Sabbath in Buseruko

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
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11
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Trip End May 01, 2011


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Where I stayed
Bujumbura Airport

Flag of Burundi  , Bujumbura Mairie,
Saturday, April 23, 2011

This morning I was up early to be ready to go by 07:00. I repacked, walked down to the reception desk at 06:30 and told them I needed to be able to check out and pay by 07:00. Then I went in to have breakfast, also telling the waiter I needed to be finished by 07:00. He hurried. My coffee, juice and omelet arrived in record time.

A young American woman was waiting for coffee. I could tell she was a compatriot by her clothes: athletic shorts and a T-shirt. European women wouldn't show up in a hotel lobby first thing in the morning dressed this way. That’s the first time I’ve seen another expat in this hotel, a good sign for them.

I was at the desk to settle by bill at 07:00, but the receptionist was still working on it. Finally he asked if I minded if my bill didn’t have my passport number on it, and I said I did not. I finally walked out with my bags at 07:15. Moïse had come to pick me up before Mr. Mundeli this morning because this Saturday was a civil work day, where from 07:00 to 11:00 all citizens are supposed to work on work projects to improve the country: cut weeds on the side of the road, clean out drainage ditches, build school buildings etc. So all roads have checkpoints on them to stop people trying to "shirk" by traveling and not working. They can be pressed into work gangs on the spot. Moïse said most people just stay home to avoid the work, and that having a whit person in the front seat is usually a safe passage at the checkpoints. So I was picked up first, then we picked Mr. Mundeli who was staying in a Presbyterian guesthouse right near the Burundian Presidential Palace.

As we drove north toward Buseruko we hit many checkpoints and sure enough, my being in the front seat got us waved through them all, although we did have to discuss the situation at one or two of them.

We arrived just after 09:00 and began services. 157 people were packed into the small hall. They came from two different congregations and some had started out walking at 5:00 am to be able to attend here. There were hymns and an opening prayer, and then Mr. Mundeli gave a split sermon on the topic of pride and its links to sin and the symbolism of leaven. There was another hymn, and several pieces of special music from the three chorales (two children’s and one adults’) present. They took up an offering, supposing that since we were in the middle of the Days of Unleavened Bread the scriptures stating to give an offering whenever one appeared before God must apply. We discussed this after the service and I explained our church’s understanding of this practice.

Then it was my turn to speak. I talked about the meaning of the days in the Old and then the New Testament. By this time it was getting hot and eyelids were drooping. It’s challenging to listen to a sermon with phrase by phrase translation: it takes longer to get the information across. One verse I read was Hebrews 12:1 which refers to the sin that “so easily ensnares us.” The French says “envelops us” and the Kirundi says something like “surrounds” or “grabs” us. To try to help everyone stay focused, I mimed “sin” sneaking up on tiptoes and throwing its arms around an inattentive Christian with a “gotcha” noise. They laughed loudly about that, and I didn’t see any more drooping eyes for the rest of the sermon.

After the sermon there was more music, the chorales hadn’t finished their repertoire yet, and no one was in a hurry to leave anyway. Folks here have nothing to rush off to do on a Saturday afternoon.

We finally finished about 12:30, and then went outside to take photos of the whole group and of those were baptized the day before. Only 11 of the 14 were there. Three lived to far away to come again and attended their local congregation in Massango. I tried to get them to smile again for at least one photo, more or less successfully.

Nathan ask for bus money so the people who had walked so far to come wouldn’t have to walk all the way back. It wasn’t much, so I was happy to contribute.  Then we drove to Nathan’s house for lunch – hospitalité oblige. It started to rain as we reached his house, and I teased him that it rained every time we came. Mr. Mundeli chimed in that we brought a blessing with us each time. In agrarian societies, rain is a much-needed and appreciated blessing.

By the time we finished eating it was to head back to Bujumbura and the airport so I could catch my 5:00 pm flight to Nairobi. I would normally avoid travel on the Sabbath but the way the flight schedules were this time, this is the only way I can be in Lomé, Togo for the last day of this festival.

The drive went smoothly and well, and we arrived at the airport just a little earlier than needed which gave us time to go over last-minute questions and logistical issues for the region and for future visits.

To my surprise the airport lounge has wifi. The Internet is become more and more available even in Africa. So I hope to upload this post to my blog before boarding for Nairobi.
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Comments

Laura Bashus on

This was wonderful to read, and we'll keep our Buseruko brethren in our prayers! We hope they all have a wonderful Last Day of Unleavened Bread!

maryhendren
maryhendren on

Hi Joel,
Thanks for the happy account of the Sabbath along with the photos, especially catching so many smiles among the newly baptized members. How encouraging to have 157 people in attendance at services and lots of chorale music. When you added the dramatic enactment of "sin" sneaking up on inattentive Christians, it made for an exciting Sabbath. We trust that the Last Day of Unleavened Bread is a joyous one for you and the brethren.

Regards,
Mary

Paulette Duncan on

This is so wonderful to to be able to read of your travels and service to God's people,Mr.Meeker, thank you!!!!

Rosie Seltzer on

I was overjoyed to see how many brethren
attended Sabbath services. Thanks so much
for your update. You are accomplishing much
on this trip.

Carol Froedge on

The report and pictures were so heart-warming....thanks for sharing the experiences with us. It makes a diffence! The L Day of UB is almost here in Kentucky and thinking of others around the world is a good start to this special day.

danielandcindy
danielandcindy on

Wow, what a large group gathered for the Sabbath! We are happy for the newly baptized members, what a blessing. I wish we could have been there with you, especially to see the mid-sermon mime. :) Take care and safe travels!

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