Benjamin’s Words

From Benjamin (from Matara):

“This week marks three years in Matara.  Before we came here we were like modern-day slaves.  Growing up it was common knowledge that Batwa did not know how to build a house.  We only knew how to build grass huts and we were never able to grow food. 
We owned nothing, so when our slave master told us to go away, we were able to go within minutes.
It was only a dream that one day I could live in a real house.  By God’s grace I was selected to come here, to Matara. Our friends helped us get this land. Now look at all these houses (he is pointing all around Matara where everyone has their own home). These are OUR houses,
 these are not for someone else, these are for us. 
Before we came here we looked very different. Now all our kids are in school…something we were never able to do.  Now when we are sick we can go to the doctor because we have ID cards 
and birth certificates for our children. 
One thing I will never forget about being a slave is that you work all year for nothing and every generation lives like that.  That story seemed to never end. I had decided to never get married because I did not want to bring a family into this situation. Now I have six kids! Today I go to work and when the day is over I go home to my family.  We are citizens like everyone else!”
Then everyone sings a song.  When translated, they were singing, “Even the angels would be surprised the Batwa have arrived.” My heart smiles…thank you God for letting us be a small part of this!

Hope is Sprouting Here

I have spent the past two days in Bubanza. If you know the story of our Batwa friends you know that several years ago we took 30 families from Bubanza and moved them to Matara. Check out these blog posts if you want to catch up on the story.

We Are Family
No One Has Died This Year
Our Names Are Written Down
The Ones We Love Have Come 

With the success of Matara (with 30 families), we have now begun community development in Bubanza, which is with over 600 families. If you have visited Bubanza’s dry, dusty land then you might think we have lost our minds. The project seems insurmountable. But we are willing to take up that challenge, our friends are worth it; however, we go into this knowing that it will be a long, hard journey.

Last night Kelley asked if we had one word to describe the day what would it be. For me it was hopefulness. I have learned that most often the root of all poverty is hopelessness. Hope is the beginning of what it takes to make a change. When I gaze out over Bubanza I can understand the hopelessness, the lack of basic human rights such as an ID Card or Birth Certificates, no possibility of ownership to land or a good job because of discrimination, no access to proper healthcare or education, and on and on the list goes.

But today I see little seeds of hope all over Bubanza. If you don’t look closely you can miss them. Over the past 2 days we planted 750 trees around the small part of land that we have attained a deed for in Bubanza. Just as the little saplings were planted I thought, “This is the start.” (That’s for you Martha). This is the start of something new; this little sapling will grow into something huge if it is tended to and watered every day. I think it’s the same with hope, it’s here, but it may need to be watered every day, as generations of poverty will be hard to overcome.

Yesterday I was able to sit down with Ntazina (The one whose name means “No Name” whom Mark first talked to on his first visit here). Ntazina was the leader of the entire village of Bubanza. I can tell from having a conversation with him exactly why. I was able to hear his story of the Bubanza from many years ago, up to the first encounter with Mark & Claude, through our visits over the past few years, and now to today. He is very encouraged and hopeful for his people, he says, “You might not be able to see it now, but we are on our way, hope is here.”

This makes me smile, because once hope is here, poverty will soon begin to disappear. There is much work to be done, but as Ntazina says, “We are on our way!”

The story Ntazina shared with me is powerful – video coming soon.