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[Burundi] The Conference with the President and the First Lady (February 06, 2012)

Since our church in Burundi was established in September, 2006, Pastor Ock Soo Park and his crew arrived in Burundi airport for the first time in 6 years.

The Minister of the Department of Youth, who arranged the conference with the President and the First Lady of Burundi, sent the Vice Minister to the airport because he had to attend the Youth Forum in Tunisia. The Vice President greeted and ushered Pastor Ock Soo Park and his crew to the VIP room.

The first thing on the schedule for Burundi was the conference with the First Lady – it was the only conference with the First Lady during this visit to the 4 Eastern African countries. While the Minister of the Department of Youth was arranging the conference with the President, he unexpectedly suggested the conference with the First Lady as well. Because she is currently a pastor in Burundi and leading a charitable organization, the Minister fervently recommended her that the conference with Pastor Ock Soo Park would be favorable.

The Buntu Foundation, led by Denise Nkurunziza, the First Lady, is for orphans, widows, and people with disabilities. The organization has its branches in 15 provinces out of the total of 16 provinces in Burundi. On top of that, the First Lady, as a pastor, preaches on radios and has her own church.

The First Lady greeted Pastor Ock Soo Park with kindness in her office. As she talked about the management of Buntu Foundation and her faith, she confessed that Burundi needs a lot of hands and help. In response, Pastor Ock Soo Park started off with the story of Andy and how IYF was first established. Continuing with the testimony about how he himself changed, he opened each bible verse one by one – he even knelt down to explain the parable – and preached in details what God has done for us in an excited yet calm voice.

The First Lady, with any move, accepted the words, one by one, and also the Kirundi interpreter received the gospel.

After an hour-long talk with Pastor Ock Soo Park, the Gracias Choir performed. After singing “Without Him I could do nothing,” and “Amazing grace,” the Choir sang “Uri Mwiza” in Kirundi. Surprised and excited, the First Lady hummed along.

Out from the First Lady’s office, they went straight to the President’s office for the conference with him. Due to his busy schedule at the start of the New Year and the workshops with the Ministers, the conference had to be rescheduled several time, and the Vice President had to substitute him for the other conference. Yet finally the President changed his schedule and we were given 30 minutes.

For the conference with President Peter Nkurunziza, only one person from the crew was permitted to go to the room. Only Pastor Ock Soo Park went into the office, with Pastor Joseph Park and Missionary Daegon Moh as interpreters.

During the conference with the President, the President asked for the IYF center in Burundi, just like the one in Kenya and said that he would provide lands for the center. Also the AIDS cure plan was decided to carry on with the Department of Health. In response, Pastor Ock Soo Park invited the President and the First Lady to Korea, and the President gladly took the invitation saying that he actually had a plan to visit Korea.

Due to the limited time given, the Gracias Choir could only sing once. Even the President felt very sorry for his busy schedule and for the short time given. It was little unfortunate that we could not preach the Gospel within that short time, but we came out of the office with the guidance of God.

After all the appointments, Pastor Ock Soo Park and his crew headed to Burundi Church. It has been 5 years and 3 months since the church was established. Brothers and sisters came all the way out to the drive way, waiting to welcome Pastor Ock Soo Park.

After the late lunch, Pastor Ock Soo Park headed to the chapel to share the words with the brothers and sisters of Burundi. With bamboo tree wall and the roof made with steels in truss shape, there was the chapel, and inside the brothers and sisters were waiting for Pastor Ock Soo Park while singing their native hymns. Call it a weapon if you will, their innocent voice and dance make our hearts warm more than any other fancy rhythms or sophisticated dance moves.

The brothers and sisters enjoyed even more when they saw Pastor Ock Soo Park dancing with them at the native brothers’ hymn. I could also spot some sister secretly wiping their tears of joy.

Visiting 4 countries in the Eastern Africa as a photographer with Pastor Ock Soo Park, I get to see a lot of heart-touching scenes. Each time I saw the native brothers and sisters being happy to be with Pastor Ock Soo Park, I was overwhelmed, thinking about how long they have waited for this time in their hearts.

As they listen to the songs from Gracias Choir and Pastor’s words, the brothers and sisters were smiling, wiping their tears. Their hearts were just so precious and beautiful.

For the first time since the church was established in Burundi, Pastor Park stood up on the pulpit, preaching as usual. Though he is almost 70 years old, Pastor says that he feels feeble if he does not preach the gospel every day. When I see him, I feel shameful about myself yet thankful that I can be with the pastor.

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