BUJUMBURA, Burundi – Rachel Muhorakeye began singing the familiar song:
“God is so good …”
Quickly, more than 20 voices joined in.
“God is so good …”
All were seated in a large circle around the studio that also serves as a community room at TWR Burundi in the nation’s largest city of Bujumbura.
“God is so good, he’s so good to me …”
Then they sang it again, but in a different language. And in a different language after that, and then in another language still. Kirundi. Oromo. Swahili. Amharic. On and on, one or two people leading out in their heart language, alternating with a chorus in English.
It took some time, because of the 24 people in attendance at the TWR East Africa Partners Conference in June, some were from South Africa, others from West Africa, Europe and North America. In all, 16 heart languages were represented. It serves as a measure of the diversity and the challenge of speaking hope to East Africa.
According to Wakshuma Terefe, head of TWR’s partner Radio Yemisrach Dimts (The Voice of Good News) in Ethiopia, more than 80 languages are spoken his country alone! Yemisrach Dimts broadcasts in the eight major Ethiopian languages, including Afar and Somali. Both are spoken in regions that are almost entirely Muslim.
“Our radio remains the main source of information in rural areas,” said Terefe, who first came across TWR programmes while in high school during a time when the government had shut down most Ethiopian churches. “As a result, today we have large audiences in all corners of the country.”
The event was the first East Africa Partners Conference since 2018, when the previous meeting was held in Nairobi, Kenya. Hosted at Kings Conference Center in Bujumbura, this year’s meeting featured the signing of agreements between TWR and partners from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
Egide Bandyatuyaga, TWR East Africa ministry director was especially taken by the events, as this was the first time that a partners conference had taken place in Burundi over his eight-year tenure.
Though Bandyatuyaga often contacts the various ministry partners, for many of them it was the first time they had met face to face.
“It’s a way of getting to know one another which I think will continue to serve us in the future, still interacting to see how we can support each other,” said Bandyatuyaga.
Rachel Muhorakeye, the director of TWR Burundi, shared similar sentiments.
“It was such a joy to host this meeting in Burundi,” she said. “It was a wonderful time of learning from one another, and it was also a time to encourage one another.”
In turn, partners offered presentations on their respective work, along with reports on TWR Women of Hope activities in the region.
Though the partners and TWR personnel met in air-conditioned comfort, when outside, one could feel a steady cool breeze flowing in from Lake Tanganyika, which is by volume, the world’s second-largest lake. Burundi shares the shoreline with Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.
A highlight was a Thursday afternoon visit to TWR Burundi, which culminated in a feast served by staff and volunteers on their ample grounds. The facility, which opened in December 2021, is also a gathering place for the community. Twenty-seven groups use the large studio where “God Is So Good” was sung for prayer, meetings, seminars and the like.
In his closing remarks, Branko Bjelajac, TWR vice president for Africa, CAMENA and Europe, spoke of the challenges facing Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia and other African countries. He has great faith in digital media, he said, but also in the continuing role of radio in such places.
“There is no border that radio signals cannot cross,” Bjelajac told the attending partners. “Missionaries can be stopped. Bibles can be impounded. Borders can be closed. The radio broadcast continues.
And in times of crisis, what do people need? Hope. They need hope. This is what you are doing with your programmes. You are providing hope – daily.”