May 2018 Monthly Letter

I asked ORM Chapter Leader Evelyn Burkhard, who is overseas, to give us an update on her reconciliation work. I want to share her letter with you.

My dear ORM friends,

I am just back from one month in Burundi, where I was asked to help with the transformation of a Health Center into a Medical Center in the city of Kayanza, northern Burundi. My job was mainly to get information so that later a document could be written for potential donors.

Besides the Congo and Rwanda, Burundi is another country that went through ethnical and political conflicts after 1962 when it got its independence. This country is one of the poorest in Africa, yet I observed that people are working hard to plant anywhere they can find a bit of land to cultivate. When I was leaving, I could see all kinds of vegetables and fruits on the roadside, and rejoiced when I observed the motivation of this people who did the best they could in sometimes challenging circumstances. Their resilience, seen through their smiles and joyful laughter, touched my heart.

I was in Burundi under the umbrella of the Bishop of the Free Baptist Church of Burundi. This church is anxious not only to share the Good News, but also to promote projects that will help the most vulnerable groups of the community. For example, I gave a workshop on Perceptions and Identity to 120 women who are part of an 1800 beneficiary self-help project, meeting primarily to encourage each other. I also participated in a saving and credit project, which allows women to create micro-projects that promote a better life. The church has also helped in circumstances of conflicts, floods and aiding returnees after many years of exile, distributing blankets, cooking pots and food.

The center I visited was first an orphanage. The church was providing accommodations, clothing, education, schooling and food. However, in 2014, the government and UNICEF decided that it would be better for the orphans to be living with host families. The premises were now free for another goal and that’s when Shiloh (Siloé) Health Center was created (see middle picture with the three buildings). Its transformation into a Medical Center will improve current services and provide new units to better serve the community. I was working with a team that did most of the work. However, writing the document for potential donors is a huge work. It is what I have been doing since I came back home to Switzerland. When I see the motivation of the Bishop and his team, I want to do all I can in order for them to be able to have the Medical Center.

The Church is training pastors and deacons for its 82 churches in the country. Those near Kayanza were invited to come to a three-day seminar I facilitated on the subject of forgiveness and reconciliation. Many were deeply touched by the teaching. Sometimes, I organized small groups of three to discuss some of their personal experiences and then to pray for each other. I could see it had a great impact on some of the participants. In the evening, I showed them films such as Honor
begins at Home, War Room and The Shack. I believe these were excellent stories and testimonies for the pastors and deacons to bring back to their churches and communities.

I have been asked to return again to Burundi to help manage the transformation. If it is God’s will and if my health allows it, I will be very happy to travel there one or two times a year. May the Lord help us to put the document together and provide donors so that Shiloh Center will continue to be a blessing to Kayanza and its community.

Many blessings and warm regards to all who read this newsletter. I hope one day I will be able to see you again.

Evelyne O’Callaghan-Burkhard