Let me just start by saying it’s hot here. The next time we choose a place for a GCA project it’s gotta have a cold climate. Any chance Iceland needs a fresh water system or porridge program? If so, we’re on it!
In all seriousness, I am about to leave Bujumbura tomorrow for our adopted village of Gahararo. One of the highlights of my visit to the village will be handing out dolls to the village’s children. The dolls were knitted for us by an organization called Knitters4Peace. My friend and neighbor Lisa Steinmann coordinated the project. Because of their incredible work, every child in Gahararo is going to receive a doll. This is no small thing, considering that I have never seen a single solitary toy in the village in all the years I have been going there. I can’t wait to see the children’ faces when they receive their dolls and will definitely pass along pictures next week.
Handing out the dolls is going go be a joyful privilege that I wish some of you could share with me, but there is an even larger purpose for me to visit Gahararo at this time. You see, now that the porridge program is well established and we have completed the housing and water projects, the time has come for us to build the village its own church and worship center. As a few of you know, for as long as we have been working in Gahararo, our Burundian partner, Harvest Initiatives (Onesphore’s organization), has supported a missionary who works full time in the village. His name is Etienne Ndikumasabo. Etienne is the one who manages our projects for us and works with the community to gauge their needs. He is the one who has helped us prioritize our projects and supervise their implementation. Etienne has told me that the community has embraced Christianity so thoroughly that they now need their own worship facility. There are still muslims in the village to be sure. However, a significant majority of Gahararo’s households have embraced the love of Christ.
A church in the village will be an incredible benefit to our Batwa friends. They currently have to walk 15 kilometers each way (over 9 miles) if they want to attend the nearest church. More than a few make the trek on Sundays, but most just don’t attend church. Our church will be located squarely in the heart of the village, and like our water system, will be available to the Batwas’ Hutu and Tutsi neighbors. It will be the central place of worship for many miles around. I hope it will also be a place of peace and healing, where people of warring tribes can go to find reconciliation and an end to bloodshed. I cannot wait to see our plan unfold.
Like all of our projects in Burundi, the church will be very affordable. Keep in mind that it cost only $50,000 to build 72 houses, one for each family in Gahararo, and $75,000 to design and build a water system that is now serving 6,000 people. I am in the process of getting estimates, but it appears that we can buy land and build a church, parsonage, and community center on it for around $40,000. For another $10,000 or so we can purchase a large tract of land to be used as communal farmland for the Batwa.
My hope is to break ground as soon as the beginning of next year, but I will keep you posted as we move forward. 2019 is shaping up to be a great year for GCA’s operations in Burundi!
More updates to follow…