Busy Day in Mugina

Trip Start Sep 06, 2012
Trip End Oct 09, 2012

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Flag of Burundi  ,
Saturday, September 15, 2012

Several readers have expressed concern over the unrest in the Middle East and parts of Africa that is targeting Americans. I will not be going to any regions sensitive to this current phenomenon, so I don't believe there is any cause to be concerned for me on that account. Thank you for your kind thoughts.

This morning, we left a little before 08:00 for the drive north. Just out of Bujumbura we passed a long string of soldiers apparently coming in from a night march. They were strung out over several miles and I estimated their numbers at about 500. Moise said this was a training exercise in preparation for their deployment to Somali under UN colors. Burundian soldiers are eager for that assignment, because although a number have been killed, the pay from the UN is much higher than Burundian standard. So a year’s deployment can give a young man a very good start in life (except for those…).

Most were carrying AK-47s a few with machine guns on bipods. Their muzzle discipline was pretty poor, and I ended up looking down a lot of barrels as we drove by; I hoped their clips were empty.

The rest of the drive north was without incident. we say the usual scenes of farming and bicycle transportation as we drove along.

As we pulled into Mugina, the members had seated and singing hymns while waiting for us to arrive. The congregation here really needs a hall and we're working on getting them some funds to have a proper meeting place. Right now they meet under tarps, which is fine as long as it doesn't rain, which it often does. They have the foundation built and they should be receiving additional funds soon to help them get the walls up.

Singing hymns together is a common, and fine way to pass some time on a day of worship. We started on time at 10:00.  Mr. Mundeli was asked just before services to give a sermonette, he asked if I thought it was a good idea for him to work off sermon notes he had and cut it down a lot. I agreed that would be a good way to go. We sang 3 of our standard hymns, though since they’ve never heard them played on a piano – no one can read music here and only heard them sung by members from Rwanda who came down to teach them, the melodies have "evolved." One recognizes the hymn but every so often there is a new and unexpected progression.

Mr. Mundeli gave his sermonette on how to be thankful to God. Then came special music from each of the three congregational chorales that were present. They each sang two selections which made for quite a long musical interlude, but it was very beautifully done. African harmonies are usually clear and natural, of a recognizably different kind than in the western tradition. They can be entrancing.

Just before services Nathan had asked if we would do a blessing of the little children. I asked how many there were. He said two children. I said we’d be happy to have than ceremony, a change for me to show him how we conduct it. After the special music we began the ceremony of the blessing of little children. I read the passage in Mark 10 where Jesus gave such a blessing, the example on which we base our practice. I explained, and Moise translated, what we were going to do. The two mothers came forward, and after a moment’s hesitation, a dozen more, walked up spontaneously. So we had about 15 instead of 2. Africa is blessed with children, though the children aren’t always blessed to live such conditions.

I asked a blessing on the whole ceremony and then we went down the line taking turns holding the babies that would allow themselves to be held without crying. I asked Mr. Mundeli to ask the blessings (he can do so in the local language) to save some time, since I would have had to be translated, and we were already behind in our schedule. Most of the babies were quiet and allowed themselves to be held. Two I felt were very hot with fever. Malaria I was told later, is rife through the whole region, everyone gets it, and it hits some babies right away, The complications can be serious to the point of fatality especially for the very young and very old.

Subsistence level farming families can’t afford diapers, they just use extra wraps of the thin cloth they have available. So we had a few surprises when the babies were handed to us…. Let’s see, where did I put that hand sanitizer?

After the blessing of the children, and a quick clean-up, I took the floor again and announced that there would be an ordination today.  I read the passage in 1 Timothy 3 that talks about the qualifications of church elders, and explained that our church administration and board had approved the ordination of Mr. Nathan Mokeshimana into the ministry of the Church of God. I asked him to come forward and Mr. Mundeli to assist me with the laying on of hands. We thanked God for Nathan’s service thus far, and asked God to appoint him to the ministry and to bless his future service. The congregation was very excited and thankful for this milestone for Burundi.

By this time, I had about half an hour left for a sermon (our sermons are normally about an hour long), so I trimmed as I went, talking about how to prepare for and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in the most profitable manner. I was able to end right at 12:00 on schedule, we sang a final hymn and I gave the closing prayer.

Before ending completely, Nathan asked that Mr. Mundeli and I take greetings back to our home regions and to other areas we might visit and asked the congregations to wave their greetings, which I was able to capture in a photo.

After services, many parishioners came to congratulate Nathan and express their appreciation for his service. We chatted with various people for about an hour (me almost exclusively through translation) until people started heading for home – some had walked hours to come to the service. And we embarked and drove back to Burundi.

For dinner I invited the three men to a local lakeside restaurant that offers excellent grilled mukeke, a fish that is only found in Lake Tanganyika, and is a local favorite. It is Nathan’s favorite dish so it seemed appropriate.

It was a long, full and rewarding day, and will be a memorable one in the developing history of our church in Burundi.

Tomorrow will be a full travel day to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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Lenna Slaughter on

What a wonderful day! The blessing of the little children is always a touching event. I am thankful that additional parents were inspired to come forward with their children in addition to the two which were expected. The brethren must be so excited to have another elder to help shepherd them. Prayers are with you all.

Bernard on

Exciting news about Nathan's ordination. We wish him the best. Thanks again for the inspiring news, and your willingness to hold babies without diapers !!! Got a chuckle at that one !

Tess Washington on

Mr. Meeker, this is a beautiful blog in many respects...it made me laugh, excited, cheered for all the good things I read. Our prayers will be for the betterment of our brethrens in Burundi. Thank you also for the assurance that you are far away from the troubled countries at this moment in time!

Bev Lofty on

thank you for letting us know you are not in any apparent danger at this point :-) safe travels and may God bless you greatly for all the work you do :-)

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