We loved our time in Burundi and are finally back to write about it... sorry for the lack of blog entries!
Burundi is a lovely, beautiful country with many hills and we are told is even more beautiful and green in the rainy season. As a high percentage of the population are farmers when you drive through the country much of what you see is cultivated and even in the dry season the valleys are cultivated for an additional harvest.
We definitely learnt to relax about schedules as the people are very warm and kind, and always have time to stop to chat. They joked with us 'westerners have the watches but we have the time... and you can keep the watches and we'll keep the time'. We were so well looked after by our very generous hosts.
We stayed in a hotel in town for the first week, and had lovely breakfasts each day during which we spent time studying Romans together and had great discussions there. After that we are stayed with one of the famililes from the church and it was so special to be a part of their lovely home.
We have spent the majority of our time in Burundi at one of the orphanage homes called New Hope, with 50+ children. The children were on the school holidays and so we did lots of activities with them - games, colouring, reading, playing football, music, teaching touch typing and recorder. New Hope was originally started to help refugees from congo. It is run by one of the church pastors, who has an inspiring story of God working in his life after he became an orphan at the age of 4 in the Congo.
There is a lot going on through the NGO (ARM) - Multiple orphanage homes, street children projects, schools, medical centres, 130+ churches + feeding programmes for over 2000s children...and much more. They are present in Burundi, Rwanda, Congo and Senegal.
There is also lots of room for more support - from teachers, doctors, dentists, surgeons, and other helpers....along with the great financial cost of running all these activities. There is some good work being done to make the projects self sustaining, but it will take a bit of investment to get there.
We had the chance to also visit some of this work in Gitega (the second largest town in Burundi) and in Rwanda.
In Gitega we visited the street children's project, pig farm and medical clinic. Street children build friendships with the pastor and then are invited to be part of the project for one year. During this year they live in a home with 20 other kids and have to give up drinking, drugs, smoking etc. Gradually over the year they are reintroduced to their families and then reintegrated back into their communities. We visited at the end of the year just before they were going back home and it was amazing to see the amount of change in these young peoples lives when they were telling us their stories. God seems to be doing so much to help them and heal them.
We also visited some of the different churches they have in the villages near Gitega and towards the end of the month in Rwanda. It was great to see. Ed did quite a lot of speaking in these different churches over the past month as well.
In Rwanda, it feels like a miracle when you see the extent of development that has taken place in the nation in the last 19 years. It has been 19 years since the genocide and its difficult to find words to describe the tragedy, but whilst were walking around the Kigali Memorial Centre, we also felt an overwhelming sense that every moment of life is a gift from God.
When we returned from Rwanda,we had about 3 days left in Burundi, but when it finally came time to say bye bye, it really felt like we were leaving good friends and we were sad to be dropped off at the airport.
Nightmare blogging this from the htc.