Disclaimer #1: OK, so I stole the title from our very witty finance guru; it was the phrase he used when he dispersed our travel authorizations for yet another Ordered Departure. It does aptly describe the game we feel we are playing.
Disclaimer #2: Much of this news has already made it to FB and emails. so if we’re in touch that way, this may all be old news. Sorry for the repeat.
Disclaimer #3: The overarching theme of this post is sadness. (At least after you get past the turkeys.) If you’re not up for being bummed, you might want to skip reading any further. Sorry, but from the beginning the point of this blog was to capture the moment, and right now the moment is sad. There’s just no way around it.
So if you follow this story, you’ll know from my last post in September that we were awaiting the final decision about our exiled family members returning. We were hopeful then doubtful then hopeful then just plain exhausted from the waiting. But finally, at the final hour, the Ordered Departure was lifted and our families were allowed to return.
This long awaited moment was a sight for sore eyes, to be sure!
Randy returned on the Friday before Thanksgiving, sporting three frozen turkeys in his luggage, just in time for the holidays! We had a great Thanksgiving together, celebrating two wonderful meals on Thanksgiving with colleagues and Marines,
fried a turkey just for the two of us over the weekend (first time ever–it was delicious and we ate the whole thing–just turkey, no sides, no lie),
and joined a wonderful group of missionaries from all over the world on Sunday.
We were thankful beyond words–to be together and to be celebrating this uniquely American holiday so richly.
(One other little Thanksgiving note before I move on to the sad part: someone had asked us to fry a Burundian turkey for one of the feasts. I brought it home and put it in the sink. When Randy opened up the package, he gasped and exclaimed: “It’s a marathon runner turkey!” I said, “huh?” He replied, “There’s not an ounce of fat on it!” Ha ha ha ha ha. Those Butterballs never tasted so good.)
(Didas, one of our favorite guards, was fascinated.)
Then last Friday, December 11th, just three short weeks after Randy’s return, we were woken at 5:45 in the morning by a phone call from the Health Unit nurse reporting that she didn’t think she’d make it into work. There had been heavy gunfire since about 4:00 am. This was not an unusual occurrence, but something in her voice sounded different. We tried to go back to sleep, but by that time, even we could hear it. (I usually don’t hear anything in my little soundproof bedroom with my noise blocking curtains, fan, A/C, generator, and sound machine.)
A few minutes later we got the “shelter in place until further notice” text, and thus began one of the longest and loudest days of my life. Gunfire, explosions, rapid-fire artillery continued for almost 18 hours. Some of it sounded so close I thought it was in front of my house. We found out later that police (or military–not clear which) had set up less than a block away, shooting across the ravine into the neighborhood to the south, which has long been a hot spot. No wonder it sounded close; IT WAS!
According to news reports, two military camps and one military school were attacked by the insurgents. It was the worse day of violence since the protests started on April 26th. This is not a good sign this late in the game. Especially since it appeared to have been a coordinated attack. Not. A. Good. Sign.
As a result, Embassy Bujumbura is now on Ordered Departure 2.0. Musical continents. Randy left yesterday, due to land in Denver as I write this.
(Here he is in the airport, drinking his last Primus ever. And I think he’s OK with that.)
The last of the children fly out tomorrow, and those of us left behind begin another season alone. Once again, no one can predict the future, except that it just doesn’t look good.
As sad as all this has been for us, and as difficult as the weekend was, returning to work on Monday was devastating. The Burundians we work with are gutted. They are sad, they are tired, they are frightened, but most horribly of all, they feel hopeless. Many are people of deep faith, but the reality on the ground is difficult to reconcile. Our hearts break anew for them and for this beautiful country.
As for us, we will make it through. Even though Randy was only here for three weeks, I am so thankful for that time together, for multiple reasons. First, of course, it was good to be together. But it was also good for Randy to be able to put closure on his life in Bujumbura. He left with one suitcase in April, planning to return in three weeks. He left yesterday, knowing he will not return. But most significant of all, this short time here, experiencing the violence firsthand, and seeing the devastation in his former co-workers on Monday, really softened his heart for Burundi in indescribably important ways. This is big, y’all.
And the timing is not terrible for us. In just three short weeks, I’ll head to Denver as chief post-op nurse for Randy’s total hip replacement surgery, scheduled for January 11th. Hopefully he’ll be in good shape by the time I return to Buj at the end of the month. Then I’ll pass back through Denver a month later to check on him after our annual conference in San Diego. By the time I return to Buj in March, I’ll know more about timing and onward assignments and how the next few months will play out. Unless things change drastically here, and they could, I will likely finish out my tour here alone, but at least it won’t be the waiting game it was the first time around. This time we know he won’t be back. And that’s OK. It could be way worse.
And so the adventure continues. The future? Bleak. Unpredictable for Burundi. But what a time to be here and to be able to stand side by side with these beautiful people. I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything, as difficult as it has been.
Please pray for Burundi, for peace.
And stay tuned. Next up, very shortly: HANDSHAKES!