February 14/15, 2019
The anticipated day of departure finally arrived.
The members of our team met at the Town Campus of Cornerstone Community Church at 5:15 am, where Chuck Wiens was waiting for us with the van that we would be using to travel to the airport. Our checked luggage consisted of 14 bags, each containing 23 kg ( 50 lb ) of books and materials to be delivered to Doug and Deanna in Burundi. We packed them into the van, along with our carryon baggage before leaving for the Toronto airport. It was a little after 5:30 am when we left the church parking lot and Chuck got us safely to the airport by 7 am.
At the airport we grabbed 6 carts, loaded the baggage onto them and headed to the Ethiopian Airlines check-in register. The agent was very helpful and we were able to efficiently check all of the bags and get our tickets and seat assignments. The checked luggage had been efficiently packed and I was quite impressed that each bag was within 22.8 – 23 kg.
We had no major issues in the airport, however, one team member had forgotten that there was a limit to the size of each liquid container allowed in carryon luggage, so there was a slight delay while the situation was corrected and the member’s bag got lighter.
After we cleared customs we still had a few hours before our flight left so as we headed to our gate, we stopped at the nearby food court for some breakfast. Our boarding time was 9:15 and we were about to head to the gate at 9:15 when we heard the “ last call “ over the intercom, for boarding our flight. Since the gate was near the food court, we didn’t have to rush. We still had plenty of time to get in long line that was still waiting to board the plane.
The 13 hour flight was uneventful, but very tedious. We tried to sleep as much as we could but it was difficult for any of us to get any sustained, relaxing sleep even though most of us could stretch out across some empty seats. We received 2 large meals and several snacks during the flight, which served to satisfy my appetite, but also interrupted my sleep.
We arrived in Addis Ababa early on Friday morning ( local time – around midnight EST ) and when we stepped on the warm tarmac we were embraced by the warm ( not hot – 20 C, 68 F ) weather.
We had a 3 hour layover before our next flight and there weren’t a lot of food options available however, Andrew and Matthias found some fresh samosas that they shared with the group.
Our flight from Addis Ababa was approximately 2.5 hours and it was also uneventful, which is good. There is an Ebola outbreak in the Congo area, so there was a lady taking our temperature and having us fill out some paperwork to make sure that we weren’t sick. Unfortunately they didn’t have the facilities for all of us to fill out paperwork at the entrance to the airport from the tarmac, so the process of writing down the information with limited desk space was a little awkward, but we managed to get everything filled out to their satisfaction and then headed to baggage claim.
After collecting our 700 lbs of checked baggage and putting them onto carts with our carryon luggage, we headed out of the airport where we met Doug. He was accompanied by Travis a newcomer from Wichita, Kansas, who has recently joined the team in Burundi for a 3 year assignment.
Doug drove us to our accommodations
where we took a quick shower before heading to house for orientation and supper. At the house we met Deanna and their girls, Maddy, Keza, and Avery.
Many years ago, as a pastor at Cornerstone, Doug had invited Onesphore, a minister from Burundi to speak at Cornerstone Community Church and since then Onesphore‘s. ministry has been sponsored by the church . He initiated a very successful program called “ Harvest “ which involves training Burundians to become pastors. Harvest works with the indigenous people, especially one of the minority groups known as the Pygmy or ‘Twa’.
Onesphore joined us at Doug and Deanna’s house for orientation and spent some time explaining the history, culture, people and some of the issues in Burundi. He also gave us details about the work being done in Burundi in training local people to become pastors.
After orientation, Deanna treated us to a wonderful meal, after which we spent some time socializing. We were all very tired from the trip and when we started to run out of energy, some of the group helped with the dishes before we left. On our way back to our accommodations, Doug stopped stopping at a store to buy some much needed water. By 8 pm, local time, most of the group had gone to bed for some much needed rest.