This is everything I love about what we are trying to do as GLO. It is utterly strategic in the nation; it models beautiful partnership across nationalities; it involves empowering and equipping leaders.

 

Meet one of our key partners, Antioch Africa, in this stunning short film, just 3mins+.

 

 

In years to come, I don’t doubt this will have a critically positive role in shaping a healthy Church in Burundi, and even beyond. Bring it on!

Window on the World

Of all the things we’ve read together as a family, none has been more interesting or effective at engaging with our kids as this book. It includes geography, history, stories, and faith. So I’d give it a massive recommendation. We did it over breakfast daily for several months, and they looked forward to it each time. Parents/grandparents, I can’t think of a better present for your kids/grandkids.

For UK folk, click here to order.

For US folk, click here.

Also, as we prepare for Christmas, and getting resources for Advent, Jotham’s Journey is superb story-telling. There are three of them in the series, they come highly-recommended too.

Happy reading together!

What do you know about Slovenia? I knew virtually nothing until we went there this last week. And yesterday I got to preach at the biggest evangelical church in the country, which you’re probably thinking is a few thousand people strong. But no, it was maybe 130 people, because there are only about 500 evangelicals in the whole country! Out of a population of a little over 2 million people, that makes just 0.025%!

I think part of this year’s purpose as we travel and preach around the world is highlighting areas of need. The week before we were in Albania, with under 3000 believers out of their population of just over 3 million, i.e 0.1%. Before that in Macedonia (0.2%), which I blogged on before.

The gospel needs are huge! Do you want to get involved? Could you come as a teacher to one of these nations? Or a medical professional? Or start a business? Or just come and see? Often people say comments like ‘there are plenty of needs here in this nation to meet, so you shouldn’t go elsewhere’. I beg to differ. The needs are indeed everywhere, but much much greater in these countries than in the UK or USA. So hear the invitation from me right now – could this be for you? Do you want to be part of something so much bigger than you might have expected in this life? Just ask, and I’ll put you in touch.

From yesterday’s journal: “I preached, and the response was strong. Afterwards lots of folks came up and thanked me effusively for the passion, challenge and encouragement. Grace (as we’ve tried to encourage the kids to pray and see if God shows them whom He might bless through us) said that she wanted us to give money to a man in a purple T-shirt. He looked fine to me i.e. humanly-speaking wasn’t a stand-out case as someone in need. We asked our translator if he was in a bad way and she said yes, that his wife was looking after him and the need was acute, so we gave money to be passed on to her. That was encouraging. And then I was talking to a man called Mattheus, who told me he couldn’t work because of a dislocated finger. I asked if I could pray for him. After prayer, his eyes lit up and he said he could now move it where he couldn’t before. Brilliant! Doors are wide open to return, there are big opportunities, and all the key folks asked us to come back and serve here. Who knows, but certainly the needs are massive.”

If you want to get my journal updates, just message me. If you’re challenged about how you might get involved in such countries, again, just get in touch and I’ll connect you.

Greetings from a small village just outside Shtip in Macedonia!

We’ve just had a stunning weekend of outreach alongside Brother Jimmy from Nigeria, who has been here 35 years and done incredible pioneering work during that time. Macedonia has 0.2% evangelical believers – that’s 2 out of every 1,000 people. The gospel needs are huge.

Over this last weekend, I got the chance to blast around the country and speak at seven of those churches, each in towns where there was no other Christian witness. We arrived, preached, said goodbye, drove another two hours, preached again etc. Apart from the fact that we were in a van, it felt like the apostle Paul must have felt, journeying around the country, sharing the good news with a sense of urgency. It was such an exciting privilege to be a part of.

An incredible two days of blasting around the whole country of Macedonia, speaking at seven churches (out of a total of only about 60 in the whole nation), such a fun and exhausting trip, but great opportunities to encourage the troops.

Posted by Simon Guillebaud on Sunday, 7 October 2018

As I said, the needs are simply huge. I found being with Jimmy’s gang such a challenge to the often complacent Western church. We met Sunday morning in the centre of the country at one church for teaching, and then four teams of eight people went North, South, East and West, fanning out across the nation and visiting the various plants. I did it yesterday and was exhausted by the end of it. They do it every single weekend! How does that compare to your church in terms of zeal for the Kingdom and willingness to get out there? Evangelism and discipleship were total priorities, and raising young leaders is at the heart of Jimmy’s approach.

He showed me a 4-storey building they want to buy, to use as a church, a conference venue, pastor accommodation, as an income-generator and more. The house has been unoccupied for years because apparently it is haunted and nobody wants to live there. The owner wanted 60,000Euros but has come down to 40,000Euros as there have been no takers. Jimmy’s not remotely afraid to take on any demons in that house and redeem it for God’s glory! It’ll be a strategic launch pad in their ongoing efforts throughout the nation into the future.

In Acts 16:9-10 we read: “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

Jimmy’s not begging us to come over to Macedonia to help. He’s just praying that God’s people will help him and his team crack on with the evangelization of this largely unreached nation. And this building is so strategic to make that happen. So does that touch anybody? Could you (or do you know anyone who could) help buy the building? Does your church want to get involved in mission in such a needy area with such a fruitful committed bunch of people? You would benefit so much. Do get in touch if so and I’ll connect you.

And might we rise to the challenge in our own contexts and get more focused and engaged in reaching out to the lost in an intentional and strategic way, with a sense of urgency for the lost. Truly this last weekend inspired, challenged, and rocked me. May reading this spur you likewise to action!

dover family

The above picture was taken on Day 1 of our world tour, as we set sail from England with the white cliffs of Dover in the background. Three weeks in, we still love each other(!), are in our 10th country, Romania, and have had some precious times. The only place I’m regularly posting is Instagram if you want to follow our movements: @simon.guillebaud

I’ve waited a few months to allow my thoughts to percolate after finishing twenty years of living in Burundi, and all that I learnt in that time. There were, of course, many lessons from living in a war zone that became peaceful and then again sadly fell back into conflict. But I’ve distilled them all down to three words, essentially, which formulate a life motto of sorts that we as a family are seeking to adopt and live by. So I’ll share it with you, and hopefully it might be of help. It involves coming back to familiar themes if you’ve journeyed with us a long time, but they have left deep marks in me. It reads:

‘Live Together Gratefully’

First of all, we want to really live. We want to embrace the adventure of living rather than settle for the safety of existing. Many people’s highest aspiration seems to be to arrive safely at death, and so we often avoid taking risks, stick to the status quo – however dissatisfactory it might be – and miss out on so much that could happen if only we stepped out in faith to live out our God-given dreams. Jesus’ promise in John 10:10 of ‘life to the full’ is to be claimed and appropriated. And following Him is not safe. But the safest place to be is in the heart of God’s will; and safety isn’t the absence of danger, it’s the presence of God. As a colleague once turned to me with a glint in his eye and said as we drove along roads fraught with danger: “Simon, isn’t it exciting? We’re immortal until God calls us home!”

Particularly from 1999 to 2003, I lived expecting to die. That appear to many to be a horrible experience to endure – but no, it was a great way to live. As I drove each weekend along deserted roads anticipating deadly ambushes, completely ready to die, I never felt more alive. Death is an emasculated enemy, it’s lost its sting. I could fully echo Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” One time forty people were killed, but we got through. Another time as I ate a Chinese takeaway, I heard three shots, and found out later my friend had been murdered. An awareness of the imminence of death is very helpful.

There was such focus, such intentionality, such joy. If you think you’re going to die next week, you’re not going to waste today. You’re not going to spend endless hours watching TV or gaming or on social media, because today will soon be yesterday, and there’s so much to actually live for, now. If you think you might die shortly, you’re going to tell everyone you care about how much you love and value them; you’re going to have a sense of urgency in sharing your hope in Christ with those who don’t yet know Him, because the stakes are high; you’re going to keep short accounts with everyone, saying sorry and asking for or offering forgiveness so that your life is in order just is case something happens; you’re going to prioritise how you spend your money, because stuff doesn’t matter, people do. You’re not going to take any possession with you, so you choose to get more excited about investing in what lasts. As C.S.Lewis wrote: “Anything which isn’t eternal is eternally out-of-date.”

I’m just desperate – for myself and my family – and I long for all of us, that we wouldn’t get to the end of our lives and be sat there in a recliner with a shriveled soul and loads of stuff, and think: “I just missed it, I played it safe…” That would be tragic.

If we decide to truly live, to go for it, to have no regrets, does anything need changing? Let’s do it!

Firstly ‘live’, secondly ‘together’.

Everything is relationship. That is one of my mantras. We need each other. I need you. You need me. Certainly we can do more, go further, and have more fun… together.

As the African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” One of the biggest tensions in my marriage is that I want to go too fast. Even this last week on the metro in Berlin, I lost Lizzie! I was walking so fast, and I thought she’d seen my turning, but she hadn’t. And I had to retrace my steps, track her down, and eat some humble pie! Speed is overrated. I’d really rather go far, and we do that together.

As I review the beautiful effectiveness of our work in Burundi, it largely hangs on the fact that we created such a strong team. We sought to identify the best local leaders of passion, integrity, gifting and vision for the transformation of the nation. There were lots of very gifted and driven individuals, but we became a dream team of complementary visions, leveraging our collective impact through synergies and interdependence. We sought to model partnership, cooperation, team-work. If you stand on my shoulders, then you can see further and do more. ‘We’ trumps ‘me’.

But crucially that takes time. You cannot develop trust overnight, particularly in our context of total distrust, small-mindedness and competition. So we started meeting regularly. They were my highlights, having an extended breakfast each third Tuesday of the month, being with such motivated high-caliber leaders. And slowly trust was built up, because everything is relationship. We did retreats with spouses included, so that everyone would be on the same page.

And the crisis of 2015 highlighted the beauty of our togetherness. With roadblocks burning and to the sound of gunfire around, we met up and had a holy moment – together – in which we counted the very real cost and danger of active engagement in the crisis. We delegated roles around the room, strategizing so that the country wouldn’t fall apart (You’re the most eloquent spokesman for non-violence, so let’s hire the national radio and TV station and preach peace; you’ve got the best inroads with the militia, so we’ll organize a meeting with the leaders for you to address them; your team is the best at social media, so we’ll support you to create a platform on Facebook and Whatsapp to counter all the destructive lies and rumours, etc). Egos were left behind. Thank God nobody was killed for it. But we were ready. Together. No other such network of intimate strategic relationships existed in the country, as far as any of us could see.

What does it look like in your context to live together? Because we all want to go far…

So firstly ‘live’, secondly ‘together’, and third and finally, ‘gratefully’.

The greatest gift Burundi gave me was the gift of gratitude.

A man called Aloise was trying to kill me. He came to my house with a grenade to blow me up. He wrote me a letter saying he was going to cut out my eyes. It wasn’t a fun experience, to be sure. Indeed I had a few nightmares and stayed at a friend’s house for a few days. But it was actually one of the best experiences of my life, and I’ll tell you why.

Faced with the threat of losing my eyes, I actually thanked God for the first time in my life for them. Consciously. Suddenly my eye-sight was correctly recognized as a gift, not as a right.

Have you ever thanked God that you can see? What a gift it is! Ask a blind person. And this led me on to the realization that everything in life is a gift. Our challenge as we live in entitlement cultures is that it’s all about our rights. Consequently, when we don’t get what we want, then it’s an affront to our divine right to happiness, health, etc. That’s why we complain so often and are not experiencing as much joy in life as we should. I’m speaking as an Englishman here: our national pastime is moaning! We moan about everything, whilst being amongst the most blessed people in the history of humanity.

My pastor’s 18-year-old brother died in his arms for the lack of $5 to pay for the medicine across the counter in the chemist’s. Let’s stop moaning about medical care. Burundi is the hungriest country in the world, with 56% malnourished. None of us has had to pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’ and really mean. Let’s be deeply grateful for food. We all have access to clean life-giving water in our homes without needing to walk miles with a jerry can on our heads to get some. What a gift! We can all read and write, we have sufficient clothing, we’re free to believe and express those beliefs, be they religious or political, what incredible gifts! Do you realize that these are gifts, and not rights? If so, you will live gratefully, and it will totally transform your life.

During the war, my friend Chrissie saw a man praying with an empty bowl in a refugee camp. She went over and sat next to him. “What’s your story, old man?” He told her how he had seen his wife and kids hacked to death, and his house burnt down. He was in his eighties and had walked six days to get to the camp. So now, in his stinking rags in front of her, that was all he was in the world, with his empty bowl. Yet at the end of recounting his horrific tale of woe, he turned to her and said: “Madame missionary, I never realized that Jesus was all I needed, until Jesus was all I had.”

Are you grateful? Gratitude will transform your life. It has transformed mine completely. Whenever I’m tempted to moan or feel sorry for myself, I just go through the gifts in my life: I can see, most of my body works pretty well, I am not starving, I have family and friends, a job, access to healthcare, freedom of expression, the list goes on.

Wow! Thank you Lord, because you are the Giver. Everything is a gift. Therefore I will live gratefully, which will make me a much more pleasant person to be around, because I’ll bring life and energy to the party rather than sucking it out of the room. Grateful people are joyful people, and joy (not the same as happiness) can defy our personal circumstances in a beautiful, attractive, and life-giving way.

So there you have it. Many lessons distilled into three words. The Guillebaud family motto – whether in Burundi or on a world tour or next year living back in the UK – is LIVE TOGETHER GRATEFULLY.

What might yours be? Let us know, we’d love to hear it!

man with growth

Greetings!

It’s with great pleasure I can feed back to you about another explosively fruitful summer outreach with Harvest Initiatives in Burundi from the 4th – 18thAugust, just last month. Here are a few of the many stories:

· At Mukike, a witchdoctor called Domitile repented as she heard our evangelists. She handed over her paraphernalia and gave her life to Christ – whereupon twenty others in her village did too, including her husband!

· In Gihanga, little Simplice was blind. Our team prayed for him but nothing seemed to happen. His parents returned the next day ecstatic that he could now see. Consequently they’re going to church and seeking God.
· A woman hadn’t walked properly for three years. Our team prayed for her. She felt she was healed, and chose to follow Jesus. The team returned the next morning for a follow-up visit, but she wasn’t at home. She’d gone back to her fields to work for the first time in all those three years!

· In Kirundo, a man was sleeping one afternoon and dreamed that a group of people would arrive at his door with a message. He woke up, opened the door, and one of our teams were approaching. They asked if they could share the gospel, and he said he’d just dreamed about them and they should talk away! Having never been to church or heard the gospel, he promptly gave became a follower of Jesus.

· Another witchdoctor, called Cumacareta (meaning ‘tool of the State’) listened to the preaching of some team members and was so impacted that he converted, and said he wanted to change his name to Cumacakriso (meaning ‘tool of Christ’)! He took the team to talk to his wife and she likewise chose to follow Jesus.

That’s just a few snippets. In briefest summary, the statistics read:

* 602 people were sent out in 33 teams, of which 2 teams were not allowed to operate.
* 5,870 people professed faith in Christ for the first time.
* 2,859 backslidden folks chose to come back to Jesus and get stuck in again.
* 36 healings/exorcisms/dramatic miracles took place (a selected few told here).
* 7 witchdoctors burnt their charms and chose new life in Christ.
* 5 Muslims made the costly decision to follow Jesus.

Not as dramatic but no less beautiful is the story of Magongo, pictured on the right. It epitomises the work of all our teams in showing God’s love to people. Magongo had gradually developed this horrific growth in his right eye. He was so disfigured, he would always stay indoors so nobody would see him, and he was so poor he couldn’t afford any hospital treatment at all. Our team heard about him and went to share Christ and pray for him in his hovel. He wasn’t healed physically, but he was healed spiritually, as he surrendered his life to Christ. The team went around the community sharing his story, and raised two thirds of the money needed for him to begin receiving treatment. The whole community was mobilised to bless this broken man – wonderfull!

So thanks to all of you for praying. As for the previous twelve years of this activity, we have seen some stunning things happen. Now beyond converts they need to become disciples, so do pray for that. We’re committed to making it happen. If you want to help us with the follow-up, please donate HERE.

Fabulous news!

God bless you all,

Simon Guillebaud

PS Thanks also to all those who donated for the children to get back to school, we were able to help about 1,500 have uniforms, pens, books, etc. Folks were so grateful, it was an answer to intense prayers. SO GOOD!

family pic in Devon

After another frenetic and fruitful summer of preaching and family fun, the big day has arrived. Tomorrow we embark on our 33-country 10-month preaching and world-schooling tour. I feel a mixture of emotions – excited, daunted, and if I’m honest a tinge of fear.

Why the tinge of fear? Well, we’ve got a good marriage (I usually describe it as great, whilst Lizzie says it’s good!), but I sense it’ll be tested in new ways this year on the road. And the kids are experiencing the pains of transitioning out of the stability of their home in Burundi. None of them wanted to stop living there, but their educational needs somewhat forced our hand. I’m glad they didn’t want to leave, because it means they love the country and will always have great memories of it.

But will we survive the 10-month adventure of a lifetime? Josiah (9) is repeatedly saying: “I don’t want to go on the world tour.” He’s been sick in bed today, so I hope he is on better form tomorrow. Last Christmas, we left Burundi for two weeks in South Africa, and when we returned, he went along the corridor of our house kissing the walls, saying: “I’m so glad to be home!” He’s a home-boy so this is a huge deal. Grace (10) was tearful last night in expressing how she longed to have a home and how it’s not nice being homeless. Zac (12) is OKish but like the others repeatedly states he’d prefer to be returning to Burundi this week to our house, our pets, our friends, as we always did the first week each September up until this year. Naturally they are clinging to the familiar, and we are about to launch out into so many unknowns. These are important but undeniably painful life-lessons in the making…

So time will tell. Some friends are taking bets on how long we’ll last – contact Justin if you want to add your wager! I hope we last all the way – indeed I’m relatively confident we will – but if you could lift up the kids particularly, and our marriage, I’d be grateful. If they plain hate it – a scenario that gave me a sleepless night earlier this week – or Lizzie and I end up at loggerheads, then we’ll return early as there are more important things in life.

I considered setting up a different family blog page for this year, but have decided to post both Burundi news and family news here. If you signed up explicitly for Burundi stuff, I’ll understand if you want to unsubscribe. But if you want to continue to be part of our journey by following our antics as well as getting GLO news, please stay with us.

And please don’t think I’m just bunking off and having a holiday for the year! For example, this coming weekend I’ll be preaching four times in Brussels. There are ministry opportunities all over the place, and my work for GLO continues remotely several hours each day in connecting, networking, fundraising etc as I fly the Burundi flag and grow our support base around the world. Meantime Onesphore is doing a stunning job steering the GLO ship in Burundi, and I’ll feed back to you shortly the beautiful fruit of our summer outreach campaign.

The plan is to attempt to home-school along the way, and we’ll see how that goes. I hope it’ll be an amazing year of discovery and discipleship for the kids, as we experience many different cultures and contexts, and get stuck into various projects wherever we go. It’s a huge privilege to do, so may we maximise it.

That’ll do for now. Below is our schedule:

5th September – leave UK, to France and Belgium
10th September – Netherlands
12th September – Germany
14th September – Denmark
15th September – Sweden
Monday 17th September – Berlin
19th September – Poland
22nd September – Slovakia
25th September – Hungary and Romania
1st October – Bulgaria
4th October – Macedonia
8th October – Albania
12th October – Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia
19th October – Slovenia
23rd October – through Italy to Switzerland
29th October – Germany
31st October – back to UK
7th November – Israel
15th November – Jordan
22nd November – Dubai
Monday 25th November – India
10th December – Myanmar
19th December – Thailand
31st December – Cambodia
9th January – Singapore
10th January – Australia
12th February – New Zealand
18th March – Peru
31st March – USA
1st March – brief foray into Mexico
3rd March – back into USA
20th June – Canada
25th June – back into USA
1st July – oof, back to UK and finding a house to rent in Bath in time for starting school in September!

child in school uniform

Last year at this time I penned the following, which is the same situation today:

Aaarrgh! I write this angry and sad and tearful and frustrated. And I want to write now whilst I feel deeply raw. I’ve said before how I love and hate Burundi in equal measure. I love the people – their faith, generosity, perseverance; but I hate the poverty, injustice and suffering.

I’ve just had a horrible conversation with a wonderful woman. This is the hardest time of the year for folks here, because it’s back to school for the kids – or not, as the case may be. Through tears she pleaded with me on behalf of her staff:

“Simon, we can’t send our children back to school this Monday because we have no money to buy the uniform and school book and pencil. We go without food, sanitary towels, everything, but still can’t make it. It’s often the children of parents in ministry who are the first to drop out. Please, please help my team, I beg you!”

What do I say to that? I love her, her gospel ministry (in this case through the radio), her faithful colleagues working for a pittance (or actually not getting any salary for the last number of months because there’s no money in the kitty).

I’m a parent. My kids have always been able to attend school. If you’re a parent, it probably never crossed your mind that they wouldn’t go to school. What would I not do for my kids? It’s so unfair.

So, my beloved, beautiful, broken Burundi, I hate you at times. How I wrestle with these totally non-abstract issues that smack me in the face daily here…

Will you hear Rachel’s plea through me? One of my roles is as a voice for the voiceless. “Please, please, I beg you!” £20/$25 would get one child back to school for this week for the coming year. Could you help 1, 3, 5, 10?

Her line haunts me: “It’s often the children of parents in ministry who are the first to drop out.”

That is SO WRONG!

We are now directly linked with 510 families and wanting to provide each of them with a gift that will be the answer from God that they have been praying for, so that their their kids are not barred from school. If you want to donate, please click here. If we reach our target, the excess will go into meeting other crucial needs.

Be very blessed today! Be a blessing today!

A famous witchdoctor called Makari received what he thought were prospective ‘clients’ into his den. His reputation went before him and so our evangelists wanted to challenge his authority. When they revealed their identity, the power of God came on him and he fell to the ground. When he came to, he sat and listened to their preaching. He believed in Jesus and asked them to return two days later when he would burn all his charms publicly. When they duly returned, they found Makari had invited all his relatives and other witchdoctor friends. He declared before all of them that he had turned to Christ, and proceeded to burn his charms. At that point our team preached and a further fifty people decided to follow Christ! Makari is now a member of Emmanuel church, along with his family.

In Isale, a team of evangelists went to share the gospel in a bar. While they were talking, a young man became very angry with them. The following day, this antagonistic man came to see them, and gave his life to Christ. He then told them that when they were preaching in the bar he had been about to beat them, but when he had tried to stand up to attack them, he had felt a mighty hand jamming him down in his chair, and that undeniable power is what forced him to surrender his life to Jesus.

Young Libere was on one of our teams in Busiga. He’d never seen a healing miracle. And yet, he found himself witnessing to an old woman who had been paralyzed for three years. He sensed the Lord telling him: “Miracles accompany the preaching of the Word.” So he responded in obedience and faith, and commanded the lady to stand up. She stood up immediately and started dancing with joy! Libere was amazed to see the power and faithfulness of God. He exclaimed: “Now I believe that God is powerful and can work with whoever believes in him regardless of his age or denomination. I will spend the rest of my life proclaiming the love of God.”

 

The above are just a sample of literally hundreds of stories from outreaches undertaken by Harvest Initiatives over the last twelve years. And as of tomorrow, for the next two weeks(4th-18thAugust), we are sending out another 600+ evangelists across the countryfor our annual summer campaign – my favourite activity of the year, and no doubt one of the most beautifulKingdom ventures taking place on the whole planet at this time.We anticipate 1000s of people encountering Jesus and choosing to follow Him.

So this is a plea to pray – daily if you can for the coming fortnight – for our guys to be bold, sensitive, healthy, anointed, effective, united, holy, protected, etc. Interestingly, the one year (of the last twelve) that I didn’t seek massive prayer back-up for this outreach, we experienced much more persecution and logistical problems. So all the more PLEASE PRAY!

I look forward to sharing with you again in the coming days some more stunning stories and statistics of God at work in beautiful Burundi.