Monday, April 27, 2015

     Saturday, April 25th, the current president announced he was going to run for a third term.  Unbelievable.  He is violating the constitution and the peace accords of 2005 so he can stay in power and continue to line his pockets with money.  Sadly, he acts more like a dictator than an elected leader.  The police and the army are loyal to him and do his bidding. Hence, we saw the violence last week at a demonstration for the opposition.  I looked it up on-line and the last time he was elected, there was violence, cheating, fraud, intimidation of the opposition.  That appears to be his campaign strategy!

     Today, Sunday April 26th, we were cautioned there would be a large demonstration against the president's running again for office.  We were showing the April Conference in Branch 2/3, so we went ahead and went there to get things set up.  Continuing heavy police presence on the streets.  The first session of the Sunday Conference meetings was almost over when we got word the protests had turned deadly.  There was a fatality in a  neighborhood that bordered our house.  There was some concern about roads being closed or blocked with protesters, so we went ahead and left without listening to the last talk..  The government has blocked radio stations.

Today is Monday, the 27th of April.  We went to the Immigration building and were waiting outside for Aloys when we saw 3 water cannon trucks go by.   They were followed by a truck-full of armed soldiers who went tearing down the street.  Not long after that we saw black clouds of smoke rising
in a couple of different areas.  (Guessing that they were tires that had been set on fire.)  Gunshots rang out over the next 30 minutes or so.

We found out that yesterday 2 unarmed people were shot to death by the police and another 4 are in the hospital.  The Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Public Security, and the Minister of Communication went to the radio station RPA and forced their way through a door into the RPA radio station and told them to stop broadcasting things that were currently happening.  They have cut the land lines so no one can get radio broadcasts in the interior of the country.  Local radio stations are commanded to only play music. They are attempting to stop communication about current events. Police have broken into homes to arrest the opposition.

There is no school today and businesses have been asked to close their doors as a protest directed at the president.  Traffic is extremely light, many are just staying home.  If you are interested, you can go on-line to see stories about the current events in Bujumbura.  Go to News for Burundi, and you will find stories by ABC, Reuters, Al Jazeera, and more.

To lighten the mood, here are some photos of beautiful flowers here in Bujumbura.  Oh, and also more kitten shots.  This is the equivalent of meditation and humming to regain your "wa."  (inner peace)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

     I spoke too soon about a new location for Uvira.  The current one is horrible---terribly inadequate.  After telling Uvira they were getting a new location and celebrating with the branch presidents, we were then told, several days later, that the building committee in Kinshasa, over 1000 miles away, has decided that the current location will be just fine.  Arghh!!!!!  They want to save money and merely try to construct a non-permanent structure that can be divided with room dividers to make it into 3 classrooms when it is not being used as the chapel.  This requires money to be spent.  Why does this seem better than moving to a larger, better location?  It's like putting lipstick on a pig.
     The mission president agrees with us and has told Kinshasa his opinion.  We now wait to see if the weight of the mission president's wishes will help the building committee see the light.

     Sister Van Wagoner has been teaching a group of members how to sew using sewing machines.  It has been a great project, and the culmination of this class was a fashion show where each class member modeled what he/she had made.  It was a lot of fun and some much needed recognition for the students in the class!

The elders had a soccer game with the branch missionaries at this field.  I include it as a way to show the rural nature of Bujumbura and the beautiful hills in the background.

We shared the large area where the soccer match was being played with several "cows."  Love their horns!

Here are 2 of our sister missionaries.  After a bit of the soccer match, we left and took the sisters to get lunch, as the elders had not included the sisters in their plans.

Friday, April 17, 2015

     It's always good to remember that living in Africa is not exactly like living at home in the U. S.  In Malawi, a visiting Church leader was explaining to the members about fasting on fast Sunday.  He told them that when they fast, they should skip two meals and begin and end their fast with prayer.  The next time he visited with this ward, he asked them how their fast had gone for fast Sunday.  They said it was good.  He then asked them when they had started their fast, and they replied they had started it on Friday.  He suddenly realized that the people there eat only one meal a day, so to skip 2 meals they needed to skip their Friday meal and their Saturday meal.  They actually had not had anything to eat since Thursday.  But they had no complaints and were happy with their fast.  I guess instructions need to be modified for the area!

     Gian Franco went to the interior with 2 doctors to see what they can do for 108 children who are in danger of starving to death.  Many are orphans.  Gian Franco took with him a muringa powder, which is high on nutrients such as calcium, protein, and vitamin C.  They plan to put this powder is a small amount of vegetable soup and slowly start feeding the children whose stomachs have shrunken to almost nothing.  Hopefully in a month they will be doing much better.  There are still so many here who suffer from malnutrition and eventually starvation.  Blows my mind.

     The lines at the gas stations remain long.  For some reason there are still problems with the gasoline supply.

     This week has been a week of protests.  Three this week.  We are warned to avoid them, but on our way to the baptisms last Saturday, we ended up in the middle of one.  It was a friendly demonstration, however, as it was arranged and sponsored by the ruling government.  The police there were helping the march proceed down the street.  Everyone had balloons, and there were multiple truckloads of people in the middle of those who were walking.

Yesterday, Friday, we had been advised there would be another demonstration, this one against the current president and ruling party.  This one was organized by people who don't support the current president and who are totally against his running for a third term, which is unconstitutional and unlawful.  The demonstration was planned for 2:00pm.  Friday morning at 10:00am I went to have my hair cut.  While there, the owner of the salon was talking about the upcoming demonstration, saying she had been told that the police were going to disrupt and harass the participants, perhaps getting violent with them.  She warned me not to go downtown.  Everywhere we went today there was a menacing police presence.  There were large trucks full of armed police, police standing in groups on every 
corner.  Sure enough, when the demonstration began, the police surrounded the group of people assembled  at Independence Square.  Things went bad, with police beating people, using tear gas and water cannons, arresting people.  They blocked the roads leading to Independence Square, making it difficult for people to get there.  I read a news release about the event that stated the violence started when some demonstrators threw rocks at the police, but I knew this morning there would be an incident---it was not so much anticipated; more like it was planned.  It seems this government is determined to stay in power.  So much for democracy in Burundi.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

     Several months ago when we went to make arrangements with the gym in the park to bring the missionaries for their workout, there was a young woman  who helped us book the gym and the exercise teacher.  When she saw my name tag,  she became very excited, exclaiming,  "I have been looking everywhere for this Church!"  So we hooked her up with the sister missionaries when we all came to the park to exercise and didn't think much more about it.  Imagine our surprise when we went to last week's baptism service and there she was, being baptized!  Her name is Rose, and we were excited to see her again.

May I just say, "ALLELUIAH!"  This week we received official approval for the new building for Branch 3 in Bujumbura and also for 2 new buildings in Uvira!  One for each of the branches there. Hopefully we'll get rid of the squat toilet!  Yay!  These changes cannot happen fast enough for me!  

On Easter Sunday we had a notable "first" happen in Branch 1.  The Primary children sang a song in sacrament meeting and did a great job.  First time the Primary has sung in sacrament meeting!

This week we were having lunch with 3 of the 5 branch presidents when they started talking about the influence the U.S. has on polities in Africa.  They were very positive about what they considered the considerable influence of the U. S..  They stated that democracy in Africa was being helped along because of the power of America.  They said that in countries where the U.S chose to wield no power, the governments were dictatorships, and where democratic rule was in effect it was due to the support of the U.S.  I must admit it was nice to hear some citizens of foreign countries complimenting the U.S on what we are doing and actually valuing our efforts.

Time for a kitten update!

They are so cute---skittering and pouncing all over the place.  We have started to try to get them to eat cat food and drink milk from a bowl, and the female is doing quite well.  The little male, however, still prefers his bottle!
 This is Bob, the female kitten.
 This is Darth Vader, the male.

Yesterday we had our weekly baptism service and there were 12 people baptized.  Among them were 4 siblings. Their mother and father and 3 other siblings were baptized several months ago, and the father holds the Aaronic priesthood.  So, at Gary's insistence, the dad was able to baptize his 4 children.  That was super special, it  being the first time a dad has baptized his own children since we arrived 13 months ago!