On Sunday, January 27th, I celebrated my 42nd birthday. We enjoyed time with visiting professors at a local restaurant (Club du Lac Tanganyika), Ultimate Frisbee in the afternoon, and dinner with our LongMilesCoffee friends in the evening. 42 isn’t particularly momentous but it is my second birthday celebrated in Africa. The past year has been full of new experiences for me- learning some French, working closely with Burundian colleagues, helping teach medical students, eating beans and rice at least once a week. God has shown Himself faithful in the big and small things and I look forward to what he is about to do in the year ahead.
But there was a sad current underlying the day’s celebration. As I looked off our balcony before heading to church, I saw the smoke
billowing from Bujumbura’s Central Market. At 7:30, the main market was on fire and the livelihoods of thousands of Burundians were at stake. This market was one of the cultural centers of the city, the place where people went to sell and buy their goods, to invest in the future of their families, to act with hopefulness for better days ahead. As it became obvious that there would be nothing left after this fire, you could hear the desperation in the stories. People risking or sacrificing their life to try to salvage their goods or money. People who had borrowed significant money for their market stand now unable to pay their debts and not sure how to go on.
Honestly, this fire won’t have a significant effect on my family. We’ll still eat like we’ve always eaten, we’ll still pay our bills, we’ll still light the candles on our chocolate birthday cakes, we’ll still assume that things are going to work out for us. It will be an inconvenience at worst. But one of the reasons for us even being here in Burundi is to share our lives with these brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. To mourn with those who are mourning. To point the hopeless toward the source of Hope.
God, have mercy on those who are suffering in the aftermath of this tragedy.
God, have mercy on us who are so comfortable and sometimes unable to feel our neighbor’s pain.