337. In case you missed it…Learning How to Hope…for Burundi


The image above links to the print copy of the book.  Click here for the Kindle version!

Monday was a holiday in the U.S.  and most people don’t read my blog on holidays so in case you missed it I’m reposting details on how to help the flood relief and recovery in Burundi.  The country is so small no one’s going to know about this or help unless you do.  I’m also reminding you of one of my favorite “Africa” stories (scroll down to 104).  Leaning over the railing of my bed, one of the first things Ai Ai said to me at Vibra (2nd Hospital) was, “D told me to tell you when you open your eyes, ‘NOW you can go to Africa.'”  🙂

I was astonished to find myself on a path that led to 3rd world missions.  Me?   I thought.  The princess and the pea?!?!?!  It was thrilling and terribly exciting.  Imagine my disappointment when I realized that God’s plan for me involved a craniotomy and a wheelchair instead of the African Adventure I dearly wanted to embark on.

The African Adventure is one only an outsider like me could have imagined.  If you’re living it it’s not made up of romanticized tableaux we read of in books or see on screen.  Many Africans, e.g. in Burundi, have survived things I cannot bear to think about fully.  When my dad interrogated me about the cultural history of Burundi when I was lobbying to move there I tried to gloss over the fact that the country had been tearing itself apart until the recent past.

One of the most sobering experiences of my visit in 2011 was seeing people routinely knock on the door of Chez Johnson for help.  One day it was a woman and a baby.  JJ came to the dining room to tell JCJ about it.  I think she was a battered woman and the baby looked sick, like (s)he had AIDS.  I don’t know what to do for them, he said.  But a minute later JJ was back in the front room, praying with the lady and JCJ was digging around her pantry, trying to find some rice and beans, maybe some tinned milk or some soap to give to the woman.  What are you going to do when people like this knock on your door?  they asked me later.

Umm…I demurred, I dunno, call you?

 There it was:  suffering that I had never seen in such close proximity showed up on their doorstep, and I was sure that if I moved there it would be showing up on mine.  Here is a quote from my “Memoirs.”

I recorded some notes after a marathon telephone call with Dad in November 2010, when I asked him to let me ask Jesse and Joy if they would host me on a short trip in March 2011.  The big takeaway from that two-hour discussion was that Dad was extremely concerned that I be sure before taking any steps to communicate or visit with the Johnsons.  He was very afraid that if I turned out to be wrong about my conviction that God was leading me to Africa, I’d be terribly hurt, and my faith would take a severe beating.  Well, it turns out that I was definitely wrong about The Plan, and it did hurt my feelings very badly.  I have had the opportunity, however, to examine my motivations for going to Africa in the first place, and have found that it’s not just the social and medical services I saw there that were helping the community.  It was the living water the Johnsons, their Aunt and Uncle, and fellow believers dispensed in conjunction with practical ministry that gave people a reason to hope when human circumstances pointed only to hardship and despair. 

The recent flooding will only add to the hardship and despair.  The most heartbreaking part of JJ’s report on what happened is that children aged 6-12 were often the most vulnerable since they were too old to be carried (parents likely had arms full with younger siblings) but too small to make it to higher ground safely.  Trust me on this one – I’ve seen or experienced several heartbreaking things since I got sick, but reading about these children takes gut-wrenching to another level.

So you have two options now.  Let remind you that Burundi is already one of the poorest countries in the world.  They didn’t have much to begin with, and many survivors lost it all.  Burundi is a very small country.  I can’t remember ever hearing about it on the news – the only reason I know about what happened is that I have a personal connection there.  So now I’m telling you – please help.  ❤

Choose both options if you can!

Option 1:  give generously and directly via CMML Paypal.  It links to the Johnson’s “Special Project” account, as opposed to their personal account.  Specify “flood relief” in the contact field.  Jesse explains the logistics of giving here.  Donations will be tax deductible.  The funds will be channeled directly to church-based relief efforts (Gatunguru Emmanuel church was right in the middle of the devastation but since it’s on slightly higher ground the building survived while the houses on either side were demolished) but they will be offering assistance to Burundians regardless of background.   The priorities will be 1) food and clothing, and then 2) tin and cement.


Option 2:  purchase Learning How… to HopeYou didn’t think I’d come up with another one this fast, did ya?!?!?  Well, necessity is the mother of invention.  Please help Learning How Corporation support the flood relief and future recovery efforts in Burundi by purchasing this collection of 10 of my favorite blog posts about why I have hope.  This is a really easy decision.  A hard copy (Prime eligible) is  < $8 on Amazon ($7.20 when I wrote this), and the Kindle e-book is only $6.  Instant gratification, anyone?  There is an active table of contents and the e-book will work on your Kindle device or Apple or Android-based Kindle app.  All royalties from the sales of this title will go to relief and recovery in Burundi.

As you know, all royalties from any of the Learning How projects are non-profit.  If you haven’t checked out my other books, please do!  And if you go to church with any of my siblings or at W in Oregon, you can purchase Vol 1 or Ed’s book “live” – ask around for who’s got them.


Also, if you’ve read any of my books, please take the time to leave a review on Amazon.  I heard it helps in the search rankings.

Above all, though, please keep on praying for Burundi.  Thank you for your support.

104.  *Now* you can go to Africa


The idea of going to Africa (much less living there) sounded so outlandish to me that I didn’t say anything to anyone about it for about 6 months.  I just wanted to pray about it to make sure it wasn’t a passing fancy before I called for backup.  When I did, I told my siblings and Je (my friend from Business school), and then prepared to email Mom and Dad, who were in Malaysia at the time.  Can you believe I sprung this on them via email?  Well, calling was less convenient since they were overseas.  I phrased it something like this:  Mom and Dad, brace yourselves.  I want to go to Africa.  I know – crazy crazy crazy talk.

Once I sent that email I calculated the time zone difference to estimate the hour my parents might read my message.  I then imagined my poor Dad, hunched over a little workstation at a dimly lit internet café, saying, Oh look, my baby emailed me.  Then <click> – I sprung the whole Africa thing on them.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being so cool.  It took about 6 additional months, but they agreed to me taking a 10-day visit in March 2011.  When I returned from that trip and asked if I could move there permanently, it turns out that my parents were not the only, or most vocal, ones who needed convincing.

The first thing my sister told me when she came to visit me in the hospital besides “Hi,” was “Db said to tell you when you open your eyes that now you can go to Africa.”  Db is a friend from my first job and she brought her little daughter to OR to visit me the Summer before I got sick.  We celebrated my 30th birthday together and as I stood at the sink washing dishes I heard her chuckling from her seat at the table.  I turned off the water so I could hear what was so funny.  “Remember the time you wanted to go to Africa?”  She referenced a trip I had planned a couple of years prior but that had been derailed because of a slight blip in my bloodwork.  Db’s chuckling grew into all-out guffaws.  “You like to shower twice a day!!”  I had to laugh with her, but I did not share with her at that moment the fact that I was campaigning to try again and go to Africa as soon as I could convince my parents to agree.

Once I had made my ten-day sojourn into Africa and been officially invited to move there I told my friends, and Db and Dn (another former coworker of ours; she was also my cubicle neighbor) came to have lunch with me and hear the details.  After they had verified with Mom that my parents were aware of the fact that I wanted to move to Africa they began interrogating me regarding the safety set-up of my prospective home.  They asked questions like, “How far away would you be living from the J’s?,” “Could they hear you scream?”, and my personal favorite, “So are the bars on the windows screwed in from the inside or the outside?”

“See?” they told me, “You don’t know to ask these questions, but we do.”  I thought it was so nice to have friends who know how to look out for my welfare take an interest in doing so, and I am even more thankful now.


4 thoughts on “337. In case you missed it…Learning How to Hope…for Burundi

  1. Just bought Learning How to Hope (girl, you’ve been busy!!), and I can’t wait until it arrives on Thursday so I can read it, and pass it on. You are so right, the report of the flooding is heartbreaking. I’m glad you are taking the opportunity to champion the cause… we’ll be praying!

  2. Your stuff is too good to miss, Ning – I ordered 10 books quick-smart, and can’t wait to get them! But poor Burundi. Most of the heartbreak in this world is mercifully blurred by distance, but even when we get just a small glimpse …. there are no words.

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