Bartley encouraged him to return to the school after graduation to help start a ministry for international students. Nsabimana, eager to put his education in agriculture to work, hesitated. He wondered whether this was the right step for him, but Bartley proved persuasive.
“He thought I should be working for the church even when I did not see it,” Nsabimana says. “When my work visa was granted, I decided I should do it. I realized that even if I wanted to be a farmer, there still are ways of being Jesus’ disciple.”
Soon, Nsabimana realized a powerful call to ministry.
“I always seemed to be talking about my faith journey, what it means to be a Christian in Burundi,” he says. “I also realized that, as much as I wanted to go back home and work in agriculture, it was important for me to get an education in ministry. You can’t teach people to grow crops when they are angry at one another.”
With support from Bartley, Nsabimana applied to Duke Divinity School, where he matriculated last fall.
He hopes to return to Burundi after graduation to combine his two vocations: farming and ministry. The challenges will be great, he realizes. Distrust runs deep in a country where neighbors slaughtered one another for years. Yet the work must be done, he says.
“They need to be able to sit together before they can grow crops together,” he says. “Then they can talk about improving their village.”
He hopes to begin that work on a personal level — by forgiving the men, his childhood friends, who killed his father and brother.
“I feel like I need to meet face to face and share with them that I am willing to see how we have gone wrong,” he says. “They go to church, and I want to talk with them about what it means to confess and say we are followers of Christ.”
He hopes they will repent. But Nsabimana knows that is beyond his control.
“I don’t think it matters whether they say they are sorry for what they have done,” he says. “I wish they could come to believe what they did is wrong. That is my prayer. But I don’t have a choice. I must forgive.”
The Duke Center for Reconciliation convened a meeting of nearly 100 Christian leaders from Africa and the United States at its third annual African Great Lakes Initiative gathering, held in Bujumbura, Burundi, Jan. 13-16. Participants - including clergy leaders from several Christian denominations, university professors, leaders of non-governmental organizations, and other practitioners in reconciliation - focused on the issue of tribalism. Learn more about the Center for Reconciliation and watch a video about its work in the African Great Lakes region.