Squeezed

What oozes out of you when you are squeezed?

Let me explain.

A favourite quote of mine is by Smith Wigglesworth:

Be filled with the Spirit – that is, be soaked with the Spirit. Be so soaked that every thread in the fabric of your life will have received the requisite rule of the Spirit – and then, when you are misused and squeezed to the wall, all that will ooze out of you will be the nature of Christ.

Suffice to say, Burundians, already living in the world’s poorest and hungriest nation*, are being squeezed to the wall right now in an almost unprecedented way:

  • For several months, there have been debilitating fuel shortages. 
  • Food prices have shot up spectacularly. People simply cannot afford to eat enough and malnourishment is increasing.
  • Power cuts are frequent, affecting refrigeration, medical services, and education. 
  • Authorities implemented an absurd ban on bicycles, motorbikes and tuk-tuks in the capital. As a result, many thousands of the poorest people’s livelihoods have been destroyed.
  • The fuel shortage and the ban mean folks have two options: If you can afford it, join a monster queue for a bus (often a two-hour wait) or walk miles to and from your workplace, school or market in the miserable heat and humidity. 

The squeeze is on amidst much despair and weariness.

I returned from Burundi yesterday, having met with leader after inspiring leader, all oozing Christ during this season of intense squeezing. It was a humble privilege. Beautiful fruit is growing in fertile soil.

The world is in a chaotic mess right now; there are huge needs everywhere. I hate asking, but this is part of the job that the Lord has given me – to seek support for God’s stunning servants.

If you could give a monthly (or one-off) gift, you’ll be helping to bring about transformation in many lives through our health clinics, community agriculture projects, schools, sanitary pad provision for girls, homes and help for widows, street-connected children outreach, Bible distribution, training centres (that enable young women to leave the demeaning cycle of prostitution), and so many more vital initiatives.

And if you can’t give, we understand. Please do pray though – we are a movement steeped in prayer, which is why we are seeing so much lasting fruit amidst so much relentless adversity.

Let me close with Smith Wigglesworth again, as he challenges each one of us:

Live ready. If you have to get ready when the opportunity comes your way, you’ll be too late. Opportunity doesn’t wait, not even while you pray. You must not have to get ready, you must live ready at all times!

How are you doing on that one?! Are you being squeezed?

Here’s to living ready! Here’s to oozing the nature of Christ, whatever you’re going through!

God bless you all!

Simon

Matthew 7:24-29

Watch, listen to or download this sermon I gave last Sunday.

Some notes and cool quotes from the sermon:

Most of us have been educated way beyond the level of our obedience. It’s not about being biblically literate but biblically obedient…

Is your life built on rock? Not feelings… “Believe God’s Word and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your Rock is Christ, and it is not the Rock which ebbs and flows, but your sea.” (Samuel Rutherford)

“The waters are raging and the winds are blowing but I have no fear for I stand firmly upon a rock. What am I to fear? Is it death? Life to me means Christ and death is gain. Is it exile? The earth and everything it holds belongs to the Lord. Is it loss of property? I brought nothing into this world and I will bring nothing out of it. I have only contempt for the world and its ways and I scorn its honours.” Chrysostom’s last sermon which led to his exile.

The thing is, you can’t fake good foundations long-term – there’s a mixture of anger and sadness at high-profile leaders whose lives come crashing down – whether you’ve built your life on metaphorical rock or sand will sooner or later come to light. The foundation’s fragility or solidity is a reality whatever the outward appearance… a sandcastle is easy to build, but washes away with the next incoming tide.

Have we cheated or are we cheating in taking shortcuts with our integrity, our viewing habits, our ill-discipline in affairs of the heart, our spiritual apathy and disengagement, our lack of self-scrutiny in terms of spending patterns, use of time, loose-talking, viewing habits, wandering eyes, jealousy, greed, laziness, vulgarity, pride, judgmentalism?

As Dallas Willard so astutely pointed out, the cost of discipleship is high, but the cost of non-discipleship is even higher. Discipleship in that sense is a bargain: “Non-discipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, non-discipleship costs you exactly the abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring.”

One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him.  Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing piece of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.  Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him.

“Probably not,” one of them answered.  “Good!” he replied.

He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!”

Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.  Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your dreams? A worthy cause? Teaching or mentoring others?

Remember to put these big rocks in first or you’ll never get them in the jar at all. And of course, over and above that, Jesus is the ultimate Big Rock, around which everything else will fit appropriately. 

“We are at war, and the bloody battle is over our hearts. I am astounded how few Christians see this, how little they protect their hearts. We act as though we live in a sleepy little town during peacetime. We don’t. We live in the spiritual equivalent of Bosnia or Beirut. Act like it. Watch over your heart. Don’t let just anything in; don’t let it go just anywhere. What’s this going to do to my heart? is a question that I ask in every situation.” (John Eldredge)

Mike Mason in The Mystery of Marriage on himself in courtship: “A 30-year-old man is like a densely populated city. Nothing can be built… without something else being torn down. To grow effectively, we must realize that we cannot build before we have properly excavated, like a massive skyscraper at the base going deep.”

Smith Wigglesworth gave this challenge to Christians: “Live ready. If you have to get ready when the opportunity comes your way, you’ll be too late. Opportunity doesn’t wait, not even while you pray. You must not have to get ready, you must live ready at all times.

Be filled with the Spirit; that is, be soaked with the Spirit. Be so soaked that every thread in the fabric of your life will have received the requisite rule of the Spirit – then when you are misused and squeezed to the wall, all that will ooze out of you will be the nature of Christ.”

United Christians in Evangelism

Last Sunday night, we had an evening meal with GLO Partner United Christians for Evangelism (UCE). They are a superb outfit doing incredible things on minimal funds, which is what I find so utterly inspiring. When I was last out here in October, we had done an outreach in Gatamba in Karuzi Province, which had been a real adventure and very fruitful – some of you might remember the demon-possessed lady Teresa who had thrown both her shoes at me from the crowd who was then prayed for, set free, and helped to make a fresh go of life having fallen on very hard times.

Well, with this latest visit and team, we joined up again with UCE at a different location, and again there were some beautiful stories including Ananias, who was on his way to kill himself (having just been released from prison after a previous suicide attempt) when he walked past our meeting and encountered God in a powerful way. I love his smile in the photo below, and you can be sure his wife is a happy woman! Click here to hear his own words on what happened at last week’s outreach, as put together by UCE’s Pacifique.

Ananias

Anyway, back to our evening meal. UCE had lined up a few people (as seen above) whose lives had been transformed during the outreach last October, for us to hear their stories. It was very encouraging. Here’s what happened to them at the Gatamba rally (from left to right):

Lambert came to the gospel rally with liver and stomach problems. He was also known as a drunk. But he wanted to be set free, so he came forward for prayer and received God’s touch. On the spot, his desire for alcohol disappeared, and he is a totally new man. As a side note, I have never seen anyone eat as much in one sitting (see below), probably three times my healthy portion – we had a good laugh together about that, he took his eating very seriously!

Lambert eating an extremely full plate of food
Lambert with his unbelievable plate!

Liberate’s brother had told her of UCE’s powerful ministry because he’d been healed previously at one of their rallies. She’d been bedridden for six months with horrific pains from her head to her toes. She’d visited three witch doctors who had only made her poorer and certainly hadn’t helped improve her health. So in her desperation, she was the first to come forward at the Gatamba rally to receive prayer. In her words, she felt ‘a strong warm wind go through my whole body, blowing away all my body pains and leaving me free!’ She is now an active member of her church community.

Rose hadn’t walked for two and a half years. One of her legs was paralyzed, but as she received prayer the paralysis went. She is now back cultivating alongside other women in the community.

Eric had long-term intestinal problems, which medicine and herbal remedies gave fleeting relief to. He heard the noise of the rally, came to listen, sought prayer, gave his life to Jesus, and was healed on the spot. He is now busy evangelising, has joined his church’s choir, and longs for others to encounter the Jesus who changed his life.

Diomede had a seriously swollen knee. After prayer, the swelling disappeared, and he got up on the stage and demonstrated his complete healing. On the back of experiencing that undeniable miracle, he became a follower of Christ Jesus on the spot, and over supper testified that he had never experienced such peace as he does now.

It was a joy meeting them and I like sharing such stories, to stir us in our own faith. Many Burundians are so open, hungry, desperate, and a whole lot less cynical than most of us in the West. They have much to teach us. We thank God for His gracious work in their lives. And keep up the great work, UCE!    

So I’ve been in the USA preaching this week, and felt led to this passage, which is not what a visiting speaker would usually choose if he wanted to get invited back! 

What a passage! Just 9 verses, which include one of the worst and one of the best five verses in the whole Bible (which has 31,102 in total). I started with a few questions to reflect on, but you’ll need to listen to it to get the full impact:

Listen to the audio or download here:

“So I want to start with a question, a crucial question: What do you think about God? Because that’s the most important thing about you.

How much do you want of God? Because nobody has less of God than they want…

How close to God do you want to be? Because you will be as close to God as you want…

You see, if you draw near to God, He will draw near to you (James 4:8). You can have as much of God as you want, and can be as close to Him as you want, but many of us have the wrong conception of God. So we don’t want that much of Him and don’t want Him too close, rather holding Him at arms’ length, having a relationship with Him on our terms, keeping Him in the passenger seat whilst we drive where we want to go. And there’s shocking imagery in this passage that, if you have the wrong conception of God, will only make things worse…”

Jeremy Marshall Still Alive for a Reason Inspired Podcast

How would you be after 37 rounds of chemotherapy and 10 surgeries? In your weakened state, would you like to go onto a football pitch at half-time and share Jesus with 22,000 spectators? Six years ago, Banker CEO Watford-fan Jeremy Marshall was given 18 months to live. He’s still alive and making the most of every opportunity. His story is so inspiring, challenging and stirring!

Four of my friends have died of cancer in the last few months. All of us have lost someone we care about, and all of us know people who are journeying right now on that difficult path. That is why I wanted to share this podcast with you – for you to listen, and then to forward on to someone else who is hurting and in need of encouragement.

So here’s the episode. You won’t regret taking the time.

Listen on Apple Podcasts inspired with Simon Guillebaud
Listen on Spotify Inspired with Simon Guillebaud

More about Inspired… with Simon Guillebaud

Here is a talk I gave yesterday on being made in the image of God. Below is some of the material I shared:

Some guests were visiting an orphanage and shared the Christmas story with the children for their first time ever. They sat, enthralled, and were then given materials to re-create the manger scene. All was going to plan until one of the visitors spotted six-year-old Abu’s efforts – he had put two babies in the manger. He was asked to repeat the story, and he did so perfectly until the end when he made up his own version. 

He went on: “And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had anywhere to stay. I told him both my mamma and my papa are dead, so I didn’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him that wasn’t possible, because I didn’t have a present to give him like everybody else did… But I so wanted to stay with Jesus that I wondered if there was anything at all of mine I could offer him as a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus: ‘If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?’ And Jesus told me: ‘If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him – for always.” 

As little Abu finished his story, his eyes filled up with tears. He then slumped down on the table and began sobbing deeply. This precious little orphan had found someone at last who would never abandon him or let him down, someone who would stay with him – as he put it – for always.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.

But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.

C.S. Lewis: —The Weight of Glory (HarperOne, 2001), pp. 45-46

Wow! That’ll change how you treat yourself, and your neighbour. Respect, dignity, honour…

Michael Parkinson once asked Dawn French during an interview what had given her her self-esteem and confidence in herself. She replied:

“I’ve tried to wonder what it was that gave me confidence from early on, and I can only put it down to my Dad. I remember that there was a night when I was going to go out to a disco, and I was really ready to have sex with anybody who wanted to ask me. I had some purple suede hot pants that I thought I looked great in. And my father called me into his office and sat me down, and I thought, “I’m going to get the lecture, blah blah.” And instead of giving me a lecture about what time to be home or any of that he just said to me, “you are the most precious thing in our lives and you are beautiful, and you are worthy of anybody who shows you any attention. You shouldn’t feel grateful for the scraps that any other girls leave behind: you should have the best.” And I went out, and in fact no boy came within ten yards of me! I wouldn’t allow them because they were beneath me. He just gave me a bit of self-esteem.”

Now this talk is about much more than self-esteem, although the lack of self-esteem is a feature of our broken society and culture. Hear this powerful story from a very different society and culture:

Johnny Lingo lived on the island of Nurabi, and he was one of the richest men in all the islands.  He got that way because he was a smart trader.  And Johnny Lingo was in love with Surita, who lived on the neighbouring Island of Kiriwadi.

If you were kind, you would call Surita “plain.”

Now on the island of Kiriwadi, they had a tradition, that when a man wanted to marry a woman, he would go to the woman’s father and bargain for the woman by offering a number of cows.  The average woman on Kiriwadi went for 4 cows; the most beautiful woman on Kiriwadi had gone for 6 cows.

Sam Korad, the father of Surita, had decided he was going to ask for 2 cows for Surita, but that he would accept one.

On the day of the trading, all the people of both islands gathered to watch.  This was the social event of the year.  And imagine their surprise when Johnny Lingo offered Sam Korad EIGHT COWS for Surita!  Everyone said, “He’s mad!  He’s blind!  Why would a man – a smart trader – offer eight cows for a woman he could have married for one?”

Well, here’s the reason.  They got married, and in 6 months Surita had become the most beautiful woman in all the islands.

She had been given value.  And she blossomed.

We all have the same value in the eyes of Jesus Christ.  He paid exactly the same price for you and for me as he paid for Billy Graham or Mother Theresa or Simon Peter..

We are all eight cow saints.  And so is everyone around you. The value of something or someone is determined by the cost someone is willing to pay, and God was willing to pay with the blood of his only Son, so that shows how much we are worth.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13,14

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his (Eliab) appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

Hope is in the air. 

Francine is widowed with 7 children. Life is unbelievably tough. Her ‘house’ is a hovel – actually probably quite like the stable Jesus began his life in – without a toilet, electricity, or a front door to lock and provide security. 
But with your help, their lives (and others) will be radically transformed this Christmas!

ICJ’s work in Murwi is about so much more than hand-outs. We’ve come alongside the poorest of the poor to journey with them out of extreme poverty. We’ve built a community centre with electricity so the kids can do their homework at night. We’ve taught them farming methodologies. We’ve given out animals to provide a livelihood. We’re building them solid basic houses.  

Take a look at how desperate their situations are in this short clip:

So this Christmas, let’s get Francine in her own home. And through our various local partners, let’s provide more hope, to her and others. It may be in the form of a goat or a sewing machine, basic farming skills, attending literacy classes, schooling for children, or having access to God’s Word. It’s very practical and very impacting. Every bit helps, please give whatever you can.

The timing of my last visit to Burundi was in order to attend the strategic congress launched by Burundi Mission Alliance. It was the brainchild of Onesphore Manirakiza, so I asked him to write a report in summary. Over to you, Onesphore:

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; It will surely come; it will not delay.”

Habakkuk 2:3

It had been always my dream to see church leaders from different churches in Burundi sit around the table discussing local and global mission. I held this dream from 1997 when God called me to be a part of such a movement which seemed so inconceivable at the time. The reality on the ground was so very different. There were many obstacles preventing it from happening. The repeated civil wars had divided the churches along ethnic lines, but also many churches had lost their commitment to unity and collaboration, instead competing and undermining each other.

I had to wait until 2017 to see the first gathering of leaders from different denominations and backgrounds celebrating the introduction of the gospel in Burundi and its impact on society. We had the opportunity to meet those (or the living descendants of those) who brought us the gospel. That was 20 years on from when I first had the dream of a mission conference. During that particular conference, missionaries to Burundi prophetically handed over the responsibility to indigenous leaders.

onesphore-manirakiza

What had begun as an event (mission congress) gave birth to a mission movement. The following year, we had a follow-up conference during which leaders expressed the need of a platform that would host and facilitate this movement of taking the gospel from the heart of Africa to the ends of the earth. That is how the Burundi Mission Alliance was born gathering 3 denominations, 3 independent churches and 5 para-church organizations and operating through 7 task forces in order to catalyze a missional movement from Burundi to the nations.

We met again this year in another mission conference to celebrate the achievements we had made thus far and to remind each other that local churches are indispensable in mission. We had 150 delegates from different denominations, independent churches and local mission organisations.

During our plenary sessions, we had a breakthrough where you could see that people wanted to overcome the historical barriers that divided the church of Burundi and prevented it from participating in the global mission. The leaders of the Baptist Union shared with the participants how missionaries and the first Burundian leaders had worked in unity and had been able to overcome the divisions in the country and the persecution against the emerging evangelical church.

Younger delegates were moved to hear leaders of the Baptist church – just about every Baptist pastor was murdered in 1972 – affirming and thanking the leaders of the Anglican church for the role they played in protecting their churches for 7 years. The Holy Spirit used that holy moment to unite participants and heal the wounds of the past. You could sense God’s reconciling Spirit tangibly filling the room.

It is with tears of joy that I am writing these sentences.

Many of us who had been waiting for this time were convinced that the Lord was bringing to a close a dark chapter in the history of the church in Burundi and opening a new chapter of hope, unity and partnership in local and global mission.

Simon guillebaud

How have we come to this momentum? The Lord has been putting together the pieces of the puzzle during the last 20 years. Simon Guillebaud came to Burundi as a missionary following in the footsteps of his ancestors back in 1999. Though his beginnings were small (working with Scripture Union), he quickly came up with a vision of empowering the body of Christ in Burundi for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). That is how Great Lakes Outreach was born. When he came back from 2 years in the USA back in 2012, he started gathering the leaders of the organisations GLO was supporting in a monthly breakfast meeting. Those meetings became a great connector that transformed former competitors into genuine co-workers.

When the crisis broke out in 2015, those leaders were among the few in the country who could stand up and speak for peace and non-violence. What had begun as evil God turned it to be a blessing for the Burundian church. We formed CIP (Christian Initiatives for Peace) through which our trust increased and led us to this missional movement.

I am so grateful to the Lord who has orchestrated all these things. I honour my dear friend and colleague Simon for having laid down his life as a worker for the renewal of the Burundian Church. May the Lord bless all the people who responded to Simon’s call for help from his first step in Burundi until now. God used them to fuel this vision and catalyze the transformation in Burundi. What was a dream twenty years ago is now a vision and has many leaders to accomplish it. Praise the Lord!

There are a few reasons why Innocent is the skinniest healthy guy I know. His stories are nuts. Read on…

He realised as a young man that he had the gift of healing. On one occasion, he prayed for a hunchback who had been bent over for 18 years. The man immediately straightened up, and piled him high with avocadoes in gratitude!

Another time, he was leading one of our Harvest Initiatives outreach teams, and they were taking a lunch break after the Sunday service. Two non-verbal (the currently PC term, I gather, for someone who can’t speak) girls asked him to pray for their healing. He left his team members eating, led the two girls into a room, and said to God: “Lord, even if I have to stay here three days, I won’t give up praying until you heal them!” Actually, within ten minutes they’d started crying audibly, and were indeed completely healed. He took them to the choir practice, and said: “Hey, I’ve got you two new choir members!” The head chorister said: “Don’t mess us around, we know those girls are mute!” Innocent turned to the girls: “Did you hear what he said? Anything you want to tell him?” They opened their mouths and started singing a worship song! Three of the choir members fell to their knees whilst others gasped and burst into tears! The two hadn’t said a word in over a decade.

Wow!

However, he says it comes at a cost. He fasts two days a week, and sometimes for much longer. “It’s tiring digging deep in the Spirit and seeking God’s face, there is a real battle going on. And I come from a relatively well-off family. My Mum and sisters are fat (fat is good in the culture, not an insult at all!). I’m the skinny one. When I used to go into the bush on my evangelistic outings, I ate rubbish and had lots of stomach issues. They don’t believe in Jesus, and so don’t understand why I’m willing to suffer so much. Once they said to me, ‘You’re so skinny, we’re going to tie you up so you don’t go back upcountry!’”

He gets no encouragement or support from home. He’s getting married to Khelia on the 20th November, and his salary is only $60/month, which is ridiculous considering the amazing work he’s doing in raising up young school kids as leaders to fulfil their potential. The family has said: “Well, if you want to go ahead with the wedding, we’re not helping you, let’s see your God provide!” Indeed, He will.

Purpose Discovery is the name of the organisation Innocent started. It’s all about helping young people discover and embrace their purpose in life. His vision is that of an emerging generation on fire for God transforming their communities through their respective spheres of influence – sounds good to me – which is why we’re backing him as one of our new key strategic leaders.

If anyone wants to connect with Innocent, or help make the wedding day a stunning testimony of God’s provision, message me and I’d love to share this friend with you! I’ll post his wedding picture in a few weeks’ time.

Greetings from Burundi! There is so much good to report from my short visit (49 meetings and counting so far after seven days), but I thought I’d just share a couple of beautiful encounters to stir your faith. GLO’s motto is ‘Transforming Burundi and Beyond’, and I love how stories from Burundi encourage you in the ‘Beyond’ around the world, wherever you are as you read this. Here goes, as posted on facebook:

Simon and abdoul

I met with Abdoul today. He’s a brave man.

He used to be in charge of 15 mosques, and prided himself in zealously winning Christians over to Islam. He did regular public debates, and became troubled by vivid dreams of Jesus calling him. As he studied the Koran and the Bible, he was struck how the Koran talked of guiding ‘in the right way’ (Surat 1:6) whilst Jesus said ‘I am the Way’ (John 14:6). It was so costly when he decided to follow the Way. He lost everything, was kicked out of his community, and survived a grenade attack and a machete-wielding mob of Muslims angry at his apostasy. But he wouldn’t flee. He’s carried on living humbly, boldly and consistently. He’s been offered $20k to return to Islam, as well as a house, but he’s adamant that nothing can woo him, as he struggles to provide for his family on the $100/month we give him. He’s written a resource used in many churches, and is fearless in living out and sharing the freedom and joy he has found in Jesus. Again, as with so many of my brothers and sisters out here, I am challenged and struck to the core by their willingness to suffer for their faith.

Abdoul, my brother, I salute you!

Also, when preaching at a mass rally in the bush last Saturday, a demon-possessed lady threw her shoes at me from the crowd. It was even caught on film. She was led away behind the stage, prayed for by the intercessors, and delivered. Her name is Teresa. What a smile she has!

A flavour of the rally, including the shoe-throwing moment!

She told those praying for her how she’d been to many churches previously, asking to be set free from the voices in her head. “Those voices were telling me to be violent and abusive to people, and that’s why I came to your meeting as well.”

Now, as you can see, she has been beautifully set free (we have an extended interview with her which I’ve not included). She also had terrible problems sleep-talking and sleep-walking, and those have gone as well.

We are committed to journeying with her, helping her and her family with housing and clothing. Just wonderful!

It’s interesting to me because a (typically Western) secular materialistic worldview doesn’t have room for the idea of demon-possession. Even many Christians (through lack of experience maybe) struggle to believe that demons are real. So with the above undeniable story (unless you want to think we staged it!), it would be reframed as mental illness. Honestly, it could just have been mental illness, but it’s still a miracle!

Again, I’m trying to put myself fully in the sceptic’s shoes… apart from us staging it (surely not), then what would have given this lady the courage to completely expose herself to public ridicule and shame in front of such a crowd? And the timing could not have been precise, as she (they) chose the exact strategic moment to kick things off when I was calling the crowd to make a commitment. 

For what it’s worth, I think mental health (extremely common) is very real, and demon-possession (unusual) is also very real. They are absolutely not the same. Medicines can be helpful for those suffering with mental health issues, but the secular mindset would misdiagnose demons – because it cannot accommodate them in its worldview – under the banner of mental health, and therefore prescribe medicine as a cure. But medicine helps a physical condition, not a spiritual one; medicine as a physical solution can’t effectively address a spiritual condition, if someone is indeed demonised. That is (one of) the West’s (many) blindspots.

It’s a huge area for discussion, but there’s some food for thought!

Anyway, I just thank God for precious Teresa’s miracle, and am cheering her on in her new chapter of freedom.

And lastly, King’s Conference Centre. Honestly, it’s been my biggest ministry headache over the two decades of involvement in Burundi. This second phase has taken 12 years so far. It’s nearly finished and is a massive beast. But wow! It is genuinely beautiful, and is raking in money now having re-established us as the best conference venue in the country. It is rammed almost every day, people love it, and that just means lots more profits can be ploughed back into God’s work in Burundi. Beautiful! Take a quick look here:

So many positives, so much more to share, but that’s a taster. I hope it encourages you, stirs faith, and challenges you to be all in for Jesus – that’s the gift that Burundi has given me.

God bless you loads!

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