Sunday, October 31, 2010

Marching to a new Drum in Burundi: General Conference is Here!

We are excited to have General Conference in Burundi. The DVD's came in time for the All Africa showing that happens here the last Sunday in Oct, so we sent out an email announcement and got responses even from the past Branch President. He wondered how we found his email... Janet sleuthing with her ever faithful Internet search engine. After a long day getting things ready, on our way home we heard some drums as we turned the corner. A quick U-turn and a peak over the fence revealed:
To watch conference we held our breath and prayed that the power would be on and stay on, then we taped up black plastic so the room could be darkened. We received the projector that we ordered in our first week in Lubumbashi so I took the projector, computer, etc and set up the room for front wall projection. We set up the smaller room with Swahili by putting Elder J's large screen computer on a chair on a table. We had about 12 people watching in there the first session and 8 the second. In the large room we had 45 the first session and 23 the second. So this weeks attendance was 57 with eight people that the missionaries didn't know.  The usual investigators were present but with some new family members. Pastor Johnson brought his wife and 16 year old son. He stayed for both sessions but she had to get back to a child with malaria. Annie was ever present and pleased that we had the session in Swahili.
Simon, the former branch clerk came in late but then his oldest daughter (who we found out had been baptized) and her two children came in later. He was an instant glowing grandfather. They love their grandpa. Afterward he expressed his amazement. "What kind of building do they hold that in... it must be huge... is that even possible... where is it!!??" We are so excited that the searchers found his records so we don't have to tell him that we would have to re-baptise him.

We started the meeting with a song and prayer and then they experienced for the first time, the sustainings of new members and sustaining of two young men to the Aaronic priesthood; a deacon-Alain Malabi, and a priest-Fleure... I helped him sustain himself: all new to them. Then we confirmed the three of them with Frere Malabi as voice (with some still small whispering in the ear to get it all right). The spirit was strong and the receptivity of these friends of the church is so good. I will be anxious for our missionary correlation meeting to see how close to baptism they are. Next Sunday after fast and testimony meeting we will hold our second baptisms... at least that is the schedule....stay tuned!! Oh, yeah, the power went out as we were packing up and saying good-bye to everyone. We love being part of a work that is not ours.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Search is on...Food for the Body and Soul

There are so many wonderful things happening in Bujumbura that it seems kind of sad to talk about something as boring as food, but it is one of the things that we have to think about far more than we'd like to here in Burundi.
When our call came to Africa I thought, "I wouldn't talk about food." Well..............
Now I'm eating my words. Actually, sometimes we feel like that's that best thing available to eat.
Food is a real challenge here in Burundi. We thought that we were limited in Lubumbashi, but we were not! We had Jambo market, Ma Maison and Psaro and they were were filled with good things. Not everything you would want was there-no shortening, no good chicken, no cottage cheese, etc., but they really had a great selection of food.
Now I appreciate what really nice stores they were.
Then there was the "apple lady" on the corner who had the best apples ever, and the Qovado bread store with delicious small loaves of French bread.
There was even a take out at Luana, who had pretty good chicken and fries meals.
Now, we are in Bujumbura and we know how good we had it in Lubumbashi. Finding food is sadly a pretty big preoccupation for us. We have found a few very small stores, about the size of a convenience store. Each has a few choices of items.
The only canned foods we've found are tomato paste, tomatoes, corn, and mushrooms. Oh, and we can get tuna for $5 a can and sardines, which have not temped us at any price.
We're not allowed to go to the big local open-air market where the native Burundians go because of security concerns. It wouldn't do us much good anyway because the minute we show our white, stranger faces, the prices go way up. Many of the things in the markets are not things we even recognize or know how to use either.
If you're a tropical fruit fan you can always get pineapples, mango, papaya and bananas on the streets. I love the tiny bananas. They're just the right size and very sweet and tasty. A Banana a day keeps...
Bread, eggs and fruits and veggies are reasonably priced, but are in very limited varieties. We have found a "pain gris" that is grey bread... they say it is whole wheat... the toast is great! Can you imagine craving broccoli- we have found it twice... once with so few flowers on it and at such a price, Janet shredded the stalks to put in our salad.  We can get an egg or a banana for $.35. An apple or an orange will cost you $1, if you can find one. Things are there one time and gone the next. American products are priced sky high. We found an average size bottle of shampoo $18 so we are presently glad we brought some but how long will it last... Hairspray is $13.00 but we can get spray on hair gel for $6.00.  Corn starch was $6 for a small box, so we passed on that one.
We are much more adventuresome with new food than the Jamesons, so they tell us. We have bought some crazy things. We bought what we thought was fresh milk. After two days in the frige, during which the power was off for 23 hours, this is what we found.
There was a solid block of something in the top of the bottle, and clear liquid in the bottom. After looking at it for awhile Janet decided that it might be goat's milk and it could have turned to feta cheese. So she cut it open and sure enough, FETA. It has been great in the egg plant casserole.
We also bought some crazy fruits and veggies.  We tried the okra. We tried it two ways and liked them both! We really like the Japanese plumbs-sweet-tart!
   An immature mango (left) fell on the ground so we opened it then asked a local what it was...A mango.. I like them, Janet tolerates them. On the right this slimy little gourd is a Bobadine. We still don't know what that is unless it is a version of passion fruit. Sweet sticky slime surrounding crunchy seed filled eyeballs or perhaps seedy fish what we found. Not bad on granola where the crunch is masked with the nuts and the slime is mixed well and hidden.

Bobadine on the left and petite aubergine (mini-eggplants) on the right

Here are some Manakudjo (passion fruit)-These are kind of citrusy - we really like them in our granola

The one on the right is the passion fruit cut open. Kinda like the Bobadine but less slimy.

Here are some more. These might be melons and the green things are limes or lemons or some kind of citrus-works in salsa alright.
The other day we went to a new store. The directions to the store went like this. Go down the hill, past the mosque and turn right. Behind the broken down blue coach bus you will find a cute little blue market. We found it. Wow what a find!!! Jalepenos, Almonds, Worcestershire sauce and Balsamic Vinegar. No where else or at twice the price. I was in a little bit of heaven...

Before we even found a place to hold baptisms we had three people ready and eager to be baptized. We searched all over the city for a site. We even went down to Lake Tanganyika to see if there was a private spot where we could do baptisms.
We had our choice of marshy areas or public beaches without much privacy,
and both places would take some wading to get to deep enough water. Just no luck!
We finally found a boat dock that would do in a pinch if we were willing to walk around the junk from old boats and trailers.

The elders looked in stores for pools to buy that would be large enough for a baptism. No luck there either!

Then on Sunday I was talking with one of our members, Brother Willes, an embassy worker from Idaho about his investigator friends. The little voice inside said to ask him. But like any good skeptic I argued that he wouldn't know the town as well as we do and we have the contacts, he doesn't, but the quiet little urge continued so I interrupted our conversation and asked him. Why yes he said as if he had been waiting for the prompt,  annex to my hotel has a pool and I will check to see if they will let us use it. It just fit our needs and the management was very kind and even curious ...I see investigators on the balconies.

On Sunday I got to conduct the first baptisms held in Bujumbura in over 18 years. There was a branch here before the terrible tribal wars, but it was dissolved in 1996 because of security concerns. Now the Church is back and this time we pray that it will stay and flourish. It appears that we have a good beginning.

Our first three new membersl-Alain and Alice Malabi and Fleure Suguru.
It was even more special to know who these people are. Alice and Alain Malabi are the children of Veronique and Kyubi Malabi. The parents joined the church in the Ivory Coast while in school and then moved to Tanzania, where he served as branch president and Sister Malabi served as Primary president. Work took them to Burundi and for four years they taught Sunday school in their home, had no sacrament because they were not authorized to do so, saved their tithing in the bank so that someday they could pay it and waited for the baptism of their children. Alice is now 10 and Alain is 13. The baptism of the children was something that their family had looked forward to with great anticipation.
The young man who was baptized is Fleure Suguru. His family was among the first members baptized in 1992 when the church was organized. All of his family was baptized but Fleure, who was too young at the time. During the war his older brother and more than 140 other children were locked in a school and told that they were to be killed. His brother, who was 14 at the time, prayed with the other children, but in the end the school master locked the doors and set the school on fire to please the right people in the conflict and and all the children and several teachers perished. When Elder Holland dedicated the land last week he spoke of angels who died for their country during the terrible wars that now shouted for joy to see this land dedicated to the preaching of the gospel. We couldn't help but think of Fleure's brother when Elder Holland spoke of angels watching. Sunday Fleure joined his family in membership in the church.
It seemed so fitting that the next generation of these faithful saints would be the first baptisms in this new time. During the interim while they were dressing, I asked any who wanted to share their own witness of the power of their own baptism to come and bear their testimony. Several did, telling powerful stories of dreams, spiritual guidance and sweet experiences. We look forward to many more baptisms in the weeks to come. Many are ready and waiting for their turn to become members of the Church. God is blessing Burundi.

Man shall not live by manakudjo alone... The Fruit of the Tree of life is becoming the passion fruit of this little country.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Loosening the Bow String: Our Very Own P-Day

After the busy week, President Packer suggested that we have a couples' p-day while they were still here. So, we went in search of a place to do baptisms and got an idea for something fun to do. We went to a resort on Lake Tanganyika to see if we could find a stretch of private beach and found what was available and found the makings of a great p-day. It is beautiful!!!

I wrote to the President that there was a Lake Tanganyika cruise we could take and he got permission for us to do it. Some in the group were a little surprised and a little nervous about the idea of being on a lake in Africa that reportedly has both Hippos and crocodiles in it. But it turned out to be a glorious day!
Lake Tanganyika is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, the second deepest and also the world's longest lake. It's water is very blue and very clean and clear.
We planned on a small cruise ship for our adventure. Walking down to the shore, after having the Kermit the frog bus for the dedication, we were worried that this was the"cruise ship."
What we ended up with was something in-between the two boats. It was a nice little motor boat and they provided almost enough life jackets and assured us that there were NO crocodiles in this part of the lake. So, off we went.
It was sunshiny day and the water was still and peaceful. We saw fisherman in boats and near the shore catching sangala and capitaine, which are the big fish found in this lake. They also catch tiny fish that you cook and eat whole, bones and all. The elders love those nasty little fish and mix them in every topping they make for their casava. 
It was a relaxing and wonderful boat ride. After a short time we came to a place where the muddy water of the river that runs between Rwanda and Burundi enters the lake. You could see the contrast as the muddy water of the river came into the clear, beautiful water of the lake. The river is where the hippos like to stay. We headed into the river and had not gone far when we sighted hippos. As usual, they were mostly submerged so that just the tops of their heads and noses showed, but it was still fun to see them anyway.
We also saw hundreds of birds, mostly African ducks, but a few storks and other waterfowl hanging out right by the hippos, actually one bird was sitting right on one of the hippos above. Our boat's engine disturbed the birds and they all took to the air in quite a wonderful display.
On the way out of the river our little boat got stuck on a sand bar. NO problem! The two crew members just jumped out and pushed us off of the sand bar and back into the lake.

After the boat trip we stopped for pictures just to prove what a fabulous beach we were on.
The silica slivers in the sand make it glisten in the sun and look like it has tiny diamonds sprinkled in it.  It's one of the most beautiful beaches we've ever seen.
Then we had a delicious lunch at patio tables near the pool. We enjoyed great pizza, and chicken and fish kabobs. A word to the wise, never order hamburgers in Africa. They serve a really grim undercooked meat loaf in "hamburgers." Poor Pres. Packer ordered one here. Not a good choice!
But the ice cream was heavenly!!
It was a great way to unwind after a busy week and we enjoyed every minute of it. We've decided that we will have to spend another great p-day or two at beautiful Hotel du Lac Tanganyika. But then the men had decided that in August and could hardly wait to...
It is good to unstring the bow, taught Joseph when asked why he was relaxing under a tree, when there was so much to do. It was hard to have end but there are greater adventures ahead... Sunday will be our first convert baptisms!!