There have been and continue to be tremendous losses in these interrupted lives. Each person continues to recall classmates, friends, and family members imprisoned, in hiding, or dead because of the current regime. Still, they reject bitterness and despair, remaining instead positive, hopeful, and wanting to contribute to a better future for themselves and others.
Everyone has a dream, but in this unequal world only few have the hope to fulfill their dream. And in spite of all this misery, there is hope. The Burundians are called the joyful refugees in this camp. Asked why the smiles have not left them, they answer: “It is because of God’s grace, mercy and love.” Their faith is contagious.
We say farewell. It is hard to leave these loved ones behind, as well as the other nearly 30,000 Burundian refugees at Nakivale. Clusters of barefooted children wave good-bye, chatting in a mix of French, English and local languages, often not having mastered either one fully.
The community came.
The Joyful House of Refuge (JHR) dedication began with every seat filled and with people standing all around the canopy and chairs we had brought in for the event. Many were from the Bombo Pentecostal Church (BPC) family, many more others were from the community. They had witnessed JHR’s construction and must have been wondering, “what is this place that looks like a shining light on a hill?”
Half-way through the journey in Uganda, living in a newly built home filled with Burundians who have fled their country just because they were young. Time stops in this place. Breakfast is whenever, sometimes 11 am and lunch may happen as late at 4:30 pm. Family gatherings occur after late night dinners making for a long day. Appointments never happen “on-time” but do happen.
The word “refugee” is becoming a distasteful word. These Burundians are precious people who have hopes, dreams, and fears just like anyone. Young people who had to leave goals of becoming doctors and engineers behind in Burundi. Many ran for their lives even without saying goodbye to their parents. They saw many including best friends lose their lives. I am touched by these wonderful people in their sincerity, integrity, gentleness, kindness, graciousness, hard work and compassion.
In addition to the physical work being done we have been listening and ministering to each refugee. God has been doing an amazing work in their lives and they are incredibly thankful despite the terrible losses they have incurred.