As I anticipated moving to Africa I knew I was stepping out of the baby pool and would be required to do a flying cannonball into the deep end. I realized this once I saw the parade of visitors who knocked on the front door at ChezJ while stayed with them in Burundi. One Sunday a lady carrying a little baby came to the door and asked for JJ. He had just gone for a quick Sunday afternoon nap but roused himself to greet the visitor. Rubbing sleep from his eyes, he tried to coax his brain into action with some coffee, and then headed to the front of the house. A few minutes later he appeared in the dining room where I sat with JCJ.
He was fully awake now. This woman has been beaten and I think the baby might have AIDs, he told his wife. I don’t know what to do for them.
But as JCJ disappeared to dig around in the pantry JJ went back to the front door and simply prayed with that lady, pouring what he had into her life. JCJ sent them off with a bar of antibacterial soap and some dry tinned milk.
Apparently the combination of spiritual and physical care ChezJ dispenses works because people keep on coming back.
What are you going to do when they come to YOUR door?
I had no idea. The prospect frightened me. But the visual image of people tracing their way to ChezJ’s front door will always stick with me. People come back there bc the J family stuck it out when they could have left the country when the “ethnic terror” escalated as Burundi struggled for independence.
I remember reading something a long time ago (sorry if I’m misquoting, but I think I’ve got a good grasp on the gist) about how people came to ask JJ’s paternal grandfather, Carl, to leave the country for his own safety , and he was like, No, no, sorry – I can’t. We’re having Movie Night at the mission on Tuesday.
And they did. Eventually Carl and his wife Eleanor hosted an enormous number (up to 10k) of refugees at the mission. They stayed when they could have left. They told the Burundians “God loves you,” and backed it up with sacrificial acts of practical service. You can’t argue with all of that humanitarian heavy-lifting. Their legacy is the stuff of legend.
The country witnessed just how brutal human retribution can be when the civil war came (1993-2005). This time around, JJ’s parents were carrying the torch in Burundi but they got kicked out bc they went to watch one of their sons graduate from a school in a nearby country and they weren’t allowed back in. So the elder Js relocated to Tanzania with so many other refugees where they currently minister.
JJ and JCJ moved back to Burundi and live in ChezJ, the house that JJ’s daddy built and that once hosted 20+ or 30+ refugees. I was so thrilled to think that I could be a part of the work there. One of the things I really respected about all the health and education ministries going on there is that the Burundian believers in charge obviously love the Gospel, and they are also committed to sustainability (e.g. creating self-funding revenue streams – hence my interest as a financial analyst). Many individuals who came to adulthood amidst unspeakable violence but have been touched by the healing power of Christ now dedicate their lives to serving their countrymen.
The collective experience of War formed a generation. The history of brutality was so common, it was often barely noted while I was in Burundi. But as an outsider I’d occasionally catch a glimpse of the past and it made my insides quiver.
I had that same feeling when I published Learning How to Hope. I pulled together some of the most pointed posts from this blog and released this collection with the intention that all royalties would go directly to Flood Relief and Recovery in Burundi. It has gone well. Online sales, but mostly in-person sales – I held a few special “Team Tanimal” sales in Maryland, the South, and Oregon and was able to donate 100% of the sales price, not just the profits – allowed Learning How Corporation to send a tidy little sum across the Atlantic.I often get nervous if someone tells me they started reading my blog. I’m like, What happened? Are you okay?!?! Bc people will usually start reading when they need to start reading. I do, however, like to tell you funny stories etc. to lighten things up around here, but I’m often dealing with heavier subjects because that’s what my life is about now. If you’re looking for a sampling of blog posts, and like the feeling of holding a book in your hands as opposed to looking at a screen, Learning How to Hope is the way to go. Even Tanpo read some of it – he really liked the Edamame post. …Hope is also the only book to be available in a Kindle version so far ($6). I had grand plans to configure my other two for electronic publishing but that didn’t really pan out – sorry (see what I mean about the wash out?).
I really like Learning How to Hope bc it’s a collection of my favorite and most meaningful blog posts – i.e. they are stand-alone “essays” of a reasonable length that are easily digested. Plus I just love the picture on the front. As of yesterday it’s $8 on Amazon. Use Prime or Super Saver Shipping. Thank you for your support.