As I write this, Emily and I are awaiting our 3rd and final flight as we return to Belfast. Reflecting on our final few days in Burundi, they have been fruitful as well as a little hectic!
We were able to take a hike with Bishop Seth and Canon Etienne in the country around Matana on Saturday. Getting out in the fresh air and exercising gave us space to reflect a little on the visit so far.
The church in Burundi is growing but facing challenges as it does so. One area that has been highlighted is the need for support in ministerial education. As the church in Burundi reaches new areas and builds new churches to house the growing congregations, the burdens of ministry (pastoral care, administration, preaching etc.) can become compounded. And so this is where prayers and support will be crucial going forward.
We worshipped with the new and growing congregation at Rusaka Parish on Sunday where I preached on the Emmaus Road. The focus was on the need to view our Christian life as a kind of pilgrimage where we grow spiritually through the journey. Relationships and partnerships are central to a strong life of discipleship. We are pilgrims together, rather than lone rangers. We were able to see the fruits of such partnership at Rukasa where our own parish of Glendermott had helped to fund the building of the church roof. But partnership is about more than funding and building, and so we ask that you all continue to pray for the work of missional parishes like Rusaka. On Sunday we saw people coming from miles, often walking, because they had no church in their own area. Please pray that new areas for mission would continue to be established across Matana and Burundi.
Our last two and a half days were spent back in the considerably warmer city of Bujumbura. There we had the privilege of meeting Revd Dr Pascal Bigirimana and the other staff at Bujumbura Christian University. As a very new training college for priests, BCU is still growing and building its facilities and breadth of courses. We left that meeting with a profound sense of how BCU are completely committed to training priests to a high standard of theological education and pastoral skill.
Indeed, that holistic approach to ministry typifies the church in Burundi. They see their mission, rightly, as reaching people with care for their spiritual and physical needs. They care about the whole person, which is a perspective I share with them. As we prepare to return home, we're both eager to share our experiences with our Church and hopefully in the years to come, this visit will have been just one step along the road to a lasting partnership bearing fruit for the Kingdom.