There are two teams from Serge working in Burundi; ours in Bujumbura (now just us) and our sister team working about three hours away at Kibuye Hope Hospital. One part of my role here is to assist their team with regards to school as there are many young children on their team and I have an early childhood education degree. It’s always a pleasure to visit them because they are all so much fun and make everyone feel welcome! But I was particularly excited to be able to do it because often the logistics of getting there are difficult along with carving out time from my own teaching at HAU in Buj.
Going into the interior of Burundi from Bujumbura on the lake is often referred to as “upcountry”, operative word being “up” because although the lake is at 2500 feet the rest of the country is mountainous. Once you leave the lake you are always going up, up, up. Kibuye is over 5,000 feet. Bicycles “hitch” a ride whenever they can.
This time I was fortunate enough to get a ride up and back with John (rather than taking a bus which is often how we go). When he stopped briefly to buy some fruit he acquired a few bicyclists but they quickly let go as we left their town.
It is always striking as well that there are so many more people and bikes on the road going to markets, churches or homes. I’m sure they outnumber the amount of cars that pass by in a day.
Although I visited Kibuye just two months ago their continued growth and progress are staggering, especially as so many things in Bujumbura have slowed with the political difficulties since April. Fortunately, that is not the case in Kibuye. They are making the community their home, settling in and putting down roots with houses, relationships, involvement in the primary school, local church and the growth of the hospital and its services. Within the next year the number of missionary children will double, both by new families and younger children reaching school age, so a school house is being built which will free up the little two-room house where they hold school now. This will also provide another house to be used for others to live in. The children are so excited to see their school be built from the ground up!
For three days I had the pleasure of observing the creativity and devotion of the children’s teacher, Shay, and the parent-teachers that add their expertise to round out a full curriculum. These kids not only do the basics of reading, writing, math and science but they also have french and kirundi lessons, art, music and gym. With a wide age range and learning styles it was exciting to see how the curriculums they’ve chosen and the skill of their teachers has fostered an environment that is very conducive to enhancing the children natural curiosities and desire for learning. They really love going to school!
An added bonus was being able to visit Jess’s English class with the primary school teachers who teach at the local primary school and Shay’s English class of middle-school Burundian students. Both groups were very welcoming to me as a visitor and it was a delight to see these teachers in action modeling interactive teaching methods (something not commonly found in the Burundian school system).
Before returning to Bujumbura I was able to spend one day and night with other dear missionary friends who teach at a Free Methodist Bible School close to Kibuye. They were the first to welcome us to Burundi in 2012 when we came for an investigative visit. It was really wonderful to visit one of their English classes and be so warmly greeted.
In all the places I visited I observed so many good things happening–people working together helping one another, children learning and growing with so much life and curiosity in and around them, joy and love abounding even as people face the inevitable obstacles of life. I went to encourage others and found it was I who returned encouraged and energized. Not sure why that still surprises me because it is so often the “beauty and wonder” of service in the Kingdom of God, but I am extremely thankful it is.