Day 10 – Back Home

Saturday/Sunday February 23/24 2019

On Friday night we had gone to look for Hippos at a local viewing spot.  We didn’t see any, however we took advantage of the sunset to take some photos of Doug, Deanna and the children

as well as a picture of our team.

The first thing we did on Saturday morning, was to pack our bags in preparation for leaving to go back home.  We had been invited to a cafe for breakfast on Saturday morning, so we headed to the cafe.   Unfortunately we had to go back to the Swedish Mission shortly after we had left because I had forgotten my phone there.   When we got to the cafe, I had to order my usual cappuccino.

After a breakfast of cappuccinos, lattes and croissants, we drove to a private park along the beach on lake Tanganyika to debrief from all of the activities of the week.

Following the debriefing, we drove to a public park nearby, where we met the members of Grace Community Church, which is led by pastor Eric.


The church was having a picnic on the beach.   They were playing soccer,  swimming  and visiting when we got there.   Doug and Andrew introduced several of the members to a frisbee, which they thoroughly enjoyed.

Some of the members introduced Michele to a clapping game, which was a challenging game of co-ordination and timing.   They seemed to be having a lot of fun.

At 2 pm, we all ate a full course meal prepared by the members, before leaving for the airport at 3 pm and leaving for Addis Ababa at 5 pm.

We arrived in Addis Ababa at 9:30 pm ( with a 1 hour time change ) and we had a short delay before we left for Dublin at 11 pm.   We arrived in Dublin at 4:15 am ( 7:15 am Addis Ababa time ), just over 8 hours after we left Ethiopia.

We only stopped for an hour in Dublin to refuel and we weren’t allowed to get off of the plane.    When the plane had been fueled, we headed to Toronto for a 6.5 hour flight to Toronto.

We arrived at 7:20 am on Sunday morning and were met by Chuck Wiens at the airport, who drove us back to Virgil where we arrived at 9:30 am, glad to be back home again.

Day 9 – Ngozi to Bujumbura

Friday, February 22, 2019

It was a warm,  slightly overcast, morning at the hotel.   There was a beautiful view of the lush gardens with its many tropical plants next to the dining area.

We ate breakfast at the hotel, before heading to a ‘Discipling for Development’ meeting in a local building.   The ‘D for D’ program, was set up by pastor Eric to train leaders in the church so that they could go out and share the gospel and support each other.

We arrived at the meeting at 10 am.

When we entered the building,  they were singing a hymn.

After the hymn, introductions were made and a few of the members shared their testimonies.   For example, one was a lady who been in a wheelchair and spent many years begging.   With the help of people from the church, she can walk, she farms, she sells the produce and she disciples other people she comes in contact with.   One gentlemen, had to live on the street when his mother died and ended up getting involved with drugs.    Through the guidance and assistance of church members, he has turned his life around and now he counsels other kids.

The stories were all very moving.  After the testimonies, the pastor prayed for our team and then Jeff gave them some words of encouragement.

Doug prayed for the members of the church before we left and then we got back into the van and headed back to Bujumbura.   The drive took a little longer than expected.     The road was closed for some time and we were ordered to pull over  until the Burundian president and his military entourage drove by.   After he passed by, we were allowed to continue.  After a few short stops along the way we finally arrived back at the Swedish Mission by mid-afternoon.

As soon as we got to the Mission, we checked into our rooms and then Doug took Jeff, Michele, Andrew, Gisela and Rachel for some shopping at the market.  When they returned, we all drove to a local spot on the lake where occasionally hippos can be seen.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have any luck so we preceded to a restaurant for supper, after which we returned to the Swiss Mission to pack and get some sleep before the long journey back home.

The map below shows the routes we had taken as we travelled around Burundi.

Tomorrow we plan to visit a get-together with pastor Eric’s church before heading to the airport at 3 pm for our flight at 5 pm ( 10 am EST ).   We have a ~2 hour flight to Addis Ababa, followed by a 2 hour layover, then a 7 hour flight to Dublin, Ireland for a short stop before continuing to Toronto on another 7 hour flight.   We are scheduled to arrive in Toronto around 8 am Sunday morning.

Day 8 – Gahararo ( A Twa Village )

Thursday, February 21, 2019

After a normal breakfast and a quick hot shower for some of us ( because we suddenly had running water ) we packed our bags into the van and waited for Deanna to arrive with 2 pastors, Eric and Sam, who would be joining us and are currently ministering in the rural area that we would be going to see.

Deanna arrived at 9:30 am and after filling the van with diesel and picking up the pastors we headed east to Muyinga.   On our way,  Doug relayed a story regarding a memorial that we passed.

This memorial was built by the government in response to a horrible tragedy, in which hundreds students and teachers from a school in the area had been killed in the early 90’s.   A large group had been locked into a gas station before it was set on fire and people were waiting with machetes outside in case any people got out of the building.   Only a few individuals made it out and were able to get away.   The reason behind this brutal incident was that they were of the wrong ethnicity.  Below is a picture of the gas station, beside the memorial, in which the incident occurred.

We drove to Muyinga, where we transfered to different vehicles due to the rough roads we would encounter.

When we arrived at the village in Gahararo, we were met by the Twa ( more commonly ‘Twa’  or  Pygmy ) who immediately started to dance for us.

About 3 years ago Etienne, the site coordinator from the Harvest organization, started an outreach program with the Twa in Gahararo.   Prior to this, the area was mostly, if not all, a Muslim community.   Since then Pastor Jeff has been working with the Twa in the area.

We spent some time discussing the work and needs in Gahararo.  Houses have been built for the Twa in this village and a water pumping system with a tower has been installed to pump water up to the village.   This water is shared with the neighboring villages.   Unfortunately, the village doesn’t have a building to meet for church services or training, so they asked us to pray that this need.  

The new homes which are made of clay bricks that replaced the straw huts,can be seen in the background of the picture below.

After praying for the work being done, we walked to another village, nearby.

We were shown the huts where the Twa of this village live.  Pastor Sam entered one of the huts but there was barely room to turn around.  The particular hut he entered was used by a family of 4, but some huts have to accommodate larger families.

There are 40 huts in this village that Harvest is preparing to replace with clay brick buildings.

The Twa enjoy dancing and on our way back to the vehicles, Michele entertained the Twa with some dance moves, which they thoroughly enjoyed.

We made our way back to the vans, drove back to Muyinga, transferred to our van and then drove to Ngozi to check into our hotel.    On our way we noticed many rice patties in the valleys below.

After checking in we went to a local restaurant for a meal and finally made it back to the hotel at 10 pm.

The route we took was from Muramvya to Muyinga to the Twa village ( another 40 minutes by car ) and to NGozi for the evening.

Day 7 – Muramvya

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

It was a comfortable morning and there was a mist in the valley below the lodge where we were staying.

After breakfast at the Lodge, we drove to the Harvest School at 9 am, picking up water along the way.   It is very common for Burundians to carry items on their head, particularly women and children.

I couldn’t help wondering if there would be any demand for me to start a class for teaching people in Canada to do this.

When we arrived at the school we continued to put plastic covers on the library books.

For a while we had to close the windows to the library because of a heavy rain with high winds that passed through the area.

We again had the opportunity to join the teachers for lunch, after which we participated in their club classes.   These classes are held every Wednesday afternoon and it gives the students time to participate in activities they might be interested in.

Some of the children were participating in a drumming session. 

Gisela led a class in singing a few English songs.

Jeff and Michele led a games class with 60 children, with Gisela’s assistance.    Meanwhile Andrew, with the assistance of Doug, Matthias, Rachel and myself, led a science class.

At the end of the school day the primary school children line up in front of the flag and sing the national anthem while the flag is taken down,  before going home.

When we got back to the Lodge, we had supper, debriefed about the day and then some team members played a game, while others relaxed before going to bed.

Day 6 – Muramvya

Tuesday, February 29, 2019

The temperature had cooled down overnight to 15 C which was a nice change from the hot sticky nights in Bujumbura.

We had breakfast at the Lodge and then headed to the Harvest School.

Onesphore was instrumental in the foundation of the Harvest program.   When he had approached the governor of the area about his plan for evangelizing the  Burundians, the governor told him that he would only support the initiative if he would do more to help them than just trying to evangelize them.

The Harvest organization was initiated in order to give a wholistic approach for helping the Burundians.   When Onesphore presented his plan to the him, the governor took a chance on Onesphore and donated land for the project.   This Harvest complex sits on the side of a hill and it helps the Burundians with education and health, as well as giving them Christian training.

The original school has grown to become a big complex,  largely due to the support of the members at Cornerstone Community Church.   The work at the school targets students, particularly the Pygmy ( aka ‘Twa’ ) which are the poorest of the poor.

We spent most of the morning touring of the facilities to see the school in action.  The first building we saw was the junior primary school.

Here, we were introduced to the children in the classrooms.

The primary school also has a library, where we brought the 741 books ( weighing about 350 lbs ) which had been donated by Cornerstone.

There is also a senior primary school, where the backpacks that Cornerstone had donated previously for the children, were neatly hanging on pegs outside of the classrooms.

On a terrace below the primary school, there is a high school that is almost finished and is partially occupied by senior primary classes.

On a terrace below the high school is an area for a future sports field and below that construction has started on dormitories for the students.

There is also a small hospital, which contains a pharmacy, a laboratory, a maternity ward an examination room,

and an operating room for minor surgeries.

There are brand new washrooms donated by a Cornerstone parishioner.

There is also a dining hall for the children and a kitchen with a large wood burning stove used for making lunches for the children and the teachers.   The children receive a hot porridge for lunch and for some of them, it is the only meal they will have.  The stove had recently been modified by a Paraguayan volunteer group in order to stop the smoke from entering the dining area.

Work was underway on the repair and completion of the multi-purpose building with the money donated by investors.

After our tour, we spent a little time helping to cover books in the library with plastic in order to increase their longevity.

We were fortunate to have lunch with some of the teachers before we were taken to the valley below the school so that we could hike up to some of the homes of the children from the school.

I took a picture from the home of one of the students at the school, named Oswald.   His mother passed away many years ago.   He lives in this house with his father and basically has to fend for himself.  A few years ago he was offered a chance to go to the school and it gave him hope to dream about a better life.  He is now 14 and he has to hike down about 300 meters in elevation and then back up again.   The walk to school can take up to 3 hours.    If you look closely you can see the complex on the mountain facing his house.


We climbed a little bit further and met some other ‘Twa’ and listened to some of their stories, which were very interesting and humbling.

When we had climbed an approximately 350 meters up to an elevation of 2058 meters ( 6750 ft ) we started our way back down again.

When we reached the river, we climbed into the van and drove back through the river

and back to our lodge.  Shortly after we arrived at the lodge, the teachers from the school joined us for a meal.   After the meal, Doug presented them with sweaters that Cornerstone donated for them.

The work at the school is impressive and it is definitely worth the investment.  The students that attend the school are eager to learn and when they graduate, they will be able to become professionals, businessmen or leaders in their community.   It has already made a profound impact.   It is a good example of a program that allows the people to help themselves instead of just giving them money.

Day 5 – Muramvya

Monday, February 19, 2019

Unfortunately for Gisela, it was her turn to have a bad night’s sleep.   On the other hand, the cups of Neocitran and cold medicine that Matthias took on Sunday, helped with his cold and he was feeling better in the morning.

Doug picked us up at 8 am, after our usual breakfast and we headed to the Harvest offices to meet some of the team and pick up our paperwork for travelling in Burundi.  The street where the offices are, was blocked off by the police because a government official was going to be driving by the street , however, they let us go through.   One of the Harvest employees gave us a tour of the office and then Doug explained a few of the initiatives undertaken by Harvest.

It was after 9 am before we were back on the road again.  We drove through the switchbacks along the mountains.

Bicyclists frequently hold onto the back of trucks in this area in order to help them get up the mountain.

Some truck drivers have modified the back of the truck so that the bicyclists can’t do that.

When we arrived in Muramvya, we were met by Bernard, the pastor of  Shammah Temple Muramvya ( and off-shoot of the Shammah Temple in Bujumbura ) and accompanied us to the Hotel Baze.  

We checked in, put on some work clothes and drove to a entrance of the path leading to a house that is owned by a family that the church is supporting with money donated by Cornerstone in order to rebuilt the roof.   We hiked up the long winding, mud path through the farms to the house.   

At the house we met the owners and the church members that were there to help put the clay tiles on the roof.

We had some fun with children and Jeff entertained them with some magic tricks.

Pastor Bernard had a short service message for the people there and then we prayed for the family.   We took a picture with the wife and one of the sons.  

The father was bringing up clay tiles and when he heard that we were about to leave, he ran up the mountain to meet us.

We hiked back down the mountain and when we got back to the van we were surrounded by a curious throng of people, however, Doug managed to get us out of there and we drove back to the hotel, changed and then drove to the place where the Shammah Temple Muramvya is being built.   Cornerstone supplied the majority of the funds for the church and it will be an impressive building when it is finished.

Pastor Bernard posed for us in the church 

and in front of the church with Jeff.

On our way to the hotel, Matthias, Andrew and I walked back and were soon surrounded by people after a gentlemen from the church stopped to talk with us.   We continued on our way and arrived at the hotel to relax for a while before supper.

At 6 pm, we got together at the hotel with the leadership team of the church and we each told the group a little about ourselves, discussed the challenges facing each of our churches and then prayed for each other.    It was close to 7:30 when our meal was ready.  Matthias, Gisela and I tried a local dish, which is similar to manioca and had been recommended by Doug.

The rooms we have at the Baze Lodge are very nice, however, shortly after we arrived, there was no running water in the rooms, so we had to use large pails of water for washing.   We are so spoiled in Canada.   In Burundi they have very little and the people are happy.

Day 4 – Bujumbura

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Most of us slept relatively well, but unfortunately, Matthias had come down with a cold on Saturday which had gotten much worse, so he didn’t have a good night’s sleep.   

We had a similar breakfast to the one we had the day before and shortly before 9 am Doug picked us up to go to the Shammah Temple in order to attend their church service.

Onesphore is one of the pastors at the Shammah Temple.   The services are very active and a typical service is approximately 3 hours long.   The service started with some singing, followed by prayer, more singing and announcements.  

After some more singing, Jeff led the congregation in a thought-provoking sermon on Mathew 16 verses 21-28.  Jeff spoke of Jesus’ foretelling of his death, the meaning of the verses, as well as the contrast of His rebuke of Peter for insisting that he would not let Him be killed in comparison to Jesus’ response to Peter in verse 18, where He called Peter the rock on which He would build his church.   Although Jeff added inflection and animation to his sermon, Onesphore, who was translating for him, added even more passion to the presentation,  which is normal for a Burundian service.

We interacted with some of the parishioners after the service before driving back to the complex to get changed and then to Doug and Deanna’s for lunch.  

Several people helped to quickly prepare lunch and then clean up the dishes afterwards.   

We had some time for socializing before preparations were made for the evening to accommodate a small study group from the church who would joined us for a visit.   The group included Onesphore’s family, his sister’s family, the other Shammah pastor’s family and a few other individuals.

We played a few games, led by Deanna, in order to stimulate interaction between us and it worked.   Even though there were people that only knew either Kirundi, French or English, most people were familiar with at least two of the languages so that were able to communicate with each other.    After the games, we sang a few songs, shared testimonies and prayed before we had some snacks and socialized.   

The time for socializing had been made much easier after the previous activities and it was very interesting as we conversed about numerous different topics and exchanged information.   The conversations flowed until 8 pm, when people started to disperse.   

After we returned to the complex, we took time to debrief and get everyone’s impression of the day, before going to bed.