Community. Education.

or: “It takes a village to teach a child”

NOTE: this was something I wrote back in Kibuye about a month and a half ago – before we even thought we might be heading out.

It feels like right now, more than ever, a lot of people are talking about community. Mostly it seems to be about how a sense of community has been taken away in so many ways, and how hard that is.

Earlier this week we had another event that showed me two things: 1) how truly important community is 2) how uniquely and richly blessed we are to be part of this community here

There is a possibility the US embassy is organising a flight to get some more of its remaining citizens out of Burundi, and if that happens, some members of our team who were supposed to leave in a month or so may be leaving earlier than expected. With almost every airport and border in this region completely shut down, it’s kind of a now-or-never scenario if one wants to get out before….who knows when.

What that means is that our school year is shifting its timetable – so suddenly we realised (since the US fight was originally said to be this past Monday) that basically it would be the end of the school year in many ways, at least for the 7th & 8th Grade class.

The Middle School class

In some ways growing up here can be hard. For Micah, there’s not another boy within 4 years up or 4 years down. The massive cultural and language barriers that exist make it hard to form friendships. There are so many comings and goings, families who might come for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, and then they are gone, very possibly never again will we cross paths. There are our teammates, close like family, who leave for weeks or months at a time for home assignment (furlough) or other reasons, creating a sudden and profound hole in the fabric of our community. Our kids don’t know what team sports really are, or drama, choir, or those kinds of group extra-curricular activities

But boy, do they ever have some advantages. Micah has had the same teacher now for 4 years – Uncle Scott. His class has ranged in size from 3-5 and has included both his sister and his ‘fake-sisters’ – girls so close to him that they are almost like family.

Our kids really have no idea what a school bully is. Sure, some kids will click better than others, but there are just no cliques. And when kids do things that are unkind, their teacher corrects them, in a very similar way to how a parent would. The kids can’t find loopholes in a set of rules to prove they ‘didn’t do anything wrong’ – because if they did something that was unkind that is enough.

It means having teachers who know your kids deeply. Who ache for the kids when they are going through something hard. Who pray for the kids, with the kids, and who model following Jesus in their own way. We have many friends who are teachers in other places, and they do deeply care for their students. But having a relationship where your teacher is your neighbour, and goes to church with you, and plays frisbee with you every Sunday afternoon, and carpools with you to the city, and comes to your house to get milk, and drops off hand-me-down clothes, and your parents work together, and you go on retreats together, and you generally are just doing life together in a deeply integrated way is a whole other relationship that I had never really imagined. We’re basically like the Amish, but with better computers.

These are formative years. In case you need physical proof, here is Micah the first time we went up to Kibuye…

And this week for their graduation party…

The plan is for Micah to join Matea at RVA in Kenya this fall, which is a great school. The classes are small, the teachers know and love the kids. But honestly, they will never experience this kind of community anywhere else throughout their education.

So I guess this is mostly a declaration of gratitude. For Scott who has guided Micah in his scholastic work and so much more for the past 4 years. For all his other teachers over the past 4.5 years in Kibuye, for a few courses, a special class, or whatever: Jess, Heather, Shay, Grace, Julie, Julie, Rachel, Rachel, Stephanie, Lindsay, Kayla, Annick, Mme Therese & Mme Frederique, Alyssa, Greg, Michelle, the kids who taught them traditional Burundian drumming, and others that I’m surely forgetting.

In the past four years on top of the usual subjects he’s had French, Kirundi, robotics, Lego, emergency medicine (!), and so much more. The Learning Day activities have seen them slaughtering chickens, harvesting rice, watching procedures at the hospital, visiting brick factories, processing cocoa, studying plants, and so, so, so many other things it’s actually incredible.

So thanks to the teachers, the school, the team, for giving our kids an unbelievable education.

(If any of you want to step in right now to help guide the individual at-home part of this year for any of our children, feel free to get in touch….)