‘We believe…’ series, ‘in the resurrection of the dead’ – Revelation 21:1-8
Do click on the above link to listen to a recent talk I gave at Holycross on Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. Belief in the resurrection brings confidence, comfort and challenge. Below are a few of the juicy quotes I shared:
Dallas Willard: “We should not think of ourselves as destined to be celestial bureaucrats, involved eternally in celestial ‘administrivia’. That would be only slightly better than being caught in an everlasting church service. No, we should think of our destiny as being absorbed in a tremendously creative team effort, with unimaginably splendid leadership, on an inconceivably vast plane of activity, with ever more comprehensive cycles of productivity and employment.”
C.S.Lewis: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
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.”
It was said of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, that she ‘loved the truth enough to live it’. Will we?
I’ve purposefully hardly shared about our travels this year – choosing to live in the present and not putting it all ‘out there’. So the focus of this blog has been largely on Burundi; but many of you have asked about our travels, so here’s one way of reporting back – and others have been asking about our summer plans, so I’ll paste details of them below as well:
43,000 miles in travel
1,700 new GLO supporters for our database
304 days away, of which…
284 days staying with people (so only 20 days in hotels or AirBnB)
$220 for my root canal in Poland instead of the £650 quoted by my dentist in the UK
102 speaking engagements
81 different beds slept in
63 dogs loved and played with, and then sadly parted from
51 friends from Burundi hooked up with
48 incredibly generous families/friends we stayed with
34 countries visited
27 airplanes flown
25 meltdowns (approximately), all but 5 of which were during home-schooling, and most of them by the kids!
24 total number of cars in the WHOLE of Albania in 1991 – my favourite weird statistic of the year – and we were hosted by the first woman driver in the country
21 days without a shower/bath – so Josiah claims – but surely not?! Maybe 9 days I reckon! Zac on a par with him…
15 boat trips
14 times Jos wrote in his journal ‘and we walked, and we walked, etc’ describing a 90-minute excursion down a hill on what was ‘the worst day of my life’!
9kg of luggage each, see photo below
10 times ‘You’ve ruined my life!’ howled during home-schooling – my favourite lament!
8 trains (highlight being 1stclass tickets in Myanmar costing $4 for 6 of us for a two-hour journey out of the capital)
I never thought I would be writing an email about sanitary towels and now it has happened twice (the first is here).
Thousands of girls in Burundi give up school every year because they don’t have any sanitary towels. They are simply too ashamed and embarrassed to go to school anymore, so they give up. But without education they are stuck in abject poverty.
Then along comes Eva, a local Burundian girl. If Eva were on Dragon’s Den she could be one of the most successful entrepreneurs ever.
Her brilliant solution is to manufacture re-usable sanitary towels from cloth and to distribute them at a very low price in schools, talking to girls to let them know how important it is to stay in school for as long as they can. She is battling the odds, and changing the culture by addressing one of the most crying needs of the day.
Last year we helped Eva get started. Already she and her team have made thousands of reusable sanitary towels for young girls, helping them stay in education, so that they have a hope and a future. She works in partnership with women’s organisations who also distribute the towels and promote education. Beautiful!
Now Eva wants to help thousands more girls over the coming year, in multiple schools, with a re-usable sanitary towel, also providing much-needed employment for those who make the towels. Eva has targeted the poorest provinces where very few girls have sanitary protection. She just wrote to let me know that she will have to stop her plans unless she gets the funds soon.
How can we resist helping her?
If you’d like to be part of this, giving even the poorest girls a hope and a future, please click here
Nobody would have ever believed it possible, but it has indeed happened.
There is always hope, even in the most apparently hopeless situations.
So I just wanted to share the joy of Freddy (formerly-melted-faced-beggar-now-graduated-with-distinction-from-university-and-married) and Floride having their first baby yesterday. Oli weighed in at 3.5kg and came into this world by C-section.
For your prayers, he’s trying to get set up with a new pharmacy business, but it’s hard to do it honestly, which is causing significant delays. May there be a breakthrough somehow.
Wishing them all joy and success in their new adventure together!
At the height of the crisis in the 1990s, when he was a student at university, someone threw a grenade into Leonidas’ dormitory. Nobody was killed on that occasion, but amongst his many shrapnel wounds, the piece that lodged in his eye has caused ongoing issues ever since. Yet he is not one to seek revenge or harbour feelings of resentment or bitterness.
Leonidas is one of our turbo-charged evangelists, preaching forgiveness and reconciliation around the country through Scripture Union. He’s been greatly used, and continues serving faithfully through many constant challenges.
I love highlighting stories of hope when so often all you hear is the bad stuff. Keep it up Leonidas and SU!
Sorry if you’ve already seen this, we’ve had some horrible technical glitches over the last few days.
I’d like to invite you to join with us today in answering the prayer request of a little boy in Burundi called Theogene.
Theogene is an orphan who lives with his brother in a makeshift shack in Ciya province, cobbled together with banana leaves from the bush. His parents were killed when he was tiny and he and his brother have struggled to survive ever since. Hunger is a constant reality. School fees are prohibitively expensive and Theogene simply cannot afford the essential uniform and stationery. Without education and ‘Christ’s hands and feet’, he and his brother will stay stuck in the cruel cycle of poverty and deprivation. There seems no way out for Theogene and so many others like them.
Or so you might have thought…
Theogene and his friends have already shown amazing initiative in facing their challenges. They got together with other fatherless children who couldn’t afford school, and began to grow aubergines.
They not only managed to grow the aubergines but they also sold them and made a small profit. After that, and with a little help and support from GLO, they created a community fund to pay for their schooling and uniform. Beautiful!
But the money is running out, so they’ve prayed about it and have asked for help to buy rabbits. They want to start farming rabbits!
Can you be the answer to Theogene’s prayer?
With your help and support, the team can intervene over the coming months with rabbits and so much more; life skills, discipleship and community development. A significant number of folks in the community have already come to faith through our engagement, working with our partner, J-Life.
Could you help Theogene and others like him this Easter?
A litter of six rabbits costs just £12/$15. Providing a Kirundi Bible costs £7/$9. You can also support Theogene and his brother to grow in God’s ways through Bible classes, visits and training, which costs the team around £45/$59 for three months.
A group of widows in the community are equally enterprising and plan to start a soap-making enterprise, which will cost £988/$1293 to set up.
If you’d like to provide some real Easter hope for Theogene, his brother, the widows and their friends, and help them escape poverty for good, please go to www.greatlakesoutreach.org/donate
Enjoy some chocolate rabbits or eggs this Easter, but more importantly, here’s to empowering many precious people with real ‘Easter resurrection rabbits’!
In the West, in nations not obviously faced with severe constraints on freedom of religion, people can easily trot out the glib pronouncements that all religions are the same, that your truth is whatever works for you, that Islam is a religion of peace, etc. But our experience on the ground would suggest otherwise. Moza’s story is a common one in Burundi.
And it is as offensive to Muslims as it is to Christians to say their religions are the same, that whatever works for you is fine. They are fundamentally different. We are called to love and respect each other completely, but not dumb down our differences and compromise our belief systems. I think our approach is honouring to both sides, and this beautiful short film avoids inflammatory rhetoric that is easy to slip into.
If anyone wants to support our work in this area, there are many folks who are suffering for choosing the Truth, and they need support, having been kicked out of their families (like Moza), lost their chance to go to school, etc.
On the back of last week’s Phone-Call/Email from God, I got this brilliant response from a friend, which I wanted to share with you:
I know friends who read your emails and they are hungry for more of God. However, there is a passiveness in the ‘waiting for the phone call’. They are paralysed by the big end to the stories and they don’t know how to get there.
You have a powerful voice and many people read your emails what would be amazing would be to hear you encourage those first baby steps. There are few people who will read your email and reply to say ‘yes take me to Burundi’ (I know that isn’t just what you are asking), but there are plenty of people who maybe would be encouraged to take a first baby step. This could be simply cooking a meal regularly for a local neighbour, prayer walking their area, stopping to talk to a homeless person, choosing to help at Foodbank, there are endless examples.
For our journey, it started with inviting a group of mothers each week to our small apartment for an afternoon of chaos (five 3-year-old boys in a small space) and eating a meal together – how lonely those mothers were and how precious that time became – to me serving as a chair of governors at our local school which was so hard, yet now I am in conversation with the council about a city-wide education initiative using a project based learning linked with schools in Brazil. My husband followed a desire to find a house for some refugees and 18 months on finds he has started and now runs a city housing festival with nationwide impact.
I look back and think I waited too long for my ‘phone call’ moment. Actually we needed to get on and do… Ed Silvoso says start with asking someone you know what their needs are…
They are little steps but they start the adventure.
I guess what I am asking is please encourage people in your emails to take the first small step. The rest is up to God! As Christians, I think we get focused on the big ending and that can be intimidating as we don’t know how to get there, but how our hearts long for it! All our testimonies start with a small step.
She’s so right. Thank you, Jo! I hope what she wrote above is a helpful corrective and encouragement, and I’m genuinely sorry if my email(s) elicited anything negative in you, that’s the last thing I’d want.
Indeed, I look back on the Burundi adventure, and it was filled with many small steps. The first step was the prayer: ‘I’ll do anything, go anywhere!’ Then came the language-learning, the cultural adaptation, the building of relationships and trust.
Step by step, the hard yards.
So let’s not feel condemned, inadequate or passed by. As Oswald Chambers said: “It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional thing for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.”
A phone call changed the trajectory of my life. Many of you know the story already.* And this weekend, we hung out with a man (pictured above, Lizzie and I, with Ted and Lorraine) for whom likewise a phone call rocked his world and gave it a remarkable trajectory. I want to share his story because you don’t need a phone call to experience what he and I have, but the potential of being open and ready to say ‘yes!’ is simply extraordinary.
Ted Bosveld was visiting Rwanda in 2006 when his phone rang. It was my best Burundian buddy Freddy on the line. He’d never met Ted, but he asked him to jump on a bus and come down to Burundi to see what was going on there with Youth for Christ. Ted knew nothing about Burundi, and declined.
He continues the story: “After my return to Australia, this conversation with a man I had never met, in a country I had never heard of, with a request I knew in my soul was way out of my comfort zone, beyond anything I had ever imagined doing, challenged me for many sleepless nights. It was a request to go to the world’s poorest country to help house and feed orphans.
I grappled with this for many months without ever communicating to Freddy my inner unrest. Finally, in December 2006, I emailed Freddy explaining all that had been challenging me over the past months since we had spoken on the phone. His reply was quick. He explained that he and his YFC team had been praying every Wednesday for a man named Ted from Australia, a man they had never met, from a country most of them had never heard of before. They were believing that God would move and do the miraculous. They believed that God would send someone from Tasmania, Australia, which is about as far away from Burundi as you can get. They were believing the impossible, from a God to whom nothing is impossible.”
To cut a long story short, Ted – a regular bloke working in the construction industry – started a charity called Villages of Life, and came alongside Freddy and GLO partner Youth for Christ. He started small, steadily mobilised others to join him in the vision, and twelve years later, there are now seven homes, a community centre / medical clinic, the best-ranked school in Cibitoke province with 430-plus students, and a sustainability farming project, with more in the pipeline.
Two phone calls. Two different stories.
Now, this isn’t a phone call, it’s a blog.
But it’s an invitation to ‘do a Ted’. As we sat on his patio and reminisced over a BBQ, I was struck by how God can use any of us in truly extraordinary ways.
My invitation today – not appropriate to some of you, no doubt – is to ‘flag’ this blog or put it in your ‘important’ folder, and then pray and ask God if He would take your life and write a Ted-type story, in Burundi or elsewhere in this needy world. And if you would say ‘yes’ to God, maybe in 12 years we could have a BBQ at your place and reminisce about the journey from that blog… why not?
If you’d like to write that story in Burundi, we’re as good a place as any. We’ve got some massive needs to address. Might God use you, starting small, to do something beautiful that impacts many lives? Give me a shout, and let’s do it together!
* I’d been praying: “God, I’ll do anything, go anywhere.” A man came to me asking/telling me I should go to Burundi. So I asked God for a radical sign about Burundi, sat at my desk job. I promptly took a call, and the voice on the other end asked me out of the blue: “Do you know anyone who wants to work in Burundi?” That was my call to Burundi, and it completely transformed and defined the last twenty years of my life.