Friday, August 22, 2014
INTRIGUE AND DEATH IN BUJUMBURA
Crazy day! Monday, August 11 we were broadsided by 2 different sets of allegations. The first one was that some missionaries had been meeting girls on different occasions. The second allegation, reported to us by 2 of our full time missionaries, was that Branch Pres. Jean Rene had taken 2 girls to a bar for beer on 4 occasions before their baptism and once after.??? This is what the 2 girls' older sister had told the missionaries when they were at the girls' home checking to see why the girls had not been to church since their baptism. Must get to the truth of these allegations.
Turns out, the missionaries accused of meeting girls have already left our fair city. Whew! The second issue is a bit stickier. President Thomas told us to go talk with the 2 converts and ask them what they know about the beers and Jean Rene situation. The trick is they don't speak French, only Kirundi. And, we have never met these 2 sisters. Time to put on our Sherlock Holmes hats and begin the investigation.
Since our friend Domine speaks Kirundi, we asked her to come with us to translate from Kirundi to French when we met with the 2 sisters, Nadine (22 years old) and Evelyn (19 years old.) Domine arranged for us to meet the sisters at a busy open market and was told what the sisters would be wearing, as none of us knew what they looked like. While we waited in the truck, Domine made the contact and brought them back to the truck for our conversation. With Domine's help with Kirundi, this is what we discovered: The girls' family are very strong Catholics and will not allow the girls to attend the L.D.S. Church. When the family learned the girls had been baptized, they arranged for a large group of fellow Catholics to come to their home, one of them holding a cross. They placed the cross in the girls' hands, and the girls stated that shortly after having the cross placed in their hands, they both became sick. They are afraid of this cross, and their family told them they would disown them if they went to the L.D.S. Church again. This threat is also frightening if you are a young woman in Africa living with your parents. You risk having no family AND nowhere to live. Both girls said they still believe everything the missionaries taught them. Hopefully one day things will change for them and they will be able to attend Church. As for the charges against Jean Rene, they said their older sister who has been instrumental in this whole process of intimidation, made up the story about Jean Rene to try to make the Church look bad and lose face. Jean Rene is cleared. Case closed!
Monday, August 18th we got a call from branch President Jean Rene telling us a little boy in the branch had died in the night and asking if we wanted to accompany him to visit the grieving family. We said"yes." On the way, we learned that this was the little boy for whom we had tried to locate a wheelchair a few months ago. He was only 6 years old and had struggled with health issues since his birth. We arrived at their home, a small building with a piece of fabric hanging in the doorway which served as their door. The home was surrounded by a tall wall and had a dirt courtyard area in front of the house. There were about 25 family members and friends sitting in front of the house, with several more inside the house where the little boy lay. As we were meeting with the mother under the lone tree in the courtyard, 3 men entered the yard carrying a small pine casket covered in purple fabric into the house, and not long after, we could hear the sound of the lid being nailed onto the casket, one nail after another. The mother broke down crying, as did many others, including me. They then carried the little casket out of the house, out through the courtyard to a small pick-up truck, the crowd of mourners following behind the man carrying the boy's casket. Three men jumped in the bed of the truck with the casket and stood facing forward behind the cab, holding a crude cross fashioned out of 2x4's which they had written on with a ball point pen. We had watched them write on this cross in the courtyard but weren't close enough to see what thy had written. And then the short trip to the burial site. From death at midnight to burial at about 1:30pm the very same day. There is no embalming, so things need to happen quickly in this warm, humid climate. But no matter how different from home the customs surrounding death are, one thing remains constant no matter the country, the language, the customs-----a mother's love and her profound grief at the loss of a child.