We’re in a special time here in Bujumbura, Burundi (say Bujumbura fast five times, I dare you). It feels like we are in the middle of a city-wide revival in spite of the Covid crisis, in spite of intense poverty and in spite of political uncertainty.
Our nation has passed through generations of ethnic strife and civil unrest but somehow Burundi keeps on going. Everyone still wakes up for work, school and who knows what else – every day our city buzzes with activity. Motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, trucks, taxis, mini buses, large buses not to mention the average car fill our unmaintained roads. Potholes, worn shoulders, unmarked speed bumps combined with the traffic make moving around a daily adventure.
Today, before the busy-ness began, before the honking of angry drivers could be heard, we started our day by stepping out of the house to go to prayer. Given the situation of our region, starting the day with prayer is likely the best decision anyone could make.
Pulling out of our driveway, we were motioned to get back in our house by some military personnel who were patrolling the area. They were accompanied by blue uniformed police and carried some impressive weaponry around their shoulders. This could, to the novice, be intimidating. Perhaps it is meant to be so, but since we’ve been around for a few minutes more than we care to admit to, we sighed heavily and went back into the house.
We heard the loud banging on neighbors’ gates as each house was approached, questioned and either released or questioned further about goings on in their particular houses. Our turn came some minutes later.
Bang! Bang! Bang! The inevitable loud knocking on the door announced the arrival of our unexpected guests. Greetings in the local language were exchanged between us and the uniformed officials as we opened the door. Exclamations of surprise were uttered as we spoke in the local language, immediately disarming the situation.
“Where is your household book?” (The “household book” is where all members of those living at the house are recorded.)
We summarily produced the requested book, which was found to be in order and returned to us with a smile.
“Can we go to prayer?”
We were waved on our way and arrived without further incident. It was an important day for us to be at prayer for a young man was waiting on Jamie to arrive so he could be baptized. Down into the water he went, we all cheered and as soon as the little celebration was done, the water he was baptized in was used to mop the floors. No, nothing is wasted here.
Driving home, I considered the events of the morning. It wasn’t even 9:00 am and we had lived more in those minutes than many live in days. The streets were full and the market nearby the house boasted its fresh produce as we passed by. Smiling, I laughed knowing that it takes a call to love living in a place like this.
But if I weren’t here, where else could I go?
I walked into the house, still in my reverie and found…the water is off today.