This week we had the opportunity to host Mike and Vickie Reynen and Glenn Snyder for a couple of nights. The Reynens came down from Nairobi, Kenya from whence they give leadership to FMWM efforts in Africa. Glenn Snyder is an Internal Medicine doctor who serves as liaison between FMWM and its medical work around the world. We appreciate the investment that these friends have made in helping us be more effective and focused in our medical missions work. Glenn has been following us around for a few years, even visiting us when we were working in Mexico City, so we are developing a rhythm for these annual visits.

IMG_0798What’s an MOU?

I like the idea of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). It might simplify parenting and marriage and…okay, maybe things aren’t that easy. These documents establish the ground rules for how two or more groups or organizations will interact with each other. Wikipedia says that “It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action.” We have one of these MOU’s between FMWM, Hope Africa University, and our family. We have similar desires about what we would like to see happen in Burundi with the medical work but this provides a map for to go forward in specific ways.

Some of the interesting elements of our revised/current MOU with HAU and FMWM include:

the mandate for us to spend some time learning Kirundi, the national language of Burundians (We are glad for the opportunity to learn more Kirundi but also know that it is going to be hard work to make progress in this Bantu language. We’ll likely be attending one of the language schools in Bujumbura since the kids will continue to attend the Belgian School.)

an effort for me to see more patients in the clinic to maintain my own competence with clinical skills

encouragement for Janette to look for new ways to be involved in the education of medical students

emphasis on friendships with Africans from whom we will learn and with whom we will share our spiritual journey

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So Why Are We Here?

Aren’t there Burundian physicians who could do what we do without all of the cross-cultural challenges? Perhaps you’ve asked this question about our service here in Africa. I know that we have regularly wondered if the expense for the mission and the sacrifice for our family and friends in the U.S. is worth it. There are an increasing number of Burundian doctors and they are taking leadership in the development of healthcare here. African doctors know more than I do about malaria and typhoid and are fully capable of treating those patients. What do we have to offer?

Rather than come up with our own answers to those questions, we wanted to hear from our African counterparts. And so we turn to the two Burundian doctors who were part of our meetings. Dr. Eric Nzeyimana is the Medical Director of the Van Norman Clinic and Dr. Innocente Irakoze is the Dean of the HAU Frank Ogden School of Medicine. Glenn asked them what we had to offer HAU as American doctors that could not be provided by Burundians…with the caveat that it could not be our connection to financial resources in the West.

Their answers were challenging and encouraging to us. Dr. Eric mentioned that we were able to give visibility to this tiny forgotten country with our network of friends in the U.S. We do hope that those of you who are following this blog or our Facebook posts know more about Burundi than you did before. Dr. Innocente added that the way we practice medicine and teach the students is different than the Burundian faculty. Because we are supported by you, we are able to focus on the missional aspects of medicine. She expressed appreciation for the spiritual dimension we are able to emphasize at HAU.IMG_0571

It has been refreshing to remember why we came to Burundi and to consider God’s call on our lives again. As we enter the second half of our first term in Burundi, we want to refocus on the tasks that will result in better Burundian doctors. Not only do we want to see them improve in their medical skills but we also want to see their faith reflected in all that they do. May God give us the wisdom and perseverance to do our part for his glory.