March 2, 2019

Burundi and back

Hello from Dublin! I’m just home from Burundi. Where I was surprised to discover that yes, I actually can teach in French if I have to. Very slow, broken, schoolgirl French. That was just one of the adjustments I found I needed to make once I got to Bujumbura to teach Bible interpretation at Hope Africa University.

I ended up with nine very eager Master of Theology students, most of them leaders in local Free Methodist churches, one a refugee from DR Congo, and another an international student from Kenya. Although this was theoretically a graduate-level course, Burundi’s extreme history of poverty and conflict means that these students haven’t had the educational background I’m used to elsewhere in Africa. And their English was quite limited. So I threw my original plans out the window. (Not literally, as there was always a crowd of chatty undergraduates observing us through the open windows.) We also shifted to a mix of several languages. I would say something in English and/or French (sort of), then I’d ask whoever seemed to get it to repeat it to the others in French, Swahili or Kirundi. At one point I asked the Kenyan guy how good his French was and he said, “Um, about like yours.” I noticed that by the second week the others were trying much more of their hesitant English with me. Which either meant that they realized they were welcome to fracture language as thoroughly as I was doing, or it just seemed the least painful option. But we got through the course material and I could feel a lovely camaraderie building as we went. Several of them mentioned to me individually how much they were appreciating the course, especially the chance to discuss, ask questions, and do practical exercises rather than just the lecture and rote memorization they were used to. Let’s pray that the Lord uses this somehow to strengthen Bible teaching and preaching in Burundi. I think these students would very much like that to happen.

Now that I’m back home in Ireland I have two big projects to focus on for the next month or so. The first is a Lenten spiritual formation series we’re running at Dún Laoghaire Presbyterian Church starting this Wednesday, using the Irish version of Serge’s ‘Sonship’ course. I’m helping to facilitate it, along with serving as MC and giving one of the weekly talks. Please pray for my Serge colleagues Tom and Justin, my pastor Chris Kennedy, and myself as we lead this – and for God to speak to each participant as we consider our own identity in Christ.

The second project is to get the first online orientation courses for Theologians Without Borders up and running. The idea is to offer intercultural orientation for Western scholars who are planning to teach short-term at theological schools in the Majority World (Africa, Asia, etc.). While they may be experts in their particular academic disciplines, it's helpful to see how Western our own perspectives on the Bible and theology may unintentionally be and learn more about the cultural and religious contexts they’re going to teach in. As TWB’s Associate Director for Orientation and Training, I’m excited about sharing global perspectives with volunteer instructors who are willing to help wherever they can. All part of TWB’s mission to foster mutuality and equitability in global theological education partnerships.

Beyond that I have my usual bits and pieces. At the moment I’m the second advisor for an MTh student in Ethiopia (really need to read that draft of his thesis this week!), serving on the international review panel for ACTEA’s re-accreditation of a large seminary in Nigeria, helping some Serge colleagues by reviewing the curriculum for Serge’s two-year ‘apprenticeship’ program, and teaching Bible interpretation to 23 Fuller Seminary students online. And still trying to figure out what God’s up to with my schedule after Serge Ireland cancelled our ‘Encounter’ program for college students this June-July. One other intriguing possibility has come up that would start this summer – please pray for discernment!

Last but not least (in terms of how much emotional bandwidth this is consuming), remember I told you I need to speed up my plan to buy a townhouse in Richmond, VA, as my long-term home base, so that Caroline and Will have a place to stay when they arrive from Rwanda in May for their baby girl to be born in June? I’ll be making a quick trip to Richmond the weekend of March 22-25 to house hunt. Please do pray for God to provide just the right house, at the right price, in the right location, and with the best possible timing. Thank you so much!

Hope Africa University - Burundi

A few glimpses of Bujumbura and the flood of students at HAU. (Grateful to Serge colleagues for these pics because I forgot to take any beyond my classroom. Whoops.)

Here's me and my students. Working hard!
In that last photo I'm awarding the textbooks I brought with me to the top student in the class. Leaving books where there are none may be the most significant lasting impact I can have.

En route to Burundi I got to spend a wonderful week in Kigali, Rwanda, with daughter Caroline and son-in-law Will. So lovely to see their home in Rwanda and their work at Kigali International Community School (KICS). And of course a special treat to be with my baby girl as she prepares for the arrival of her own baby girl in June! 



February 8, 2019


Hello from Kigali, Rwanda! Because we’re such a far-flung family – living on three different continents – it’s a treat for me to spend this week with daughter Caroline and son-in-law Will, teachers at Kigali International Community School. [** Mom brag alert **] I’m so proud of both of them and the way they’re helping shape Rwanda’s emerging young leaders in this first post-genocide generation.

But this is actually a mid-point stop because I’m on my way tomorrow to Bujumbura, Burundi (the county just next door) to teach biblical interpretation to Master of Theology students at Hope Africa University for the next two weeks. The course starts at 8am on Monday. Or not, depending on how organized we all manage to be on that first day. And there’s an extra layer of challenge because this a new country for me and I don't know what contexts these students minister in, what they've studied previously, how able they are in English v. French, or really much of anything else about this situation. I'd love for you to pray that I stay flexible and gracious (and healthy and safe) with all the unknowns!

Then my last weekend in Burundi, 23-24 Feb, I’m hoping to visit the Serge medical team who are doing amazing things in much more remote Kibuye. (You can see lots of stories on their team blog.) Maybe offer an English Bible study for the team, preach at the local French-speaking church, who knows... I'm trying to be uncharacteristically malleable during this whole Burundi trip.

While all that’s going on I’m also trying to make some plans for this summer. Serge Ireland recently cancelled our ‘Encounter’ discipleship and outreach program for college students for June-July. A good call on their part, I think, due to various local circumstances. We hope to be back up and running next summer. But it's thrown me into something of a tizzy personally because it was one of the three ‘big rocks’ in my teaching schedule for 2019, along with Burundi and then India in September, joyful opportunities to be in the classroom face-to-face with students. It’s also one of the very few times each year I can join in on an existing project with people nearby rather than having to create something myself. (My job involves a lot of Making Stuff Happen. Mostly in other countries.) So a bit more wear and tear on me in that sense. Traveling out of Ireland is also complicated this June because I need to be available for an immigration status renewal interview. So now I’m prayerfully seeking out other opportunities for July. What unexpected avenues might the Lord be opening up??? Two tantalizing possibilities so far, one in East Africa, one in Southeast Asia. Please pray for me to hear God well and for wisdom to know how to respond to either of these opportunities, or neither if he just wants me to stay home.

In and around all that I’m keeping busy helping get Theologians Without Borders up and running, teaching my Fuller Seminary courses online (at the moment, 23 students for biblical interpretation), connecting with Dún Laoghaire Presbyterian Church (we’re about to run a Lenten spiritual formation course based on Serge’s ‘Sonship’ curriculum), and just enjoying life in Ireland.

As always, I’m deeply aware of and grateful for the prayer, support and encouragement from so many of you laboring in your parts of the Lord’s vineyard so that I can be here doing the things he’s asked me to do in my part. Thank you! So privileged to work with and for you in his Kingdom!

Family News

Nana loved spending Christmas in Virginia with 11-month-old James (and his parents)! So blessed to play with my grandson and see the sweet, wonderful ways Linnea and William are loving and nurturing him.

And now also blessed to see in person Caroline and Will's work at Kigali International Community School (KICS).

But wait, there's more...

A new little granddaughter arriving in June!

Nana's part is to speed up my plans to purchase a townhouse in Richmond, VA, as my long-term home base – now needed in time for Caroline and Will to arrive from Rwanda in May to get ready for Baby Girl's birth.

Please pray that all the logistics come together in good time!