Distance Travelled: 130 km
Calories Burned: 4,689
Punctures Repaired: 15 (!!!!)
Welcome to my daily blog on the 3rd Annual Tour du Burundi, 2015!
Wow, what a day!
More than 3 hours into our day of cycling, we had only put in about 80 minutes of saddle-time. Puncture after puncture, it was hard to get into a rhythm in the saddle.
It really tested our mettle, and it was amazing to see that this year we have a group of men who are patient, supportive, understanding, and ready and willing to lend a helping hand. We dealt with sporadic issues throughout the day, but really picked up the pace this afternoon and finished strong.
We had a first on the tour today: Rain! It came down lightly at first, but our shower quickly became a bath in no time! Instead of riding in May, the beginning of dry season, we’re right in the middle of Burundi’s rainy season (before you ask, those are the only two kinds!).
The change for the timing of the tour this year is no coincidence. This coming spring, Burundi will be going through elections. In an effort to avoid overlapping with them, the Tour was moved up to January. It’s 2015, but it’s been a quick turn-around from last year’s ride!
It’s been a real challenge to be here on the ground and experience the realities of political instability. As elections approach, the danger will intensify, as many of those persecuted and hunted will resort to violence. Burundi is essentially a one-party state, and it looks to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Given my first-hand experience in attempting to cooperate with governmental agencies here, it really does sadden me. Burundi seems doomed to slip into a humanitarian crisis of food shortages, crippled healthcare systems, and human rights violations. The people that we had the privilege to interact with on the roadside today will be the first to suffer as things turn from bad to worse.
It really is remarkable isn’t it, how we can blast through the lives of these locals in an instant, be surrounded by poverty, and then finish the day with our bellies full of incredible food prepared by our support team.
What I hope, is that those brief moments of encounter matter. That they amount to something.
For me, the overwhelming odds of the poverty present here mean nothing when coming face to face with a child. On the roadside, I encountered a young boy who couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 years old, named Moise (Moh-eese). When I was speaking with him, he told me he was 14.
As a child, most likely before the age of 2, Moise would have suffered from severe malnutrition, enough to cause growth stunting that will affect him for the rest of his life.
Moise and kids like him need better food security. They won’t get it through UN food programs, or USAID, as money flows out of this country as quickly as it comes in! Instead, they’ll get it from programs and initiatives from Burundians here on the ground. That’s what I love about Great Lakes Outreach, and the incredible leaders they support. In addition to our malnutrition and agriculture project in Gitega, they work with other Burundian leaders who are pioneering food sustainability initiatives. We may be a bandaid on a bullet wound, but people are working so hard here to make a difference in the lives of children, mothers, and families every day.
Moise matters to God, and he matters to me. He just matters, he has an intrinsic value worth more than any dollar or effort we could ever muster to help him.
As I stuff my face with energy bars, and gulp down protein shakes, I’ll be thanking God for a full belly, but most importantly I’ll pray for Moise this week, and millions of children like him here in Burundi.
I challenge you to do the same.
God is here in Burundi, and that means we have victory assured to us through the victory of Christ over death. Overwhelming odds? A country on the verge of collapse? I realized today that even though my body may be leaving Burundi in a short while, my heart will always be here, where God is working to do the impossible.
I thank God for the precious moment it was to meet Moise, and that he loves him and gives him value beyond measure. It is my prayer in my life that I will always put in an effort that is worthy of that value. While I may fall short, that is no problem for God.
As we go through an awful climb to start tomorrow off, I know that God finds strength in my weakness and success in my failures.
Thanks for reading, and thank you for praying for our team’s safety, and for praying for Moise, and so many like him here.