Crime, punishment and forgiveness

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
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Trip End May 01, 2011


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Where I stayed
Hotel Dolce Vita Resort

Flag of Burundi  , Bujumbura Mairie,
Friday, April 22, 2011

Today I planned an earlier breakfast so as not to keep anyone waiting, and we were on the road by shortly after 07:30. The drive north was relatively incident free, just the usual experience of slaloming around potholes, drivers (including our own) riding their horns to warn other vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians, dogs, cows, goats, and chickens to get out of the way as everything on wheels comes careening through more quickly than it should.

We pulled in to Buseruko at around 09:30 and started right in on more counseling sessions. Mr. Mundeli and I split up this time; Nathan worked with him and Moļse with me. We were able to work with more people this way. We were at one end of the church hall, they at the other. We went through without with only short breaks for about 4 hours. We were happy to find that we could baptize almost everyone, only a couple of people still had questions or needed a little more time, study and reflection. I finished a little earlier than Mr. Mundeli, so I distributed copies of photos I took on my last visit (those are very treasured gifts here), and took more photos.

By around 14:00 we were ready to perform the 14 baptisms that have, for most of those involved, been in preparation for more than a year. We drove down the dirt road which leads to the stream, as far as we could and parked in a little sub-village.

There was excitement as we arrived, since we had happened on an unfortunate matter. A dusty grimy teenager of about 17 was the center of attention of a group of stern faced adults. His elbows had been tied together behind his back and he'd been roughed up from the look of things. We walked quickly through the crowd, on our way to the stream but news trickled to us as we walked. The young man had been smoking hemp (cannabis) and stole some bananas from what used to be his father’s field. But his father has recently sold the field and banana plants to someone else, who caught the thief in the act and demanded his money back. This put the father in a bad situation, and he apparently approved of whatever punishment had been meted out and wasn’t averse to adding some of his own. The boy was obviously resisting going home with his father. It didn’t appear to be a situation that would be easily sorted out.

Down at the stream which was running swift and muddy from recent rains, the church members set about building "dressing rooms" out of banana plant clusters. By weaving wide banana leaves around the closely spaced trunks of the plants, they created small phone-both sized chambers that acted very well as changing rooms.

All that completed, Mr. Mundeli and I gathered the group together. I asked a blessing, which was translated, on the whole ceremony and then we waded out into the stream and performed 14 baptisms one after the other. Then wading back out again we proceeded to the laying on the hands to ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit on each one. I asked a global prayer on the group and then asked Mr. Mundeli to ask the individual blessing which he could do in a language they could each understand. I think it worked well that way.

As we were asking the last prayers it started to rain lightly. We walked back to the car and drove back to Nathan Mokeshimana’s house. By the time we arrived there it was pouring rain. We ran through the downpour dodging puddles and trying not to slip on the wet clay, until we arrived at the house. They weren’t expecting us so soon and with the rain beating on the tin roof they couldn’t hear the increasing soaked friends shouting outside the front door to be let in. The door finally opened and we shook ourselves off inside before sitting down for a meal of rice, beans, chicken and sauce, finger-sized cooked bananas and a soda each. It was nearly 16:00 by this time, so we didn’t have time to dally.

We ate quickly and taking our leave of Nathan and his wife, went back to the car. The sudden downpour has stopped, though we still had to watch the puddles and clay-mud.

The drive back to Bujumbura was uneventful; thankfully so. We arrived just after sundown, and at my hotel, separated for the night. I have to get the French member newsletter out tonight and prepare for services tomorrow and the ongoing portion of my trip.
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Comments

maryhendren
maryhendren on

Hi Joel,
What an interesting account of the baptisms. This is the first time I've read of brethren making changing areas from woven banana leaves, of 14 being baptized in such a swift stream, of a group prayer in one language and individual prayers in another. It must be an encouraging time for you and the brethren.

Regards,
Mary

Virginia Finlay on

Thank you so much for the write up. It is encouraging to all of us. We need to keep up to date on brethren in other areas. It really makes us part of something larger than us. I thank God that He has provided us a spiritual home -

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