Saturday, November 29, 2014


     Our plans for celebrating Thanksgiving were simple.  We were going to meet the Van Wagoner's and the Dow's, the couple with the wheelchair project, at a local hotel for an oriental buffet at 6:30 pm.
       In the afternoon we got a call from the Van Wagoner's informing us that Frida had gone into labor and was at a hospital wanting a blessing.    (Frida and Aimable are the couple who got married in August.)  Gary and I arrived at the hospital about 5:00pm.  and were waiting for the Van Wagoner's to arrive to give Frida a blessing.  Unfortunately, Aimable is in Thailand on a business trip.  The baby came about 2 weeks before his due date, and Aimable is not due back in Burundi till Tuesday.

     When a woman comes to this hospital in labor, she brings with her her own sheets ( she makes her own bed with her own sheets), her own toilet paper, soap, and whatever else she will need.  She is assigned a room and goes to that room to labor.  There are 4 women, 4 metal beds in the room, along with numbers of young children and visiting adults.   She is not hooked up to an IV, there is no fetal monitoring machine, no nurses checking on her progress, no one checking vital signs of baby or mom-to-be.  Every couple of hours or so, the doctor will send for a woman to come down the hall to be examined.  The woman walks down the hall to the examination room in whatever stage of labor she might find herself in.  During labor and delivery there are no pain medications administered, so they are sort of on their own.

     I was sitting on the bed and visiting with Frida, and she was having labor pains about 10 minutes apart.  We were discussing possible names for her baby boy, names that were popular in Burundi, names that were popular in the US.  Everything was happy and normal.  About 5:30 an aide appeared and told her the Dr. wanted to see her.  She struggled out of bed and headed down the hall to be examined.

     While she was gone, the VanWagoner's arrived.  We stood in the hall outside Frida's room,
 waiting for her to come back.  After quite a long time we saw Frida being wheeled down the hall, and she was crying.  They took her into the delivery room that was just across the hall from where she had been in labor.  I was excited, thinking that she was going to deliver her baby boy.  After all, she had been in labor for 24 hours so it was about time.  Instead, a nurse approached us and told me (as I was the only one who could speak French) that the baby was dead.  Horrible!  Could not comprehend how that could be true!  The baby was alive at 3:00pm at the time of the last "examination."  Now they were going to deliver a dead baby.  A full-term dead baby boy.

     We rushed into the delivery room so Gary and Van Wagoner could give her a blessing, but that was really difficult because she was so distraught and in pain.  Then we went into the hall to wait.

     A doctor came to speak with us.  He took me down the hall where we had some privacy and explained that there was no heart beat, and they had no idea why the baby had died.  But he had died quite recently, within the last 2 hours.

     Contractions stopped.  Medication was administered to stimulate contractions, and Frida labored on through the evening, through the night, until 5:00am next morning when the baby was born.  He was perfect, so cute.  She was very weak after 35 hours of labor.

     It was about 10:00pm when we ended up at the oriental buffet.  Happy Thanksgiving.


Friday, November 28, 2014

     The other day, we were driving in the car with Jean Rene, and it was overcast and rainy.  The temperature was still warm, as we still had the air conditioner on in the car. President Jean Rene said,  "Oh!  It is so cold today!  Just like where you live!"

     I explained to him that our weather got so cold we had snow, and that water on the road would freeze and become ice.  He was surprised.  "Oh!!  Do people live there?"  he asked.  I told him many people lived there in the cold, and he then inquired, "How do you eat?"  This is not a question I had ever considered, but for him, people eat what grows.  His reasoning was that nothing grows in the cold, so how do people eat?  Totally different mindset, nest-ce pas?

     President Jean Rene came to our house a few days ago, and what he said really floored me.  He told me  that he and his wife had named their new baby girl for me because I was so kind.  Seriously?  I have never had a baby named for me before and was speechless.  Humbled, honored, and speechless.

Here I am with my namesake.

Baby Susan is currently in physical therapy.  During the delivery, the doctors pulled on her arm to help get her out and damaged/stretched a nerve that controls her arm.  We hope it will recuperate and that she will have the use of her arm.

     We have had a series of different couples visiting Bujumbura, each one involved with a different humanitarian protect.  The first one was the Hunsaker's.  They are here to establish an eye clinic out in the interior, which will be capable of doing cataract surgery.  The second couple was the Langland's.  He is a retired OB/GYN who is trying to set up a program to teach the medical community about neonatal resuscitation.  What is kind of funny is that we discovered over dinner one night that his brother and his wife live about 3 doors from us in a new home on Ridge Top Circle.  Small world!
The third couple is here doing a wheel chair program.  They did this here in Bujumbura several years  ago, and this time around they will be bringing 300 wheelchairs to donate to people who need them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


     Remember the candidate missionary who was in jail?  When the branch president went to bail him out, he discovered the young man had been transferred to another prison facility and was no longer there.  He also found out that he boy had lied ----he was not innocent as he had first claimed.  He really did steal the pipe from the business where he was working as a guard.  I don't know what his future holds now, but it is safe to say he will not be going on a mission any time soon.

     Gilbert, our 17 yr. old orphan friend who had become quite ill,  was released from the hospital.  No one gave him a diagnosis or told him why his liver had been having problems, so we decided to take him, his records  and president Jean Rene and go back to the hospital looking for answers.  As we approached the hospital, we noticed the parking lot was totally full and cars were double parked on the street in front of the hospital.  Jean Rene explained that someone had died in the hospital and friends and family had come to the hospital to accompany his/her body to the burial/funeral.

     All we found out at the hospital was that no one knows to this day why he was ill.  He was released without final tests being run, tests that had been prescribed.  We hope to take him to a different hospital and see what they can find out.

     The 2 people with serious issues (admitted murderer, admitted homosexual)  who wanted to be baptized spoke directly with the mission president on the telephone,  and he authorized their baptisms.


     We went to Uvira this week to finalize a rental agreement for a new apartment for the 4 missionaries.  While there, we also looked at new locations for both of the branches in Uvira.  It would be so great if both branches could be moved to these new sites!  Both branches are currently sharing a pitiful little place where the chapel is a tent that gets destroyed in every rain or wind storm.  We just replaced the linoleum pieces that they lay on the dirt floor, as they had been literally ripped to pieces in a recent storm.

This facility is AWFUL.    Not only do they try to meet in a tent for sacrament meeting, but for all the people in 2 branches, toilet facilities consist of one squat toilet outside in an outhouse.

     President Mabishwa, branch president of the Kilundu branch in Uvira,  asked us to come and visit his house while we were in town.   He is just the best, sweetest man.  He has been key in the growth and support of the Uvira branches, spending his own money for supplies and whatever until the Church finally got an official branch organized and an official branch account established.

     To get to President Mabishwa's house we had to put the truck in four wheel drive and go straight up the mountain on a road(?) that does not see many vehicles.  In fact, just at the sight of a truck, kids came running and yelling and waving----and that was before they knew that the weirdo "muzungus" were driving it!
 walking to President Mabishwa's house

   President Mabishwa in front of his house with his kitty

     He showed us his home and then asked that we allow him to serve us a drink.  We agreed, knowing it means a lot to have people come and visit your home.  He brought a bag into the living room which held 3 warm bottles of Sprite and apologized for not having a refrigerator to chill the drinks.  Jean Paul was with us, so we 3 guests received a warm Sprite, and Pres. Mabishwa went without.

Here we are seated in his living room:

     Notice the furniture lacks any cushions.  It was very humbling to be in his home as a guest.  He is such a good man, such a faithful man.  He has been so strong and devoted to the Church.  And he has so little in the way of physical possessions.


Monday, November 24, 2014

     Saturday the 15th of Nov. we had 12 baptisms in Branch 2.  It was amazing!  There were 4 children and 8 adults.  The Church is growing so quickly!

This is a photo of the people who were baptized on Sat., the 15th.  The sister missionaries are the book-ends, and the priesthood holders who performed the baptisms are also in the picture.

     As we were leaving the baptismal service feeling very happy about what had just taken place, President Dieudonne approached us to tell us he had bad news.  He had received a call from our new gate guard, Dieudonne, saying his little 3 yr old daughter had just died, so he needed to leave our house and go home.  His wife, the children's mom,  had taken 2 of their children to the hospital that morning with probable malaria.   When they gave the 3 year old girl an injection of some sort, she fell dead.  The other child, an 18 month old boy, still remains hospitalized in a facility 30 km from Bujumbura.  We are headed there this morning (Monday) to give the little boy a blessing.

No one knows what killed the little girl.  And it seems the people don't ask questions about medical  issues, possibly intimidated by educated doctors, possibly not  even knowing what questions to ask.  The little girl died on Saturday and was buried on Sunday.  No explanations, no "this is what happened."

     We picked up President Dieudonne this morning and headed to the "hospital" to give our guard's son a blessing.  On the way, while we were still in Bujumbura, a man wearing a military uniform and driving a truck, started following us.  He finally pulled around us and stopped in front of us, motioning out the window that he wanted us to stop.  We pulled along side of him, and he was very unhappy, accusing us of hitting his truck and not stopping.  Luckily we had President Dieudonne in the back seat who told the man that he had not seen that happen.  We then continued on our way.  We were grateful to have a local resident with us who could vouch for the fact that we had never hit the man's truck.  Dieudonne told us that the man had pulled us over because we were white, and he wanted us to pay him some money to make the accusation go away.

     We drove through some beautiful country to get to where the child lay in the hospital bed.

We headed up into the hills to the small village where the guard's family lives.  This is a picture of the "hospital" where we went to give the blessing:

     This concrete house has very little that resembles a hospital inside.  It is dark and grungy, no modern equipment or sterile anything.  The floors and walls were dirty, discolored concrete, there was one pathetic light hanging high up on the ceiling.  We found the little 18 month old boy we were seeking in a small poorly lit room.  There were 3 low to the ground twin beds with a sick child in each.  Five adult women were sitting on the beds in the room, holding vigil over their sick children or grandchildren.  Two of the three kids were lying unusually still and motionless, including our guard's child.   They had IVs in their arms.  Gary anointed the boy with oil, and then President Dieudonne blessed him.  After the blessing, the other 2 mothers in the room requested a blessing for their children, so Gary anointed the 2 other children and Dieudonne gave 2 more blessings.  I felt such despair there, I felt so sad for mothers who had no choice but to bring their sick children here to this place, hoping against hope that their children would be healed.

     When we left the hospital, our guard asked if we wanted to come see where he lived.  We said we would love to visit his house, so he led us to his home.  Top picture shows our guard and one of his kids on the right.  Bottom picture is his house.

Friday, November 21, 2014

     As I think of last week's experiences, the only name I can come up with for this blog is
                                                   "QUOI FAIRE?  (WHAT TO DO?)

     First of all, we have a cute couple in Branch 1 who just got married in August.  He is the 1st counselor in the branch presidency, is one of the few endowed members, and his wife is currently taking a temple preparation class.  The only little hiccup is that now she looks about 6 months pregnant, and they have only been married 3 months.  Tongues are wagging in the branch, some demanding punishment for the perceived "error."  But, they are married and planning on going to the temple to be sealed.   QUOI FAIRE?

     We just had 2 new guards start working for us here at home.  The daytime guard is named Dieudonne.  He rides his bicycle 11/2 hours to get here to work.  At home he has a wife and 5 little kids.  (And I don't mean goats.)  He started last Wednesday.  The second night, one of the guards was looking for the iron that we had out back for the candidate missionaries.  He asked the daytime guard if he had seen the iron, and the daytime guard, Dieudonne, told him that that very day, Wednesday, Jean Paul had taken the iron, 2 cooking pots and 2 bowls with him to give to guards at the Church.  I called Jean Paul and he denied taking the things.  The next day Jean Paul and 3 guards from the Church appeared at our house.  We had quite a conversation between the new daytime guard and Jean Paul and the 3 other guards.  The 3 guards confessed to taking the items on Monday when they were in our yard doing some yard work.  Our guard, Dieudonne, swore that Jean Paul had taken the things on Wednesday.  Turns out the 3 guards from the Church had to be lying, as the items in question were not put out back for the new guards until Tuesday, so it was impossible for them to have taken them on Monday.  That means that the 3 guards were lying to protect Jean Paul.  And Jean Paul was lying too.  Very upsetting, as we work all the time with Jean Paul and trust him completely.  Or did.    QUOI FAIRE?

     The missionaries have 2 people wanting to be baptized, one admits to having killed someone and the other is a homosexual.  QUOI FAIRE?


     A member from Branch 3 is a contractor who has done work for the Church in years past.  At one point he was involved in a bad motorcycle accident,  and he had the Church pay for all his surgeries and hospital bills.  He now wants more construction work from the Church, but it is said he has gone and created his own church where he is attending and preaching falsehoods about the Church.  He only started coming back to the branch when he heard that there were more missionary couples there, and hence perhaps more opportunities to get work from the church.  He has a calling in the branch.  QUOI FAIRE?


     Gilbert, one of the orphans we brought to Bujumbura, became ill last week and was admitted to the hospital with what they said were problems with his liver.   His sister in Australia has not responded to our emails, nor has she sent any money for the hospital bills or for maintenance of the 3 siblings.  QUOI FAIRE?


     One of the candidate missionaries from Branch 1 was put in jail.  The Branch president came to ask for money to get him out of jail.  Even though they say he can be released because he is innocent,  he spent 4 days in jail and must pay to get out.?  Is he still on track to go on a mission? I WONDER IF THERE IS A CATEGORY FOR SPENDING MISSION FUNDS TITLED "BAIL?"     QUOI FAIRE?

Friday, November 14, 2014

     Some random thoughts.

     In Africa, every year 23,000 people die of snake bites.  So when Jean Paul sent men to our yard to take out all of the overgrowth, telling us that then the snakes don't have anywhere to hide,  I didn't object.  Also,  I thought 23,000 deaths a year from snakebites make Ebola seem like a much lesser threat, don't you think?  But the potential for deaths is much higher with Ebola.  Also the percentage of those that die is much greater.  As for snake bites, 1.5 million people are bitten each year in Africa, with "only" 23,000 of them dying.  Comforting, yes?

     At home in the US you just assume that everyone knows certain things.  I guess that I assumed that there are some things that everyone in the world knows.  I have found that that is not the case.  Their base of information is much different than ours.  That is, the things that they consider common knowledge do not extend to the US and vice versa.  For example,  the people we have met have never head of Elvis Presley, Walt Disney, McDonald's, or catsup.  And I'm sure that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  For example, just this morning we had to teach our guard how to move a hose in the yard.  How to screw it on and off.  And that is the second guard we needed to instruct in the art of hose moving.


     Men here wear pink everything, and it doesn't seem to affect their masculinity in the least.!  They don't have the same hang-up with the color pink that men in the US have.   You see men with pink backpacks, bright pink shoes, pink pants, pink coats, pink bicycles.

One more hang-up that they don't have in Burundi is that of men holding hands with men.  You see it all the time as you go down the streets, and it is an expression of friendship.  Women hold hands with women, too, but it is most evident with the men.  Maybe we should emulate their openness, their lack of fear of expressing a basic human emotion of caring for one another.  Anyone ready to try this at home?  Send photos, please!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

     Do you remember way back when I described a bird song that sounded like someone playing an anasazi flute?  We have been looking to see if we could see this bird for 7-8 months.  Well, we finally saw him.  We were at the chapel at Branch 1 and he was sitting in a tree right outside the window, singing his heart out.  So I grabbed my camera, and voila!  The mysterious singer is no longer a mystery!

Wish we could take him home with us!

     Last week-end we held General Conference for the 3 branches in Bujumbura.  The Church sends us the CDs of Conference sometime afterwards, so when we received them, we decided to gather the 3 branches and do 2 days of Conference.  We arranged for buses to bring the members from Branch 2 and Branch 3 down to Branch 1.  We set up DVD players and screens in 3 different rooms so we could have one room for people who wanted to listen in French, one room for people who wanted to listen in Swahili and one room for people who wanted to hear Conference in Kirundi.  In that last room, we had to have individuals translate the talks in real time.

We showed 2 sessions of Conference on Saturday and then 2 on Sunday.  When we arrived at the branch on Saturday to set up the DVDs,  nothing was ready so we went into action.  The lady above helped us sweep the chapel using her own kind of broom.  I think it looks hard on the back!  Then I set up the chairs while Gary started getting the technical aspects of the day ready to roll.

Here are people starting to arrive who came on the bus.

This is the group who is listening to the session with a Kirundi translator.

Here is the group listening to the Conference talks in the room where the French translation  was played.

After the sessions, members visiting out on the lawn.

It was a good Conference, and I think many things were addressed that these members were happy to hear.  Lots of good talks about pertinent gospel concepts and points of doctrine.

Monday, November 10, 2014

     I am so proud of the members of Branch 2 and Branch 3!  On Saturday, Nov. 1st, they held the 1st ever Open House for the Church here in Bujumbura.  It was all their idea, all their plans, all their creation from inception to completion.  We were simply handed an invitation to come, and so we did.  I was so totally impressed!  They put together a well-organized program of 2 hours which included contributions from all of the auxiliaries, from the full time missionaries, from the branch choir, from some native dancers, and with a funny skit with 3 of them (2 branch presidents and 1 counselor) dressed in cowboy hats talking about pioneers!  Absolutely delightful!

The branch choir singing Gloria In Excelsi.
These are the 2 Branch presidents and a counselor who did a fun skit about pioneers in which they spoke  as they imagined cowboys would speak if cowboys spoke French!  The one in front is President Dieudonne, the one behind on the left is President Jean Rene, and the one on the right is 2nd counselor Samuel.

 Some of the Primary kids singing their songs.  Awesome!

 The Primary children were a definite hit, singing 2 Primary songs and then some of them reciting the Articles of Faith,  one child at a time.  The crowd clapped and cheered for each child.
This is a photo of the Primary chorus performing Primary songs for the first time.

 A group of  about 6 young ladies performed two native dances.
 Desire and Wivine performed a dramatic poetry reading.  Gotta love it!  Beats any poetry reading I've seen at home!!
Here the full time missionaries sang a song together.

The YM/Y/W acted out the parable of the 10 virgins, complete with lanterns, and the Relief Society did a dramatization which had to do with avoiding gossip and keeping the Word of Wisdom.

I am amazed at the growth these branch members have demonstrated.  They are maturing in the gospel, in their understanding of it, in their ability to lead, in their ability to fulfill assignments.  They are understanding better all the time the organization of the Church and the different auxiliaries.  I got such
a kick out of the music they chose to use in their Open House production-----the Mo Tab Choir singing Christmas Day in the Morning, Sleigh Ride, With Wondering Awe, and then their own choir singing Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Angels We Have Heard on High).  They do love their Christmas music year round!  There were 240 people in attendance at their Open House.  I think it was a great success!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

     Another cool thing that happened on Oct. 30 was that I received a fun "care package"  from home.  My sister and my kids sent us a Halloween gift that included candy, popcorn and cider mix, hand-made decorations from the grandkids, skirts, a book, AND dental floss!  I can now floss to my heart's content for the next 10 months.  Ah, the simple pleasures of life!

These are the cute Halloween decorations that Kelton and Luke sent.  They are now taped to my wall in the living room:

Luke's drawing for Halloween

Yes, Luke, we are having fun in Africa!

Thanks for the haunted house, Kelton!

My living room wall.
     And then there was Halloween.  I thought we could dress up and go trick-or-treating to the Van Wagoner's, bringing them some of our Halloween treats.  Lacking much of anything here (including imagination), I thought Gary could go trick or treating as Sister Neeley, and I could go as Elder Neeley.  You know, Grumpy Gary and Smiling Susann.  So we got all dressed up.

     Unfortunately, The Van's were not at home at the time we expected them to be there, so we were all dressed up with nowhere to go.  So, we took photos, got un-dressed up, and went out to dinner with Norm Tree, a really nice guy who is here training the Burundian military.

     I saw several shots of people's yards for Halloween, so not to be out done, I have included shots of our yard for Halloween as well.

     The Halloween shots of our yard look surprisingly similar to the 4th of July shots, the Thanksgiving shots, the Christmas shots and the Valentine's Day shots.  Not a lot changes here around the equator---days and nights are about 12 hours all year round.  No changing leaves, no big changes in weather or temperature.  


Saturday, November 1, 2014

     On Oct. 30th, we took 3 young missionaries from Bujumbura to the airport so they could leave for the mission home in Ghana.  They are all 3 going to serve in Kinshasa, Congo after spending 2 weeks in the MTC.  The first one we picked up was Egide.  This is a photo of him and his family out in front of their home.  Goodbyes were said here, as there is not enough room for everyone to come with us in the truck.

     Next we went to pick up Desire, the young man we helped with his missing teeth.  The rains had made a mess of the street leading up to his house, so Gary had to go fetch him on foot and help carry his luggage back to the truck.

     The interesting part was when we attempted to get out of where we had parked.  We had gone  through a severely steep trench to get to where we were, and then, wisely decided discretion was the better part of valor and opted to walk from there.  Well, after loading the missionary and his belongings into the truck, on the way back through the trench, things got a bit iffy.  We had the truck in 4-wheel and launched into the water-filled ditch only to go nose first down into the muck where we hit a large rock with a disturbing crash and sudden stop.  Everyone in the neighborhood was watching by this time, and I had visions of not making it to the airport on time for the missionaries' flight.  But, Gary was able to get it to reverse out of the hole, and then we went around the rock.

This is a photo of the large dent we put in our front bumper.  Our poor truck has picked up several dents and dings since we arrived.  Some I don't know where they came from, others I definitely do!

We got the boys to the airport on time.  They seemed so young, so green, so scared!  They will be different young men when they return.  They will learn a lot, mature a lot, and hopefully bring the gospel to those who are waiting and ready to hear the truth.