Living in Bujumbura is interesting. We hear in the US to be thankful for what we have. But rarely do we actually feel it.
It wasn’t long before we realized that running water and electricity are luxury items in Burundi. At least a few times daily the electricity went out. Often at night we were huddled around candles either tucking the kids in for bed or playing a game. Some nights we were just cooking.
I wondered why the mission house had two stoves in it. One gas – one electric. I understood by day two why.
Here’s the interesting thing: By the end of our first week, we had acclimated to the electrical inconsistency. Without much conversation, we all just went for candles and got some light.
It’s interesting the things we take for granted. If I wanted to, I could make a long list of luxury items in my home that would be considered extravagances in Burundi. I’m grateful for the electricity and water not being reliable. It helps me not only understand what missionaries go through on a regular basis, but it also helps me appreciate the nice furniture I’m sitting in, reliable high-speed Internet, and persistent electricity and utilities. The next time we have a storm where everyone is bellyaching about their power being out for an hour, I’ll be thinking about something else – somewhere else.
While in Nairobi, I needed to do an interview with Mike Reynen, Area Director for Africa for the Free Methodist Church. He brought me to this authentic Ethiopian coffee shop to shoot the piece.
Having coffee this way is an experience. First, the coffee is strong and flavorful. There is no cream. Only raw sugar. They bring it with popcorn and incense. It sounds weird, but actually is a great combination and experience.
In April we were emailing back and forth with the Miller family as they were settling into Burundi. They requested several special treats, a few luxury items like pencils, watercolors, and a birthday gift for Janette. We sent it out in April from Spring Arbor, excited for them to receive it.
Nearly three months later we were in Burundi hanging out on day two with the Millers on the front porch when someone from Hope Africa University stopped by with a slip of paper. They had a package waiting at the post office in Bujumbura.
Nahh….It couldn’t be.
Yes. It was.
Grace and I tagged along with Joel downtown. He had to pay two types of “fees”. One a customs fee. The second was a special fee. As Joel gave her the money, she promptly opened her desk drawer and put the money in her purse. When asked by Joel, “What’s the second fee for?” The lady promptly replied, “It’s for the people of Burundi.”
She was right.
It was a great lesson for Grace on how the third world works. It also is a reminder that if you want to send the Miller family a Christmas care package, you may want to get on it today.