These Days!

  “These are the days my friends, I wonder how they will end.”

Today I give thanks for life, for family and friends.  I even give thanks for electricity, water, food and a place to call home here in Africa.

I don’t understand why God has given us such blessings when I see so many struggling to even survive.  There is so much I don’t understand.  These days here in Burundi people are loosing their lives fighting for change in the way their country is governed.  People don’t have enough food or jobs and are running away to  countries nearby  fearing for their lives.  Some leave their homes wondering if they will be there if and when they can return.

Each day the men who work for us seem more concerned and sad.  They want to believe there will be better days ahead and a future for their children.  They have hopes and dreams like we do in Canada but the dreams  are continually dashed.

The questions I have these days are many.  What are we able to do being here,? How can we make a difference in the limited way we are able to even move around with the insecurity?  Even though I do know only God can bring change in lives and nations, however here we are trying to deal with this craziness.

There is much happening daily here and it is not clear to us exactly how things are going to play out in the days ahead.  For now we try to keep family and friends informed as best we can.  Every day is different.  Some days it seems as though it is business as usual here.  Other days we hear about grenade attacks and people killed, we see blockades in streets, no gas, shops closed and on and on. Tensions are high as people wait to see what will happen.  As people make decisions to leave the country or stay, we try to support them in whatever they decide.

We still have not been able to get to the children’s home we work with due to the barricades in the streets near the home but are in constant phone contact.  The mamas are with them and a young man who administrates things at the home. They are safe and doing okay despite fear triggered from past traumatic events. There are plans in place if things should escalate and we need to move the children.

Thank you to all who are praying and giving encouragement in these days.  We realise again how important it is to be part of  a community.

Sometimes bad things do happen.

Bad things do happen from time to time and it is important to not become a prisoner of your fears.  How we respond in the bad times makes all the difference in how we continue to survive them.

I have been faced with how I respond to some bad things these days.  My usual tendency is to hide like a turtle inside my shell where I feel safe.  Much can be going on around me but in my little world it seems okay.  Even hearing about the bad is disturbing but hiding does not make them go away.

We often make ourselves prisoners of our fears.  I recognise I have done this.  Yesterday I became aware how different situations can be when I step out of my turtle shell where I feel safe from all the bad stuff and now even maybe some grenades or gunfire, and venture out beyond that zone of fear.

We heard that the road down to some friends place was clear of demonstrators and safe for travel so we drove out of our compound, through one part of the city and visited our friends for a couple of hours laughing and sharing how we are all managing through this very challenging time. It was a very real encouragement to meet together and if we had stayed hidden away fearing what “could” happen we would have missed this wonderful strengthening time.  I can hear some of you saying, “but was that a wise decision?”  Of course checking on the situation was something we did first but if we had stayed in fear we most likely wouldn’t even have checked.

We do need one another in good times and bad.  We were not meant to stay alone hiding.  Fears come in different packages at different times and places.  Whatever the fear is it can be a prison so that we don’t venture out beyond ourselves.  Facing bad times together makes us stronger to deal with what comes.

I am thankful today for all the family and friends who are an encouragement to me.

Uncertain times

As we look over the city of Bujumbura this morning with the lake glistening in the sunlight and birds singing one would  never imagine the level of  tension and fear in the air. 

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The President of Burundi is scheduled to make a speech today letting the population know if he is planning to run for office again or not.  There is much speculation and rumours around as to what could happen after that. In a country which has such a violent history we understand how fear of what could happen is so real.

For us wazungus (white people) we listen to people we trust about the events unfolding, we pray and stand with others in faith and trust God who is Sovereign over all.

Practically we have stocked up on rice, beans and other items incase travelling into the city may be hindered due to demonstrations.

From our home we can hear the sounds of worship and prayer coming from churches across the city.  There is also the sounds of loud speeches and cheers coming from the headquarters of the President’s political party. I am struck with the realisation that history is being made today and whatever the outcome of the President’s speech today a course will be set for the future of Burundi.  There will be a direct impact on all the countries here in the Great Lakes area of Central Africa.

Some people we know have left the country in fear, many have stayed.  It has been a privilege to hear some of the thoughts of people who are not leaving right now.  One can never judge people’s reactions in times like these. We just listen and wait to see what lies ahead in the next days and weeks.

“Lord help us not to react to what we hear or see but rather that we respond to the Holy Spirit.”

Perspective

IMG_5265Several times we have visited the village next to our land in Congo this lady is there carrying heavy loads in a basket on her back.  She is always laughing and engages with me in our limited way.  I am amazed at the joy she emulates in the midst of what I consider a very challenging life.  My perspective of her life with much hardships causes me to feel sorry for her but seeing her each time full of joy makes me very aware I really don’t understand much about life here.IMG_0436 Living in this country is challenging me daily in so many areas.  My western mind set is not helpful.  Often I have decided if things are not comfortable for me they are not good. If things don’t work they must be fixed.  Of course that is true but maybe things don’t always need fixing according to our time frame.  Maybe the process of working it all out is the most important.  Maybe relationships with people should be the priority and not the actual “getting it done.” I have noticed African people are generally more ready to visit with those around than to hurry to do the work at hand.    Someone said “You have to be around people you don’t understand so you can learn something.” “You have to be around people who stretch you.”

I do realise I don’t like to be stretched but I do want to learn and grow.  These days I feel stretched in every direction.  I thought by now I could get along with most people.. It seems there is always a deeper place to go to in life of understanding and loving.  Maybe we never really reach that place in this life time.

We begin another chapter of life here in Africa, continuing to learn and trying  to understand.

A young man from Canada, Connor Clerke has been with us doing photography and video of our work here and will help us with a website.  He has been a great help and we look forward to showing his work in the months ahead. Presently he and Ray are on a 9 hour moto ride up into the High Plateau of Congo visiting our children’s village there.  Roads have washed out and heavy rains continue to play havoc in some areas. I expect them to arrive back Thursday.

Meanwhile here in the city of Bujumbura demonstrations continue to take place as the election is due to take place.  The President has not shared anything yet about whether he will remain in office or step down and that is causing great tension among the population.

I am thankful for friends here who continue to keep me informed of the security situation and are willing to help at any time. Our guard and cook are also keeping track of news and letting me know what is happening day to day.

Life continues to be a great adventure.

Transition

The bravest journey of all begins within. Often our biggest battles are hidden ones. (Michele Perry)

We are now living back here in Africa!

Although the process of moving yet again has been one of peace it is wrapped with many challenges for me and a grieving I am surprised to have encountered.

Perhaps it is a sense of loss leaving our family and friends.The last two years we have lived in Canada while Ray has been involved with a team of leaders in our church helping bring some changes there. I have found it hard to write in this blog while there. I am not sure of all the reasons except it was a time of transition and I couldn’t process it all clearly.

The journey we are on is one of joy and adventure as well as one of much instability for me. I always thought I was a person who could weather a lot of change but am finding that not to be so true. At some levels it has been very difficult. Just because something is right it doesn’t mean it is easy.
Being in Canada for the past two years has been healing and we were able to sort out some things that happened in our past time in Africa. We enjoyed the wonderful conveniences of living there and of course our family and friends. All the while we knew Africa was not finished with us and prayerfully waited to see when we could return. What belongings we have in Canada are in boxes. What we have had here packed away for two years is being re-discovered and dusted off to put in yet another rental home. This home is a gift from God to us as it is good rent plus it has a view of Lake Tanganika and the mountains of Congo. We know it will be a place for many others to enjoy also.
Our journey continues and even though we really don’t know the road ahead we are following the One who does.

Moving our belongings yet again!
Moving our belongings yet again!

FEAR!

These weeks I have come face to face with fear in different situations. It is causing me to think abut what this does and how I react in these times.
Before we left Canada I was confronted by the horrendous news of what is happening incountries where ISIS is slaughtering so many people. Then the news of Ebola. Realizing that the time for us to leave for Africa was soon I became aware of different levels of fear creeping through my mind and emotions. I questioned if we should be going on this trip to Africa or maybe stay back in Canada with Boss. There were many people putting words to the fears I felt.

One morning there was a wee break through in my thinking as I thought about what God had spoken to us about what He still had in Africa for us. Our friend David Freeman once said to us, “always keep speaking about the vision God has given you so it is clear..don’t loose sight of it.” I realized that fear was clouding this vision and the plans yet to be unfolded as we move forward in them. It seemed the wee breakthrough that morning was enough for me to say “yes” again to going ….coming to Africa yet again.
Even after this bit of light I seemed to encounter I got sick. Again fear of what should happen if because I was not well the airport security while nervously testing everyone for the ebola virus should pick up the sign of a fever I may still have and we would be stuck somewhere between one country or another. I realized how much fear of what could happen can shut down life in all ways. Where is it safe to live and what makes it safe?

God is always faithful and I believe that! I am not saying we should be unwise in how we live but I am saying perhaps we can trust in a God who knows all things and loves us.

When we arrived in Africa we were met by good friends who had found a wonderful place for us to stay. Other friends left baked goodies and cards. We felt so received and settled. The strong connection of loving family and friends back in Canada tied it all together for me. Then many things occurred that were of course out of my “control”.
Ray got very sick. Again fear started to creep into my mind and questions like “what if Ray dies here?” I started wondering about so many things.
For over a week this battle went on in my mind as Ray was battling sickness. Only once before had I seen him so sick. He is usually the strong healthy one. I realized I have more often found my security in him rather than God. It was a shock for me to realize how vulnerable I felt.
Soon he recovered for which we were all thankful. Then…Ray was out for a run and some guys attacked him and ripped off his watch and tried to take his wedding ring off his finger. He didn’t fight back but just protected himself and held them off as he knew if he got too aggressive they could get more violent. Finally some men on bicycles came by and the guys took off. Ray was cut up, bleeding and with a twisted ankle made his way back home badly shaken up. His ring finger was swollen so badly he couldn’t remove his ring and the cuts on his legs were pretty bad. He was to leave for the high plateau in Congo that morning and I wondered if he could do this. I also wondered if I could handle him being away for a few days not having any way to communicate with him. I wondered if I could drive in the city again with all the crazy traffic and find my way to buy any food items I needed. I wondered if I could manage without my strong capable husband. Again I saw how much I was depending on Ray. I fought fear of rebels attacking the vehicle as they travelled up the mountains. There were many dark clouds of fear trying to descend over my mind. I was so thankful for the prayers and communications from people back home and the friends here that were a support but most of all I am thankful that I found a way to press into the One who is always available, always ready to show the way through the challenges.
Ray arrived back a day later than planned due to some challenging events on the journey. Again I had no communication so when he was not back the day planned I had no way of knowing what was happening until he finally got a warbled phone call through very late the night he was to have been back into Burundi. The border crossing closes at 6pm and this was 9pm. I had those hours to wait and again deal with so many fears. The next day he did not arrive back until after lunch time. He was full of enthusiasm about the trip and all that happened. It was a dangerous but profitable time and also an encouragement to all the children and people in the area we work with in the high plateau. I could see that despite all the challenges it was a trip God had been covering and ground was taken both physically and spiritually.
It seems every day there are new opportunities to trust God and to not allow fear to take over. Yesterday another opportunity presented itself to me. I am beginning to feel like I am on a big learning curve for which I hope I learn from. Ray dropped me somewhere and was coming back to get me in a few hours. I had no phone, no phone number to reach anyone if need be. He was delayed for several more hours than we had planned. All this was out of his control. Fear started to take over in my mind again and I quietly became irrational in my thinking…imagining all manner of things that happened to him and really was in quite a state. Finally one of the people where I was had a number he called of someone who could get hold of Ray. He was on his way to get me! What a relief to know I had connected with someone who knew what was going on.
I do hope that I will “get it” one of these days…get it in knowing I have access to the One who knows what is going on and will give peace as I learn to trust Him. I think I can say I am thankful for these life lessons laid out before me. My controlling ways are not able to hold anything together and do not bring peace.
An African pastor speaking last Sunday was saying he was thankful for the governments in Africa because they cause us to have to look to God. When things around us do not work, when life is out of our control, when our rights are overlooked there is One we can go to who is always available and holds all things together.

Here are a few pictures of the people in the high plateau we work with. It was great seeing how much the children and people there were encouraged and also the encouragement they gave to the team who visited them. There is lots of good things happening up there.

Lake Kitobo half way up the mountains.  It is full of Tilapia fish...tasty.
Lake Kitobo half way up the mountains. It is full of Tilapia fish…tasty.
children in the school that is almost finished.  they are happy to have a new school.
children in the school that is almost finished. they are
happy to have a new school.
a gift from friends in Vernon for grade one class.
a gift from friends in Vernon for grade one class.
women waiting for their maize to be ground.
women waiting for their maize to be ground.

My life has re-arranged itself between two countries!

Somehow my life has re-arranged itself between two countries and I am still trying to figure it out!
Why do we always think we need to do that? I mean why try to “figure” it all out? Perhaps the adventure and wonder of it all should be enough?
This morning I am hearing a beautiful haunting pan flute music wafting through the air mixed with hundreds of various bird songs. It is as if new music is created constantly if you listen carefully to what is around.

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The sky has a beautiful orange glow just before it peeks over the hills surrounding the city.
There is just a very short time while this happens and then…everything is awake. Roosters crowing, people going to work, bicycles, cars, horns honking, workers sweeping the compounds and washing cars. It is time to get on with the day.
Soon a man will appear at our door asking (in Kirundi) if he can come and wash the floors and clean. I often feel overwhelmed having others work for us, knowing it is often not done the way I would like. I want to re-do almost everything that the workers have done.
Our land lady would be embarrassed if the men who work for her did not do the work so I do have to be careful to comply.
We were planning to travel to Congo today however Ray got sick and is not able to do much of anything. He is very weak. The tests taken show he has amoebas (amoebic dysentery). He is never sick so this is a challenging time for him to say the least. Needless to say our plans for the next couple of weeks have changed dramatically. We are thankful for a Dr. who seems helpful and friends who are supporting and praying.

We make our plans but God does direct. Waiting yet again, we listen and trust we can hear how to proceed with what we have felt to do.
Thank you to all of you who continue to be interested in the work we have given ourselves to here in Burundi/Congo. When we are weak we do see God’s faithfulness revealed in many ways.

Back in Congo.

photo copyRay made a trip into Congo this past week with the team we work with to plan and see what has been accomplished since we were last here. He was very encouraged by the work done and how much progress is being made.
At Ecole Shalom the renovations are almost completed. A new toilet block, classrooms painted, new windows added and the compound cleaned up with the garbage bins being used instead of garbage dropped all around. Ray says there is a good atmosphere in the school. There are over 900 students attending the school now. Primary attend in mornings and Secondary students in the afternoons.
At the new land the people who have previously planted on the land are now harvesting the crops. The foundation for the community training centre will be able to go ahead once all the harvesting is completed.
There has been a generous donation from friends to provide clean water at the new land and also provide for the neighbouring village.
Security still poses a challenge for travelling up to the high plateau but by next week we should know more about the possibility for a trip.
Life in DRCongo is still not fully stable but as it possible we continue to proceed with all that can be done at this time.

 friends and food in Congo
friends and food in Congo

On the table is sombe, a green dish made with cassava leaves which are pounded for quite a while and then cooked with many different things added. There is bugali, the white dumpling cooked with maize or cassava flour. Fish and chicken with pilli pilli sauce (hot sauce) is also being served.

Vitalo, a very sweet drink popular in Congo.  It is rather like sweet coloured water.
Vitalo, a very sweet drink popular in Congo. It is rather like sweet coloured water.

Our visit with children at New Hope children’s centre.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe visited New Hope Children’s home this afternoon and had a wonderful time seeing them all again. They were very excited receiving the gifts we brought from Canada for them. The games were a big hit. The older ones took over the connect four games and we helped them with how to play some of the other ones. They have a week off school now so the new games and books etc. will be helpful to keep them busy. We are planning to have lots of time with them this next week. Thank you to all who gave gifts!

A story from our flight to Nairobi Kenya

I sat beside a woman on the flight from London to Nairobi Kenya.  I noticed she was wearing a sari and seemed very weak. She had a bible on her lap wrapped in cloth and several times she would wake up from sleeping and read it.  I didn’t know what language it was in but it was not English.  Several hours later she spoke to me asking help filling in her landing card for Nairobi.   I tried to help her and in the course of our conversation found she was a christian and that she had been having treatment in the U.K.for fourth stage cancer.  She had been there for three years.  We talked about Jesus and how she felt He was helping to heal her.  Her husband is Sikh as she was.  For three years she read her bible, wasn’t able to go out from the place she was staying.  I asked her how she came to know Jesus and she said while she would be praying to the gods of the Sikh religion she would see a light and someone she thought may be Jesus.  He revealed himself to her during those times.  She asked her daughter who was a christian about what she saw and thought. Her daughter gave her a bible.

She told me that she is not in a church yet because  of her illness but she knows she must get baptized now and while in Kenya with her children she will do so. Her husband does not believe in the Jesus of christians she told me but she is believing he will come to know Him.  She said many from the Sikh religion were coming to know Jesus and that the Sikh followers were not happy about that and some very angry.

It was an amazing time listening to her and seeing the light in her face as she talked about Jesus.  I asked if I could pray with her for healing and as she took my hand I felt such a presence about her.  She cried and said she had asked Jesus if he could bring someone to sit beside her to help her with the language and signing cards etc.  What an encouragement to me that there is much going on beyond the circle of what I know.

She asked me if I know all the words of the Bible….of course I don’t but she said she has for three years read and meditated on Jesus words and is learning them so she can memorize them in her heart.  Imagine!  I felt like I held my breath listening to her  watching her face as she hugged her bible to her heart treating it like a very special gift.  I encountered  something in that time I will never forget.