by Dawn Harrell
It’s Saturday night. Since Wednesday, we’ve slept five, maybe six hours. Then Bob discovers the equivalent of a Burundian treasure chest.
On Wednesday afternoon, February 29, Kristin Geer, Bob Thomas, Brian Jones and I board a plane for Burundi. My work is to gather stories and then write them for Colonial: blog posts, brochures, museum exhibits, and portrait plaques (Burundi Women art exhibit by June Steckler coming in September www.junesteckler.com).
We land in Burundi in the middle of the night. I call home and then hit the sack at 2 am on Friday morning. Five hours later, we begin basic orientation and drive upcountry to the World Relief guesthouse/office in Kibuye. Kristin and I are given the best of the sleeping arrangements.
We don’t sleep.
Finally at around 3:00 am, we drop off. At 3:30, the rooster crows. Repeatedly. At 5:00, the cook starts charcoal under our window to fix breakfast. We spend all day Saturday visiting. At 6:00 pm, JJ Ivaska, World Relief’s Burundi country director, sits us down for an awesome two-hour orientation to each of World Relief’s programs. (Click here to find JJ’s sermon at Colonial on June 29.)
First, I take copious notes in an effort to stay awake. The notes are somewhat unintelligible. I sit forward in my seat, off the cushions, removing any comfort of support. That doesn’t work, either, so I surreptitiously wiggle my feet. I hope it was surreptitious.
By 7:45 pm, every cell in my body, every fiber of my being points toward sleep. It’s then that JJ asks for questions. Brian attempts some intelligible interaction. I’ve almost made it. There’s a pause. JJ solicits any other questions. A few fibers of my being wake up sufficiently to ESP-scream, “Nooooo! Don’t ask. NO MORE QUESTIONS!”
Bob points at a large basket with a conical top, perched on three elegant wooden legs, “What are those baskets? I’ve seen them everywhere.”
I almost cry, but I’m too tired. Besides I really do want to know the answer.
François, who heads up the WR office in Kibuye, explains. “These baskets are traditional in Burundi. People keep their valuables—money, or maybe jewelry—in them. Also, if you have something important to tell someone, to share, you ‘open your basket’ to them.”
“It’s like ‘opening your heart’ in English,” adds JJ.
François lifts a smaller basket down from the shelf and opens the lid, offering us its contents. Each of us takes a scrap of paper with a Scripture reference printed on it in French. “Lc 1, 1–4,” reads mine. I’m too tired to recall what that might be.
A month later, as I transcribe three notebooks full of Burundi notes, my scrap of Scripture falls into my lap. I look it up.
Luke 1:1–4 reads, “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. It seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed” (RSV).
My narratives from Burundi do not rank with the Gospel story, but I find the “coincidence” of these verses from François’s treasure basket and my gifts of writing to be profoundly comforting. The concurrence conveys a sense of call on my job of telling the Burundi story to Colonial. Half a year ago, “a sense of call” is exactly what I had asked my prayer team to ask from God.
God sealed my call to this specific job when I was walking dead with exhaustion. Only in writing this post did I realize he’d answered my prayer for a sense of call.
The absurdity provides proof of 2 Corinthians 4:7: “We have this treasure in jars of clay [baskets of sorghum?], so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”
Whether you’re considering the Burundi partnership, Innové 2, or some other project, what treasure shines out when you lift the lid on your basket? How has God called you to share your gifts and skills?