Monday, May 21, 2012


Wednesday morning we met the Bishop at his office to wrap up the trip, and then after a brief wait for a tire change and fuel-up, we were on the long road to Bujumbura.

The big capital city with its traffic was a stark contrast to the villages we had seen so much of over the previous several days, and even to the larger town of Ngozi where we had been staying. We had a lovely lunch by the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Fortunately there was no sign of Gustave, though we did see some of his relatives later at the local zoo.

Finally, just as the sun was going down, we made our way to the airport to begin our series of flights home. We left with many beautiful memories of a stunning countryside, beautiful and hard-working people, and a Church with a vibrant and joyful faith.


Note: This post is late due to difficulties with the internet connection on our last day in Burundi.

Tuesday was our last full day in Burundi, and a full day it was. We travelled to Kirundo, near the border with Rwanda. Arriving at Murama parish we were greeted by the Archdeacon and his congregation.

Next we walked over to the local primary school, where it seemed all 2000 of the students wanted to meet us individually. It was a veritable sea of children, who seemed to flow in waves around us. The headmaster told us about the school, the students, and the 46 teachers.

Returning from the school toward the church, we were introduced to a group of people with HIV, who showed us their bread-baking project. They sell the bread as a way of making an income. 

Maize field
The group escorted us to a nearby field where they also grow maize and groundnuts, which they also sell. By the time we returned to the oven, the bread was ready and we were able to sample it. Delicious!

The visit complete, we went on to Cohoha Lake, right on the Burundi-Rwanda border. 

Lake ferry
We tested the lake ferry, and then ate lunch at a hotel/conference centre run by an order of Catholic nuns. 

Then it was time for the trip back to Ngozi.

In the evening we had dinner with the diocesan staff, who said farewell to us. Not goodbye, but until we meet again. A la prochaine.

It was a memorable conclusion to a memorable trip.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Road Trip

Monday we travelled three hours by road to the most distant part of the Diocese of Buyé.

We made a brief stop at a spring at Kobero. A spring may not sound like much to most in Canada, but here in Burundi having a clean and reliable source of water is important. The Church has taken on the task of adding some improvements to about six springs in the country, making a concrete facility with a pipe leading to the spring in the ground, so that anyone can come and collect fresh, clean water. We tasted it. Delicious! 

The spring water flows into a small river nearby and eventually joins the Nile. Along the way it feeds nearby rice fields and other crops such as potatoes.

As just about everywhere we go in Burundi, a crowd of curious young men gathered to see what we were doing at the spring. We gave them our greetings in our best Kirundi, and were off on our way.

Next we made two stops in Giteranyi Parish. First we were welcomed with song into the parish church itself by a large group of people. This is the parish where Bishop Sixbert was born and raised, and we were able to meet his sister at the church and his eldest brother later at the primary school.

Again at the church we were greeted by the Archdeacon, who is also their parish priest, and treated to some Burundian singing. We brought greetings from the Diocese of Edmonton.

We were told that Giteranyi was completely evacuated during the civil war, as it is right in the corner between Rwanda and Tanzania. Both countries are withing three or four kilometres of where we were. Now the region is being repopulated by returnees who are resettling in their old home district.

The next stop was the primary school where Bishop Sixbert was educated. There we met the over 1200 students. It seemed as though we met them all at the same time. We saw two classes and met the students and teachers, and then two student groups presented dances to us. 

Finally we went to see the new high school and heard of plan to build a college. We were told of the challenges the two schools face. We were impressed by the dedication of the teachers and the energy of the students of both schools.

Leaving Giteranyi parish we journeyed to Kimeza, where the diocese has a farm. The farm operates as a demonstration project to teach agricultural methods. It also produces seedlings such as a high-quality banana variety which are given to surrounding farmers to cultivate. We were treated to a sumptuous lunch before hitting the road for the long journey home.

Arriving back at Ngozi near sundown (6:00 p.m.) we joined a house group at Canon Desiderata's home. There we read the Bible, prayed, sang and ate. It was a very warm reception and a splendid meal including goat, rice, cassava, yams, bananas, beef, chicken, potatoes, peas and more. Although we had been strangers just a few days earlier, we already saw several familiar faces among the thirty-odd people who gathered, and we really felt at home.

It was a long and somewhat tiring day, but the best day yet.

Imana ishimwe – praise God.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Umubiri n'amaraso ya Kristo

Sunday morning dawned with the promise of a day of worship. Our ride arrived and we drove to Buyé for the service at the Cathedral. As we stepped out of the car we were overwhelmed by people singing already in the church. We got vested and then processed into the cathedral to start the service. We were introduced and I had an opportunity to bring greetings from the Diocese of Edmonton and from Bishop Jane. In some respects the service was just like home. We read the same readings set for the day, heard a sermon and celebrated the eucharist. But that's where the similarities end. During the service seven different choirs sang to a packed Cathedral. There must have been well over 300 people participating in the service. It was an amazingly joyous and uplifting time of worship.

Youth Choir

Sunday School Choir

Mubanga Parish Choir

Lycée de Buyé (High School) Choir

Ngozi St Jean Parish Choir

Kayanza Parish Choir

Mwumba Parish Choir

At the time of communion the three of us were invited to concelebrate with Bishop Sixbert and several of his clergy. Then Quinn and I were invited to assist in distributing communion. I must have said “Umubiri n'amaraso ya Kristo” (“The body and blood of Christ”) 150 times as the faithful came forward to receive the sacrament.

At the end of the service we distributed the cards from Edmonton Sunday School children to the Cathedral Sunday School. Checking our watches after the service we were surprised to see that three hours had flown by.

In the afternoon we were welcomed to the bishop's home along with a couple of dozen clergy and lay leaders for a sumptuous lunch and conversation.

A memorable Sunday.

Community Day

Saturday mornings in Burundi are a time for community work. People are expected to be doing useful things in their own community, so they are not permitted to travel. Thus we had a late start to our day, which was welcome after a full Friday. Setting out at 10:00 we didn't get very far. Our way was blocked because the President was coming along the highway with a crowd carrying a Peace Torch. We were stopped by the police and had to wait. Eventually we made our way to Kayanza Parish where we were met by the pastor and several members who told us about the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) programme in which lay members and enquirers learn more about the faith. Pastor Amos is also the diocesan co-ordinator of the programme.

The TEE group put on a play to show us the sort of topics they discuss in addition to the usual studies of the Bible and theology. The play demonstrated the problems inherent in having too many children, and put in plugs for family planning and for the community microcredit groups such as we had seen on Friday.

From the church we made our way to a primary school where we were met by an adult literacy class. They welcomed us with great joy in song and sang us into the classroom. There we saw the method of participatory learning (gakuba) in action as the teacher created a problem tree and a solution tree which then led to a literacy lesson. This group also presented a play, showing how literacy and participation in a microcredit group could lead to economic self-sufficiency and an improved life. It was amazing to see some 30 or so children cramming into the class to see what was going on. Even more had climbed up to look through the windows. Then as soon as the play was finished, the group broke out into a farewell song and we were off on our way.

After a lunch along the way back to Ngozi we spent some time touring the market. Then home to prepare for Sunday.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Friday was a very full day of visiting in the town of Buyé.

A torrential rain Thursday night made the roads a little difficult to navigate, but we made our way through the mud and the ruts to Buyé. We began our visit in Buyé at the Lycée de Buyé, a residential high school of about 600 students that was founded by the diocese, then taken over by the government, and now is operated as a joint venture by the two. We met the headmaster and several teachers, and were given a tour of the school. We saw the library, a dormitory and two classes. In the classes we were given an opportunity to meet the students, and tell them a bit about the Diocese of Edmonton. We were impressed by the questions the students asked and by their eagerness to learn.

We next made a quick stop at a diocesan conference centre that is still under construction. With a central building and several smaller spaces designed for break-out or small groups, all with thatched roofs, the centre will make for a very pleasant space for conferences when complete.

Then it was on to the All Saints' Cathedral. It was nice to see that our two dioceses share the same name for our cathedrals. It is a wonderful space set in a park-like setting, where we will be worshiping on Sunday.

Across from the cathedral are some buildings housing the Bible School, where local clergy are trained. We saw the school and were introduced to the current class of five senior students, who will be ordained as deacons on August 5. The students introduced themselves and asked about the Diocese of Edmonton. They asked some perceptive questions about the life of a parish priest in Edmonton, and were able to compare the answers with the life they look forward to in Buyé. We assured them of our prayers for their ordination and for their ministry.

After the theological students we met a group of Buyé youth in an adjacent building. As we approached the doorway, they broke into joyful song that almost overwhelmed us. Again we were introduced and given a chance to to tell them about our diocese. I told them honestly that I wished they could come and teach us how to sing. What an outpouring of joy! Bishop Sixbert told the young people that although people refer to the youth as the Church of Tomorrow, they are, in fact the Church of Today.  

We had a tea break at Bishop Sixbert's home, where we were warmly welcomed by Clothilde. Bishop Sixbert proudly showed us his banana plants and some of his cattle. We ate bananas from the Bishop's trees. It will be difficult to go back from tree-ripened bananas to the sort we buy in stores in Canada.

Then followed a tour of Buyé Hospital. The chief physician showed us several wards and pointed out various pieces of equipment in use that had been sent by the Diocese of Edmonton. We heard about the challenges that the hospital faces, and also met doctors from other hospitals in the region. It was a moving experience. I was invited to pray for the hospital and the patients and staff.

We returned to Ngozi for lunch and then went off to visit a local microfinance group. This group of women was formed as a class of literacy students, who moved on to lessons on how to save for the future. As the group saves, money is accumulated that can be lent out to individual group members to invest in small businesses to improve the lives of their families. I was able to ask the group about their stories and several spoke with obvious pride about how the group had helped them learn business skill and life skills. This was a success story about how the Church in Buyé is improving the lives of local families.

Finally, we visited the Ngozi parish, where we met the rector, Pastor Noel, who told us of the joy of gathering with 150 members each Sunday for worship. He showed us his rectory, which is attached to the Church building, and a new rectory which is under construction.

It was a very full and varied day, with many moving experiences that gave us a good taste of how the people of the Diocese of Buyé live out the Gospel. It is a real privilege the be able to meet so many people and share their lives, which, after all, is why we've come to Burundi.

Getting There

Our first day in Burundi began with a brief tour of Bujumbura, stopping to see Lake Tanganyika and Bujumbura Cathedral. 

Then we began a three-hour journey along winding roads through the mountains of Burundi to Ngozi. Along the way we noticed a lot of people on the highway, walking or selling things by the roadside or otherwise going about their business. Bicycles and trucks outnumbered cars on the road, and we were frequently the only vehicle in sight.

We stopped to buy some bananas and passion fruit. Stopping to see a tea plantation we noticed a man wearing a hat that said Traditional Ale on it. Earlier we had noticed a sign in Bujumbura advertising the Alberta Restaurant. Reminders of home.

Eventually we arrived at Ngozi and got checked in to our hotel and had lunch. Then it was off to the diocesan offices for a brief tour and the opportunity to meet some of the staff. Finally we returned to sleep and prepare ourselves for the adventures ahead.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Greetings from Ngozi!

After a 22-hour trip, the Revd Quinn Strikwerda, Canon Travis Enright and I arrived in Bujumbura on Wednesday, to a very warm welcome from Bishop Sixbert Macumi. After a night in Bujumbura we did  a little touring of the city and then embarked on our 3-hour road trip to Ngozi, in the diocese of Buye.

As I write this on Friday morning, we are preparing for a trip to Buye to see the Cathedral and some of its ministries. Over the next few days while we are hear, Internet connection permitting, we will post some impressions of our trip. We invite you to follow our progress as we get to know our companion diocese.