Ain’t she sweet! There’s nothing quite as endearing as a newborn baby. A new life to be celebrated. The joy and pride of parents and grandparents. A sign of hope with all the potential of new life. A new baby is a heavenly gift that causes us to wonder at the miracle and beauty of life. This little treasure is the new daughter, Eden, born in January to one of the English professors at HAU. Recently, I was invited, by some of the professors in the English Dept., to make a visit to welcome Eden and congratulate her family. Pleased to be included I was eager to join them but did not realize until arriving what a cultural event it was.
Much like a baby shower in the U.S. it’s a way to give a gift, express community and support and give thanks. A collection is taken up the week before to buy a gift for the family and a crate of cola for the visit (refreshments). A representative from the group buys the gift, usually vegetables, rice and other foods, as well as diapers for the baby. These are all put in a large basket which is carried on the head of one of the women as she enters the house. The basket is taken into another room (usually the kitchen) where it is emptied and a small thank you gift is put back into the basket (something of much smaller, just a gesture of thanks) and the basket is returned upon leaving. The basket is not opened in front of the guests nor is the return basket opened in front of the host.
The visit can last from 3-5 hours with lots of talking, holding the baby, drinking Coke Cola or Fanta. At this particular gathering the new momma had prepared a meal for us of rice, cooked vegetables, meat and french fries. A nice gesture indeed because of the expense of it. I was told usually it is not so elaborate, just the sharing of a drink which the guests bring. After the meal a tray was brought out with sparkling juice and tall stemmed wine glasses. It was opened and shared with stories of how long this couple had waited to have a baby girl (she is the fourth with three older brothers) and how she was given her name “Eden”. I was asked to pray for her and her family. A great honor for me! Then we began to take our leave, especially since there were two other nursing mothers in the group who needed to get home to feed their own babies.
In a country that still has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world the gift of life is precious and sobering. Eden is fortunate to be born into a family in which both parents have education and jobs, that means a better chance statistically for her future. But the realities of disease, poverty, lack of medicines and good consistent medical care, overcrowded schools with no supplies or resources, not to mention the hazards of traffic, put her in the same high risk category of every young Burundian child. We work and pray for a better future for Eden and all the Burundian children, hoping their generation will see a better quality and quantity of life.