Friday was a very full day of visiting in the town of Buyé.
A torrential rain Thursday night made the roads a little difficult to navigate, but we made our way through the mud and the ruts to Buyé. We began our visit in Buyé at the Lycée de Buyé, a residential high school of about 600 students that was founded by the diocese, then taken over by the government, and now is operated as a joint venture by the two. We met the headmaster and several teachers, and were given a tour of the school. We saw the library, a dormitory and two classes. In the classes we were given an opportunity to meet the students, and tell them a bit about the Diocese of Edmonton. We were impressed by the questions the students asked and by their eagerness to learn.
We next made a quick stop at a diocesan conference centre that is still under construction. With a central building and several smaller spaces designed for break-out or small groups, all with thatched roofs, the centre will make for a very pleasant space for conferences when complete.
Then it was on to the All Saints' Cathedral. It was nice to see that our two dioceses share the same name for our cathedrals. It is a wonderful space set in a park-like setting, where we will be worshiping on Sunday.
Across from the cathedral are some buildings housing the Bible School, where local clergy are trained. We saw the school and were introduced to the current class of five senior students, who will be ordained as deacons on August 5. The students introduced themselves and asked about the Diocese of Edmonton. They asked some perceptive questions about the life of a parish priest in Edmonton, and were able to compare the answers with the life they look forward to in Buyé. We assured them of our prayers for their ordination and for their ministry.
After the theological students we met a group of Buyé youth in an adjacent building. As we approached the doorway, they broke into joyful song that almost overwhelmed us. Again we were introduced and given a chance to to tell them about our diocese. I told them honestly that I wished they could come and teach us how to sing. What an outpouring of joy! Bishop Sixbert told the young people that although people refer to the youth as the Church of Tomorrow, they are, in fact the Church of Today.
We had a tea break at Bishop Sixbert's home, where we were warmly welcomed by Clothilde. Bishop Sixbert proudly showed us his banana plants and some of his cattle. We ate bananas from the Bishop's trees. It will be difficult to go back from tree-ripened bananas to the sort we buy in stores in Canada.
Then followed a tour of Buyé Hospital. The chief physician showed us several wards and pointed out various pieces of equipment in use that had been sent by the Diocese of Edmonton. We heard about the challenges that the hospital faces, and also met doctors from other hospitals in the region. It was a moving experience. I was invited to pray for the hospital and the patients and staff.
We returned to Ngozi for lunch and then went off to visit a local microfinance group. This group of women was formed as a class of literacy students, who moved on to lessons on how to save for the future. As the group saves, money is accumulated that can be lent out to individual group members to invest in small businesses to improve the lives of their families. I was able to ask the group about their stories and several spoke with obvious pride about how the group had helped them learn business skill and life skills. This was a success story about how the Church in Buyé is improving the lives of local families.
Finally, we visited the Ngozi parish, where we met the rector, Pastor Noel, who told us of the joy of gathering with 150 members each Sunday for worship. He showed us his rectory, which is attached to the Church building, and a new rectory which is under construction.
It was a very full and varied day, with many moving experiences that gave us a good taste of how the people of the Diocese of Buyé live out the Gospel. It is a real privilege the be able to meet so many people and share their lives, which, after all, is why we've come to Burundi.