Monday, January 30, 2012

Bishop and a Tree

An interesting day. Most of it was spent in resting after a late day Yesterday so there was a bit of a nap. Linda spent quite a bit of time preparing a dinner for us and the Catholic Bishop of Bururi province. He came in to discuss ideas for cooperation and what his people need. We came away with an understanding to explore further and cooperatively with the Anglican Diocese. Bishop Bacinoni Venant is a wonderful man with a deep love for his people. The membership of his diocese is at 500,000 with 19 parishes. Each parish has 20-30 Eucharistic Communities. There are about 80 priests serving the diocese. He joked that I can not leave Burundi and should be the first Anglican Use Catholic here. We all got a hearty laugh over that. We also met today with a gentleman who has a plan to harvest the leaves and seeds of the Maringa tree. He needs 600,000 dollars to get the operation going. He already has a significant number of hectares under cultivation by rural women's co-ops. The tree is full if uses and the leaves, both dried and fresh, contain all the essential amino acids and vitamins. A serving contains 21g of protein. Leaves can be harvested after four months and regrow at the same rate. Oil from the seeds is good for skin and wound care. Cosmetics companies in Europe are paying top dollar for the oil. The leaves can also ne juiced and mixed with water to make an effective organic fertilizer. It may be the tree of life.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

By the river Ruzizi

I write this as St. Matthew's begins to celebrate the 10am liturgy.  If I had a computer today, versus my phone, I would upload the wonderful pictures and video from this service.  It may look like we are doing a lot of sightseeing, and in a way of speaking that would be correct.  Since this is primarily a fact finding mission less direct work and more networking is involved.  The people here are deeply in love with their country, and hopeful for its future, so they wish to show us all of it.  This includes the worst of it as well. I have never met a more generous people in all of my travels.  They truly give, without the thought of it being a quid pro quo. Today began with the Mass at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.  I was asked to vest in an alb and join the altar party. It was the most glorious Mass I have ever attended.  The singing was magnificent and spirit filled.  The church was filled to capacity and the children were given places of honor in the front of the Nave. I found myself tearing up several times in the service.  Two of those times were following the reading of the Gospel and at the Consecration.  Each time spontaneous applause burst forth from those gathered.  This was not lead by the clergy, but by the people for whom the Gospel is real and the Eucharist powerful.  I wonder when the last time I applauded for the Gospel was, you? Before the dismissal, I was invited to say a few words and after passing on greetings from Springfield Diocese and St. Matthew's, remarked that if St. Paul had written today he would have said, "In Christ there is no East or West, no North America or Africa, no American or Burundian, but brothers and sisters united in the love and grace of Christ."  Today, I saw what real catholicity looked like as we communed together. After breakfast, the Frs. Emmanuel, Clement, and Claude took us to the national park to see the Hippos.  We saw several swimming placidly in the Ruzizi river.  We then went to the village just north of the park and were swarmed by choose children shouting "muzungo" which means white person.  We had great fun laughing, singing, and taking pictures together.  The poverty is extreme, but there was a joy of life that, to me, seems to be lacking in our much more prosperous culture.  The poverty here is not due to a lack of initiative, hard work, or care, but lack of opportunity and training in basic economic activities. Yet, we can also learn to be appreciative for small things from our Burindian friends. We learned a bit of dependence today when through a communications failure we ran out of Francs.  Our hosts, the priests, insisted that we accept their hospitality for refeshment on the beach of Lake Tanginikya.  We were told that it would be good for us to be dependent, and it was both a blessing and a bit humbling as they bought from every child who was selling refreshment, so that they "could earn some money." Tomorrow we meet foe dinner with a Catholic Bishop who oversees Fr. Emmanuel's work. The goal of the meeting is to explore ideas of how we could potentially cooperate to improves the quality of life of the rural parishes, without providing direct aid. One possibility is cooperating with Anglican and Catholic parishes and training local clergy in raising rabbits for protein and breeding stock.  The clergy would then train the residents of the parish and provide breeding stock from their production.  This could both feed a high protein meal to folk as well as providing the beginnings of an economic development as the city is always in need of meat. To begin a feasibility study, I think we will build a hutch tomorrow.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Update from Burundi

By an amazing coincidence (God moment) we ran into the Anglican Bishop of Bujumbura in the parking lot of the market this afternoon. We had a good conversation and learned that The Anglican Province of Burundi is hosting CAPA next week. CAPA is the annual meeting of the Anglican Bishops of Africa. This is quite a good thing for the Anglican Church here. After our chance meeting, and a blessing from Bishop Ntukamazina, we were able to make phone contact with Archbishop Ntahoturi. Following a brief conversation, we agreed to a meeting on the 1st in the afternoon. Please pray that the meeting occurs, and that we are able to learn more of the Anglican activities for mission and development in Burundi. Meanwhile a few pictures to share while I have access to a real computer, and not my cell.
Transporting Grass for the Cows. This amount is $2
Downtown Bujumbura

UNHCR Refugee Camp with the mountains in the distance.
Refugees are Congolese

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Into Africa

Arrived last evening after a nice travel adventure.  The flight from Brussels was only 9 hours and I was able to sleep most of the way. Was met at the airport by Fr. Emmanuel the Catholic priest in charge of COPED and sponsoring the mission work here. We had an enjoyable evening and a light dinner at the DAI home where we are staying. The home itself is a beautiful colonial home with walls, wire, guards and a garden. Of course, the walls and guards are just for show. Today I met with a former Minister of Agriculture and discussed the pros and cons of raising rabbits here. He is interested to see if it is possible for the coffee farmers to do so for off season income or as a project for orphans to raise money to stay in school . A rabbit for protein would fetch around 8 dollars or 4 days high wage. I might go up country to lead a seminar on the subject next week in conjunction with a USAID funded NGO. Tonight we attended the Shika Awards for the Burundi Business Incubator. Five finalists were selected from many applications to have their business plans judged. Everything from mushroom production to medical records software were proposed. The mushroom grower won first prize of 1000000 Burundi Francs or $10000. The proposals were impressive and the goal is to raise up entrepreneurs who can start businesses and provide jobs. All in all a good day in Africa.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Best in Show

As a follow up to last week’s post, the day the boy was born was also the happiest of my life.  Yes, I believe you can have more than one happiest day.

 It was also one of the most stressful, as due to medical error, he was delivered by emergency Caesarian.  I distinctly remember hurriedly scrubbing to go to the delivery OR and praying that he would be all right as they had lost the fetal heartbeat which helped precipitate the procedure.  In the end, I was glad they did the C-section as his umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck.   Being a precocious boy, he still has a tendency to get himself into trouble, but usually of the good kind.

This past weekend, we entered the Pack 53 Pinewood Derby.  The design that he choose was a Soviet T-34 tank of the World War II era.  It turned out to be as slow as the original (although it won 2 of 4 heats), but won the “best looking” award in his age group.  I think it was because little boys like militaria, rather than the true quality of our entry.

It was a fun day, and rewarding to have spent the time working with him on the entry, and even more enjoyable to see his face light up with his award.

Yep, I am proud of the boy and not just for his trophy.  He is becoming quite the young gentleman, and remains one of my happy thoughts.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

I've never liked the lyrics of Chevalier's song from Gigi. It does not make my best of list, in fact, it ranks in the bottom ten for me. First, I find it, and the movie, a bit dodgy and frankly kind of disturbing.  Second, I happen to have a, well not so, little girl living in our home, and while I am incredibly proud of the young lady she is becoming, part of me does not want her to hang around with "little boys."  I know, I can be accused of being the over protective father.  Guilty on all charges.

Last night, we were putting away the Christmas tree and decorations. Yes, it was four days late, but what are you going to do?  Anyway, as I was pulling off ornaments I took the time to look at each.  This one was given when she was 10, you remember that fascination with Harry Potter?  That one, she was five and just discovered soccer.  The one over there has her picture at four, she picked it out for me, and it says "The Bestest Daddy Ever".  The year she gave it to me, she also picked out one for the dog. It has a picture of our now departed collie, Samson, and the caption "The Best Dog Ever".  That must have been the year of the "best ever."  So, there I was putting ornaments away reminiscing on how the years do flow quickly by, thinking of how proud I am of her, and how much she has changed my life in the past 15 years.

In the 1990s movie Hook, Peter Pan (Robin Williams), has to learn to fly again.  In order to do so he needs to have a happy thought.  The happy thought that makes him fly? You guessed it, becoming a Daddy.
A very happy thought indeed.

So, after an evening of reminiscing, I stumbled across this article in The New Atlantis this morning.  The article, in a nutshell, describes the situation in which millions of baby girls have gone missing from the demographics of the world due to sex selective procedures and their perceived lack of value.
Over the past three decades the world has come to witness an ominous and entirely new form of gender discrimination: sex-selective feticide, implemented through the practice of surgical abortion with the assistance of information gained through prenatal gender determination technology. All around the world, the victims of this new practice are overwhelmingly female — in fact, almost universally female. The practice has become so ruthlessly routine in many contemporary societies that it has impacted their very population structures, warping the balance between male and female births and consequently skewing the sex ratios for the rising generation toward a biologically unnatural excess of males. This still-growing international predilection for sex-selective abortion is by now evident in the demographic contours of dozens of countries around the globe — and it is sufficiently severe that it has come to alter the overall sex ratio at birth of the entire planet, resulting in millions upon millions of new “missing baby girls” each year. In terms of its sheer toll in human numbers, sex-selective abortion has assumed a scale tantamount to a global war against baby girls.

A very sobering thought indeed.  Lord, have mercy!

A little over 15 years ago my life was changed by a happy thought, a new life, a name, a little girl.  She is a blessing.  Thank God for little girls!