Upon my arrival to Burundi last September, dry season ruled supreme. I distinctly remember the mélange of burnt grass and dust filling my lungs as I walked across the tarmac to Bujumbura International Airport (whose architecture is not too unlike what a communist would build with “hills” for a muse). Bujumbura shrouded itself in dry season haze and dust-near sighted.
A breath of fresh air. The wet season brought cleansing rain, and I saw through clear air for the first time! Patchworks of green crept up from the shores of Lake Tanganyika to the towering Burundian hills to the east and south along the lake. Rice paddies and banana plantations reveling in the steamy valley extended north from the lake. To the near west loomed Congo! Gargantuan, mordoresque mountains levitate jaggedly from the western lakeside-both striking anxiety in your mind and arousing adventure in your soul. There is more to Burundi then the restaurants and beaches of Buj!
Thus I find myself in Nyanza Lac. Translate the first word from Kirundi you get “lake”. Translate the second word from French you get “Lake”. Lake Lake. Appropriate I guess for a community that makes a living off the tasty eat-with-its-head-still-on mukeke fish and the palm trees that thrive on the lakes humid shores. The 2 hour drive south takes you on a old crumbling road through endless palm plantations and along the edge of clear blue Tanganyika waters. Aside from pothole-induced whiplash, it’s a beautiful drive.
I’ve been here many times due to the fact that World Relief’s Refugee Rehabilitation and Livelihoods program is based here in Nyanza Lac. With a steamy cup of chai to bring me to a proper sweat, I glance around the compound. Roofing sheets, iron frames for latrines, bags of cement, roofing nails, door frames, and window frames lie neatly stacked ready to be distributed to identified families. Many of them have recently returned from refugee camps in neighboring Tanzania and now will start a new life in a province whose land is spread thin and waters over fished. No wonder receiving a goat brings such radiant smiles from recipients!
At a goat distribution a few months ago an older returnee shared with me, ““Yes, I am a Christian, but when the war came I lost my faith. But now, I have come back to my faith. I know that God exists. I am so blessed!”
So this is our hope. That now in peace, we continue to see the guiding hand of God. We can lose faith in times of hardship or blind ourselves in times of peace and prosperity, but constant endures His love for us.