Sabbath in Mugina, Cibitoke Province

Trip Start Sep 27, 2008
Trip End Oct 22, 2008

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

This morning as I was getting ready for the day, the phone rang at 6:00. It was Mo´se; he was already at the hotel. I hurried my preparations and met him at 6:30 so we could have breakfast together. There were two tables full of young Burundians at breakfast, the men already drinking large bottles of beer with breakfast. Or maybe they were still drinking them. It looked like some of them had been at the party the night before either as guests or as workers.
We were in the taxi, and old Toyota Corolla, shortly after 7:00 am. Driving out of the hotel parking lot we had our first unpleasant surprise: we already had a flat tire. This was not auspicious. The driver drove a few blocks on the flat to an oil and lube place that was already open and working on cars and busses. The driver had a spare, and got it out, but then we had our second unpleasant surprise: he didn't have a jack! Neither did the oil and lube place. So we waited a few minutes until another corolla pulled up for some oil (thankfully the corolla is the car one finds most frequently here), then our driver asked to borrow the jack, which he was given. Most of the tires are of the Chinese inner tube variety. You can keep an inner tube tire on the road longer with holes and punctures and gashes and such, just keep the tube patched.
The tire patched we headed back out onto the road, and found that even in the outskirts of Bujumbura the roadblocks were already in place at 7:30. Having a white guy in the front seat was usually enough to get us through with minimal difficulty. The roads had gotten marginally worse I thought as we drove out of town and onto the road toward Cibitoke. About an hour into the trip we hit a pothole rather hard and heard a loud pop as the recently repaired tire blew its patch. Our second flat tire of the day or perhaps it's more accurate to say the second time our first tire went flat. Pulling over to the side of the road we found ourselves on the edge of mud brick village. When I got out of the car the village children and even some men started wondering over for the free entertainment.
For some reason it had never occurred to me the driver wouldn't have rounded up a jack while we were at the garage, but of course he hadn't had time, or no doubt the inclination either. So we had to wait until we could borrow one once again. It took about 15 minutes. Meanwhile some of the boys tried out their French or English on me. Most of them didn't speak either but a few had been to school and they were eager to try out the words they knew.  So we chatted away in simple phrases. I took a few photos. One fellow in the village was reroofing a mud hut with long grass sheaves. When I pointed the camera at him the whole assembly by our car roared with laughter. They began shouting over to tease him about being the subject of a photo in such a circumstance.
This continued until someone came by in a Rav4 and was persuaded to stop long enough to let us use his jack. It was very kind of them and they didn't ask for anything in return, but were just willing to do a good turn. The driver put the spare on and I said goodbye to the men and boys who had helped or at least advised us through the process. Once again were off.
We drove through Cibitoke and on to the next village, Rugombo, where we could have the tire repaired. By this time it was nearly 10:00 and Mo´se was eager to arrive at services. So he told the driver to drop us off ten miles or so up the road that turned off to the right (east) and then come back to have things fixed while we were busy. I didn't like that idea very much: no spare, no jack and a road much less traveled by, but I let it be. Very shortly along the new road we reached another road block, probably our twelfth of the day. While Mo´se was explaining our situation, someone pointed out to our driver that a different tire had gone flat. That made three! We drove slowly back into the village on the flat to the tire repair "shop". Mo´se went off to negotiate another taxi. The rain grew heavier.
Soon he drove up in a local blue and white taxi and told the first taxi driver to get things fixed and wait for us. I told him to procure a jack as well before the trip back to Bujumbura.
It was raining lightly by the time we drove off in the new old taxi. We drove about another 15 minutes to the village of BuzÚruko, part of the larger commune of Mugina, where we stopped to pick up Nathan Mokeshimana an ordained elder and his wife. Then we drove on a few km to Nyeshenza where we had held a meeting with the local church leadership in February. There we turned off the road and drove down a wet clay-mud track perhaps a half a mile (1km) where the taxi couldn't go any farther. Nathan announced "now we walk a few meters." It was raining steadily by now, and the mud track was a very slick sticky mud track. We laughed as we slipped and slid and tried to keep from falling and we walked quite a few meters - five hundred or so - to a tiny village called Masango, where we found an unfinished clay brick church hall with several tarps arranged over the top of it as a makeshift roof. The building shell was filled with people wall to wall. We had very messy shoes by the time we arrived and I was happy I had worn my second best shoes today....  

This is a relatively new congregation, mostly former Adventists who had asked about the Biblical holy days and been convinced by the explanation. They were joined by members from BuzÚruko and even some from Ruziba, way up the mountain, who had come at very short notice.
They sang a hymn and one of the leaders prayed. Nathan made welcome comments, and I was introduced to address the group, with Mo´se translating. Then there were announcements and special music by several chorales, accompanied only by one drum. The harmonies were very East-African and beautiful.  
I gave an overview sermon on the meaning of the Holy Days, too much for one sermon, especially translated, but I don't make it to this region that often, and it is the season. It rained very hard during the sermon and the tarps began to bulge down with accumulated water, then to leak, drops on my notes, drops on the open Bibles, and on our heads and clothes. Before I noticed it one leak hitting the red African mud by my right leg had splattered my right pant leg, and Nathan's left to the knee. One helpful member took the initiative of opening a large golf-size umbrella and held it over Mo´se and me as I spoke to protect our Bibles. That made things better, but we were all pretty wet and muddy by the end of the service. There was a final hymn: "Rock of Ages" sung in Kirundi. I sang along in English the couplets that I knew. They have just received some of our hymnals and are eager to begin translating them and learning them, but for now they use what they have.
After the closing prayer, the leaders began making plans for the seminar I would hold for the local congregational leaders tomorrow. The various chorales started singing a hymn of thanksgiving and, I was told, the lead singer modified it on the fly to also give thanks for the sermon.   That never happens in Cincinnati when I speak....
The walk back to the car was a comic event. It was still raining fairly hard and we had a steep slope to negotiate just to get down to the road. Nathan handed me a staff I could use. I took of my jacket and tie and folded them into my shoulder bag. They'd have to be dry-cleaned in the event I took a spill. Then telling Nathan "thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" we started out through the rain and mud.
It became an epic march. Even people with no connection to the church wanted to join the procession back to Nyeshenza, led by a soggy Mzungu carrying a staff Ó la Charlton Heston (in my dreams...). We slipped and slid and laughed and talked as we went. The staff was, in fact, very helpful. Several people slipped and fell in different places. They all got up very muddy, but unhurt. I guessed that they're all used to living in these conditions.
Finally back at Nyeshenza, I said goodbye to everyone and we took another local blue-and-white taxi to where we could collect our original one with the flabby tires.  Actually when the local taxi saw the group of us waiting at the side of the road, and a Muzungu in the group to boot, he ordered all his other passengers out so he could take us, either out of sense of hospitality or of economics. Our original taxi was waiting patiently for us, but still didn't have jack.  I asked why he hadn't bought a jack. Mo´se explained inscrutably "when you're stuck in a bad situation you don't make it worse."  I'm sure there was a logic to that statement but I couldn't quite see it. The rain tapered off then stopped about this time. We decided to go jack or no jack.
The trip back went wonderfully uneventfully (not even one flat tire) and we arrived back before sundown, which is a concern. We agreed to leave tomorrow morning at 7:30. Today was a challenging day in some ways, but a very positive and encouraging one in others. Tomorrow promises to be something similar.
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hervedubois on

Bonjour M. Meeker
Je viens de lire avec plaisir votre journal du dernier sabbat. J'aime beaucoup les photos avec les enfants, très attentifs. C'est assez cocasse aussi de lire vos impressions, et j'imagine qu'il faut sans doute, dans certaines circonstances, une dose bien tassée de bonne humeur et de patience, aussi je ne manque pas de prier pour vous. Les détails fidèles que vous donnez (avec beaucoup d'humour, c'est souvent irrésistible !!) donne certainement une idée du défi que représente vos voyages pastoraux en Afrique. J'imagine aussi que le fait de participer à l'un deux ou de vivre une Fête sur place est un challenge consistant.

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