Burundi Medical Missions - 3 Years Later

I’m happy to be writing you this update from my quiet home in peaceful Kibuye after three weeks of busy but fun travels through 10 airports in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. It’s not easy to get anywhere from Burundi! But it’s worth the travel exhaustion to enjoy a break from the intense work here, to see beautiful and interesting new places, and to be encouraged by new and old friends. Serge has a mission wide conference every 3 years and this year I was invited to participate in both the team leaders’ week (given my intermittent role as an interim Kibuye team leader) and the week with all Serge workers (over 500 people from 5 continents!). Of those 500 participants, 40 of them came from our Serge Kibuye team (above picture) - compared to the 17 people we brought to the conference 3 years ago. And that’s not even our whole team! (Three families were missing due to either support raising in the US or to a new baby just born in Kenya.) Looking forward to our new teammates' arrival in Burundi this fall.

         The conference provided a good opportunity to stop and reflect on these last 3 years. At the 2013 conference, we were still in French language school and hadn’t yet begun our work in Burundi. It was a physically and emotionally exhausting time of transition and chaos with lots of questions as to what our Burundi life would look like. We were relatively new to Serge and I remember feeling unknown and overwhelmed at all the people although I certainly forged some incredible and continuing new friendships in those days. 

       Fast Forward three years. Wow! God has certainly been faithful to our team. I think my primary feeling during this conference was “settled.” We have had our struggles over the last almost three years in Burundi - culture shock, moving twice, innumerable hellos and goodbyes to teammates and friends, cross cultural conflict, dealing with injustice, limited resources, tragic patient outcomes, linguistic challenges, medical school accreditation issues, & learning to live in an unstable country. And yet, I can honestly say that there is no place else I’d rather be. I love my Burundi home and my sweet patients and eager students and fabulous team. I love Serge and our core values of ministering from weakness, the centrality of the gospel, Kingdom-centered prayer, and people-focused ministry. One of my favorite parts of the conference was getting to hear updates and prayer requests from each team and team leader. People have suffered a lot in the last couple years. There were a lot of tears and grief partly related to the unique challenges of this kind of work, partly related to the struggles everyone faces in life. And yet there was a resounding note of hope in each story, a recounting of God’s strength and presence in the midst of pain, a desire to worship, and an encouraging report of God doing amazing things in the lives of people around the world. I came away from the conference thankful for the example and friendship of my Serge colleagues who remind me that suffering is inevitable but that there is also so much reason for joy and hope in this life. I want to continue seeking hope, health, and justice for my patients, students, and teammates and to persevere with grace no matter what. And I hope to attend many more triennial Serge conferences! 

       And now I’m happy to be back in Burundi. Back to my 70 peds patients and 11 medical students and endless emails and interruptions. Back to roosters and red dirt paths and team pizza parties and game nights and French church and Kirundi patient encounters. Very thankful for the volunteer doctors who covered the hospital in our absence. And slowly learning to not be so overwhelmed at these transition times but to trust God to give me the time I need for each task and the grace for each person interrupting those tasks. :) Thanks for your prayers in that! 

Alyssa will be at WECC this Summer - July 31st 2016. Read more about Alyssa here.

MissionsAlyssa Pfister