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.