During this afternoon's session, a fellow missionary who'd spent a week in Burundi, Africa, spoke to our group about her time there. She shared about how the country has been ravaged by war over the last several decades. Many of us have heard about the genocide that took place in Rwanda. But what is not commonly known is that the same battles between those two ethnic groups also ravaged the country of Burundi. A entire generation was basically destroyed. On top of that, HIV/AIDS have spread like wildfire through the country, resulting in even more deaths. There is an increasing population of young widows and orphans--most of whom have little or no income. And many of whom resort to prostitution to provide for their families, thereby increasing the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the country. The church desperately needs help in providing alternate means of income for these women and children. They'd like to teach these women skills they can use, like sewing, to earn money for their families. But they need workers. They need financial supporters.
It wasn't long before I found myself unexpectedly broken for the ruined state of the country.
Perhaps a little background history is in order here. My paternal grandparents, Bill & Ruth Cox, were pioneer missionaries with World Gospel Mission to Burundi. When I say "pioneer" missionaries, I mean it just like it sounds. My grandfather was dropped off in the middle of nowhere with basic supplies and a tent. He himself made the bricks needed to then build each of the buildings on their compound. They had no language school to attend to learn Kirundi. No seasoned missionaries to lead and guide them through their initial days on the field. I've heard stories of my grandmother--a very gracious, well-groomed woman--spreading her handkerchief over the dried dung piles the women sat on during her Bible lessons. After a time of making little relational progress with the women, God showed her what the problem was. My meticulously groomed grandmother removed her handkerchief and sat on the dried dung pile like the other women. That simple act bridged the gap between them.
My father was actually born in Burundi. As an adult, he and my mother served a couple years on the field with their one-year-old firstborn: me. I learned Kirundi along with English and embraced the Burundian people as my own. They've often told me that when we came back to the States, I wasn't used to seeing so many white faces. Spotting a black man at either a restaurant or the airport (I don't recall which), I walked right up to him and held my arms out for him to pick me up. Of course I don't remember anything about my time there, as I was only 3 years old when we returned to the States. Strangely enough, even though I grew up hearing stories of Burundi, Kenya, and other parts of Africa, I've never had any desire to visit the country. And I'm the only one in the family who feels this way.
So this afternoon when I heard about how ravaged the country has been over the years, I was surprised at the degree to which my heart ached. Regardless of my personal lack of desire to visit the country, Burundi is part of my family heritage. The language and memories of the people and my time spent there are ingrained in some corner of my brain. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I can feel a bit of the burden my grandparents must've felt for the country and people of Burundi. I know if they were alive today, they would both be broken-hearted by what has taken place there. I am thankful for their 35 years of faithful service. And I pray that God will raise up a new generation of workers and missionaries like them who are called to minister to the precious people of that country.
Please pray with me for the country of Burundi.