To The Mountains
TUESDAY, July 30, 2019
Today we leave the city to ascend the hilly road leading to Matana, the home of the second Homecare ministry center. The road gradually rises above the city, giving great overviews of a sea of tin roofs and the shores of Lake Tangangyika. There is always a hazy film floating above the city, obscuring a clear view of the hills beyond. As we climb, there is a noticeable change in the landscape: open land, clusters of banana trees, open vistas. The higher we go, the cooler the air feels, and as we wind around these hills, deep valleys appear. We travel through a small community filled with people walking everywhere; no cars, a few scooters, but most everyone on foot. It’s apparently market day, and there is quite a crowd. Working our way through this congestion of women and men walking with baskets of produce on their heads, bicycles loaded down with wood and other cargo, we see lush green vegetation. Soon tiers of tea plantations emerge, terraced up the sides of hills, a brilliant fresh green. The temperature has noticeably dropped - we are now upcountry!
After a few adventurous hours’ drive, we arrived in Matana. The first sight is the first Protestant missionary church plant in Burundi, built in 1935, the same church where Peace’s father was pastor and now neighbors the ministry center. Again, songs of praise greet us as we climb out of our vehicles, beautiful songs of thanksgiving, “Welcome!! We have missed you!,” as it is translated for us.
This center has only been operating since last October. This first class is comprised of 20 widows and orphans, led by Peace’s older sister, Jennifer. Jennifer has been a Bible teacher/mentor for women for many years alongside her husband who continues to pastor in the Anglican Church. Sadly, Jennifer has been in the hospital for almost two weeks with an infection, and we are praying that she is released soon and able to return to her Homecare family.
Just as in Bujumbura, we are greeted with enormous smiles, singing and praising God! After the team is introduced, the testimonies begin. There is a vivid sense of gratitude! One orphan shared that she never dreamed there would be a place like this where they would be accepted, taught God’s Word daily, be fed nutritious food (luxury) and learn a sustainable skill. They share their struggles, despair, and hopelessness – sadly, very familiar themes. One shared about their parents losing 10 children in the last genocide, having only 1 survive. Loss of parents, abandonment and abuse from in-law families, lack of opportunity to go to school...these are the harsh realities of life for so many here.
And ALL praise God for seeing them, hearing their cries, and bringing Peace and Hope4Burundi representing, all those who partner together to create this haven where they have come to know Jesus and find new life! Gratitude and praise to God is the overriding theme at both centers; God answered their prayers above and beyond – giving them His Word – the Bible – for their very own! And they are deeply grateful and pray continually for those in the US whose hearts have been touched to support them in this journey with Jesus, praying always that God will bless them greatly, and their families, for caring for those they may never see this side of heaven. You are prayed for! This is proof to them that God sees and acts through His children! They are NOT forgotten or abandoned; they are LOVED!
Always, at both centers, is the expression of disbelief that people from the US would think enough of them to want to come and be with them! To travel so far, to take time away from their families, is incredible to them, but oh, so appreciated. This journey, as with all of the trips here, have been so covered by their prayers. Many in the US wonder if it is “worth it” to take the time and expense to come here; ask these dear ones, and doubts will disappear. Receive the most welcoming hugs; look into the eyes of those whose lives have been forever and now reflect Jesus…it is worth it.
We are staying at the quaint Où Be Ben guest house, nestled in the hills not far from the center. We’ve toured the area, the beautiful old church following our time with the students, and now waiting dinner. Rain clouds have exploded at the moment, beating heavily on the tin roofs, and the electricity is flickering off and on. But we are content, dry, and “soaking” in the countryside. There is beauty in just “being,” listening, sharing hearts…connected as we were created to be. Family.