Waiting for Light in Burundi

by Dr. Eric McLaughlin, Serge family medicine physician and MedSend grant recipient (republished from the blog at serge.org)

One of the great things about the church calendar is the annual reminder of things that we need reminding of. The current pre-Christmas season of Advent reminds us of many things, but particularly for me, it is a reminder that we are waiting for light to come, and that means that we have to trust.


Often, when I pray for Burundi, I pray according to Isaiah 9, that “people walking in darkness would see a great light”, because for a variety of reasons, the people of Burundi have walked in darkness. That is not to say there hasn’t been any light. There is tons. It is a beautiful place with lovely people, a warm culture, a confounding language, and more subtypes of banana trees than you can shake a stick at. But for all that, they have greatly suffered. There has been war, fear, injustice, dire poverty, devastating disease, and immense hunger.


It is just the type of world into which God brings light. It is the image of the world into which Christ was born. So, we work for light. In fact, according to Jesus, we are “the light of the world”.


But there are times when it can be hard to hope, because circumstances seem pitted against us. This year, Burundi has experienced increased instability. It’s not the genocide that some media outlets suggest, but it is harder to believe that “on those living in the land and the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”



We have to trust. The waiting implicit in advent has always meant trusting. Centuries ago, it was trusting that the Messiah would come. Now it is trusting that Jesus will come again. Everyday, it is trusting that God is with us, and that he is bringing light.


Advent reminds us that those who waited (for a very long time!) finally experienced the fullness of faith-fullness and received what had been long, long promised.


That is good for us to remember. It is a reason to persevere. It is a reason to rest a bit, because we are not alone, nor is our strength the only strength on our side.


It is true for Burundi, and it is true for all of us. Consider where you are waiting for Light. Remember all those who waited for so long. May you find the grace to trust, and with that, joy.


Wherever there is darkness, come thou long-expected Light, with healing in thy wings.


About Eric McLaughlin:

In 2007, while Eric’s wife Rachel was completing her residency in OB-GYN and Eric in Family Practice in Ann Arbor, MI, they joined up with two other medical families from their church and decided to pursue medical missions as a community. This community (informally known as the “McCropders”) serves with Serge in Burundi at Kibuye Hope Hospital where they practice medicine and train Burundi’s future doctors. Eric and Rachel have 3 children, each born on a different continent.


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