A Burundi Gathering

by Jeanne R. Strong

Burundi gatheringIn nine days I leave for Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi in central Africa, where I will be working with teachers and their students to help heal the wounds and trauma of civil war. In preparation for this journey, on Thursday January 9, I gathered around me a team of friends who will accompany me in spirit, every step of the way.

After exploring and sharing some of what I may encounter on this six-week long adventure, we blessed the occasion by gathering for a meal – potluck – of course. In the center of the table, next to the candle sculpture of friends holding each other around the light of fire, one of the Six Whidbey Bowls held my contribution of African yam and peanut stew. In addition to the poem accompanying the bowl, we read another by Barbara Rohde, “We Stand at the Edge of a True Wilderness.”

Burundi bowlI can think of no better way to celebrate both the work I will be doing, and the sense of community I will come back to. Knowing these bowls are circulating, collecting many stories, adds to the sense of connection so needed to do our work in the world.

We Stand at the Edge of a True Wilderness

We stand at the edge of a true wilderness. No one has entered it, nor worn a path for us. There are no maps.

We look toward that great openness in awe of the freedom and possibility before us. Yet there is also something in us that causes us to face the unknown territory cautiously and anxiously.

Now, in this place, we take time out of time to look back, to see where we have been and what we have been, to reflect on what we have learned thus far on our journey.

We gather together to remind each other to seek our True North, and to encourage – to place courage in – one another.

When we leave this place, we must each find our true path. We must walk alone.

But now and then we may meet.

When we meet, may we offer each other the bread of our being.

And oh, my brothers, and oh, my sisters, if you hear me plunging wildly, despairingly, through the thicket, call out to me. Calm me.

And if you find me sleeping in the snow, awaken me, lest my heart turn to ice.

And if you hear my music, praising the mornings of the world, then in that other time, in the blackness of my night, sing it back to me.

~ from Barbara Rohde (1994), In the Simple Morning Light: a Meditation Manual


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