Way off the beaten track

Monday, April 02, 2018
Bujumbura, Bujumbura Mairie, Burundi
The plan today was to visit the remotest congregation in Burundi, Kagorutsi. I knew it would be a tough drive even by the standards of Burundi, so we agreed Marjolaine would not come. We were going to drive six or seven hours in order to spend less than an hour with the group.
Since there was only one visit to make, we didn’t need to get up early. We started out at 9:00, which felt like a real luxury. The road to Rugombo was the same. We turned east toward Mugina, Nathan was waiting at the turn off to his village. Then we continued east on the blacktopped RN 5 or 10 depending on the map. A few miles farther on we left the paved road to head north toward the Rwandan border, then we turned off that dirt road to a tertiary piste, which means track. This was a very rough road heading high into the mountains. To bridge streams or run-off beds, logs were placed in parallel long-wise over the void. The road seemed never to end. 
Nathan had said optimistically, that it would take half an hour from the Mugina turn-off, in fact it was closer to 90 minutes. The views of the verdant mountains dotted with mud-brick villages was truly stunning. These are the kind of views which photos or video cannot replicate, not even closely. They approached the sublime, frightening in their scope, and the dramatics drops off the piste with no railings of any kind. One slip off the road and it would all be over but the screaming.
We finally arrived. On Nathan’s advice we have partially financed the construction of a church hall here. The members made the fired bricks, and we paid for masons to put up the structure. There are no windows or doors yet, that will come little by little, but at least the group has a dry place to meet on the Sabbath.
We did the usual: sang a hymn, prayed, gave greetings and I gave my long sermonette. We heard their doléance and I said I would consider it. I took some photos, and for the first time appeared in a short video segment of the kind I’ve been posting on my Instagram story. I’m still learning my way around that medium, but I enjoy learning something new, and I’ve been assured this is interesting to younger folks. You can find my account @joelmeeker.
We got back in the Prado and bounced and jiggled back down the mountainsides. I was ready to head back to Buj, but Nathan asked if we could also stop in Rugombo. It was on the way so I acquiesced. We found the little unfired brick (mud) building, and stepped inside, shaking hands as we went. We again went through the usual visit format. I was struck by how many people in this region are interested in the truth. Of course time alone will tell who is truly being chosen, in any even many are being called.
I took more photos and then we rode back to Bujumbura. Nathan came too since this was our last night in the country, and I always treat him to a mukeke at least once each time we visit. Jean-Marie, another local leaders came along as well. Having arrived back at the hotel, they had some errands to run, so we agreed to meet at 6:00 and to go to Nathan’s favorite mukeke place: Ubuntu. Marjolaine didn’t feel like going out with the boys, so the three of us drove to the restaurant which is right across the street from the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Often in the evening, I have watched hippos coming out to graze on the grasses along the shore. We didn’t see any this night.
We sat at a table for three on a balcony right over the street. A minute later Mélance arrived without invitation and pulled up a chair. I gave tacit approval, I don’t plan on using his services again, his driving is too erratic for my comfort level.
We ordered a beer (they ordered the large bottles which hold the equivalent of two 330 cl (12 oz.) beers and a mukeke each. I’ve written about mukeke before. It’s a delicious fish found only in the East African rift lakes. This time we did not receive the usual sized mukeke but two small ones each. They were delicious and everyone obviously enjoyed them. Midway through the meal Mélance said something to a waiter in Kirundi. I mentioned that I didn’t understand what he said, but I would only pay for one large beer per person, if he had ordered another one he would have to pay for it, and I preferred he not drink any more until he drove me back to the hotel. Nathan explained to him “We don’t drink to get drunk, if you’re on the other side of that you shouldn’t be…” Mélance hurried off to cancel his order.
It was a pleasant evening, cool night air, a pleasant breeze off the lake, and the lights of Congolese villages twinkling across the water. We talked about many things. I asked where they would like to travel if they could go anywhere. Jean-Marie said he’d like to go to America. I asked why. Because everything starts in America, he said. He said he was ready to go any time, I just needed to pay his way…. I told him it was not easy to get a visa for the USA.
Nathan said he’d like to go to Israel to see the Bible sites. We talked about some of those sites one can see in Israel.
Tomorrow if all goes as planned, we’ll fly on to Rwanda.



The photos are stunning. I can't imagine the long drive through that part of the country and with the log bridges! It's encouraging to see the church hall and the photos of the folks interested in learning what you have to teach them. The photos remind me of the effort that goes into meeting on the Sabbath.