Kirundi 101: How Colonial Learned to Speak Burundi in 2014

Kirundi 101: How Colonial Learned to Speak Burundi in 2014

Written by Dawn Duncan Harrell

Jim Griggs and Pete Welch


In February 2014, Brian Jones took Bob Thomas, Kristin Geer, and me to Burundi. We met the World Relief staff, who taught us to greet and good-bye people with one word: amahoro (“peace”). Then they introduced us to the women who are changing their world, one neighborhood at a time.

For example, you can unfold Marie-Gorette’s story here. Bazillions of airplane miles; innumerable notes, photos and videos; much red dirt; and one busted rib later, we returned to Colonial, enthusiastic for our four-year partnership with World Relief.

Read about the partnership here.



In April, Colonial viewed Seeing Burundi Through the Lens of Scripture, a video that Kristin Geer shot and produced. She condensed hours of footage into a vision of development, where the women of Burundi not only have access to measurements that tell them their children are malnourished, but also to community banking that helps them afford small ndagala fishes to nourish their children with protein. Do you want to watch the video again?

See the video here.


Vyiza Cane

Jane Wilson and Andrew DanielsonJane Wilson designed Kristin’s photographs and my writing into engaging plaques, which Ted Yoch produced. These were mounted on a Burundian village, created by Pete Welch; built by him, Andrew Danielson, Dave Pinski, and Jim Griggs; shaped by Adam and Zac Larkin; and painted by Erika Sawyer.

Brian Jones populated the huts with coffee, moto toys, and MUAC (mid upper arm circumference) tapes. And then, you walked through and perhaps played with this museum-quality exhibit in June. Want to walk through again? See pictures here and here. Burundians would have called it vyiza cane (“very good”).



JJ Ivaska, the director of World Relief Burundi, preached at Colonial in July, bringing encouragement and challenge from Imana (“God”) and his word. Did you miss his sermon? Listen to it here.



In September, many Colonial groups began studying the asset-based development that World Relief practices. Brian Jones gave the book When Helping Hurts to thirty couples, who are invested in this sort of work. Do you want to read it too? Find it here.

Some Grow & Serve Groups used a study that correlates with the book. On Wednesday nights, Ed Lounsberry and I led that same videodiscussion. Couldn’t come? Watch it here. We long for the day when wazungu (“white people”) feast together with the majority world.



sylvan world relief burundi missionsThroughout October and November, Kira! “blessed” our commons walls before moving to Homewood Studios, where the dark eyes of Burundian women blessed North Minneapolis, too.

June Steckler painted 19 portraits and landscapes from Kristin Geer’s photos. She also delivered her artist talk in person. Did you miss her presentation? You can watch it here. Do you want to purchase a painting? Buy them here. All proceeds continue to benefit World Relief Burundi.



This year (2015), Colonial moves from a general focus on women in development to a specific look at the community banking and microfinance that World Relief supports in Burundi. Village savings and loan associations (VSLA) provide a way for women to pool their resources, save for hard times, and invest in their families’ financial health.

Turame, a lending body that connects investors and largely rural clients with small loans, offers the next step in financial development. Turame literally means “live long and prosper” in Kirundi. You can watch a video about Turame here. Do you want to invest directly in Burundi? Loan through Turame via Kiva here.



So murakoze (“thank you”), Colonial Church, for partnering with World Relief Burundi to encourage our Christian sisters and brothers there. And keep your eyes open for our 2015 path to partnership.

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