Back to School Reflection
As I enjoy the back-to-school pictures on Facebook, I realize that summer is almost over (Facebook keeps me clued in to US seasons). And I reflect that this has certainly been one of the oddest and most unexpected summers of my life.
It began with a bang in mid-May with a failed coup d’état. Add that to the list of new experiences with which to mark time! (i.e. “Did that happen before or after the coup?”) Within days, 42 North Americans were living at Kibuye escaping from the chaos in Bujumbura. Then, when the coup failed and the borders and airport reopened, mass exodus (for a variety of reasons not all instability related) resulted in a remaining team of 11 people (2 families and me) for the summer. It was eerily quiet at first. The decision of whether to stay or evacuate had been stressful and fraught with many intense conversations with family, friends, and wise counselors. I felt at peace with my decision to stay at Kibuye (and thankfully so did my family), but it took some time to adjust to the new normal of a small team living 2.5 hours from a capital city burdened by conflict. The odd thing was that if you didn’t have internet or other contact with folks in Bujumbura, you would never know that any political instability was taking place. Life continued as normal in rural Kibuye with patients sick with malaria in the rainy season and then with more malnutrition in the dry season. Kids continued to attend school until summer break began in July. Presidential and parliamentary elections even occurred peacefully with no local security concerns. Given that we were short staffed and there were lots of med student education issues to sort out, I stayed busy with both my usual pediatrics job and the added education and interim team leader responsibilities. And we developed a new team rhythm of Wednesday night potluck and games and Saturday night prayer and sermon together. We missed our teammates, but also appreciated the quieter season of team life. Most of us being introverts certainly helped with that. I found more time to read in my hammock. :) We also connected more with Burundian friends, colleagues, and students who expressed appreciation for our presence despite the “troubles.”
As expats we did have access to local and international news sources and were able to follow the situation in Buja intently, so daily conversations in June and July were marked by “if” and “when” clauses. Although the future is always unknown, it seemed even more uncertain this summer. “If we evacuate..,” “We’ll know more when the elections take place,” (Then elections were delayed...again...) “If this weekend is calm...,” “If rebels cross the border...,” “When the Africa union meets...again...,” “If there’s trouble outside Bujumbura...,” “If the rumors prove true...or false...,” “When the election results are announced...,” etc. Our evacuation bags have been packed and ready to go for four months. But they’ve thankfully been able to stay in a corner of the closet as we’ve hunkered down and continued surprisingly normal life at Kibuye. For three and a half months, we only ventured outside Kibuye when absolutely necessary and then only went to Gitega (30 minutes away) for groceries. But finally at the end of July I traveled to Bujumbura and then to Rwanda with one of the families for a missions conference. (My parents tell me it’s ironic to go to Rwanda for vacation: I’ve lived here too long to notice such things!) We thoroughly enjoyed our time away especially swimming in Lake Kivu and socializing with other regional missionaries. And now we’re back at Kibuye busy teaching and organizing schedules for 40 new clueless medical students and realistically still living in a time of uncertainty in Burundi.
As the summer draws to a close and I look forward to welcoming returning teammates and new folks to Kibuye in two weeks, I realize that despite its oddity and day-to-day uncertainty, it has been a good summer. I’ve learned a lot - not just about African politics and how to follow Twitter feed - but about trusting God with the future and living in the moment. The “when,” “if,” and especially “why” questions rarely get answered as I expect, and, actually, the joy in the journey is usually much greater than I anticipate. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow...” (Matthew 6:33-34) Please keep praying with our team that peace and justice will reign in this country and that the Good News (rather than fear and rumors of war) would permeate this place for God’s glory.
Alyssa will be at WECC this Summer - July 31st 2016. Read more about Alyssa here.