Sunday, March 29, 2015


     I have the opportunity here in Bujumbura to see the principle of forgiveness, repentance, and the atonement at work among the people.  I'm sure bishops back home must have this same experience, but it's new for me to witness it.   Here there are no throw away people.  Everyone deserves a second (third, fourth?) chance.  Everyone seems willing to forgive, to let the person who has made a mistake repent, and to let the atonement of Jesus Christ work the way it should.  You lied to me?  O.K  I love you, I forgive you.  You stole from the last missionary couple?  Fine.  You have repented, so you are now going on a mission to South Africa.  You lied to manipulate more money from the Church when you arrived at the mission home?  O.K.  Return home, prove yourself,  that you have changed, and go back out again.  Thrown in prison for stealing?  You are out of prison, you have repented,  so we'll make you a branch missionary again.  A branch clerk has kept money that should have been deposited in the Church?  We will release you from your calling, you can make a full confession, repent, and pay back the money you stole over time.  We love these people, love watching them apply gospel principles, love watching the principle of repentance and the atonement at work.  You just know they are good people, and you love them in spite of mistakes they make.  Given the difficulty of their lives living here in Burundi, it's almost more understandable when someone sins.  President Dieudonne sort of summed it up.  We had to go to the airport to pick up a missionary who was sent home for breaking the law of chastity.  Dieudonne sent us an email about the interview he had with the young man, and this is how he ended his note:  "We hope that he will truly change and repent.  We are going to be on guard against the sin, but always love the sinner."


     To celebrate the Relief Society's birthday, Branch 1 decided to go to a local hospital with soap, sugar, and cookies for two hospital wards.
     Here is our group.

 We put 2 soaps in plastic bags before going into the wards.

This is our group making our way to the 2 wards, one a women's ward, one a children's ward.

Once inside, we sang a hymn, had a prayer and passed out the sugar, soap, and cookies.
Here we are visiting with the family of a woman who was not really conscious.  They had to constantly keep swatting the flies off the lady.

This woman received her sugar in her own bowl.  Most everyone else had their personal plastic drinking cup filled with the sugar.

 Our Relief Society president Jacqueline filling one of the plastic cups.

 This is Gian Franco's wife Nicole helping out as part of our group at the hospital.

The next 2 pictures are a couple of the little patients in the children's ward.

Here are two available beds in the women's ward.  Take your pick and make yourself comfortable.

On the way home from the hospital we stopped to visit a branch member who was in a different clinic.  She is being treated for problems related to her diabetes, malaria, and typhoid fever.


Mama cat has moved on.  She took her 2 kittens, one by one, and climbed and jumped to reach the top of the wall. She then kept on moving north along the wall to greener pastures.  The two kittens we have are growing, eating more all the time and getting steadier on their legs.

We believe the gas protest has finally ended.  Turns out, the suppliers of the gasoline were a big part of the protest also.  The suppliers are from Tanzania, and every time they brought a shipment of gas across the Burundian border, they were hit with the high increased taxes.  To apply pressure on the government here, they simply refused to bring in much gas.  This created lines that were blocks long of cars parked waiting for gasoline to be available at a particular station. People were parking their cars, not going to work.   I will say I liked the lighter traffic on the roads for this period of time!   It took a little over a week before the government relented, rolling back the tax increases.  Now we just need to get the gasoline trucks in here to re-supply the stations.

Friday, March 20, 2015

     Last Friday, our guard Fabrice came to work quite late, agitated and needing to talk.  He explained that he had been at school when, at about 4:00pm, a man from the bank who was on campus was attacked by some thieves.  They shot him 3 times, once in the face, once in the neck and once in the torso. The thieves stole 4,000,000 Burundian francs from the man, which totals about $2600.   Fabrice saw it happen and watched the man die before his eyes.  Police gave chase, and the robbers shot and killed the policeman who was following them.  Poor Fabrice was a bit traumatized by the events of the day.  Quite unsettling, to say the least.  There does seem to be an uptick in violent crimes.  We also receive notice from the Embassy or from the Church when there is going to be a large demonstration.  For example, Wednesday there was a protest concerning the level of taxes the government places on gasoline.  Now gas is not available, for the most part.  We were warned in advance and filled our truck and our bidons full of gas late last week.  The protest is an attempt by the people to get the government to reduce the level of taxes it collects on gasoline.  We shall see if it works.

     One of the members in Branch 2 has come up with a project that he hopes will help alleviate hunger and malnutrition in Burundi.  He invited us to his home for a demonstration.  What he does is use soy beans to produce soy milk, soy cheese, and a side dish consisting of the remnants of the beans after they have been cooked, mashed and strained.  To this bean remnant, you add sautéed onions and spices.  From one kilo of soy beans, you can produce 7 liters of soy milk, some soy cheese, and a large amount of the side dish prepared with the onions.  Because it is made from soy, it is a great source of protein and other nutrients.

This is the soy cheese.  It was actually pretty good!

This is the remnants of the beans with onions and spices having been added.  I really liked this dish.

The yellow container holds some of the soy milk.  It was better than our carton milk with the chunks, for sure!  You add a small amount of sugar to the soy milk to make it yummy.

The man on the left is Juvan, the man who wants to promote soy products.  President Jean Rene is on the right.

This is Juvenal, one of the counselors in Branch 2.

Hopefully, Juvan will be successful in his efforts to get more people making and consuming soy products.  It's really a great idea!  From so little (1 kilo), comes so much.  He has done demonstrations in Branches 2 and 3, and we need to schedule him to do one in Branch 1.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

     Africa is so large and so isolated it's hard to get my brain around it.  People have asked us if we are afraid of ebola, but the countries where ebola is a problem are thousands of miles away.  One missionary , upon finishing his mission, was headed back to Kinshasa, Congo, but he wanted to see his mother on the way back.  He had not seen her for several years, so he was told it would be fine to stop and see her on his way home.  He took a plane to the closest city possible, then boarded a boat that was traveling up the Congo River.  He traveled for 2 weeks on this boat in order to reach the small village where his mother lived. After his visit, he had to do the same journey in reverse---go down the Congo River for 2 weeks, and then catch a plane to Kinshasa.  The area is huge and so undeveloped.

     On March 2nd, a Monday P-day, we went on a fun day trip with the Van Wagoner's and Emery, 2nd counselor in Branch 1.  He came with us so we wouldn't get lost and so he could speak to people in Kirundi, the mother tongue of Burundi.  We left early in the morning and traveled for 3 hours to get to the Karera waterfalls.  As we rose in elevation, the air became cooler.  The countryside was green and lush as far as you could see.  We passed through one area where people are not allowed to build modern houses.  You must build the traditional round house or move away.  Kind of an historical district, I guess!

                                              This is a field of tea plants.  So green!

See the traditional round house in the background.

     We went through the province where Emery grew up, where his family still lives.  He brought 4 loaves of bread to give to his family because it is a real treat for the people in the small, rural village to have bread from Bujumbura to eat.  As we were driving through Emery's village, he showed us where he walked 5 KM (about 3 miles) to school every day.  He also had to walk home for lunch and then return to school for afternoon classes. Counting his walk home after school was over, that made 12 miles a day!  He said,  "Education here is not easy."  My question is, "What is?"

We reached the waterfalls and were given walking sticks to make the hike to the 4 different "chutes" or waterfalls.  We saw some monkeys here in the jungle.

     These monkeys are the same type we have seen here in Bujumbura.  Last Sunday on our way to Church,  we spotted a couple of them swinging through the trees near Branch 1.  We got out of the car to watch them, but  because they were moving so quickly and were partially hidden by the trees,  it was not possible to get any photos.  At least we got a couple of shots here at the falls.

 This is the first waterfall you see when you arrive.  Not the biggest one, but pretty nonetheless.  A wonderful cool mist came off the falls. which was heavenly!  Wish we could take the coolness home with us!

Going to the top or to the bottom of the waterfalls was accomplished by going up or down steep stone steps.  Our guide about dragged me up and down the stairs.  Next day I was sore!

     This is our group.  Neeley's, Van Wagoner's, and Emery.  Notice our walking sticks, which  were so helpful on our hike. This shot was taken at the mid point of the largest falls.  Karera Falls is about 135 feet, top to bottom.  It falls to this point in the photo, and then falls again from this point to the river below.  The river then winds its way through the jungle.

And last but not least, here is a real Gary pose!  Gotta love it!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

     Last Saturday, Fabrice, our guard, came to me to tell me he had found a tiny kitten in the bushes in our yard.  Sure enough, there was a little kitten so young his eyes were not yet open.  Thinking he was all alone in the world, we scooped him up, prepared a box for him, and tried to get him to take some milk.

At this point, Fabrice informed us he had found 3 more kittens under some plants, next to the wall in the yard.  We hurried and put the fourth kitten back with his siblings and hoped the mother cat would return to feed her brood.

Sure enough, the little black mama cat came back and took care of the kittens.  She is a feral cat so won't let us get near her, but we check up on the babies every day.  We have been putting out cat food for the mama to eat, and we find the bowl licked clean every time.

On Tuesday night we had a big rain storm which soaked everything.  Wednesday morning when we went out to check on the kittens, we found the mama cat had moved 2 of the 4 kittens.  Maybe the place she had them did not offer enough protection against the rain. (?) 

The mama cat didn't come back to visit the 2 kittens much on Wednesday.   On Thursday, I located her new location in the yard where she and the 2 kittens had moved.  By Thursday evening it looked like she wasn't going to take care of the kittens she had left behind.  They had been crying at the top of their lungs a good part of the day Thursday, and they were still crying well after dark.

Early Friday morning they started their mewing again.  We decided we needed to do something, so we took the abandoned kittens into the house. ( Does that make us catnappers?)

 Here I am feeding this kitten using a Visine bottle.  Little did I know 12 months ago when I packed my Visine that I would be using it to feed kittens!

Such an unexpected twist in my daily life!  I must admit, it is a happy twist for me because I do love kittens!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

     Last week, we had 8 baptisms here.   One lady is crippled, heavy and moves with great effort.  When it was her turn to be baptized, she removed her leg brace, put down her one crutch and slowly, but with much determination, inched her way to the baptismal font.  She worked her way up the set of stairs to the top of the font and then was helped into the water.  I just kept thinking how difficult that whole process was for her,  but I thought about how much she wanted to be baptized.  A lesson in overcoming obstacles, in having faith, a testimony and determination to join our Savior's Church.  Nothing was going to stop her!

     Two hours south of Uvira, there is a town named Baraka.  Here there are about 37 members of the Church, but another 160 people who want to be baptized!  They are waiting and praying for the time when the Church will allow missionaries to come to Baraka to teach and baptize, when they will have a branch, a building to meet in, and teaching supplies to use.  They keep in communication with us, asking when the mission president will visit them, asking when their people can be baptized.  Last e-mail they gave us a list of all their members, photos of where they get together for meetings, and 2 photos showing the entire group in Baraka.

     These are the people who wait for further blessings from the Lord.

Last Sunday in Branch 1,  we had some exciting firsts!  It was the first time they ever had a branch choir sing for their meetings.  I love their enthusiasm when they sing!  Their voices fill the room.  If you sing along with them, you must sing at the top of your lungs to hear yourself sing.  And sometimes even then you can't hear yourself sing!

Another important first was that the Primary staffed and provided a nursery for the first time. We bought a big floor mat and a basket of toys for the nursery.  Things went well !  Here's some of our cute little rug rats in the nursery!

During Sunday School and Relief Society, in the background you can now often hear the Primary singing "I Am A Child of God,"  "If You Chance To Meet A Frown," and Frère Jacques."  In French, of course.   It always makes me smile.

On Sunday, John Paul blessed his baby girl, Priska.  Actually, he was planning on blessing her, but when he went to the front of the chapel, the branch president took the baby and blessed her himself.   Oops!  More training on the way!