Our Burundi coffee reminds me of lilacs and saddles. Clearly, that’s not an educated flavor or taste profile. I’ve spent the last 16 years of my life in Africa, but these reminders are a nod to my Midwest American roots. I grew up craving everything that had to do with horses. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a horse but that didn’t stop me from curling up for hours, knees thrown over an arm of our button backed blue velvet living room chairs, reading horse literature. Eventually, we met some lovely horse people and I traded chores for riding time most of my growing up years and even into my 20’s. To me a well-used saddle means warmth, connection, early mornings, pursuits of the heart and solitude- nearly all of my favorite things.
Just as I poured over horse literature, my mother poured over flower catalogs. In the middle of February there would be sketches of her summer garden ideas and half completed order slips lying around our house in Minnesota. Complex number and letter combinations written in skinny blanks with blue pen… these always gave me hope. Summer would eventually come, even if it was impossible to believe when standing at six am in the dark at the school bus stop (penguin dancing in an ugly coat to stay warm).
I guess the truth is- to me our coffee tastes like hope and comfort. The hope that summer will eventually come, no matter what February feels like. The comfort that we are pouring ourselves into something that’s worth it, no matter what happens in Burundi. We returned to Burundi as a family in early January. December 11th was a dark day in Burundi. We hadn’t returned yet, choosing to finish out the year in South Africa before coming home, but after December 11th we were reconsidering everything. Friends had bullet holes in their houses. Safety felt too far seperated from everyday reality. From within my ball of fear I found a familiar voice in my head. My friend Janette goes around spouting the line, “There is hope!” like a broken record. Tell her any sad story and she’ll say, “That’s sad but THERE IS HOPE!” Tell her about your worstest darkest awfulest day and, “THERE IS HOPE!” As annoying as this can be, she’s right. There is. There just has to be hope, and it’s there for the choosing. So, on the back of one of Burundi’s darkest days, we began packing. I don’t call this choice bravery or stupidity (it’s been called both)- I just call it ours. Our choice to be home. Our choice to sink our roots into the soil of Burundi, come what may. Our choice to believe that the One who created the stars has not and will not leave this place or its people.
Harvest, our fourth one, has arrived. Harvest always brings drama with it- the generator breaks, drying tables wash away in a flash flood, the truck bringing in the cooperatives time-sensitive coffee cherries breaks down, there’s a coup d’état. After four years we feel ready for whatever may come (we have an incredible team) and Ben would add “we’re more committed to quality than ever before” but to me that sounds sales pitchy. It’s true, but it’s pitchy. I’d rather you just taste it in the cup- and try to taste the hope and the comfort while you’re at it. Whatever uncertainty you live in. Whatever challenges you are being asked to rise from. Whatever ugly is in this world. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE HOPE and it will find a way to rise.