The place I most love in Burundi is our adopted Batwa village of Gahararo. It’s in a remote and faraway corner of a remote and faraway land. I get there by traveling approximately three or so hours “up country” from the capital city of Bujumbura, to Burundi’s third largest city, Ngozi. I then continue by highway approximately another hour past Ngozi, at which point I go off the main road onto an extremely rough dirt road. I then drive two hours on that dirt road until I finally reach Gahararo.
The people I pass on the road to Gahararo rarely, if ever, see white people. They all stop dead in their tracks as I drive by to watch and stare at me. Most of the children I pass are scared. They run away when I look at them. The babies all cry. I guess it’s the pallor of my white skin that scares them, or maybe it’s my gray hair. Either way, I suppose I need to get some sun before my next trip.
Once I arrive in Gahararo, I am always greeted by dancing and singing. The villagers have come to love me, and by extension you, because our projects have made a profound difference in their lives. They also realize that we are not going to abandon them. I — we — are here for the long term. Therefore, they sing and dance. They are genuinely happy to see us.
On this trip, I stopped to attend the service at a church in the town of Butihinda, approximately nine miles down the dirt road from Gahararo. This is the closest church to Gahararo. I have been told that this is where the Christian people in Gahararo go to worship on Sunday. No one in this area of Burundi has a car, so it means that anyone from Gahararo who wants to worship in the church must walk nine miles each way.
I was highly skeptical of the claim that people were walking nine miles each way to get to church and back. However, I saw at least 10 people from Gahararo sitting in the church during the service. I also saw those ten people and more walking down the dirt road as we made our way to Gahararo after the service. There is actually people from Gahararo who are willing to walk 18 miles each Sunday to attend church. This floored me.
What I just reported shows the urgent need for a church in or very near Gahararo. The Christian community there is convinced that belief and faith will grow dramatically if there is a local church that people can easily attend. I agree. There are hundreds of Christians in the near vicinity who would attend a church close to where they live. Therefore, we are going to build and plant a church there.
One of the things I did during my stay in Gahararo was distribute dolls to the children. The dolls — 281 of them — were knitted by a wonderful organization called Knitters4Peace. I handed them out to all the children in the village seven years and younger. Every child personally received a doll lovingly prepared for them by Knitters4Peace.
The amazing thing about the dolls is that the children of Gahararo literally have NO toys. I have never seen a toy there, or in any of the surrounding villages. The children had absolutely no idea what to do with themselves when they received their dolls. They were stunned and just stood staring at their dolls, then back at me. Even their parents did not know what to make of the dolls.
If you would like to see video of the doll handout, please visit our Facebook page:
I was also in Gahararo to check out the land we are hoping to purchase for our church. It’s a large parcel, about a quarter of an acre, and is about a tenth of a mile from the village. The Hutu and Tutsi neighbors of the Batwa will be attending our church right alongside the Batwa. It will be an incredible place of healing and unity. The price of the land is only $6,000.
Thank you for reading this report. More will follow.