Name: Vanessa Bielema
Hometown: Grass Valley, California (Crossroads Church)
Assignment: Serving with MCC partner Help Channel Burundi (HCB) in a conservation agriculture project. My husband Craig, our daughter Wren and I live in Bujumbura, Burundi, one of the most food-insecure countries in the world. I accompany the HCB team in planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting.
Typical day: Varies from visits to farmers’ fields to hours in the office helping to write and edit reports or form survey tools to get the right data to give a fuller picture of the impacts of our work.
Joys: Being part of the HCB team, particularly when we come together to solve a problem or to do project planning. Serving as a family. The majority of the farmers that we work with are women, and many come to meetings or events with a small child tied on their backs. When our daughter, 3, is with me, her presence helps them see that I too am a mom, with the same cares as they have for our families and communities.
Challenge: Burundi is a place that is scarred deeply by its history of division, violence and fear. While I find it such an amazing blessing to serve with a committed team of Burundians working to bring healing and provision to their country, I often feel that I comprehend so little of the experiences of those around me.
A verse I hold on to: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV) The Bible is so full of images and stories about gardens, farming and livestock. Seeing how much God values the work of stewarding the earth and working the soil brings a profound dignity to the farmers we work with and reminds me how honored I am to serve them. But the need can seem overwhelming. I have begun to think of Jeremiah 29:11 as a prayer and promise for our participants. Our unfathomable God knows each one, and for each one has a plan.
Find your place