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  • Jenny Smyth

Sharing spadework and vision in Matana

We spent Tuesday evening in a lovely time of fellowship with the diocesan staff over a meal in Bishop Seth’s house. Mama Yvette had provided a wonderful spread. I (Jenny) was particularly interested as the bishop’s house was formerly known as Doctor’s house, constructed for Dr Leonard Sharpe in the late 1930s, when medical work began in Matana.

Wednesday morning was spent looking around the church hill. The sound of digging and singing drew us to the site of the new cathedral building. About 50 people were labouring away on the construction. Led by Bishop Seth, Dr Paddy and Archbishop Michael joined in wielding hoes to shift earth - much to the amusement of those present!

Each weekday a different parish is responsible for providing labour. Progress is slow but visible and the sense of communal commitment to constructing the new cathedral is inspiring. As we dandered round the hill, Bishop Seth shared some of his vision for the diocese – so much potential, so much to be done - real wisdom is needed in the planning and prioritising of energy and resources.

The Mothers’ Union representatives from across the diocese were meeting in the conference room, so we had the privilege of addressing them and were presented with some lovely gifts.

Following one more lunch when Archbishop Michael again indulged in goat stew, it was time to head back to Bujumbura, sad to say good bye to the Diocese of Matana. We were driven by Bishop Seth in his ageing Land Cruiser. He insisted on driving it and us himself as he wanted to ensure our safe arrival and dispense his responsibility personally by handing us over to the Diocese of Bujumbura and Bishop Eraste in person.

The journey safely over Bishop Seth divulged that the vehicle has been giving lots of trouble with the brakes which have failed on three occasions. Matana is in the highlands - stunningly beautiful hill country. The road to Bujumbura is tarred but winds up and down hills with the last escarpment descent to the lakeside capital a series of hairpin bends. Through the generosity of parishes CMSI has sent funds towards a new vehicle which is on its way.

Relieved to arrive safely we are staying again in King’s Conference Centre. Paddy remarked on the difference one’s perspective makes in what you notice. On arrival to Burundi we noticed the negatives, the missing things… now we saw all the positives - bright lighting, great food, hot running water, and especially a wifi connection that really works!

The next couple of days will find Archbishop Michael and Dr Paddy at Bujumbura Christian University where they have been given two days of input with all 41 theological students, during which they will lead sessions on Missiology, the Anglican Communion and the Five Marks of Mission. Bishop Eraste, the college principal, and two of the tutors met with us in the evening to prepare.

Meanwhile, I will set off for Gitega diocese, CMSI other partner in Burundi. It will be a great opportunity to meet Bishops John (soon to be retired) and Bishop Aimee Joseph, both well known to CMSI, and strengthen the connections.

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