Another day in Ruziba

Trip Start Sep 08, 2013
Trip End Oct 04, 2013

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Flag of Burundi  ,
Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Today we were to have left at 08:00 but things ran late and Mose arrived a little after 8:30. We drove to the center of town and I changed some money to pay for our expenses, gasoline and such, than we started north again for the two hour drive to Ruziba. As we left Bujumbura my eyes fell again on the sprawling cemetery that peeks out here and there from the bush. Some VIPs have large elaborate tombs, close to the road, where everyone can see them. We all want to be remembered.

Farther north along the road north I again noticed the military outposts that appeared every few miles: large green tents often with some smaller tents around and soldiers armed with assault rifles usually the ubiquitous AK-47. I asked Mose why there were these new outposts. He explained that they are deployed to guard the border against possible incursions or spillovers from the fighting in the mountains of Congo, easily visible just a few miles to the west. It's been very active over there these past months and things do spill over. Fighting in Congo spills over into Burundi and in the past when there was fighting in Burundi it spilled over into Congo as various groups maneuvered for position. I wasn’t sure if I was happy to see the soldiers or not.

We picked up Nathan in Mugina and drove up into the mountains to Ruziba. There were a few more people than yesterday, a little over 90 with the children of whom there are many.

Again we started with some hymns, an opening prayer and the choir sang. Then I took about 2 hours to talk about some of our fundamental doctrines. There are new people attending, and as many people here are illiterate fundamental subjects must be covered multiple times to make sure people can understand and remember. So we covered what the Bible teaches compared to what some churches believe and teach about:

         -The Godhead
         -Satan and the angelic realm
         -The purpose of human life
         -Sin and the law of God
         -Three days and three nights

There were many questions as we went along, especially on specific passages like Colossians 4 that are used to support teachings in opposition to our beliefs. It is clear that a number in the congregation spend time studying the Bible and that it is a common topic of discussion among people, especially men, here. Families often can afford to send all their children to school, and boys get preference so their literacy rate is higher.

The question of three days and three nights sparked an animated discussion with some newer people who became very excited as we read different verses and put together a chronology.

We finished about 2:30 and had a snack again. Due to logistical difficulties there was only baguette and Fanta or Coke for lunch today. Jean-Marie the local church leader explained that he’s new to the village and wasn’t able to borrow enough pots to cook anything for a group this size, otherwise there might have been rice and beans. But what was there to eat had be brought in from Bujumbura. This combination of bread and soda must not be too uncommon, because I noticed a number of people happily pouring the Fanta onto the end of their piece of baguette to soften it and give it some flavor. I don’t think this will catch on back home, but who knows: "I’ll have a grapefruit Fanta sandwich please…"

After  we finished eating, which didn’t take long, I set up my laptop on a chair placed on the table and I showed a PowerPoint presentation about our Headquarters office in Texas and our administration and staff. Then I showed them some video that I had just shot, of their choir singing as well as shots I had taken of them that day. It’s still amazing, even to me, that one can shoot video, pull the chip out of the camera, slide it in a laptop and watch hi-def video immediately. It’s amazing to me – it’s like science fiction to them – if they knew what science fiction is. It probably seems pretty close to magic although they understand it’s some sort of technology.

I wish I could have recorded their faces when they saw themselves on the screen. This is a place where most people never even have a photograph of themselves, so to see themselves on a hi-definition screen was truly stunning. Mouths dropped open, eyes grew wide. Some people froze in concentration, others rocked and giggled, nudging each other and pointing. It was truly amazing. I was struck by how little they know of some elements of  “modern” life, and then by how that is both a limitation and a protection from some negatives. There is still a kind of primeval innocence here that has long been lost elsewhere. There is primeval brutality in the region too, and not very far off, but that was not on display here.

The presentations took about another hour, then we finally said goodbye and took a group photo before we walked back down to the vehicle. One village fellow walked along with me and started a pitch for some money: he was out of work (they’re all farmers here – so he wasn’t really) and hard up etc. I told him as kindly as I could that I had already given what I had to give. Pretty much everyone here could say the same things he was saying, we just can’t fix all the problems that exist – yet.

Normally Nathan would have come back to Bujumbura with us and we would have had dinner together, but he needed to stay in Mugina to see that the work on the church hall continues. So we said goodbye and wished God’s blessing on each other and then Nathan and I drove back to Bujumbura. He has work to do as well since he had taken two days off for the work we had to do.

He’ll be back to take me to the airport tomorrow about noon. 
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Margaret Villaescusa on

As always, I enjoyed reading about our brethren and how the gospel is being preached far and wide. The contrast between their world and ours is stark, but
sometimes our blessings work more as curses, when we use them amiss.
With prayers for a safe and profitable trip.

mary hendren on

Thanks, Joel, for another interesting commentary. As many times as you've gone over the basic doctrines, still it must be rewarding, seeing the excitement of people as they first understand the truth. As you meet with people who have never seen themselves in a photo or video, it must be fun to watch their reactions when you present their pictures.


Cecil M on

I appreciate your journal, Joel, and I cannot say in words how deeply we appreciate the service you are providing those whose minds God is opening. We rejoice that God keeps you safe--and we pray the same for our brothers and sisters there--but we rejoice most in the growth of God's family.

Tess Washington on

It sounds like more people are being called to know God's truths. The knowledge that you passed on to them are priceless and it is good to hear that they seem to welcome it and willing to learn more by asking questions.

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