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Archive for July 27th, 2012

Meeting together back at Bujumbura Diocesan Community Centre everyone is full of stories. There are a lot of laughs at incidents that at the time may have been infuriating, or worse. What is clear is that each group has had an amazing adventure. Inevitably there have been some difficult moments, even longer periods but overall the impression is hugely positive. Key things people highlight are the hard working life of the people here; the growth of the church; the youthfulness of nation and church; the incredible hospitality everyone has received; the beauty of the mountains, hills and Lake Tanganyika; the vibrancy of worship and the desire for developing a meaningful companionship between our Diocese and the Province here.
We have time to share, tell stories and reflect. We pray together.
After a mixed nights sleep (Bujumbura is hot and sticky and gets going as soon as light is appearing), most of the group go shopping. Markets are good places to get some feel of ordinary life. They are places for taking care with money and passports (all over the world). You know you have to take care when your hosts tell you they always do in such a setting. Crafts are bought; material is found all return happy. For two of us there is a visit to the Police to meet with their chaplains. For our policeman and vicar who acts as a local police chaplain it proves a valuable and interesting visit. The police here are largely ex military and run along military lines. Chaplains are therefore a part of the whole structure, not just voluntary. The assessment is that we might have more to learn about police chaplaincy from the people here than they from us. For a further three of us it is 2.5 hours with Andre the Christian Aid country manager for here and Rwanda. We have a brilliant time hearing about the work in these 2 countries. The clear focus for CA on Community development, HIV/AIDS work and governance is outlined. Clarity of focus helps decide where limited resources should be spent but sometimes means hard decisions being made about bringing projects to an end. There is a real desire to be programme rather than project based. For the first 2 areas of programme the Anglican Church of Burundi is a key partner but Andre would love to see them engaged in the governance work as well. For HIV work there is also a strong partnership with a main Pentecostal denomination that is spread across the whole land; radio work is also important in getting the educational messages out. Andre is very aware of the limits of what CA can do because of having only 6 staff and limited funds. He longs for closer cooperation between the various agencies who are here from around the world. CA itself shares a building with Trocaire & Norwegian Church Aid. He dreams of more open cooperation; all power to him in this I think. We talk about our partnership with the Province and with CA in England. We share ideas and explore some of the pros and cons of these. He is a delight. He is incite full, thoughtful and prepared to think and act prophetically. He is a good advocate for CA in this nation and it’s neighbour.
In the afternoon we hold a debrief with 4 of the 6 bishops (+Pie is in Nairobi for a meeting representing them all; + Martin has continuing car problems). Each member of the team shares openly and positively about their time here. Together we are able to not only say what we have seen but reflect on what we have learned. There is trust here so people are also able to note some of the difficulties that occurred, or disappointments ( it has to be said there a very few of these). In turn the bishops reflect on what they have seen of us; what they have valued about the visit. There is an extremely positive feel.
We talk about possible future developments; everyone agrees that organic growth must be better than trying to do anything too structural at this stage. The growing of friendship through prayer and mutual exchange remains high on everyone’s agenda. There a ways forward but right now is not the time to note these in such a public way. Time for reflection and then future action is always needed after such an intense time together.
I am deeply proud of the team who have travelled with me. They have represented our diocese well. They have travelled well together, looking out for each other; caring and supporting. They have been open to a huge range of new experiences and challenges. As one member noted ‘I will never be the same again.’ None of us will.
The day is rounded off with a fabulous evening together over a terrific meal at Le Flambard, a truly Burundian restaurant of very high quality. + Pie, back from Nairobi, joins us along with Provincial staff. We all learn yet more but around the room there are smiles, laughter, teasing and glorious conversation. Something has happened at a deep level between us as people of God together. We have made or deepened friendships further. It is such an honour to call these people friends. The friendship for Rosemary & I with ++Bernard and Mathilde is particularly special; they are truly wonderful examples of following Jesus, heading a family and leading the church.
For 4 of us Lake Tanganyika has not been seen on this trip so for our final morning we all head for the beach to relax for an hour or two. Karera Beach is beautifully sandy with palm trees for shade. The water is clear and warm. We had been warned of crocodiles out in the water but a local boatman assures us that today they are elsewhere up the river Ruzizi. We paddle, exec
T for Rosemary who having decided she would come ready to swim glides in. We watch fishermen at work, and I will reflect on this elsewhere another day. It is simply beautifully relaxing. In dry season the mountains of Congo and Burundi that line this beautiful lake are so shrouded that they cannot be seen, even thou the sun is shining brightly overhead. Children are playing in the water. Here children the world over are the same; lots of fun, laughter, teasing and sheer joy in the warm waters. It is a great way to spend our final morning together. Quiet conversations happen between us, sometimes in a larger group, at others just one to one. The group mixes around, a healthy sign. Then it is time to go; driving back
Past the UN base which I remember from 2000-1 as vast, now a very small presence; a sign of more peaceful times here and less troubled refugee camps in close by Congo ( though sadly no less troubled at all). A final Burundian lunch before completing the packing and the start of the long journey home. There is for me 1 more conversation to be had, reflecting with +Bernard on his time at the Global South Conference in Bangkok and how we see things in the Anglican Communion at present. I find his perspectives deeply thoughtful and wise.

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