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.

Back in Africa

We are back in Africa after being in Canada for the past months.
Despite the Ebola scare we decided to follow through with our plan to return here to Burundi/Congo for 7 weeks.
It may seem foolish to some for anyone to come to Africa with all the news of the epidemic facing the African continent and the world however there is always opportunity for fear as one moves ahead into plans for their lives.
This morning a friend dropped by to say hello and we talked a bit about the fears around Ebola. He shared very wisely concerning it all saying, “we have passed through many hardships but we pray and trust God to show us the way through this time”. Fear can cripple us from doing anything.
When we first came to Africa in 2002 there was still a war happening in Burundi and gunfire was heard daily. Killings occurred continually and we could not leave the city of Bujumbura because of curfews due to the insecurity. Having survived those days, we trust God will lead us as we continue to move on into the purpose for which we are in Africa now.
Power and water are off an on continually here and people say it is worse than ever before. There is always a way to manoeuvre through the frustrations and lack that is obvious. Patience and keeping ones eyes on what is important is necessary. It is however a challenge to keep food items well in a fridge without power!

During our time here we have plans to visit DRCongo, the high plateau area where Emmanuel Centre children’s home is, Ecole Shalom and the new land and the village next to it. While here in Burundi we can often visit New Hope Centre children’s home. It is also a great opportunity to visit friends here we have lived and worked with for many years. They have helped us in many ways to get settled again in the country for this time.
As we spend time here pictures and updates will be put in this blog as internet allows.

Late this afternoon we had a torrential rain storm which is the way of things in rainy season. We arrived back from a visit with friends to some of the apartment flooded! After a couple of hours we are almost finished sweeping water out of the apartment.
Until next post…

Adventure in africa

I was just thinking oIMG_3722f all the amazing experiences we have had since coming to Africa this trip and want to share a few with you.
This is a picture of Pastor Titus from Uganda speaking to a group of pastors in Kigali. Ruben, Ray and I took part in this time and were greatly blessed and challenged. Titus is an African father to hundreds of pastors in many African countries.

Titus was speaking about being a leader and the ways of God in leading congregations.

One statement he made which impacted me amongst many statements was “God gives grace in the little area you have.”  He shared many stores of men who said they had nothing but when asked what they did have they realized they did have something.  One man complained he had nothing but then it was pointed out to him he had some orange trees.  As he was faithful with what he had he ended up with orange groves and trucks eventually came to collect the oranges and now he has a big business. If you are faithful with the little, God gives more.

We were so thrilled to connect with these many African pastors who are poor but desiring to be faithful servants in the areas they have been given.  What a privilege to be with them.

Some funny stories:

One morning I went to use the toilet in the church building we were meeting.  The toilet is a long drop.(you squat over a hole in the floor and splash water over it to send it on it’s way) As I began the process, a big lizard fell on my head and I screamed of course!  When managing to escape from that place with dignity…I noticed some pastors outside the toilet staring at me with  great concern!  Yikes…how embarrassing.

Another not so amusing situation….one morning I came into the kitchen where we are staying and there was an apparent hatch of little ants everywhere, thousands of them crawling all over the sink, wall, and floor!  As I got the spray to try to kill them I found them crawling up my arms and legs!!  What a

mess…something I could definitely do without.

Getting my yellow fever shot!  It is much cheaper here to get the shot and mine was over due.  Our friend Libby had just got hers and informed me where to go etc. You have to go to three different places to get a certificate and then go somewhere else to get it signed. You pay first then proceed to find the right place to get the shot.  We found the place eventually and then had to go to another gate.  Once in the compound of rather delapitated buildings and trying three different places and trying to understand where to go we found the office where I was to have this needle.  Needless to say I was not too sure if I wanted to have  an injection from someone in this place. A man finally called me into a curtained room and I sat on a wooden chair looking at a rather dirty table and a rusty fridge which was housing this liquid that was to be injected into my arm.  A rather dirty stainless steel bowl was filled with cotton balls in some liquid.  It all looked a bit suspicious. The man was very kind however we didn’t understand each other.  He didn’t even speak french so Ray couldn’t communicate with him…I prayed.  I have my shot and am still alive so thanks be to God.

There are so many funny experiences that we have experienced and remind us of the many facets of life in a country much different than Canada.

some more photos
IMG_3746
Boss David’s grandmother and an aunt looking at pictures of some of our Canadian family.

Our trip to Rwanda.

 

The waiting for documents is now over! We can travel across the borders of Burundi, Congo and Rwanda now. The documents that have been the most challenging to get will be good now until 2016!

Tuesday we drove six hours through the hills of Burundi and Rwanda into the city of Kigali the capital of Rwanda. As we left the city of Bujumbura the road winds through high hills that are covered with banana groves, and as we climb higher,tea and coffee plantations. The early morning sun shows off the many shades of green in the valleys and on the hillsides. The coffee bushes along the road are ripe with red and yellow berries. Every so often we can see women picking the berries and the beautiful colours of the fabric they wear just add to this amazing picture.
The road was very busy with hundreds of bicycles carrying sometimes hundreds of pounds of charcoal. They careen down the middle and both sides of the road and we have to try to manage not to hit the children walking along the sides of the road.

Kigali is a very peaceful, orderly and clean city. As we cross the border from Burundi we were amazed. It was a bit of a culture shock.
Our time in the city was full as we attended a gathering of pastors which was very encouraging.
There are plans to work together with some of these men as we move forward in plans for our work in Congo.

We had the privilege of meeting with Boss David’s maternal grandparents, some uncles an aunt and cousins. It was a very special time for Boss David and a real connection especially with his grandfather.

IMG_3737
We realize what a big African family we have become part of.
Friday we are going across into Congo and I will post more pictures of how things are progressing there.
We leave Africa next Wednesday with sadness. After all the challenges we have felt settled into life again here and now we leave again. There is still much to do, people to visit and plans to make.

My own thoughts and struggles.

I must admit, that I have gone from much struggle with lack of personal comforts to finally “feeling” like I can do without some of them!  That is, if everyone else around me is doing without as well!  When we are all in the same boat…it is rather comforting.  We also don’t notice so much the lack of ironed clothes…nicely blow dried hair…even the fact you have had some  rather “sweaty” nights without a fan.

Seriously, I realize I have major control issues…and now…lack of any control in my environment.  The fact I cannot travel with Ray up till now…maybe tomorrow it will be possible???  I have gone from anger, desperation (I am OUT of here) to now hopefully just waiting and resting in the fact everything is out of my control….and unless God decides to help …I will still be waiting for my documents until we leave on our plane for Canada.  Oh wait, there still is yet another document which has to be processed for me to even leave now!  imagine!

This frustration has caused me to really look more closely at what is important and what has been amazing in our time here so far.  One can think in arriving here..”right…let’s just get on with our program.”  God may be saying…your program is only YOURS and not mine!

Building relationships most often happens when we are “stuck”and can’t work out things ourselves…we need others…That is how God has designed His church.  It is in working together we see God…He dwells in the  MIDST of His people.  Whether in Canada or Africa there is no difference..we need each other.

I am amazed at the beauty around us here, the colours, sounds, the contrasts that make one sit up and notice. Listening to Ruben and Mama Beas stories of their lives and watching how people interact with one another is beautiful.

Every evening around 5:30 and 6 people are walking or biking home from their work and the streets are crowded with people stopping to talk.  They shake hands, hug and laugh together.  The smiles on their faces show they love the relating which is constant.  It is if there is always a hunger deeper than food and that is the relationships around them.

We in the west often are looking at our clocks to make sure we are on to the next appointment or meeting.  Here time is not something to be held hostage to but relating with others is the priority.

As we are nearing the end of our time here I am feeling a sadness in leaving.  I always wonder what that is…I love Canada, our family and friends but what is it that I sense here that affects me so deeply?

I leave you now wishing I could send you a huge wave of this heat, the scent of the flowers…mixed with great amounts of dust blowing everywhere.  The early to mid afternoons are quieter as people are taking a rest from the heat but soon it will be busy with many voices, bikes passing and radios blaring.

thanks for reading this.  I do hope you can catch something of our heart for Africa….especially Congo.  There is much that can be done…come and see yourselves!

 This is me…waiting!

 

 

IMG_3431

A Trip into Congo.

Well finally Ray made it across the border into Eastern Congo! Boss and my documents continue to be hung up in some officials office in Burundi. As frustrating as it is we can’t do anything about it.
Ray was encouraged about all the work being done on the new pieces of land near Uvira. There have been delays while sorting out documents for the land and the people who will begin work clearing it but
apparently all that is going well so we can progress further.

Discussing plans.
Discussing plans.

The village right on the border of our land is very poor. We are employing some of the people to clear land and to build a road way into the land from the main road. There will also be opportunity for some of the local population to learn some new methods of planting food crops on one part of the land.IMG_3632
IMG_1443IMG_1435

We are excited to be able to begin laying the foundation for the community training centre. The village people are pleased to have Wazungus (white people) nearby. There is a stream on our land and the village but it is very bad. Already we have people working on getting a proper line into our land and hookup for the village to use. People from the city have been dumping garbage across the road from the village and we have approached officials about sorting that out as well. We want to bless the population in the area we have our land and believe we can make a difference in their lives.

Building with living stones on Godly foundations.

As we contemplate on how we are moving forward it is clear that the vision we have is not something we have thought up but this  was spoken of many years ago by Godly men and women who had a dream from God for their country and their people.

Far be it that we from North America could understand much of the  hardships people in Africa have experienced.  There have been many men and women of faith who have cultivated and sown  seeds of faith throughout history.  We have come along in our ignorance but with love and service to walk and work alongside some wonderful people to see some of their dreams come to fruition.

During this trip to Burundi and Congo we have heard some things that were spoken in the past now coming about.  God’s word never returns to him without accomplishing what it was intended to do.

Fathers and mothers are praying their sons and daughters will walk in freedom in this land and that peace will come.

 

DSC03246

IMG_3407There are half a million Congolese refugees living in neighbouring countries since 2012. We visited one refugee camp in northern Burundi which has 9,000 Congolese living in it. Some children we know have been placed back into this camp while waiting to be “processed” by UNHCR. This waiting process is taking a very long time for many of these people. One lady has been in this camp for ten years! We continue to pray for these ones that they will remain strong and sickness will be far from them.

No power, no water!

Living in the city of Bujumbura the capital city of Burundi has it’s challenges!  It is situated on Lake Tanganika, surrounded by beautiful lush green hills.  There are huge buildings going up all around the city in the hills and down near the lake and new restaurants popping up all over.  One would think all things are well here…however, things are far from well.  The infrastructure is very poor and the care for people who live here  is very bad.  Obviously there are the rich, the ones who have much but the majority of the population is suffering greatly.

Our son Boss said the other day, “I feel so sad that we have lots and all these people looking at us have nothing'”  We were taking food up to the refugee camp for some children we know who recently were moved back there and Boss said, “we should buy up all that is in the shop.” oh if that could only solve the problems!

A woman who used to work for us and help with care for Boss when he was a baby came to see us yesterday.  She had a small business in the city we had helped her establish.  The city officials closed down all these small places and they had to move.  The issue is there is no place to move to and how do they begin again.  They have to pay to set up their business and get no money back when closing them.  Talk about human rights??  You can see all the rich people going about their day and so many more people struggling to exist.  Women with dried up breasts trying to feed babies who are coughing and sick and so thin sit around looking for some help.  How can we possibly help them all???

So…we pray and do what God directs us each day focusing on the vision before us.  Each day there are so many opportunities wherever we are living…to extend love and care as we go along the way before us.

God did say we always have the poor among us and He was an example in how to be among rich and poor.

The water is off here every day.  Power was off four days, came on one night and now is off again.  When we ask someone about it they just say, it is a problem with the power company.  Everyone knows there is never any explanation or solution but we just “wait”.  Eventually maybe something will change.  In the west we have been blessed by having rights, needing answers, having more than we need daily…even in situations of poor people there is always food banks, missions for homeless and on and on.  However here…nothing but trusting God to provide..Help us Lord to trust you and to be grateful for all we have, and to know where and how to give from our supply.

In countries like Burundi and Congo, we can see why there are uprisings from anger and frustration when people are continually oppressed.

Our dear friend Ruben tells us that there is obviously much bad news but we do need to look to what is good news and report that.  It will encourage people and as we speak faith and love God’s way we will see different results.  How true.  So, we look today on what is good, lovely, of good report and we will look to what is beautiful in places where garbage is the most obvious…where poverty is all around.  Even in the midst of garbage flowers still grow.  I am reminded that in our new agriculture project in Congo they are using human and animal waste for fertilizer for the growing of the seeds…that will bring a harvest.  God IS faithful!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

God you do see each person and every situation.

Waiting!

As we wait for Ray’s documents to be processed so we can go into Congo, we spend time with friends catching up with what is happening in their lives. Some of the children are having a break from school so playing games with them and chatting about how they are doing in school and other wise has been good.  I had taken a little book I made for them of memories of New Hope school and they enjoyed looking at their pictures and remembering our times together.

Showing the children the book of pictures of themselves!
Showing the children the book of pictures of themselves!

 

Playing Uno!
Playing Uno!

We are planning a trip up country to a refugee camp on the border of Burundi and Tanzania.  Some of the children from New Hope have been taken there to be processed with some family members by UNHCR.  This is an unusual procedure as in the past the officials came to New Hope or worked from an office in the city of Bujumbura in Burundi. There is concern for their health and welfare as they have been gone since December and no one knows what is happening.  The conditions in these camps are not good.  We are waiting for a letter of permission to go into the camp. There are thousands of people there and we will take sacks of food for a few but of course cannot supply all the need.  It is very overwhelming to face such need and to know we can’t do very much! We have been able to send money ahead into Congo to have the toilet block at Ecole Shalom in Uvira started.  When we have Ray’s documents we can travel into Congo and will see to the school being painted.  We also will be starting the foundation for the community training centre on one of the new pieces of land just outside of Uvira.

Moving Forward

We are now back in Burundi and Congo until the first week in June! It is wonderful being back seeing friends and looking forward to all that is ahead in this time.
As we flew over the lush green hills of Burundi and in the distance Congo, we were amazed at the beauty before us. Even the conflicts over the years haven’t taken away from the possibilities for this land and the people.
When we climbed down the steps of the aircraft onto the tarmac we were confronted by the extreme heat even at 9:30 in the morning!
Our friends who picked us up from the airport reminded us that there are many power and water shortages these days. It is so easy to take these things for granted when in Canada.
As Ray gets his papers in order we will be able to cross the border into Congo. He has met with Ruben and the team we work with and have made plans for our time here. We will be visiting some Congolese children who are in a refugee camp in the north of Burundi this next week. Because it is Easter holiday most things are shut down for celebrations.
We visited our children’s home here in the city and gave them all the gifts brought from people in Canada. They were thrilled and it was wonderful experiencing their excitement. While we await paper work to travel we will spend time with the children and enjoy visits with friends.

 

 

Three of the mamas at New  Hope children's centre and Mary anne.
Three of the mamas at New Hope children’s centre and Mary anne.

 

showing the children how to play sorry.
showing the children how to play sorry.
This is Queen!  She loves her present from Canada.
This is Queen! She loves her present from Canada.