This was our first Christmas in Kibuye, Burundi. It was simple, yet full. We started a new tradition, inspired by a friend, in which we spent our Christmas Eve dressed as shepherds, eating shepherds pie, and enjoying the beautiful African star-filled sky. Logan read the Christmas story and we imagined we were just like the shepherds who were the first ones to receive the news that the Christ child was born.
We had pre-packed a few Christmas presents on the shipping container for the boys to open – including two bicycles! But I think their favorite present was from one of their new friends who gave them Sally the chameleon.
We also had some ministry opportunities in our community. The Wednesday before Christmas I had the opportunity to speak at morning chapel for the medical students, nursing students, and other hospital staff. I spoke about the glorious light that surrounded the angels bringing the good news to the shepherds and the star that lead the Magi to Jesus. I reminded them that the Bible calls us to be a light to the world (Matthew 5:14-16). Not to be perfect, just to shine the light that leads people to Jesus.
I spoke in French just from an outline, which is different from other times where I have had a pre-written and memorized talk prepared. I praise God my language skills are improving and hope to continue to have opportunities to speak again.
The Kibuye Christmas church service is always a big deal, but especially if Christmas falls on a Sunday like it did this year. Several groups – children and adults – form choirs and rehearse for weeks the songs they will sing, complete with typical African movement. The church asks that the Bazungu (white people) also join in and do a performance.
So, I arranged a small Christmas Pageant to present to the church. Every part was played by one of the children on our team while the adults provided the chorale. With no Hobby Lobby or Walmart to help us with costumes or props, we had to get creative!
Our dancing angels wore their daddy’s white tee-shirt and wings made from cereal boxes and toilet paper. The star of Bethlehem was propped up on a local bamboo stick. Our 12-year-old narrator told the story in French while our language teacher translated into Kirundi.
We sang three songs throughout the play in English, French and Kirundi. Liam played Joseph and Zeke was one of the Magi along with his two kindergarten buddies. The kids did a great job and the Burundians loved it!
Christmas afternoon a group of us caroled at the hospital and gave out small gifts like soap, blankets, baby hats and dolls and toy cars for the children. This activity was surprisingly arresting for me. I do not spend much, if any, time in the wards. Crowding in between beds filled with many times more than one patient per bed. Children with severe malnutrition, babies born before their due date, emaciated men with callused and dirty feet, women recovering from surgery… the list goes on and on. I found it hard to breathe and difficult to hold back tears. We shook their hands and said “Noeli Nziza” (Merry Christmas) many times.
The kids enjoyed handing out gifts and the patients loved seeing the children. Zeke especially drew some attention with his cute yellow curls and readiness to sing. One mama came and just scooped him up into her arms!
After the boys and I returned home from the hospital I burst into tears and just cried out to God until I fell asleep. Why is there so much pain, hunger and hurting? What can we do? I felt so helpless. We all want suffering to end, but all the hurting in this broken world will not be completely healed until Jesus Christ returns. But in the mean time, He has gifted each of us differently to do our part to love his people all over the world. There is always something we can do to show people His love.
It’s truly amazing to see what God is doing through these Serge doctors here at Kibuye Hope Hospital. After one surgery the blind are seeing. Babies who normally would have died are saved by a c-section delivery. Malnourished children are being fed. Bones are being reset so that men may walk and work again. We are literally witnessing the blind being made to see, the lame made to walk.
Please pray for our doctors here who are face to face with the extremely poor, sick and dying all day everyday. Pray for the work they are doing for these patients. Pray that their efforts would be multiplied in the years to come through the students they are teaching. And pray that we would not carry the burden to try and fix every problem that we would all simply would be a Light in the darkness – leading those we come in contact with to Jesus.
We hope this update finds you well and enjoying the holiday season!
We are so thankful for family and friends who have sent some of our first care packages here to Burundi. Many people have asked for our address. If you would like to send a package (or a Christmas card – we would love to hear from you!) here is our address:
Dr. Logan BANKS
c/o Hôpital Espoir de Kibuye
B.P. 73, Gitega
Boxes may be stopped in Bujumbura (3 hours away) and steep tariffs at times have to be paid, but the large bubble mailers generally seem to make it all the way to Kibuye. I wish we could share some pictures with you. I have been trying for days to add some to this update and the internet is just too slow right now. Please pray for our internet to improve and for us to have patience as we deal with the situation. I'll try to upload more to Instagram and Facebook, that seems to work a little better.
"Jewe ndagenda ku'bitaro kuvura abagwayi." We have been intensely studying Kirundi for the past couple months, and while we are no where near fluent, it is encouraging to be able to have small conversations with some of our neighbors. They are quick to laugh when we speak, but they are very gracious and also help us improve our grammar or pronunciation. I have been told that it is also encouraging to them that we care enough to learn their language, which is why we are taking the time to do it. Pray that as we slow down our study time, what we have learned will stick, and that we will find time to continue to work on improving our Kirundi.
We are doing well as a family, we have settled into the rhythm of life here. Logan has started transitioning more into hospital work and teaching, and will be active full-time by the end of the month. We recently said goodbye to a group of medical students, and there is also a new group of students that have just started. They have been to Kibuye before but this is the first time Logan has gotten to work with them. Please pray he will get to know them quickly, be able to teach them well, and also be a spiritual encouragement to them.
This season, we are learning a lot about appreciating things we often take for granted – for example, power and water. Water is pumped out of a spring up to the top of the hill to a large tank. If the power is out, or if the water table is low, there may be no water. In fact, we have been on “water-conservation measures” ever since we arrived, which means intermittent (and quick) showers, no wasting water, judicious flushing (yes it comes to that!) in an effort to conserve every bit of water that we have.
We recently went through a 4-day stretch with no running water after the water pump broke! This was a difficult time, but I believe ultimately it was a blessing. We were able to more fully understand how our Burundian neighbors live day to day, and through it all we had “enough” – maybe not as much as we would have liked, but enough. God brought several good rainstorms during this time and we were able to collect water outside in large buckets.
Christmas came early to Kibuye!
When we packed our things in crates and put them in a container in Texas in the Spring of 2015 we were hopeful, but prepared that if something happened we might not see any of that stuff again. That was a year and a half ago! Although it took a while, we were finally able to get into the boxes recently, and it felt like an early Christmas! It’s funny how even something small, like a blanket, can invoke warm feelings and special memories of "home". We also unpacked our Christmas decorations from our crates and put up our tree and are now enjoying Christmas carols on the iPod, albeit in 80-degree weather.
We hope your holiday season is filled with love, peace and joy!
From The Banks’
What does life in Burundi look like?
I have to share this amazing testimony and praise report!
To set the stage: yesterday we took the boys to a popular ski destination about an hour away so they could ski for the first time. They both loved it and really took to it pretty naturally. I was wearing ski pants which don't have the normal pocket for my wallet.
As we were about to get in the car to leave, I felt around in my pockets and then had that sinking pit-of-your-stomach feeling when I realized that I couldn't find my wallet! I flipped into panic mode. Immediately, the Lord provided a blessing as we ran into some friends of ours from our language school. Imagine, I probably know fewer than 50 people in all of France, and what are the chances I would run into one of them in our hour of need in the middle of a busy ski resort in the Alps? They prayed with me and loaned me some money so I could buy the kids a snack while I retraced all my steps from that day.
I wandered all over the mountain and reported the incident to the local authorities. The cynical part of me thought "Why bother?" About two hours later, with no luck, we finally left. We talked about it with the boys in the car on the way home, and we all prayed that God would help us find the wallet. Zeke even thanked God in advance in his prayer for returning it. I felt my faith being lifted by my boys prayers and the expression of their faith, which is and should always be child-like.
This morning, I went to my local bank and reported the loss and ordered a new bank card. When I got home, I saw a new facebook message from someone that I do not know. He must have tried to translate a message into English: "Hello, I work in bus transport on a conductive Albertville my report card with a door driving license, credit cards."
My first thought was that this was a Google Translate disaster, and also about how awful I must sound as I try to speak French here everyday, but I was intrigued by the mention of the driving license and credit cards. I replied back, in French, and asked if he found my wallet. "Oui."
Fist-pump! I couldn't believe it! How unlikely that it would turn up at all, much less that it made its way back to Albertville? I met him a few minutes later and he explained how a bus driver found the wallet in the parking lot and looked inside for information. My drivers license is from Missouri, so no help there, but there was a business card for a coiffeur (barber) here in Albertville. They called my barber, who remembered me and confirmed this was a current address, and they sent the wallet back to Albertville and then looked me up on Facebook! In less than 24 hours, God had miraculously and perfectly resolved this crisis. It was great to share this good news with the boys as well, so we could see how God answers prayer. I hope it is uplifting and encouraging to you today as well.
Each morning one of the students in our language school leads a devotional. These are done in French, and is a way to encourage each other as we study French and also to practice speaking and understanding the language. There are many students who have been here for almost a year already, and they were initially the ones leading the devotions. Now the classes who have recently arrived are beginning to lead them. Last week, it was Julie's turn. She gave the devotion in front of the entire school, in French.
In the video, she tells a story about an old pair of Liam's shoes that we brought with us, but which were beginning to wear out. She bought him a nice pair of new red shoes, but the problem is, they have laces, and Liam had not yet learned how to tie his shoes. While he wanted the new shoes, he didn't think he could learn this new skill and was more comfortable holding on to his old shoes, even though they were too small, had holes in them, and just weren't working properly anymore. She sat down with him and practiced over and over until finally he figured it out. It was frustrating at first, but with perseverance now he can tie his own shoes!
She related this experience to learning French, and how even though we want to speak this new language, it is difficult, and often times it is just easier and more comfortable to revert to speaking English. But there are "new red shoes" waiting for us to wear if we have the persistence to learn how to tie them.
What is life like in France?