What an amazing time together with our Batwa friends! I don’t think any of us (Texan or Batwa) will ever be the same! Claude and I want to let you know that your loved ones and friends are en route to Houston. We said our good-byes this morning at the Bujumbura International Airport (with some tears, many hugs and as many promises to return again). We imagine they are in Nairobi now, awaiting the next connection. But soon they will be with you to tell their story of an amazing week among the Batwa of Burundi!
We’ve been up-country visiting our Batwa friends in their homes…
The Batwa of Mikike were so proud to show us their best home!More celebrating together…Batwa children shared in the dance to welcome us.We were surprised with gifts – handmade pots filled with fruit.Those who went to Matara were also greeted well as the mama’s came down the hill singing and dancing.We exchanged the traditional greeting, Amahoro, which means ‘peace.’When we looked up, we realized the entire village had come down to meet us!Both groups joined up and slept at Matara in grass huts made especially for us. The Batwa lined the floor with soft grass, brought up mattresses and blankets for our night’s stay.Since this was their first night all together in Matara, it was cause for celebration! So they roasted fresh goat and we shared in the party.We sang and danced around the fire… savoring this special night together.
Then we huddled in our huts for the night, as the stars danced above us.
Day FiveLiberate and a few ladies shared morning tea (and tears) together. It was a sweet time of sharing our hearts, speaking about our hopes and savoring God’s presence with us.The families of Matara gave us a gift – a basket filled with fresh eggs. They hope we will put the basket where it will be seen, and be a reminder of our friendship with them.We enjoyed more roasted goat before we had to leave Matara.Some of us returned to Mikike in the morning to help secure tarps over their huts. This was their request, that we help water-proof their homes.Come next rain, this family will have a dry place to sleep.It wasn’t near enough, but it was a start. It was a token of the emerging friendship between our communities.The Batwa were so grateful to Etienne for bringing us and for remembering them amid their hardship. So they hoisted him overhead and offered cheers of gratitude!And of course there was more dancing!We all reunited at the Nikondeha home for more food and more… dancing! This time lead by Burundians playing traditional instruments.
We are all well… and a bit tired… but we are having a great time here in Burundi!
It is hard to capture these two days in words. It was a deep honor to join our friends in Matara. The morning that we arrived, the women and children had just joined the men on the land, seeing their new home for the first time. We were sharing such a sacred day with them – the true beginning of a new season. To share in that celebration with them is an emotion too deep and rich for words. And even as it was their first night together on Matara, they watched over us during the night to ensure our safety. Their care for us was a beautiful demonstration of love.
We have now shared meals together, danced together, played on the beach and swam in Lake Tanganyika together, worked side by side clearing land and water-proofing homes… we are friends. We are part of something amazing that God is doing in Burundi among the Batwa people. Liberate, a Batwa member of Parliament & friend, shared that this time together is historic for her people. She shared that even for herself, she if learning about God’s deep and extravagant love for her, as a Batwa woman. She said it is historic and healing for the Batwa, this time together with us. I think it is also true for us… we are being healed as we walk among the Batwa.
Here are some snapshots from our third day in Bujumbura with the Batwa…
More blessings with our Batwa friends.Teaching friends how to take some pictures… always fun!We played together in Lake Tanganyika.And we played some volleyball together.We arrived to the Student House and the reunion began!The students created a receiving line, so we all greeted one another as we entered their home.Look at that embrace… it says it all!There was such an eagerness to connect… no holding back.There was an open house, so we could see where the students live day in out.The students welcomed us with a traditional dance.We presented a house warming gift of three flags… and the students clapped wildly!The whole gang.New friends…Finally together with her prayed-for student.Another pair of friends.Already donning the new gift… a tie!Between her two student friends, and loving it!
The surprise of the night… bubbles! A first for most of the students.
The highlight of the day was our time at the Student House. We were greeted with a full receiving line so that each of us met every student. They said ‘Amahoro’ as they shook hands and introduced themselves by name. We were given a tour of the home, and were tickled to see Johnie’s picture photocopied and on all the beds in the girls rooms! I think they have a crush on him! We were treated with song and dance once again. Books were presented to the students by Robert Thomas and then Teri Longnecker presented the flags as housewarming gifts. Derek presented the Batwa Committee members with COF shirts and cds. But what we were all really waiting for was time with our student-friend. So finally, after the group photo, everyone paired off with their friend. They took photos together and exchanged gifts. But then there was time just to talk, laugh and share in a way that went beyond words.
A few snapshots from Day Two…We are growing close… touch communicates that truth.The Batwa Blessing is offered… to the Batwa friends!As our caravan of jeeps entered the village of Bubanza, we were greeted by the youngest!The kids were so eager to meet us and shake hands.Glori was in…her glory… surrounded by the Batwa children!Then the women danced with unbridled energy to welcome us.And many gathered around to share in the welcoming.The young Batwa women offered a dance in celebration… with such elegance.
We sat under a tent as over 300 Batwa crowded around… an amazing gathering.And then our friends presented each of us with a gift… a hand-made pot.Isaac received more than a pot… a warm embrace!Derek offered his own acceptance dance… which the Batwa loved, judging from the cheering.
Finally we had to say good-bye…
Day Two was filled with a sweetness that was it’s own. We began the morning in friendship began the day before. But there was a deepening that happened as we arrived in Bubanza. This is where it all began, this community that we promised to remember. The village of over 300 families welcomed us with singing and dancing, but first there were all the children the rushed to offer their greetings. They wanted to shake hands, hold hands, just be close to us. Once the speeches ended… we were surprised with the gift of pots, handmade for us. One at a time we accepted the gift, as the women sang and swayed. Something about the gift given broke us… tears were the only response. Well – then there was Derek’s acceptance dance – it seemed appropriate, too! Another great time together.
Here are some snapshots from day one…Greetings began as soon as the Texans and Batwa saw one another!And singing started just as fast!The Batwa women came dressed in their traditional dress.COF and Batwa friends enjoyed lunch together – there was plenty of laughter around each table.Everyone had a full plate and a full heart.Then came the traditional Burundian drumming on the shore of Lake Tanganyika.They are very athletic and animated drummers!Then we enjoyed the traditional Batwa dance once performed for kings.This young dancer stole the show as he kept step with all the others.The regal Batwa dancer…The Batwa students invited all the COF friends to join them in the dance…Everyone was enjoying the day together on the beach.The sharing of an American game… duck-duck-goose on the sands of Burundi!The elegant Batwa women graced the beach at sunset.And there was more singing after dinner…and more dancing into the evening.
Even as the bonfire waned, friends still savored the time together.
Words, even images, cannot do this day justice. The connection between these two communities seemed to be instant, natural, God-ordained. There was the sound of laughter coming from every table, every conversation and ever corner of the resort. Dancing together on the beach was a moment of absolute abandon! We left the confines of our differences and became one family celebrating together with such joy and energy! We found each other on the beach, amid the dance. God did something beautiful among us. Those connections moved into the night around the dinner table and around the bonfire… and I think we were all a bit surprised by how easy it was to be together. It was amazing to experience God knitting us together. Truly God was walking among us – no, God was dancing among us!
June 1st was an exciting day for Community For Burundi and their Batwa friends… it was the day that the relocation of 30 families began!
The morning began with more than 30 Batwa men on the land of Matara ready to work and begin preparing a place for their families. Claude and the committee members came with the official list of selected families, to ensure that there be order from the beginning. It seemed there were about a dozen extra men present, hoping to squeeze into the newly forming village by offering their hard work or just simply blending in. One was originally scouted out to be part of the initial group, but declined because he did not really believe that this day would come, that the promise of land was true. But he was there… finally seeing what was promised with his eyes. But this was not his day to relocate, as he had declined. This day he was to support others as they moved up the hill to their new home.
Once the 30 men were identified, they all made their way over the river and up the hill to the site of their new village. Most men came with just a plastic grocery bag of things… not much for moving day. But truly, this land is all they now have. So the CFB committee gathered them all on the hillside, inviting them to sit for an inaugural meeting of the village men. There was a long discussion about the expectations for the new community they are building and detailed conversation about the next steps in cultivating their village life. The first real order of business was electing the 5 village leaders, or local government. This is the foundation for village leadership and corporate responsibility for the welfare of this village. These are the 5 men that will work closely with the committee to steer the village in the seasons to come.
While there was a layout for the plots of land for each family, no assignments had been made as to which family would reside on which plot. But there was no struggle orcontention as the men went to set down their belongings and begin working on their new home sites. Everyone was so excited to be inhabiting this rich quality of land, that no one felt the need to fight over site locations. There was just gratitude that they were here and part of this new endeavor!
The men were in for a surprise… unexpected gifts as they began their life in Matara. The CFB committee brought gifts to assist them with their new life here – like a bunch of housewarming gifts! There was a large cooking pot for each family, hoes for their gardens, soap, salt, beans, rice and other tools necessary for a strong beginning. The men were thrilled – they have never been given such a chance, even the very tools for success as they put down their roots here. The spirits were high today!
The CFB team will be coming up to the site daily as the project begins and the building takes shape. There will be a social worker on site to get to know the family and access their needs. There is a local engineer to assist with the construction of homes, roads and such. The committee members will be working alongside the Batwa to both deepen relationships and supervise the formative stages of the community development. And in a few weeks, the women and children will move to the new home, bringing an abundance of energy and life to Matara!
We are on the way…