NOTE: For those of you who don’t know, Nadine and I are taking a sabbatical through the rest of July and the month of August. We’re right at the half-way mark of our commitment to BYFC and the Shammah Health Center, and it’s time to go home (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) to visit family, friends, and our church!
I (Josh) will be preaching at all three services at Central Baptist Church on August 10th (www.centralbaptist.ab.ca) and visiting McKernan Baptist Church on August 17th and meeting with people after the services. Follow me on Facebook (look for Joshua Guenther, the only one living in Burundi), and I’ll be posting announcements of gatherings and times to meet up with us. for more information. If you’re not on FB and would like to get in touch, then send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org We’d love to hear from you.
Here’s my blog below, I hope you enjoy it.
Culture. It’s in your DNA.
Culture forms identity. Who are you? Where do you come from? Why do you think the way you think and do the things that you do?
As Nadine and I have begun our temporary transition from Central East Africa to Canada, we’re not just thinking about these things: We’re being slapped in the face by them.
We’ve been trying to prepare for “re-entry” (that’s the fancy term for ‘going home’) as much as we can, but there’s only so much you can do when every reality you’ve known for the past 558 days gets stripped away with one plane ride… Or several as it turns out. It takes a little while to travel the thousands of miles we have to cross to come back to Canada.
I’ve spent the last year and a half adapting, forcing myself to change, to become culturally appropriate and relevant in Burundi. Saying that I’ve lived on the other side of the planet doesn’t do it justice. We’ve been aliens living on another version of earth. One where things like running water, electricity, internet, even the absence of parasites and infectious disease, are all immense luxuries that we’ve gone without. I’ve been conducting business, managing staff, working in healthcare, making lifelong friends, even learning how to weld (!!!). Everything I’ve done, every aspect I’ve changed about myself, has been to adapt into an environment that I’m now going to do without for the next month or so. It feels like I’m naked.
In many ways coming back to Canada is exciting. We get to see friends, family, spend time with Nadine’s parents, visit our church, spend time with supporters, eat some good food, go to local festivals and maybe go see a couple of movies. On the other hand, this is all so scary. We have to see friends, family, our church, supporters, people that we know have moved on with their lives in our absence. We don’t know the changes that we’ll be witnessing. Relationships will have changed, people will be different.
It’s a strange thing, to look at yourself in the mirror and not even remember the person you were 18 months ago. If I don’t fully understand the changes that I’ve undergone while working in Burundi, how can I expect those I’ve been apart from for so long to understand and accept those same differences?
Now that we are on the precipice of returning home to loved ones, Nadine and I are genuinely excited. The doubts and worries are there, but we can’t wait to see, hug, share, and spend time with so many of you who spend time reading this blog.
Wrapping up our time in Burundi was a little bit crazy. We had a malnutrition workshop that we were absolutely thrilled to attend in Kigali, Rwanda, also thinking that being in a city like Kigali (one of the cleanest cities in the region, if not the entire continent) would help with the culture-shock a little bit. The workshop was absolutely incredible, but the literally gut-wrenching case of food poisoning and parasitic infections that Nadine and I got is something that’s still crushing me even after 3 weeks. It’s been brutal. We returned to the clinic to finalize our preparations for leaving for the summer, and came to find a number of our staff down and out with severe bouts of malaria. It left Nadine and I to tag-team seeing patients in the health center while genuinely alternating trips to the bathroom in between. Did I mention the lack of running water? Yeah, the last three weeks there’s been no water to our site, and all of our reservoirs were used up. It gets a little more complicated when you’re going to the bathroom 20+ times a day. We finished out the Friday, I had to give a tour of the health center to a visiting youth team, had an unexpected midnight phone call regarding our expected shipping container, and I said a little prayer at 1230AM on Saturday, “Dear Jesus, please let me be finished for a little bit now.” This break is coming at the perfect time, I’d say.
So, let’s begin the transition into another kind of crazy. We are now entering the world of Tim Hortons, traffic lights, internet, and hot-water showers. Oh, and white people. They’re everywhere. So weird.
It’s all relative, right?
I’m asking myself what’s my motive behind writing this blog. I guess I wanted to try and convey the complexity of emotion that my wife and I are feeling right now. It’s not pure bliss, not fear, not strictly joy or only sadness, it’s a messed-up combination of all of the above. We know people won’t “get it,” just like we won’t be able to understand some things on this side of the pond anymore.
I guess there’s a bit of grace involved in this. We need to have grace for those who haven’t gone through what we’ve experienced, and you all will need to have grace for us as we get shell-shocked experiencing a culture that is no longer familiar to us.
We are so excited to see all of you! I’m serious about looking me up on Facebook, or emailing us to get in touch while we’re home. We’ll try to be vocal about scheduled hangouts and times that we can share with you. Thanks for reading, and God bless. Looking forward to the hugs!
Lots of love,