Sunday, August 26, 2007

Zachary Owen-Philip Edwards enters our world

Zachary Owen-Philip Edwards entered our world at 12:07 a.m. on August 24th. He weighs all of 8 pounds and 8.5 ounces in his 20" long body. His mom, Nikki, and dad, Zac, could not have been more delighted. They are totaled enraptured with him, as are all of his grandparents, aunts, cousins, and friends.

Mom and Dad with baby Zachary just moments after birth.

Dad calling his mom and dad announcing the much anticipated news.

What a boy! His mom's gentle hands cradle him. He has his mom's eyes and shape of his face. He has his dad's nose and mouth. He has his grandparents heart!



Baby Zachary held by his granddad Ed.

Baby Zachary held by his grandmom Donna.

Baby Zachary sleeping through his second day.

Three generations of Edwards boys.

Grandmom reads him his first book - I'll Love You Forever!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Deogratias Nshimiyimana, Burundi country director for A.L.A.R.M.

Murder pierces the heart of most families in Burundi. Tribal massacres in the early 1970's and again in the 1990's swept across the surging contours of the country.

Deogratias Nshimiyimana's father was murdered by a neighbor. Deo was just 12. His uncles were also murdered. Their home and their land were confiscated illegally. The family had to leave the area they had always lived; Deo had to drop out of school. For the next four years he hated the man who killed his father. He plotted how he could get back at him and his family. A Christian pastor began to befriend Deo. He talked to him about his anger and hate. He explained the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Deo received the forgiveness of Jesus and entered whole-hearted into a relationship with God.

God began to show him his need to forgive the man who had murdered his father. Deo went to see the man. He confronted him about the murder of his father. Deo told this neighbor that he (Deo) had murdered this man's children. The neighbor denied that was possible - "my children are in the house right now." Deo explained how much he hated the man and his family and how he had plotted revenge. He explained that kind of anger is murder in God's eyes. Deo asked the murderer of his father to forgive him for murdering his children.

The man sat speechless; Deo finally left. Two weeks later the man came to Deo and said that he had not been able to sleep since that day Deo came to him. Because of Deo's act of humility and forgiveness, the man and his family came to Christ. Deo, at the age of 21, returned to school, after making sure that all of his younger siblings had returned. Adult education was unheard of, he sat in a class with 12 year-olds. He was not deterred and went on to Bible college.

After serving as a pastor, he joined the staff of ALARM as their country director. He serves the pastors of all denominations to bring training that they desperately need. Burundi is listed as the poorest country in the world, with a gross domestic product of only $90 per capita. These pastors have no ability to go to school, to buy materials, to pay for training. ALARM serves an essential role in the future of that small, heavily populated country.

We have the greatest respect for Deo and his leadership for the people of Burundi. He served as our host, our interpreter, our leader, and our guide. We are very grateful for his care for us while in Burundi.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Donna and Ed Edwards, Living Well, teach on oneness in marriage

Donna and Ed pour colored sand into a glass container to represent oneness in marriage. The sand shows visually how two people with separate personalities and identities retain their own identity, but co-mingle their lives, in a way that they can't be separated.

Ed Edwards, Living Well, teaching at conference, Gitega, Burundi

Ed teaches with our translator, Emmanuel, a pastor from Bujumbura. In the first photo, he is leading the couples to speak to each other.

In the photo below, Ed is teaching about coming to God and his "living water," as opposed to drinking from a broken cistern, "Oklahoma mud water."

Donna Edwards, Living Well, Teaches Conference in Burundi

Living Well went to east Africa for the third time to lead a conference for pastors and their wives, teaching and training them on marriage and family. The pastors and wives in Burundi have experienced much trauma and distress in their lifetimes. Most of the pastors have no theological education and many have not been pastors very long. They do not have access to study materials or training.

As we began the conference, Donna asked some basic questions on the nature of man, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and eternal life. The pastors were not able to articulate answers to the basic principles of our relationship to the Lord. They probably had an understanding of how to come to Christ, but were not able to articulate it.

This group had the least amount of education and Biblical knowledge of any group that we have taught in east Africa. Burundi has a great desire for a hope for the future. The Good News has that hope for them. Training these pastors is vital for the future of the people of Burundi. They have an unprecedented opportunity in their country.

Gitega Conference - Pastors and Wives

During the conference, we would ask the participants to read the scriptures, from their Kirundi language Bibles.

We always ask them to turn to each other and express their acceptance of each other as God's perfect gift. The Burundians have many children. They bring their nursing children with them wherever they go. They wrap them up behind their back when they are not nursing. If the child is nursing, the mothers nurse wherever they are at the time.

Ed always manages to get the participants to laugh while they are interacting with each other. They are not accustomed to looking at each other in the eyes and talking. It helps to treat the exercise with humor. We always give a gift to the couple who had been married the least number of years. The couple below got the gift for the shortest marriage. She was the only pregnant woman at the conference. She already has given birth to four others. We asked when this baby is due, they didn't know. The dad has a child from a previous marriage; his first wife died.

The families in Burundi have many, many children. Most families have at least 12 children. They have lost so many to tragedy and disease that they have lots .... just in case. The couple below sat on the front row of the conference. They brought their youngest with them, he was less than six months old. When we were finding out how long each couple had been married, we found out that this couple had their 25th anniversary this year! (think about it for a minute - still having children after 25 years)

Memorial - Plus Jamais Ca!

On the road between Bujumbura and Gitega is a memorial to the deaths of over 100 Tutsi students who were burned to death on October 21, 1993. The president of their country was assassinated that day and war broke out.

People of the Hutu tribe lashed out against the Tutsis. The high school students were driven into an auto repair garage and trapped in there. They thought they were escaping from their assailants, but soon found that they could not get out. Their enemies threw gasoline and fire into the building and burned them alive.

One student, Gilbert Tuhabonye, escaped, lived to tell about it, and wrote a book, This Voice in My Heart.

The site includes the building where the students were burned. They have made a cover over it to preserve it. The memorial next to it has large letters on it "Plus Jamais Ca!" - Never again this!

The day of this massacre was the beginning of years of fighting between the two groups. Burundi is the country south of Rwanda. They were both colonized by Belgium and have the same tribal make-up. The genocide broke out in both countries broke out at the same time. Rwanda had 100 days of intense killing, then followed by a few years of follow-up fighting, but they started the re-building and peace process sooner than Burundi. Burundi signed their final peace treaties just three years ago. Our state department still lists it as a country that we should not visit.

As we walked through the burned garage, we felt very eerie. I suspect it was something similar to what people must feel as they go through the Nazi concentration camps. Americans aren't used to being in surroundings where people are deliberately trapped and murdered.

The suspicion and hopelessness that follows years of war is still evident in the eyes of the Burundi people. We asked those who attended our conference how many had lost an immediate family member .... they all raised their hands.

Gitega, Burundi

Gitega sits aloft in the middle of Burundi. We traveled from 2600' elevation in Bujumbura, where we landed,to over 6000' in Gitega. We ascended for 2 hours to cover the 75 miles in distance (NOT as the crow flies) and 3400' in elevation. The temperature became considerably cooler, the sky bluer, and the area more rural.

One of the more interesting parts of the drive up there was to watch the bicyclists. Since the roads were so steep, the young men would "hitch on" to a truck making the drive up. The would just grab onto the back of it somewhere and hold on. Unfortunately, we were unable to get a picture if it in action, but one can be found online.

Gitega is considered the very center of Burundi. In fact, they have a tree in town that is designated the center of the country.

The only paved runway right now is in Bujumbura, the capital. Because of the location, the government has decided to move the capital to Gitega, gradually over the next few years. The climate of the area is much more pleasant.

Having lived in Colorado for several years, it is hard to imagine a tropical climate at that elevation. I am not sure that I understand all the dynamics, but it never gets really cold or even comes close to a freeze. The main variance in the weather is rainy or dry.

The city itself is very congested but still very undeveloped or underdeveloped. There was one cyber cafe in town but the connection was not always available. A few streets are paved. There are little shops of services and goods everywhere, everything from barbers to tailors to furniture makers (all by hand, no electric machines).

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Coffee, tea, and pineapples

Burundi exports tea and coffee, I think they must eat all of their pineapples. We ate as many as we could while we were there! The first picture is a hillside of tea bushes; then a close up of a coffee plant (the red berries have a coffee bean inside), and finally some small pineapples growing on the grounds of the seminary where we had the conference.