice and  war continually hangs heavy over daily life.

I was recently going through some books I wanted to give to some children who we relocated to another country because it is dangerous for their tribe to be here.  So many people have fled leaving all their belongings behind, not knowing where they will live or what they will do.  We know they will never come back to this country because it is not safe   for them here.  This reality continually impacts me deeply.


My way of dealing with the suffering and great pain around is often to close my heart off to protect myself from it all but I am again reminded not to do that but to keep pouring love out to those around.

Matthew 10 in The Bible says “If you forget abut yourself (and how you feel) and look to Me, you find both yourself and Me.” Christ attitude about hearts was to pour them out not to try to protect them. 
(from an article by Ann VosKamp)

Amazing thing happens when my heart is open, I see so much beauty even in the midst of great sadness. God’s creation is beautiful.

 

The Lord is the one who will bring to pass all His will. Is.46:11 “What I have said, that will I bring about;what I have planned, that will I do.” He has a plan and even though I don’t understand it, He will bring it about in His time.

Trusting in God and His sovereignty and faithfulness is where I can find peace.

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Comfort Zones

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This is Ornella at 5years old, badly malnourished and couldn’t walk.

When we met this dear little girl I was struggling with deep emotion seeing her state.  It is not comfortable to witness children in this and often much worse health.

After so many years living here I still find I have to step over the areas where I want to be comfortable, where life looks nice, smells nice and everyone is okay.  However, of course it is not like this in life no matter where one lives.

IMG_3113Here is Ornella now, thriving as she is being loved and cared for through the team The Cries of a Child in Burundi.  It is a joy to see how she is growing and developing.

It is amazing that when we dare to say “yes” to step out of the areas of comfort we settle in, we witness miracles in our own lives and others.  As hard as it was to hold Ornella without falling apart with emotion of the injustice towards children like her, I am thankful to have seen the process of God’s love and restoration in her life.

Recently I travelled upcountry on my own  endeavouring to respond to God’s nudges to not succumb any longer to my “settledness” in the comfort nest I had made.  I left Boss and Ray behind in Bujumbura which is a city, to visit and spend time in villages and a community that has great need.

Sometimes your one brave  yes is how God destroys a tangling net of nos.~(Ann VosKamp)

I love spending time walking through the dusty streets lined with people carrying all manner of things on their heads, sometimes there was a  pig or two walking along, cows, bicycles, motor bikes and I tried to speak to the people as best I could but without much of the language skills it was interesting.

Visiting a very poor home with a mother of six, helping her prepare beans for drying, holding one of her little ones who was very sick with malaria and sticking happy stickers on heads of many dirty sweet children was a special time…sad to me but special in the sense I received some thing from them I won’t forget.  In the midst of much poverty this Mama Eve was full of grace and pride in her family.  She was very tired but took time to smile and talk with us as we sat on the ground and worked with her a bit.

Her husband helped me especially to manage the slippery mud path through trees down to the road.

Their house is mud bricks with gaps between the bricks.  They have a dirty straw mat on a mud floor where they all sleep and rainy season is here! Mosquitoes that carry malaria are thriving in that situation.  The children walk a long way down a hill to get water from a river which is far from clean.

All these situations seem unsurmountable for me but I came away from that time realizing how much more I saw God in that time than I do sitting in my comfortable place in the city with water and food each day.  Of course I am very thankful for comfort but I do believe that when we step out of the boxes we have built, our hearts wake up. Jesus is calling us out of our comfort boats to do something unthinkable, something that is possible only with His power.

It’s like God looks at us and says “I wanted to go crazy through you. I wanted to change your neighbourhoods, your city…and you just keep going to your room to watch net flix.” (from book Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen)

I am deeply challenged to continue to allow God to work in and through my life wherever I am.  Age or health is no excuse to settle back and withdraw from the exciting journey we are on.  After all it is not about us or how strong we are.  It is in our weakness He works.IMG_3122IMG_3135

“worm” pills distributed to the children in a village where I was. They ate them like candy and we pray this medicine will help their health.

I believe God is wanting to pour out of us and pour into the world.

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Setting another goal, dreaming another dream.

 

I ask myself, “why is it so challenging to put words on paper that express my thoughts?” I suppose there are many reasons but every time I go to share some things here I have found I am stuck somewhere between what I am thinking, my emotions and the way of expressing those things.  Any way, here I go with this post and hopefully even a little of it makes some kind of sense or at least gives something fresh and encouraging to those who may read it.

These days as one watches news or even listens to peoples interpretation of news events it is very easy to fall into a kind of despair.  There seems no way of really knowing if what we think is happening really is, or even what is the true account. It is the same in this country as it is in North America.  It is easy to get angry and I realize the state of my own heart needs attention.

I am trying to help my geraniums grow and often find the roots are not healthy from too much or a lack of water or some disease.  As it is with our hearts…our roots have to be healthy so we can grow.  It’s amazing to look at creation and all the ways we can learn from it.  God provides.

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I have decided to try to keep my focus on that which is bright and beautiful no matter where it comes from.  If one looks hard enough there is always something to be thankful for and something to be inspired by. It takes a fresh perspective daily.  I am not by any stretch saying I am good at this but just endeavouring to try.  When I do it is clear that the world has a different look to it and people are not so hard to live with….myself included.

As I look forward to this next season it is clear there are new opportunities to take advantage of and to keep creating in whatever way, to keep dreaming and moving forward no matter how slowly.  Someone said “your speed doesn’t matter, forward is forward.”

There are moments which mark your life.  Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts, before this and after this.  ~~ author unknown.

for now….Mary Anne

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What does hope look like?

img_9511This is Neema.   She lives with her mother in Rutemba village which is next to the land in DRCongo where we are building a training centre.

She is eight years old and cares for her little brother on her back all day while her mother cultivates land nearby.  There are around 100 children from babies to ages 12 in the village.  Each time we visit the land the elders ask if we would build a school. Although people in the village have nothing but a mud hut and dirt floor they have not asked for money or food…just a school. The nearest school is too far away for them to walk each day. Education is the hope for future generations.  The people here believe that.  No matter where we go in the world, most parents want something better for their children. Education is an amazing tool for transformation in communities and countries.  It is the possibility of a new way of thinking.

Our vision is to begin with an early years school for the village, facilitate training for teachers, pastors, families, and business leaders in the centre being built on the land.

The roof is going on the first building of the training centre.

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   HOPE is a verb with it’s sleeves rolled up ~~~ David Orr

We are thankful for friends who have been raising funds for a well that will provide clean water for the population around the centre. This will enable training in hygiene and better health care.

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When we see children, we see hope for this country.

There is severe malnutrition in certain areas of Burundi and Congo in these days and ongoing political strife. Although there are many daily difficult challenges, we are moving forward believing and trusting God in the changes we are able to help create.

We ask God to increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak and raise it up when it is overthrown.  ~~John Calvin

We welcome any who read this to become part of the building and transforming communities in DRCongo.     our website is http://www.najengacongo.com  Giving on our website will be receipted.

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