Brent Unpacking Africa | Part 1

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Since I'm writing here about connections, I had to share the first of several posts from my husband. He's begun the task  of sorting through his journey and wading through the emotions that come rushing at you upon reentry to the Western world. Here's to his unpacking some of Africa and her beauty that has forever changed us because it has changed him. Enjoy! 

Allow me to thank you that prayed for the trip, fed my family and loved on them while I was away and for giving me the opportunity to represent our church family halfway around the world.  I know that I was sent there to observe, lead devotions, pray and help out were needed.  As usual, God shows you things about yourself and gives you opportunities to grow or let pass you by.  I chose to grow and be stretched outside my comfort zone!
I know a lot of you have questions about my experiences in Africa and all the travels in the country (Burundi, Uganda and South Africa).  I can tell you that there is a need and there are lives being changed!  With certainty, I can say that the time I was allowed to spend there was a tremendous story that cannot be complied into one email or of multiple Facebook messages.  The pictures tell only part of the story, the actual meanings and environment the photographs were taken in tell a complete story.  I will attempt over the next few weeks expound on experiences and hope that some of my fellow travelers will reply with some of theirs as well.

Bergama, Burundi: is at an elevation of 7,500’above mean sea level with mild weather, remarkable views and fantastic fresh mountain coffee.  The people are hard working, strong and determined and lived through several wars and occupational disputes continually striving for betterment of their families.  We traveled a mountainous road with little to no guard railing, step drop-offs, with stories of ambushes and death.  The road was known as the “most dangerous road in the world” for several years and there were checkpoints to keep people from becoming statistics.  The countryside is breathtaking and fruit, coffee and plants line every unexpected corner.  Bicycles, mopeds, cars and trucks cram into a ten foot road section loaded with everything you can imagine.  The sounds and smells of the mountains were incredible.  People are dressed in vibrant colors and their pride in their personal belongings shine upon their faces working out of their roadside stands.  We stopped and bought every banana that this family had and ate most of them before we were at our lodging.  They were the sweetest bananas I have ever eaten. 

Day one: unload vehicles after five planes and an hour and thirty minute bus ride, settle in to our room assignments and begin organizing medication and supplies for clinic.  We started with several boxes of medication and organized them by illness, not by treatment.  I’m no pharmacist, but it seemed to work.  Supper was a blend of Indian, Mexican and fruits.  Don’t really have any other way to describe it.  Breakfast was eggs, flatbread, peanut butter, honey, fresh fruit and avocado and coffee, did I mention how fabulous the coffee is there.  I’m going to squirrel for a moment: the coffee is out-of-this –world, and an interesting fact is Starbucks has sent a team to the remote area to train the Burundians how to grow and harvest, sort and label their beans for export.  I cannot wait!  Ok, back to the story.  We had to back our lunch with the same food that was left over from breakfast.  Amanda can tell you I love peanut butter and honey and bananas.  So, that’s what I made a sandwich for both days out of those ingredients. 

Clinic day, we arrived at a town hall, if you will, and there was a line of people (over 500) waiting for medical treatment.  Some of them had been there overnight and walked for over a day to be seen.  The heartbreaking part was there were only fourteen of us on the team and we could only see 250 patients.  A mother with four children does not count as one, they are all counted separate.  You have to understand that the life expectantly of Burundi is 59 years of age and 60 out of 1000 births end in death.  These people are though and determined!  Typical question: “How long have you had your illness?”  Answer: 10-15-20 years.  Stomach, back, knee, eyes, you name it; they had not seen a doctor.  They used what they had been taught to treat what they could to survive.  We saw some STD’s, HIV, Typhoid and bone and joint issues.  No Malaria, the elevation is too high for mosquitoes.  Kyle worked in the pharmacy and optometry.  I had the privilege to float around escorting people from place to place.  Learning the language and praying for families.  When the pharmacy was getting extremely backed-up I took over for the team in optometry and help fit people with reading glasses, nothing fancy, but practical.  To see someone that could read in Kirundi (native language in Burundi) at the age of five the Bible to me was nothing less than remarkable.  Now for my experience that was something that will be remembered for a lifetime. 

As the sun began to set on our clinic day, I was talking and horsing around with our National Police protection unit.  By horsing around, I mean checking-out and doing a function test on their AK-47’s.  It gave me an opportunity to build rapport and talk about the two genocides, the rebellion and the peace agreements.  Most of them were soldiers for a minimum of five to six years before they became National Police.  One had been on both sides of the conflict and a Para Commando and we discussed exiting aircraft in flight giving me more creditability.  After a few war stories, I ask the question: “If you died what would happen to you and do you know Jesus?”  Then they fired back, what would happen to you, you’re a soldier?  I replied, “I will go to heaven because Jesus is my Lord and Savior.”  They were taken back at a Soldier being able to go to heaven.  Of course I needed more information to assess the situation and make a rebuttal about what was happening.  They had been Christian, but thought that because they were National Police, had to detain people, stop people from getting medical treatment to keep the teams safe when the final number was called and ultimately may have to take someone’s life that they were not worthy enough to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.  People, it was because of their career they felt they were not worthy to be called son of the living God, the one that took our place and carries our burdens and sin.  After, about forty-five minutes of walking them through the Bible and life as a Soldier, five big armed men held hands with me, a French interpreter, and a Kirundi interpreter and committed their lives back to Jesus!  I forgot to tell you that it all went down in three languages.  I couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand me.  There were seven in all that prayed and asked God to be their Lord and Savior in front of a huge crowd of men, women and children.  Not real sure what my purpose of being in Burundi was for those three days, but I am positive God used me in a huge way for that hour of my time and all was well in our own little world.  The lead man’s name was Marcel, he was 48 years old and we became friends earlier in the day.  Neither of us knew how that day was going to end.  Before I left, I had the pastor of the small church meet with them and get their contact information to hold them accountable and give them someone to reach out to.  See the government doesn’t pay them well and they at times stop people and make them pay a toll or give something up to provide for their own families, so they have a difficult road ahead.  Pray for them and the other people we came in contact with. 
There’s another story about a lady that couldn’t talk or walk that I will share later from the same clinic.  I believe that’s enough for today from me as this was difficult and emotional to revisit the small notes and photographs to write this.
Matt 28:19-20  “Go, Be and Do!”


  1. Tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing and I can't wait for the next post. And I have to get some of that coffee! ;)

  2. Gosh I loved reading this. Our oldest son at home is frim Burundi and I know a piece of my heart will be forever tied to the country. Praying we get.the opportunity fo travel there someday.

    1. That is awesome Lisha! I asked Brent if he could ever see us there long term bc we want to live internationally someday and he said Burundi was his absolute favorite place. He couldn't really explain it yet as he is still wading through lots of emotion but he felt a strong connection there! Maybe we can go TOGETHER!!! You just never know! 😉


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