Burundi, where old Norse Gods retire

I will not be able to post my column on Tuesday
so I am going to scoop UPI and put it up here now.


Awake again at 4 in the morning. Burundi does not seem like a place of easy sleep. Tonight I have made a very interesting discovery. When the old gods retire, they move to tropical climes. I know this because those old Norse dudes Thor and Odin are presently duking it out directly over my tin roofed house. The flashes of light not only illuminate the room, they illuminate the back of my brain through eyes squeezed shut and a pillow over my head. The thunder, which is occurring at 10 second intervals, is shaking the foundations of the house. The wind has blown open the shutters three times, and my bed is soaked with rainwater. But as it is about a 90 degrees Fahrenheit I don’t mind the water so much.

It should be about time for the call to prayer, but I think the singer has given up over the tempest – God is singing His own call tonight. “Sleepers Awake!” I will never again brag about the Midwestern thunderstorms of my youth. All those cards have just been trumped.

Nothing in this place is mild. Nothing is bland. It is hard work to get up and live. The simple strangeness, and the energy it takes to adjust to it, tires you by 10 in the morning. The abundance is also exhausting. Five choirs at church that each sing twice, loudly and with exuberance. Drinking halls in the residential neighborhoods that dance all night. The Mosque a block over.

The food is strange and abundant. The driving deserves another column.

But the most draining thing is the spiritual learning curve.

I get daily doses of the disciplines that far exceed the recommended minimums. Compassion and discernment with the four year old homeless street children. Forgiveness with the forty-seven cultural snafus that I create each day. Continual attention is required to avert catastrophe. Adventure – boy Howdy! My soul is on the rack – stretched to near breaking. Yet I learn.

The best lesson this week was an observation of the other, which became an inward instruction.

The squandered resource of central Africa is human intelligence and initiative. There is not enough work to go around, and due to poverty and lack of development, much of the work that is done is difficult, menial, and does not use the obvious prevalent intelligence of these people. They make jobs for each other right and left, but a lot of those jobs work at half-speed, and way below the level of competence. A secretary, who at home would be a busy office administrator, answers a phone maybe once an hour - and if she makes a few photocopies – it is a busy day. The rest of the day she spends waiting. Our driver works about two hours a day, and sits for six. We have a man just to open our gate. But even his job is more interesting than the soldiers of the new Burundi peace who sit on the roadside every few hundred yards and stare into space for the whole day.

I spend many hours a day waiting, for the power to come back on, for the shared internet connection, and then for minutes as I wait for an e-mail to be ‘sent.’ I wait for my friend as we drive and stop every few hundred yards to greet someone. I am getter better at relaxing while I wait, but I often finding myself wondering if what I am doing is really the best use of me.

Then my eyes opened to yet another level of my American spoiled child syndrome. I take for granted the fact that I will be near the top of my game most of the time - that all my work will be meaningful in some form. I don’t like to do work unless that work is something that really takes me to do it. I like to be unique and to express it. I am just way too precious a commodity to be wasted.

I am a spoiled child of God. I am full of it.

So I have decided to join my brothers and sisters here, in their patience and graciousness and wisdom. I will sit quietly and contentedly and wait to see if there is some small thing that the boss has for me to do today. And if all I do is stand at the ready, handmaiden to grace, then I will still count it to be a good day.

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.

amen, and amen.
Thanks for the post. I found it here. Then, followed the link to your blog.

I really liked this...The squandered resource of central Africa is human intelligence and initiative.

I posted about you on my own blog. I hope you don't mind.

Thanks for the wake up call, and thanks for all you are doing.
I am a new reader, and I just wanted to say thank you for this post. It truly spoke to my condition.

In the Light,

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