24 May 2016
A Great Discovery in Burundi!
The longer I am involved in work in Burundi, the more strategic I see the role of education is.

Education is crucial to seeing Burundi transformed, and sadly the old style of learning by rote as taught in the vast majority of schools (with class sizes sometimes over a hundred) simply cannot produce critical thinkers who can creatively contribute to the economy and society as a whole.

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In 2008, a kindergarten started across town from us with an intake of 80 little children. It was of such high quality that the parents begged my friends Jesse and Joy Johnson to add on primary, and now years later, a secondary school. It is called the Discovery School. They have currently reached up to seventh grade, and are adding a grade each year. So now there just over 800 children, and it will end up being 1,300 in total. Each day begins and ends with prayer. Each class has a Bible lesson but that doesn’t stop a number of Muslim kids also attending.

The fees are $15/month, which is way too much (hard to believe for outsiders from wealthier countries) for most people, but parents will make whatever sacrifice it takes to get their kids the best education available. Discovery School aims to keep the education as affordable as possible, so chooses to keep the fees down to benefit the maximum number of people. I asked Jesse about the school’s impact on students’ lives, and he said: “Well, it’s not just the kids. Many of the 65 staff, when they started with us, were skinny as can be, only eating one meal a day, and only owning two shirts, but now they’ve filled out and are able to provide for their families.”

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Such is the popularity of the school that kids are coming from the other end of the capital. This has meant the need for several busses to ferry them to and fro each day. When the crisis kicked in last year, many fled the country and others were unable to pay, which meant a loss of $17k of unpaid fees. Still the school is financially surviving, amazingly, and needing to build new classrooms each year to accommodate the growth. Even when they could easily justify holding onto all their profits, they choose to make monthly contributions to the church-planting efforts of their umbrella organization, the Emmanuel churches, which is so beautiful in the context of such crushing need – because they know they are blessed to be a blessing.

So this summer, they’re using their remaining profits towards building more classrooms, but urgently need funds for another bus. Their current busses are 36-seaters and take 90 kids at a time! Laws are applied differently out here, so it is acceptable but not ideal! The busses pay for themselves in two years, so the idea of buying – rather than hiring one or doing double trips which will take so long and make kids late for school – is a no-brainer.

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Can anyone help by pledging towards the $20k needed for a reasonable second-hand bus? Discovery School is a huge success story, all the more as it is a going financial venture in the poorest country in the world and is more than surviving in the midst of the direst of economic situations. Please dig deep if you believe in the value of education. 800 kids every day are being taught in a loving empowering environment, and many of them will end up as key leaders and influencers in the future in Burundi. A new bus is critical to the smooth-running of the coming academic year.

It’s another beautiful story in the midst of all the brokenness we’re living in. If you can help, please donate here, with whatever contribution (large or small) to help keep the show on the road (and specify 'for Discovery School'). Thanks so much!

 
11 May 2016
Living Beautiful Lives in Burundi...
If you follow our movements closely, you’ll know that we’ve been through some pretty challenging times recently, and sometimes there is more bad than good news. So I wanted to write a little about a friend of mine called Francois, who is as inspiring as it gets. Here are a few stories from his life:

He became a follower of Jesus in his teens and he just wouldn’t shut up at school about his newfound faith. He preached all the time - in lunch breaks in the open-air - and lots of staff and students came to listen to him. He was exhausted in lessons as a result, and the teachers were unhappy with him. People were getting converted which antagonized the authorities, so he ended up getting expelled for preaching the gospel. Others who had converted received written warnings, and their parents were summoned to a meeting. Francois told his school friends not to worry about him, that he’d be back at school on Monday morning. God would be faithful. One of the parents at the ensuing meeting asked the headmistress: “So let me get this straight, you have expelled this boy for telling the kids not to cheat, steal, lie, sleep around etc, but you have never expelled a student for lying, cheating, stealing, or sleeping around?” The headmistress was caught and cornered, and accepted Francois back on condition he agreed only to preach at the school Christian Union meetings! He told me he had 13 Bibles confiscated during that time, but always managed to get hold of another one.

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During his university years, he felt compelled to go on a road trip around the whole country with just $4 to his name. Everyone thought he was crazy, jeopardizing his future job prospects, but there was always ‘someone’ whom he bumped into when he arrived off the bus at each town, and who would feed him and provide for his onward journey. The result of his apparently foolhardy venture was that he planted a staggering fourteen clubs in different provinces, and they have stood the test of time, with some incredibly dynamic young leaders emerging from them.

When he and his fabulous wife got married, penniless as they were, they knew of two abandoned girls with AIDS who needed a family. Trusting God would provide, they took the girls in, and have since had two sons of their own.

For the last three years, they’ve been working with the marginalized unreached Batwa (pygmees) in the North. He initially moved up there on his own and lived alongside them in a tent, just building trust whilst serving them rather than letting them see him as ‘provider’ to meet their needs as ‘beneficiaries’. Those despised folks were beautifully empowered to rise out their destitute states and many came to faith in the process.

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So there’s a little snapshot. Francois is so dynamic and inspiring, he’s been called back to the capital as he can wield more influence on the movement as a whole rather than just in that particular isolated Batwa community. With his extra charges, he was already struggling to provide for all four’s schooling when they lived upcountry where costs for living are much less. Now in the capital, they will definitely be needing more to survive. He trusts God, of course, as he’s seen his needs met in the past, but I wanted to write about him to see if anyone wanted to get behind him.

What a privilege to be able to sow into such a family’s life, I reckon! Through them, many lives have been and will continue to be impacted. Contact me if you want to help them financially, and do pray for them as they live the beautiful life.
 
22 April 2016
Don't Worry Be Happy?
It was what was written on Francine’s T-shirt that grabbed my attention.

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It simply couldn’t be more inappropriate, of course, because here she was, languishing with about eight hundred other impoverished displaced people in the most miserable of conditions.

Lots of worry, little happiness. 

Just over two years ago there was terrible flooding on the outskirts of Bujumbura, during which more than 130 people died. Over four thousand houses disappeared in a few hours, some of them literally without any remaining trace. Francine was one of those caught up in that time, after which she and these other precious folk were dumped on a small plot of land 5km outside the capital at a place called Carama.

For the last two years then, we’ve been involved in helping them with food, and for the last year have provided the children with 100 litres per day which has massively reduced the hideous malnutrition rate. Gateway Church in Swindon and others from the New Frontiers network have sacrificially contributed so that there is a monthly food distribution to these people who are clearly amongst the poorest on the planet. Without this help, many would have died by now. No doubt at all.

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And Evariste, whose initiative it all was in the first place, organized the most basic of classrooms for the 280 kids to receive an education – that’s 140 kids in each class, and we’ve hired a few teachers – hardly ideal but at least providing some hope and structure to these cast-offs of society.

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I often tell the story of a little street urchin in the slums. He believed in God and another boy was teasing him one day: “If God loves you, why doesn't he take care of you?  Why doesn't God tell someone to bring you shoes and a warm coat and better food?” The little lad thought for a moment, then with tears starting in his eyes, said, “I guess he does tell somebody, but somebody forgets...”

Honestly, it felt overwhelming and hopeless to be amongst those landless dirty hungry people. Life in Burundi on most levels feels overwhelming and hopeless these days. Yet I know God doesn’t forget. Gateway Swindon haven’t forgotten. And I don’t want to forget.

Francine didn’t know what the writing on her T-shirt meant. She was grateful beyond words for the bag of maize and beans she received. She and her grandson Eric will live another day. Don’t worry, be happy…

If you also don't want to forget, and are able, please do help by clicking here.

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20 April 2016
Sticking Our Necks Out in Burundi...
I’ve asked one of my Burundian soul-mates who is having an amazing impact in the nation to share with you from his perspective some of what we are up to these days. Over to him:

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"Since the current crisis began in Burundi about a year ago, Simon asked me to head up and coordinate what we decided to call ‘Christian Initiatives for Peace.’ As GLO partners over the last number of years, we have met monthly to encourage and sharpen each other. Simon’s vision for GLO was to create a tight informal relational network of passionate local leaders, all of whom were having a strategic impact through their respective ministries in the country.

We were determined to play our role in our beloved nation at this difficult time. Confusion reigned in the Church (as well as in the country as a whole) as some supported the President and the ruling party whilst others wanted to see change. We deliberately positioned ourselves as a non-political body so as to challenge all sides and insist on the sacredness of life, compassion, Ubuntu, and personal responsibility. Whatever folks believed in the political realm, as followers of Jesus those four components were non-negotiable, and must guide how they responded in seeking to maintain the status quo or see change come.

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Let me tell you it was scary at times to stick our necks out, on TV and radio, using tens of thousands of tracts, at conferences, bringing youth leaders together, mobilising churches, trying through every means possible to stand for non-violence during violent times. People recognized us wherever we went, and as things became ever more polarized, radicals on each end didn’t like what we were advocating. I often wondered if I would pay the ultimate price of my life for what we were doing, but I (and the others with me) considered it worth the cost as followers of Jesus and because we love our nation so much.

Just this last week, GLO sponsored a pastors meeting, during which a Bishop said to me: “We have failed as a church. We have not been able to use our prophetic voice. All of us are looking to you folks at CIP for help.” That was both encouraging to me, and sad. Encouraging because we are so obviously playing a key role, but sad because he was recognizing and confessing the tragic failure of  his church (and much of the Church at large) to embrace its mandate to be a mouthpiece for moral authority and righteousness.

We have so much work to do. But what I love is that GLO is purposely unknown behind the scenes – not seeking credit for these initiatives, but simply working to facilitate powerful meetings that lead to reconciliation and healing. Some of what we’ve been involved in is too sensitive and can’t be talked about. Maybe we’ll be able to share those stories in ten years’ time!

But for now, I want to thank you so much for your support and ask you to continue to pray for us in Burundi. These are very difficult times. We have a long way to go. Nobody knows how things will turn out. Please continue to contribute to GLO so that we can continue to leverage our networks here for peaceful strategic change in precious Burundi."

You can contribute here at www.greatlakesoutreach.org

Thanks!
 
30 March 2016
The Show Must Go On!
Below is a fantastic story of perseverance under relentless trial. I’ve lived it alongside Jeremy, with whom I meet weekly for breakfast to talk and encourage each other. I love what he has done, is doing, and will do, alongside his precious family and devoted team at The King’s School. My favorite image of this challenging time was when oral exams were taking place to the sounds of gunfire up the street – at all costs the show must go on! Be stirred and inspired. Jeremy writes:

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Why  Bother?

Burundi’s now, apparently, the poorest, hungriest and most unhappy country in the world. The recent crises have had a devastating impact on the country, its economy and its prospects. So why bother?

In 2012, I moved my wife and four of our five children to Burundi where I had been given the awesome responsibility and privilege of running The King’s School – a Christian, English-speaking, international school in Bujumbura that was established over 15 years ago to educate children from a local orphanage; and continues to do so to this day along with fee-paying students.

What followed was an exhausting mixture of spiritual attack and fiery trials that ought to have finished both us as a family and the school. Here are a few of the high(low)lights:

2012 – Six weeks into the job our administrator disappeared, having emptied all our banks, whereupon I discovered to my horror he had creatively played off numerous creditors in the school’s name, leaving us in the catastrophic situation of being hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Our international supporter base rallied with some extra funding and I embarked on a tough restructuring of our finances. On a positive note, this brought us to our knees as a community and led to an increased reliance on God, and hunger for Him. Amazingly, by His grace, and the flexibility of our creditors, we were able to keep the school open.

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2013 – Part of the fallout of the above was the further discovery, as Burundi’s tax system became more systematized, that years of unpaid tax were being demanded by the authorities. The school had paid for local teachers, but not for foreign ones, which turned into a huge retrospective bill. Our school bank accounts were suddenly frozen. We found ourselves catapulted back into a second similarly-massive crisis, but yet again, by God’s grace and the compassion of the tax authorities, who want us to succeed, we restructured debts and were able to remain afloat.

2014 – Although our belts were severely tightened to address the ongoing consequences of the previous two crises, I became progressively more excited at the sustainability of the business model, as with a full intake of 600 students, our debts were diminishing at an impressive rate. Maybe we’d even be able to actually invest next year…

April to July 2015 – Political disagreements resulted in conflict and an attempted and failed coup. The school closed early, a number of staff were forced to leave and many students fled with their families. Most fees for that summer term were unpaid so there was nothing left. Small amounts could be given to local staff, but they went unpaid for June and July.

September to December 2015 – The school opened in severe debt and with only 60% of the original student numbers. Heavy fighting on December 11th further reduced student numbers.

January 2016 – The bleak situation forced us to make drastic financial changes to the school impacting many staff who were already struggling to survive. 

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But by God’s grace, we still pulled through. We’re still here. We’re not giving up.

The last 3½  years have been a fight for survival...and the school might not have pulled through. Yet in these impossibly difficult times we have seen God work through and be glorified by some amazingly dedicated people.

Staff have:

- had to go unpaid
- conducted iGCSE and A-Level exams to the sound of gunfire and explosions
- taken pay cuts
- continued to serve God and the students
- continued to deliver a high standard of education
- continued to innovate and develop the school
- remained devoted to the school and the students
- persevered in the face of massive uncertainty and changes

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So why bother? Is it worth it?

There have been more times than I can count when we could have just given up. It looked impossible. But this is God’s school and we’ll never give up, the stakes are too high and the impact is too strategic.

And what a story! In spite of multiple and relentless attacks by the enemy, the school has refused to die, refused to drop its standards and refused to give up on its goal to create future generations of godly leaders.

And now?

Now, more than ever, Bujumbura needs a strong, vibrant Christian school standing out from the crowd as a beacon of hope in the nation. Many of these kids will be running the country in twenty years time. It’s so utterly strategic. We simply refuse to give up. We are a school that won’t quit on Burundi... and it will still be here long after I have left.

We are still only surviving... and we want to thrive! So much effort is spent balancing the books, managing the debt and keeping things moving... but we want to invest in more resources and facilities, and appreciate the people who are so committed to the school. We’ve shown how, despite insurmountable challenges, we’ve been able to pull through, and there’s not much more that we could have thrown at us. I’ve said that I’d love just one year where I can concentrate on growth and investment.

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So why bother? We bother because we love God... because we love Burundi... because God loves Burundi... because, although we’ve been tested, God is not giving up on us or Burundi... because now is a perfect time to share and show the love of Jesus.

Jeremy done, back to me:

I can so relate to the anguish Jeremy feels, knowing his colleagues are struggling to eat as a result of their slashed salaries. 85 staff, with maybe another 400+ children as their dependents. Education is key. As he said, these students, having attended one of Burundi’s premier schools, will be the nation-shapers of the future. £50k/$70k will get them over the hump at this time, and then we trust as student numbers pick up this lean establishment will begin raking it in and thriving again for God’s glory. If you can help, please donate here and earmark it for The King’s School. If you can’t give, they’d value your prayers. Thanks so much.

 
22 March 2016
The Best of Times, the Worst of Times…
I turned 43-years-old today, which provides a natural chance to look backwards as well as forwards.

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Birthday lunch en famille at Cafe Gourmand

As I review this last year, it feels somewhat schizophrenic.

I have a wonderful life in Burundi. It is incredibly challenging, exciting, and fulfilling. Our marriage is strong, the children are thriving, we are all healthy. 

Amidst great upheaval, we experienced God’s stunning intervention and faithfulness. As the crisis loomed last April, Josiah’s accidental inhaling of a kernel of popcorn into his lung meant the family left the country because he needed an operation that couldn’t be carried out in Burundi. Lizzie and the kids flew back. The following week a failed coup took place and things further deteriorated, but they missed out on what might have been a highly traumatising episode. Meantime in Southampton, a lovely free home was provided for us, and the kids went to a wonderful school that they blossomed at. Thousands around the world prayed. And beautifully, amazingly, a day before Josiah’s invasive operation was due to take place, he coughed up the kernel and therefore no longer needed it - something that simply does not happen. Thank God! Over the next few months, we made the most of being (rich) refugees and thoroughly enjoyed time with family and friends (particularly over the Christmas period) that we don’t normally have the chance to share.

So much to be thankful for.

Yet I think it’s fair to say it’s been the worst year in my life. 

That might just reflect what an easy life I’ve had in general, but it’s true. 

In January, we took the (some would say) bold or (some would say) foolish step to return as a family to beautiful but broken Burundi. It was an act of faith, of defiance towards those who forecast genocidal doom. Burundi is our home, we are now Burundian nationals, and we want to be here, on the ground, part of the solution rather than getting further depressed at a distance listening to and reading (often twisted) reports on what is taking place.

So here we are, and I’ve shed more tears these past eleven months than in all my previous four decades put together. Watching Burundi tear herself apart, seeing dead bodies in the street, listening to gunfire and knowing that innocents were being caught in the crossfire; observing the collapse of long-standing transformational initiatives, hearing about my colleagues’ traumatised children, facing the reality of the consequences of the withdrawal of international aid; we hoped that war was in the past, but progressively things have degenerated to the extent that now things are as bad if not worse than those bad old days, because Bujumbura, which is the economic lifeblood of the country, has almost ground to a halt.  

I dread going to my office to have to deal with desperate mothers begging me to provide for their children’s education, fathers who can’t feed their kids, relatives of sick folk who aren’t allowed to leave hospital until they have paid their bills, freshly-unemployed friends lamenting over how they will survive the coming days, folks whose roof blew off in the previous night’s storm, and more.

I eat well, take exercise regularly, and insist on retaining a (some would say quirky) sense of humour. Laughter is critical to survival, I reckon. And honestly, for those of you who worry about my sanity, I think I’m doing OK. Yet I also often do feel like I’m about to crack up, break down, or howl in despair (that’s happened once or twice). 

My biggest challenge is clinging to, and in turn offering, hope. I ask God regularly to help me bring encouragement and hope to those I come into contact with. They have so much more on their plates than I do. Life is so, so tough for so, so many of them. I’m humbled by the dignity, endurance and faith I repeatedly encounter.

Looking ahead, of course we want to stay. That’s our plan. Nobody knows how things are going to pan out, but humanly-speaking, the signs aren’t good. Day-to-day living is relatively ‘normal’ for those of us that aren’t impoverished, but the situation is very fragile indeed. We have an emergency bag with key documents and basic clothes packed and ready, hoping we’ll never have to use it. The uncertainty of the future for us is compounded by the fact that Lizzie's Mum has leukemia and we don't know how long it will be before she graduates to glory. We don't want to have any regrets over missing precious times with her and Dad, so that might swing our leaving dates at some stage too. 

So as we move through Holy Week, we remember how things couldn’t have been more bleak or depressing on that first Good Friday. Yet unlike the scattered disciples, we know the rest of the story: Sunday’s coming! 

I often quote these words from Oswald Chambers, so I’ll close with them, hoping they bring you both comfort and challenge: “Future plans are uncertain, but we all know that there is first God’s plan to be lived, and we can safely leave everything to Him, 'carefully careless' of it all.”

He is risen indeed! Happy Easter!
 
16 March 2016
Burundi's Massive Elephant in the Room...
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Burundi has nearly doubled in size since I arrived here in 1999.

Clearly, that’s incorrect, but I make that absurd statement to highlight the horrific implications of the undeniable fact that whilst Burundi’s landmass has not changed in the last 17 years, it’s population has indeed nearly doubled. It was 6 million back then, and now it is approximately 10.5 million.

That, in a nutshell, is Burundi’s elephant in the room. That has a lot to do with why we are the hungriest country in the world. That is a major reason we are experiencing instability.

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The average fertility rate (children per woman) in Burundi is 6.3. 90% of Burundians live off the land. So imagine that my grandfather had one acre to cultivate and live off. He had six children, so his three sons (sadly by law daughters don’t yet benefit), including my Dad, inherited a third of an acre to produce food to survive on. And now I and my two brothers will inherit a ninth of an acre – which is simply impossible to live off, so we are destined to die of starvation, live in extreme poverty, or fight (and kill, as is now sadly common) each other for rights to the land.

Burundi has enough land to produce food for 3.3 million people. For the rest, it depends on aid, or the people simply starve.

I think of Jacques, whom I employed as our day guard. I paid him three times as much as others in his position down our street. His wife is 26-years-old, and already has four children. When I discussed with him whether it was wise to have more children, he said: “God will provide.” Jacques doesn’t believe in birth control or family planning. So his wife has time for another half dozen children. He usually asked for his salary by the 20th of each month, because his money had run out by then. And he was far better paid than many others. How do people survive here…?

The answer is that many don’t, or they do in misery. We have the highest malnutrition rate in the world. So most new lives are destined to be lived out in chronic poverty. I want to celebrate new babies with my friends, and of course I do, but what kind of a life are they being prepared for?

As a follower of Jesus, it’s all the more frustrating because Christians are amongst the biggest obstacles to addressing this issue. Burundi is predominantly Catholic, whilst the biggest Protestant denomination is Pentecostal, and both of these groups think contraception is sinful. But surely it’s better to have quality of human life, not quantity of human flesh? God can ‘bless’ us with more children but he’s not given us more land. He told us to fill the earth – not to over-fill it. So it must be better to have children by loving choice rather than by unplanned ‘accident’. Ultimately, we have not inherited the earth from our grandparents, we have borrowed it from our grandchildren.

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As Christians we are meant to love our neighbour – and that includes our future neighbours in Burundi. So loving them requires - inter alia – as many parents as possible to embrace family planning willingly, to ensure there are not too many of them, such that a halfway decent life becomes possible. It is of absolute necessity that courageous decisions are made to help lower Burundi’s fertility rate. It will require cooperation and funding from family planning agencies, and also committed leadership and endorsement from the Government. Difficult, but not impossible. Mexico, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Iran are some examples of countries who managed to reduce their Total Fertility Rate within a decade to close to two, and they did it by their respective governments recognising the population-poverty connection and removing the barriers to fertility planning.

I’m aware this is a controversial topic, that it’s very complicated, and that it's justabout the last thing on decision-makers' minds right now in the current crisis. Some Burundians reading this, as well as others, might question my credentials in broaching the subject. I’m not writing as an expert or a theologian. I’m simply devastated by the poverty, hunger and desperation that surround me right now in Burundi. And all the other problems we are dealing with in this precious nation spring off the back of this great big elephant. God help us!







 
29 February 2016
Too Much Skin and Bones in Burundi...
Some images don't require a thousand words.

Burundi has the highest malnutrition rate in the world. We were officially the hungriest country even before this crisis kicked in. I was at a bush hospital two weeks ago and heard from the doctor there that the already atrocious situation had spiked even more in recent months.

Below, with permission, is a picture that rocks my world - all the more so as a father imagining my children not being able to eat. Taken at the hospital by my friend, this is her well-fed daughter, Alma. She is 4-years-old. Guess how old is the girl in the middle...

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...she is also 4-years-old.

That is so, so wrong...

Please keep praying for beautiful Burundi. 


* I post this because I want to keep Burundi on people's radars in terms of praying and giving, so please fee free to share.
 
26 February 2016
Will You Judge My Anger and Hatred?
Maybe you’ll think less of me by the end of this stream of consciousness, but I wanted to get down on paper how I feel right now, not when I have calmed down.

I love Burundi. In the past I thought I’d die here, taking crazy risks in the last war as a single man. I still think I’m willing to die for Burundi, although it’s a bit more complicated with a wife and three precious little children. Hmm…

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I’m all about Burundi, I love Burundi… but I hate Burundi too. 

I hate what happened literally a minute before starting to write this.

A man came in. I met him yesterday, after he’d asked for a chat. He’d poured out his heart, like so many do to me. He’s a good man. He has a family. He studied and got a degree in Kenya. He wants to work, but he can’t find any. I was yet another door he was knocking at. So I listened to his tale – yet another story of woe – and I then explained I had no job to offer him, and was tied up with multiple commitments to support other folk. We prayed, and I packed him off with a 10,000FrBu note to at least pay for his public transport and maybe food for a day or two for his family ($5, that is).

I (through GLO) help thousands of people. This was someone I didn’t even know before yesterday, invading my time and space, bleeding me of more emotional energy. On the one level, I can totally imagine myself in his position. What wouldn’t I do to feed my kids? What wouldn’t you do, seriously? So I felt for him, but he made me angry as well. Why should he jump the queue of those others desperately needing help? I can’t help everyone. Why am I in this position where I'm almost forced to play God and literally ‘save’ the lives I (try to discern to) choose to intervene in? Why him and not the next person knocking in five minutes’ time?

I hate Burundi, sometimes. I hate poverty, always. It makes me so angry. I hate having to care as well.

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And you know what? He had the temerity to come back today. His roof had blown off last night in the storm so his house is a wreck. He’s not making it up, I believe him, he’s a man of trust and we share many friends. But when he came in, I swear, if I didn’t hate him, I was certainly angry at him. How dare he again confront me with this horrible decision of whether or not and if so then how much to help him? I hate being put in that position. Who, without hardening their heart, can adequately bear that responsibility? It's absolutely crushing.

He said he was desperate. As first-born he has responsibility for more than just his own family. It’s all just so overwhelming. He has no money, so amongst other tragedies his younger brother had died in his arms a few months ago for the lack of a few dollars. What could he do now?

I confess my anger and hatred. Maybe you think I’m mad, sick, insensitive.

I gave him a decent wedge of money. I wanted to get him out of my face, out of my office. I was paying him to leave me alone. I explained, probably with little grace, that I wished him well, truly, but I didn’t even know him two days ago and I support so many widows and orphans and needy people, and I never wanted him to come and ask me for money again, OK? He was ecstatic with gratitude and agreed with my terms.

I love Burundi. I love her people. So many are suffering so much with such dignity. But I hate Burundi. I hate those regular encounters that put me in such a weighty position. Burundians reading this will not be able to understand, and will probably think: ‘What a problem to have! Poor self-pitying rich white man’s problems!’ Westerners? Can you understand what it’s like? Maybe some, most probably not.

If you want to help, please do.


 
16 February 2016
The Blood Cries Out...
Genesis 4:10  And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.”

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Yesterday saw five grenades go off in town. Lizzie and a friend were due to buy fabric at the market where a child was blown up. I gave a talk a few hundred yards away shortly after the explosions, and things were back to normal by the time I arrived, but of course the new normal is an absurdity.  

Why oh why all this senseless killing...?

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It's hard to know what to write.

It is simply soul-destroying to watch this country tear itself apart, to be bombarded daily with stories of colleagues' and friends' gut-wrenching woe, to observe so much good work over the previous decade undone.

Yet we remain here because we choose to hope that the impossible can happen, that Burundi can emerge into a new dawn, that somehow a pathway to peace can be established, however improbable that looks at this stage. 

So I guess this is just a heartcry to you to pray for this precious land, to hear the cry of the blood. I was going to post a picture of an angelic six-year-old boy smiling in his Sunday best. He was blown up by a grenade two days ago. The picture is so very poignant. It would definitely move you, as it has me. But then I thought of his mother, his father, his siblings. I don't think they would want his picture used in that way...

Just so utterly sad. 

 

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About Simon:

  • map burundiAuthor, speaker, founder of Great Lakes Outreach, passionate about challenging people to make their lives count, committed to seeing Burundi transformed, married to Lizzie with Zac, Grace and Josiah completing the team.
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