By John Cropsey
Where to start?
As of the last post, we had no idea who was going to be running this country. Well, the dust has settled a bit and President Nkurunziza has successfully out-maneuvered the putschists. Most have already been tried and imprisoned except for the head general who remains at large for the moment. The President is now "tiding-up" his government as we speak. Jess and I will not soon forget our 15th wedding anniversary that coincided with the coup, that is for sure.
That same day (before the coup attempt), one of the new families on our sister team in Bujumbura decided they had had enough of weeks of protests, cancelled classes, and gunfire. They packed-up their Landcruiser and four kids and headed our way. Little did they know along their 2.5 hour track through the mountains that a coup had occurred. Per Murphy's Law, we were unable to reach them by phone to warn them, so we were all holding our breath for an hour plus until they blissfully unaware, meandered into Kibuye. They were wondering what all the police and army activity was along the way. We were thanking God.
From there on, my days have been full of talking with my national friends, phone calls, emails, fact finding, team meetings, BBC/Reuters, social media feeds (thanks Joel and Jessica), prayer, and nightly Serge security committee meetings made up of individuals living in 5 different countries. All borders and the airport were closed for a few days. So, that made decision making easy. Sit tight and wait things out.
The day after the "coup" was the Battle for Bujumbura between the putschists and the loyalists. Key targets to capture: Presidential Palace, International Airport, Party Headquarters and the granddaddy of them all, the National Radio Station. They got started early around 4 am followed by a day of contradicting info flowing out of Buja, "so and so has captured this, no they didn't, we have no idea...." What we do know is that the next day, our ranks surged with expat refugees. Our numbers maxed out at 44 expats at Kibuye this weekend.
In honor of coup - contrecoup day, the US kids faced off against the visiting Canadian kids for a riveting game of capture the flag at Kibuye. I'm sad to report, our peace-loving Mennonite Canadian friends came out on top. To top off the refugee experience, two of the Canadian families picked-up lice in their previous temporary "shelter" on their way to us, so that added to the effect. Greg tossed in a UNHCR bucket laying around his place to capture the spirit a bit more.
The next day, we drastically reduced our numbers as Sunday was "departure day" for half of our team. I'll spare the details for security reasons. Deciding who goes and who stays is an arduous process requiring tons of input from all constituents (the missionary, spouse, team leader, mission, parents, in-laws, national partners, embassies...).
We are very thankful for our security committee at Serge. It is made up of folks who understand real risk on the ground: an Ebola doc who's served in not one, but two outbreaks; others who have lived through African coups, rebel attacks and medivacs; another did covert kingdom work behind the Iron Curtain back in the day... Yet, they are outside of our situation and thus a bit more objective then those of us in the mix.
I like how one member of the committee put it: "The voice of caution will most often be from those outside the situation - informed, clear headed, spirit-led. The voice of risk comes from those in the midst - passionate, focused, spirit-led. Both need to be heard and both need to be spoken in faith, trusting God's lead. The former is what we add to what you have, with Jesus leading the way."
We are feeling a bit of the post-coup bleus and the void left by "departure day". My wife and kids are gone, the Sund house is empty, the quad-plex Canadians' camp numbers are dwindling.... But, we continue to ask God for wisdom, guidance and joy and for Him to use us to be salt and light in the midst of a sea of fear and the unknown.
As I wrap up this beast of a blog post, I want to acknowledge a couple of things. First, I am so proud of this team (and our refugees) who have not let fear rule. They have looked to God and kept their confidence in Him. There has been calm and peace in the midst of the storm. Second, I have added a bit of humor into this blog, mostly as a coping mechanism, I'm sure. This is no joke. Many of my Burundian friends are deathly afraid as they re-live some of the darkest trauma this planet has to offer. My heart aches for them. I am begging God to bring a glimpse of his everlasting peace to this people, here and now. As I write, 110,000 Burundians are huddled together, exposed to the elements in refugee camps in Rwanda, DRC and Tanzania with cholera already ripping through a large camp in the latter.
Pray for God to intervene. Ask God for the seemingly impossible. Pray for men to humbly put their brothers and sisters above their desire for power and self-protection. Pray that God's people will shine bright as members of different political parties and tribes. May they show a nation how to love, dialogue, and find true peace.