Too Mutch

...a safe place to dance with ideas, play with theology, and re-create a life implicated by God

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Burundi or Bust!

Several months ago, Christine and I sat in church--I was people watching, listening to the music while she was reading through bulletin. She interrupted one of my favorite pastimes to show me an announcement about an upcoming short term missions trip to Burundi. She said, "maybe we could be part of a sending team for this trip!" I thought for a moment and leaned back over a dryly suggested, "Or you could go on the trip." She was lost for the rest of the service. Mind racing. And that's how we started our journey to Burundi.

At first, I was cautious about commiting or even getting excited about the prospect. I was well into my 10 months of unemployment--with no end in sight. I couldn't imagine taking such a trip under those financial conditions. And if by chance I actually rejoined the working world, I wasn't optimistic of being able to take 2 weeks in June to go to Africa. Fast forward a couple of months and BAM...I get a new job with enough vacation to take 2 weeks in June. So, Burundi or bust!!!!!

"Why," you might be wondering "would we be going to Burundi?" Contrary to your presumption, we are not going to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary at an all-inclusive resort! We are joining a team of people who are all part of our church. Mars Hill Bible Church has made a long term commitment to the region of East Africa, which currently includes initiatives in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Other countries may be added down the road, but these are the current and ongoing relationships. With help and guidance from World Relief, we will join the local church in serving this country as the hands and feet of God. These are the ways we desire to incarnate the embracing grace of Christ in two very short weeks...

1. HIV/AIDS--one of our primary goals will be to work alongside local youth pastors to lead retreats that will teach young Burundians about this deadly pandemic. We will share the truth about this disease, dispel myths about how it is contracted or how one can be healed from it, and teach about preventative measures.

2. We will spend a day or two getting first hand experience of micro-finance at work in Burundi. Mars Hill has committed to increading the income of the poorest 30% of the economically active in Burundi, primarily through micro-finance initiatives.

3. Finally, we will do whatever World Relief discerns we can lean into. These things are likely to be determined closer to the trip date as they spend time getting more familiar with the particularities of our team--building, serving in orphanages, etc.

Over the next several weeks, I will be chronicling our preparation for this trip. But in addition to narrating the latest and greatest, I'd like to engage with some of the difficult questions that surround this kind of trip.

I'd love to hear your are a few to get you started...
  • Does it make sense to send 12 people at 3G's apiece for a mere 2 weeks? Woudn't there be greater impact if we just sent the 36K to Burundi?
  • Is it irresponsible for a mother or father to leave their kids at home for 2 weeks while they go to Africa? Isn't parenting their primary mission right now?
  • There is plenty of work that can be done in the US in regards to HIV/AIDS and helping the poor. Why should we send 12 people to a country that they will likely never go back to?

Murabeho (goodbye)



At 4:20 PM, Blogger diane said...

Good questions. I have some more, hope it's okay.

There are a lot of cultural stereotypes involved in AIDS education. How will strangers be able to build relationships in 2 weeks and make an honest, long-lasting impact on that community? People have already communicated the truth and the stereotypes continue to exist. In what why will ya'll be different?

example: In Nairobi they believe that when one drives with their headlights on that it drains the car battery. They drive with their lights off in the dark. They will yell at you if you have yours on. Obviously, people have told them the truth time and time again. But they persist in their beliefs.

Maybe this trip isn't about helping the people in Burundi. Maybe it's for the people who are going to plug into what's going on, first hand experience, to put names with stats.

I'm not saying that the work won't be helpful. It will. But you're much MORE helpful is 36K to an economy?

At 4:21 PM, Blogger diane said...

why = way

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Diane. thx for the questions. I will add them to the list to interact with. And so I can keep my content fresh, I'll email you my initial your email!

At 4:38 PM, Blogger Dan Brose said...

Hey Greg and Diane,

You're asking really good questions. We here in Burundi and World Relief regularly ask exactly the same questions; especially when we started receiving teams a couple of years ago. If it was only a matter of money, certainly it would be better to send the money than the teams.

I asked one of our senior Burundian staff to respond to your questions, and this is what he said:

“People are more important than money. If you don’t want to build a relationship, send only money. Money can help for a little while, but then it ends. But together, we can share, know, and pray together. This is very important. $3K is not much for this. The value when relationships are built is worth much more. For people to meet other people: this is very important for the church. We had a very bad time in this country during the recent war. During the conflict, our friends from the US were afraid to come and we felt abandoned. It was very, very bad. When people come to us at a critical period, we are comforted. It doesn’t matter if you have money to bring. Burundi is a country of hospitality. We love friends and having visitors. In the crisis it was very challenging to be alone.”

"World Relief can help build and continue the relationship between the Burundian and American churches. The people coming here from the US will gather and go back with information from their first-hand experience in Burundi. When they return, they will say, ‘we saw this… and we did this.’ Their knowing of Burundi and sharing their experience will motivate others to come and to know the church in Burundi. Each person on a team will have a special experience that will touch that person and they will share that specific experience with others back home."

It really is about relationship, and that is why we are excited to receive teams. We are truly looking forward to getting to know your team this summer, and let's use this forum to make your time here even more fruitful!

God bless,
Dan Brose

At 7:55 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Dan, thx for weighing in here...for speaking into our lives as we prepare for this trip. And Thanks also to the Burundian brother who shared. I'm hopeful that this site can create some space that will prepare us in a unique way...and a place where those who are sending us can experience more than just our initial support letter. We want people to journey with us as we prepare for, go to, and return from Burundi.

Please email me if you have suggestions, ideas, etc.

I will be incorporating some of this response you've given me into a post forthcoming.


At 10:46 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Greg and Christine,
As I was reading your post and your questions, I immediately was thinking of some of the comments the Burundi brother wrote. People are more long-term than money and the impact of a short-trip can be life-long in terms of relationships and personal life-chnage. Julie and I are excited for you two and this impending mission venture. Watch out for Jettie, though.

At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Nate said...

I think one of the reasons to spend the 36,000 is to spread awareness and passion when you come back. We in the richest country of the world need to know...and we can't really know by reading the newspaper or watching a DVD. We can know by seeing your passion and heart. We can know when someone we know knows and has it written all over her face.

At 8:29 AM, Blogger burundibell said...

Every blessing as you go to Burundi. You will find it a tremendous and challenging experience. You may not 'do' anything very much, but the fact you have been is a great encouragement to folk out there. It will change you and you will be able to pass on your experiences to others when you return. I hope that you meet Simon Guillebaud when you are out there! Genda n'amahoro! (Go in peace!)

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Cajun Tiger said...

Having just returned, I definitely have to second Dan's comments and the Burundian brother is probably Sophonie who will blow ya'll away.


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