leaving on a jet plane

So I am back safely from the Congo.
Knocking some things off my 'to do 'list for going home.
doing some shopping
giving away most of my american kit.
did some serious dancing in church.
quiet dinners with the intimates.
playing with the kids.

tomorrow the plane
I have way too many stories to put on this slow connection.
when the jet lag wears off I will start writing.
I have boo coup pics but cant send them from here either.

so tuesday through friday transit

please pray that my public transit karma will morf a bit.
I totalled a bus or two getting to and from Goma.
would hate to wreck a plane.

see you soon


soon to Go

This has been a quiet week of preparation and report writing. Time for some adventure.
Saturday morning I will be leaving Buja and will head north by public transport to Kigali Rwanda, where I will visit with my student of 03 Augustin Habimana and worship at Kagarama Friends. I should see The Thomas's and Chrissy Muir. Then from there west across the border into the Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo. I will be visiting another student Benjamin Kasao, who is attempting to Replicate THARS in the DRC.

I will do a one day training in Goma and then back to Kigali and then back to Buja on Thursday of next week. The first border crossing should be easy, the entry into the Congo is more interesting I hear.

I will not be carrying my computer or anything else that I do not wish to lose, so I will be incommunicado for a week. after that I will have only five days in Burundi. ONe of them will be spent teaching - so from now until flight time will be pretty busy.

I have not been posting much - I think my heart is full, but I have all the stories on file, I may spend the month of March processing. Hope my regular readers will tolerate that.



Report on Visit by EMI volunteers

Gitega February 2007

On February 3, a team of eight volunteers with Engineering Ministries International arrived in Burundi. This team included 2 architects, a surveyor, a water chemist and 4 civil or structural engineers.

EMI is a 25 year old organization that sends volunteer architects and engineers on short-term projects to design facilities for third world groups meeting the needs of the poor and oppressed.

Their mission this time was to help THARS make a top quality master plan for the training center that is envisioned for Gitega.

In 2006 the Govenor of Gitega gave a multiple acre piece of land to THARS with the condition that it must be built upon within a year. Construction was started immediately on a building that could serve as temporary offices for THARS and become a residence later on. In January 2007 a foundation was dug and laid for a multi-purpose teaching center/chapel/dining hall.

When the team arrived, the surveyors got to work first. The land slopes gently down one side of a gentle valley with a river called the Dawn River running at the bottom. There are roads on two sides of the property. There is a ravine running longways through the site. The existing building, and foundation of the second building are at the top of the site. The surveyors carefully mapped the entire property and this info was entered into a computer program for the site.

City water runs right to the corner of the site. The water chemist tested this water. It was found to be low in bacteria, minerals and iron, low in turbidity and generally of good to excellent quality.

There is at this point no electricity to the site.

While the surveyors were working, the architects spent two days walking the property with David and listening to his dreams for God’s use of it. They interviewed other THARS staff members and started drawing a plan that would eventually include fourteen buildings. These buildings make an entire campus of training and healing, which can house staff, students, clients, and retreatants. David envisions a place of healing for the traumatized, a place of renewal and training for healers, clinical and research facilities, and a permanent home for THARS.

The structural engineers were making a careful study of materials and local construction techniques and conferring with David’s local contractor, Jerome. They developed a catalogue of ‘best building practices for BUrundi’ combining local expertise and the knowledge that the engineers brought with them.

Then computers and drawing boards were set up, and not much sleep was taken, as in the last two days a full set of drawings of the master site plan and detailed drawings of the phase one buildings were prepared. These drawings were reviewed on another walk of the site and refinements were made. The final set of designs were presented to a group of THARS supporters in Bujumbura on the sixth day.

Careful consideration was given to costs. The design team was amazed to find out that while a building in the USA usually costs about $100-120. per square foot, this campus can be built for about $20 per square foot. Buildings on the site have been priced out at between $25,000 and $50,000 for the most part. With complete infrastructure and landscaping, the entire campus of 14 buildings, parking, sports facilities can be built for about $800,000. The architects estimated that the same campus in the US, without land would cost ten times as much.

The design is entirely pleasing, looks to be very functional, will be easily constructed with local materials and workers. Everyone connected with the work this week can now see the healing and training center in their mind and hearts.

The designs will be ready for volunteer building crews and fundraising within a couple of months. It is an exciting time to be a supporter of THARS.


This week's UPI column

Gonna scoop myself again, cause I am not sure when I will get back to the net.

Hot Joy Cold Horror

So There I Was…

Coming home from church at Kamange.

Human emotions do not exist in a matter/anti-matter situation. Sometimes feelings so divergent that they ought to explode on contact cuddle up together and walk down the road.

Church was nothing but joy this morning. Hot joy, but joy. We have all been told wrong. Hell cannot be hot. It would be redundant. I know this because Church in Burundi is very near heaven on Earth and it is hotter than the proverbial, but apparently inaccurately attributed, Hades.

Kamenge is about to bump out the south wall and build. They need another 200 seats. In preparation for this they cut down the only two shade trees near the church, and so today the tin roof had been cooking the space since shortly after dawn. Then they added 800 bodies. Oven temp just right for toasting cheese on bread.

My favorite choir is the choir of the mothers. There are only about a dozen of them – a small choir. They are very traditional. They dress traditionally. They are built traditionally, kind of shaped like snowmen, oddly enough. I hear they are not pleased with the concept of family planning. Their drum is covered with goat skin. It is the only instrument they will use. The Kamenge techno boys set up the microphones for them, but they ignore them. This morning they had it going on. Their harmonies were tight enough to shame Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The choreographed motions would have made the Temptations weep.

The mother’s choir has decided that they like me. Fortunately we do not share much language and they cannot ask me too many questions. They like me because when I preached last week it got a little prophetic – in the good way. I have a teeny bit of a rep from three years ago. Something about God fulfilling some words of mine. They hand me babies a lot – I look into the babies eyes and say nice things about them and put a little spit on them – not very Quakerly again, as we don’t baptize with water, but it seems to go over well here.

The Choir of the mothers had the people all worked up this morning, and then the Choir of the young people got up. They have a band, and it is a red hot band. The scene turned into a Jesus dance party real fast. Complete with a Masai inspired jumping mosh pit. I like dancing in church. I get dehydrated and faint a lot, but it is fun. The room is so packed that you can’t hit the ground when you fall, and your friends will carry you out for air, so there is no problem.

This morning they had a Reggae beat stewing nicely on the front burner. Me and the girls in the front row of the choir had this thing going that started with knees bent, butt near the ground, grinding up to full height and then hands over head shaking what your mamma gave you. All for Jesus, of course, He likes this sort of thing I am told. Apparently the choir girls had not seen a white woman do this sort of a thing with her hips, because there was a whole lot of making of that high pitched, repetitive noise that only African women can make.

Then I had to be taken out for air. Fun, fun, fun till daddy takes the drummer away.

I had brought my own car, so when it was time to head out I was on my own. I was sweat-soaked to the skin, but oh, so happy and grateful.

I was taking the main road out of Kamenge town. Standard Chaos. Amid all the goats and bicycles I saw the oncoming bus. I saw the motorcycle come around the bus straight towards me, but I was not concerned, I had plenty of space and was going slow enough to stop quickly, if need be. The bike had six different ways to avoid me.

Then the boy darted crossways into the flow. Out of the pattern, out of the Zen, out of the Way. He was about ten. Ten year old Burundian boys are quick like snakes. They take bold snaky chances. They usually make it. He was wearing a colorful shirt and white trousers, his sandals were red. The motorcycle hit him square in the chest and tossed him about five meters. His head took a nasty bounce on the pavement a few meters in front of my stopped car. He did not get up. The motorcyclist dropped his bike on the road and ran to the boy. A woman on the side of the road screamed and dropped herself to the pavement.

I said, “Oh, Sweet Jesus, just this once, please let me get out of this car and heal that child. I know you can say yes if you want to.”

And He said “I’ve got it.”

A taxi driver grabbed the limp child and lifted him by the arms off the pavement. There was no blood. The taxi driver threw the boy over his shoulder and ran for the taxi, and then presumably for the hospital. It looked like it was too late.

And then the busses behind me started honking, and I drove on. Because it was the only thing I could do.

Truly something should have exploded.

Quick note

We are down from the moutains after a week in Gitega.
It is late Sunday night.
Turns out that Buja is at 2500 ft and Gitega is a 5700. Denver on stress hormones.
I will write tomorrow about what we were doing up there.
all is well.
I got to spend a lot of time using a Machete.
here are a couple of friends of mine


This week's UPI Column

So There I Was…


Burundians do not mollycoddle death. There is an official standard length of time that you are allowed to grieve; after that you have to wash your face, get up, go back to work and move on. For a father you are allowed five days to grieve, for a mother – three days – for a child, two. I have been to the graveside of a child death. The coffin is made of weak fiber board. The grave is barely three feet deep. They lay the little box directly in the earth, and then the mother is given the shovel, and she throws the first shovel of dirt onto the top of the coffin. It is a sound that once heard, is not easily forgotten. When the grave is filled they mix cement right there are pave over the grave – final is not a good enough word.

The child mortality rate in Burundi is one in five.

Twenty percent of children born alive will not reach their fifth birthday.

Rates: electricity rates, exchange rates, cut rates. How did we get a death rate? How do we quantify lost babies like francs to the dollar?

We lost one to the rate this week on Thursday. Her name was Mirium, she was seven. She was the daughter of a man named Matthew who works in our organization, Trauma Healing Services. I was in the office with the boss, when Matthew got the phone call. I knew something was wrong when he walked in without knocking, when he did not excuse himself for interrupting. Matthew is a man of impeccable manners. The conversation was French, but needed no translation. Something was horribly wrong. I caught words: child, daughter, school, hospital. I saw gestures, something running down the face from the nose and mouth. The boss was on his feet, hands out. He asked a question, Matthew turned and stumbled out of the office, and then there was a noise that turned into a cry that turned into a scream. These people are tough. They rarely cry, rarely make loud noises. This cry rent the heavens and turned my stomach inside out.

Mirium was a first grader, first graders go to school half-days here. They wear blue cotton uniform skirts with white tops. The garments are bought big so they will last. So the little ones always swim in their clothes. They swim with pride and a new notebook and pen.

Mirium had come home for lunch. She was not been ill. She ate well. She played with her siblings, and then she laid down for a nap. She never got up. Mother went in to call her up and there was bloody foam at her nose and mouth. The rush to the hospital was of no use. They carried her back home in the family car. Then they called the father at work.

The mother washed her as the mourners prayed for her resurrection. It was so sudden, no one could accept it. The pastor was called. He also prayed. The baby did not rise.

They do not know what killed her. They will never know.

On behalf of the International Union of Mothers,


The Mother’s Union Objects!

First with God we lodge our protest. The God we trust and serve, and at whom we shake an angry fist. If the price of our love, our freedom, our glory is the lives of our children, the price is too high!

Tonight I would sell you my free will for one little girl.

We lodge our protest with you, Mister President, Madame Prime Minister, leaders, potentates and petty despots! How dare you spend a dime on destruction, on diversion, on delusions when the basic needs of our children remain unmet? How dare you congratulate yourself for the tenth of the penny that you send to the poor?

You know as well as we do that it is not a matter of scarcity, it is a matter of priority. There is enough for every child on this planet to eat. Enough for every child to have health care.

We are forced by integrity to protest our own choices, the extra car, dress, latte. We know we could not drink that latte in front of a homeless four year old – but we push the thought away.

Our lost children – yes, OUR lost babies, the Miriums, are not a statistic, not a rate, acceptable or unacceptable. Look at your children, your grandchildren, tonight as they sleep and tell me which one you would trade to save Mirium.

The shovel full of dirt hit the cardboard casket with a thump, and skid and a rattle. And then the mother fell, screams choking in her throat.

new month


Really? Guess so. We just received 10 engineers and architects to work on the THARS center Gitega plans. Derek and I have cleared our week to be their big brother and sister. One of them has a bandaged hand from a Colordao sledding accident. This seems like news from another planet. First thing in the morning we go up country for the week. Won’t get near a connection until next weekend. Too much is happening to write about. I preached the sermon at Kamenge Friends this morning. Way too much fun, danving and preaching in the same service. We are healthy. My tan is coming along. I have lost a few pounds. All to the good.

Going to scoop the UPI again and post Tuesday’s column here since I will not be able to do so on Tuesday. Don’t tell Larry Moffitt!

Have a great week




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