WINDERMERE In the small African country of Burundi, gunfire, grenades, bloodshed, hunger and political unrest are part of daily life.
And after First Baptist Church Windermere’s downtown campus pastor, Troy Schmidt, visited Burundi, those realities are seared permanently in his mind.
On the outskirts of the country’s capital, Bujumbura, a compound of unfinished, modest mansion-like homes sat abandoned. It was an interesting contrast to multiple shack-like accommodations on the next street over, filled with people struggling to survive.
The plight of the country, currently listed as the poorest in the world, is dire. And that’s why the partnership between FBCW and Burundi Christian Ministries was born.
“The political situation when I was there was heinous,” Schmidt said. “It’s going to reach a limit where there’s too much, but the country has faced genocide many times, and everybody is always worried about whether that is going to happen again.”
Nearly 250,000 people have fled Burundi out of fear of genocide, and 50,000 of them now live in a Rwandan camp called Mahama. Escaping the Burundian government is an accomplishment, but the reality of hunger is something that still plagues the people there. FBCW is teaming up with Feeding Children Everywhere to pack 200,000 meals for the Burundians on Saturday, Oct. 1.
“It’s desperate and that’s why our food-packing is so necessary,” Schmidt said. “The people there easily go without a meal once a day, and so to provide the packet of food which could feed a family of seven means a lot to them.”
Schmidt has met some of the Burundian people who have benefited from their past food-packing events while on trips to the country.
“Generally, when you do these things and send them off you never see them, so to meet them face-to-face is pretty humbling,” he said. “I know this food is going directly to people I’ve met. It’s very fulfilling to be able to see their faces when they get something they so desperately need, and it’s basically a pouch of lentils, seasoning and rice.”
The church packs a container with as much as possible and sends it over, sometimes with a missions team, to Burundi. Although the majority of the contents will be the meals packed, the church also is collecting donations such as shoes, sheets and medical supplies.
In addition to the food packing, the church also works with BCM and E3 Partners — a missions organization based in Dallas, Texas — to support a Burundian orphanage, church and a school.
“You don’t have to be Christian to say, ‘Hey, I want to help people,’” he said. “We’re hoping they’ll come and see some of the culture. We’ll have Burundian drummers come down from Atlanta, games that highlight what kids in Burundi play — it’s not Xbox games, sometimes it’s just a tire — and you can sample some of the food you’re packing, taste coffee and more.
“This is more than just a country for us; these are people we’ve been around, we know, we’ve seen, we’ve prayed with, and that’s why it hits so close to us,” he said. “Burundi does not offer you a lot, but the people do.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].