This is a sermon from a few months ago given at Spring Harvest in Skegness. My given title was ‘Living in the Light and Living as Light’

Ephesians 5:8-13 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.’ 

(Skip to 8 mins 46 seconds for the start of the talk. With thanks to Spring Harvest for the video)

Below are some of the stories and quotes I shared:

Christian Fuhrer, pastor of Nikolaikirche in Leipzig, East Germany, committed to pray for peace. Loads of youth showed up to join him. By 1989, there were huge meetings, but sometimes half the congregation was the State Security Police, sent to monitor what was going on. On October 7, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was due to celebrate its 40th anniversary. President Gorbachev, the author of the movement for openness and Perestroika, attended from the Soviet Union. Naturally, the government did not want the occasion to be used for any kind of public expression of discontent. But in Leipzig, for ten long hours police battered and bullied defenceless demonstrators who made no attempt to fight back. Many were taken away in police vehicles.

In this heightened atmosphere, just two days later, Monday 9th October, the peace prayers were to be held. The government warned protesters that any further demonstrations would not be tolerated. All day long, the police and military tried to intimidate them with a hideous show of force. Schools and shops in the city were shut down. Roadblocks were built. The police had guns loaded with live ammunition. Soldiers with tanks were mobilized and surrounded the central area. Extra beds and blood plasma had been assembled in the Leipzig hospitals. Rumors from many reliable sources circulated that the government intended to use the “Chinese Solution” and repeat the massacre of Tienanmen Square in Beijing.

To neutralize and perhaps disrupt the prayer meeting, 1000 party members and Stasi arrived at the church early. Six hundred of them filled the nave by 2 p.m. But as Führer said: “They had a job to perform. What had not been considered was the fact that these people were exposed to the word, the gospel and its impact! I was always glad the Stasi agents heard the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount every Monday. Where else would they hear these?”

So the stage was set, the actors assembled for the climactic Monday prayer service. Huge numbers came out to pray, not only at the Nikolai Church but at other churches throughout the city, which had joined the peace prayers. During the service, the atmosphere and the prayers were serenely calm. As he prepared to send the people out into the streets, Pastor Führer made a final plea to the congregation to refrain from any form of violence or provocation. The Sermon on the Mount was again read aloud.

As the doors opened for the worshipers to depart, something unforgettable happened…

The 2000 people leaving the sanctuary were welcomed by tens of thousands waiting outside with candles in their hands. That night an estimated 70,000 people marched around the main city streets. Though the police and the military were everywhere, Pastor Führer said: “Our fear was not as big as our faith … Two hands are needed to carry a candle and to protect it from extinguishing. So you cannot carry stones or clubs at the same time.”

It was later reported that Horst Sindemann, a serving member of the Central Committee of the GDR, summed up both the extensive preparations of the authorities as well as their inability to know how to respond to the events of that evening: “We had planned for everything. We were prepared for everything. But not for candles and prayers.” A month later the Berlin Wall was breached, and the whole Communist edifice crumbled away.

From our passage: v11,13 ‘Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them… But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light’. 

Similar scenes occurred just over a thousand miles away in Romania, where things were heating up, and candles being used there as well. Lead by the incredibly brave Pastor of the Hungarian Reformed Church called pastor Laszlo Tokes, loads of youth were coming to faith, and church membership swelled to 5000.

Authorities stationed police officers in front of the church on Sundays, cradling machine guns. They hired thugs to attack Pastor Tokes. They confiscated his ration book so he couldn’t buy food or fuel. Finally, in December 1989, they decided to send him into exile. But when police arrived to hustle Pastor Tokes away, they were stopped cold. Around the entrance of the church stood a wall of humanity. Members of other churches – Baptist, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Catholic, and others – had joined together to protest.

Though police tried to disperse the crowd, the people held their post all day and into the night. Then, just after midnight, a 19-year-old Baptist student named Daniel Gavra pulled out a packet of candles. He lit one and passed it to his neighbour.

The crowd stayed all through the day – and the next night. Finally police broke through. They bashed in the church door, bloodied Pastor Tokes’ face, and then paraded him and his wife through the crowd and out into the night. But that was not the end. The people streamed to the city square and began a full-scale demonstration against the Communist government. Again Daniel passed out his candles. This was more than the government could tolerate. They brought in troops and ordered them to open fire on the crowd. Hundreds were killed. Young Daniel felt a searing pain as his leg was blown off. But the people of Timisoara stood bravely against the barrage of bullets.

And by their example they inspired the entire population of Romania. Within days the nation had risen up and the bloody dictator Ceausescu was gone.

For the first time in half a century, Romanians celebrated Christmas in freedom.

Daniel celebrated in the hospital, where he was learning to walk with crutches. His pastor came to offer sympathy, but Daniel wasn’t looking for sympathy. “Pastor, I don’t mind so much the loss of a leg,” he said. “After all, it was I who lit the first candle.”

On Friday, December 22nd, Rev. Peter Dugulescu was on a balcony overlooking the city’s opera square when official word came of the overthrow of Ceausescu… the people started to shout, enthusiastically: “God exists!” “There is a God.”

Dugulescu said, “With some 150,000 people in the square, I asked the crowd that in these great, historic and critical moments we should pray together the prayer, ‘Our Father, Who Art in Heaven’. Without being asked to do it, all of them knelt down, facing the cathedral I prayed in the microphone, and they repeated after me.”

Daniel’s candle that lit up an entire country, but it cost him his leg.

Letting your light shine is costly. There will be casualties. But what a line! “Pastor, I don’t mind so much the loss of a leg,” he said. “After all, it was I who lit the first candle.”

You can light that first candle down your street. A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. 

Saint Telemachus, a fourth-century monk who lived in a monastery, felt God calling him to Rome.  He couldn’t figure out why God would want him in Rome, but he felt the pressure to go.  Putting his possessions in a little satchel, he threw the bag over his shoulder and started out over the dusty, westward roads to Rome. When he got to Rome, people were running about the city in great confusion. He had arrived on a day when the gladiators were going to fight both other gladiators and animals in the amphitheater. Everyone was heading to the amphitheater to watch the entertainment. So Telemachus thought this must be why God had called him to Rome. 

He walked into the amphitheater. He sat down among the 80,000 people who cheered as the gladiators came out proclaiming, “Hail Caesar! We die to the glory of Caesar.” The little monk thought to himself, here we are, four centuries after Christ, in a civilised nation, and people are killing one another for the entertainment of the crowd.  This isn’t Christian! Telemachus got up out of his seat, ran down the steps, climbed over the wall, walked out to the centre of the amphitheater, and stood between two large gladiators.  Putting his hands up, he cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop!”  The crowd laughed and jeered. One of the gladiators slapped Telemachus in the stomach with his sword and sent him spinning off into the dust.

Telemachus got up and again stood between the two huge gladiators.  He repeated, “In the name of Christ, stop.”  This time the crowd chanted “Run him through!”  One of the gladiators took his sword and ran it through Telemachus’s stomach.  He fell into the dust and the sand turned red as blood ran out of him.  One last time, Telemachus weakly cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop.”  

He died on the amphitheater floor. The crowd grew silent, and within minutes they emptied out of the amphitheater. History records that, thanks to Saint Telemachus, this was the last gladiatorial contest in the history of the Roman Empire.

Verse 11 of our passage says ‘Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.’ Saint Telemachus changed the course of history. So can you. God loves to use one person to make a big difference in the world – and God wants to use you.

William Booth’s last speech to Salvation Army: “While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight. While little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight. While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight. While there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight – I’ll fight to the very end!”

Philippians 2:14-16:  ‘Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.’ 

Paul urges us to “Hold firmly to the word of life!”

What could that mean for you? A young lady working in a factory in Lancashire complained to her vicar: “I cannot stick it out any longer. I am the only Christian in the factory where I work. I get nothing but taunts and sneers. It is more than I can stand. I am going to resign.” 

“Will you tell me,” asked the vicar, “where lights are placed?” “What has that to do with it?” the young Christian asked him rather bluntly. “Never mind,” the minister replied. “Answer my question: Where are lights placed?” “I suppose in dark places,” she replied. “Yes, and that is why you have been put in that factory where there is such spiritual darkness and where there is no other Christian to shine for the Lord.”

The young lady realized for the first time the opportunity that was hers. She felt she could not fail God by allowing her light to go out. She went back to the factory with renewed determination to let her light shine in that dark corner. Before long, she was the means of leading nine other girls to the Light.

You can’t blame the dark for being dark, you have to blame the light for not shining on it. Where is God calling you to shine? What might it look like?

Professor Joad, who was converted from atheism to Christ said, “Trying to find happiness from this world is like trying to light up a dark room by lighting a succession of matches. You strike one, it flickers for a moment, and then it goes out. But when you find Jesus Christ, it’s as though the whole room is suddenly flooded with light.”

In Patricia St John’s ‘Treasures of the Snow’, Annette talking to Grandmother: “If you hated someone, you couldn’t ask Jesus to come into your life, could you?” “If you hate someone, it just shows how badly you need to ask Him to come in. The darker the room, the more it needs the light to come in.” “But I couldn’t stop hating Lucien.” “No, you’re quite right. None of us can stop ourselves thinking wrong thoughts, and it isn’t much good trying. But Annette, when you come down in the morning and find this room dark with the shutters down, do you say to yourself, I must chase away the darkness and the shadows first, and then I will open the shutters and let in the sun? Do you waste time trying to get rid of the dark?” “Of course not!” “Then how do you get rid of the dark?” “I pull back the shutters, of course, and then the light just comes in!” “But what happens to the dark?” “I don’t know; it just goes when the light comes!” “That is exactly what happens when you ask Jesus to come in. He is love, and when love comes in, hatred and selfishness and unkindness will give way to it, just as the darkness gives way when you let in the sunshine. But to try to chase it out alone would be like trying to chase the shadows out of a dark room. It would be a waste of time.”  

Martin Luther King Jr said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Yancey: “It seems to me Christians are too busy trying to stuff up the cracks and correct those imperfections. It’s all right to try to fix our defects, but if it keeps us away from grace, it’s not good. Light only gets in through the cracks.” Come as you are tonight, He will shine through you. 

Early 20th century missionaries became known as ‘one-way missionaries’ because they packed all their earthly belongings into coffins and purchased one-way tickets when they departed for the mission field. They knew they’d never return. A.W.Milne felt called to a tribe of headhunters in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu in South Pacific). All the other missionaries to this tribe had been martyred, but that didn’t keep Milne from going. He lived among the tribe for 35 years and never returned home.

When the tribe buried him, they wrote the following epitaph on his tombstone: “when he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.” That could be what they say about you in your halls of residence, in the office, classroom, on the team, without the cannibalism! What a privilege! 

Living in the light and living as light. George Bernard Shaw: “Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got ahold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

There is a Thomas the Tank Engine cartoon that pictures Thomas on his side, having fallen off the train tracks. He is shouting, ‘I’m free! I’m free at last. I’ve fallen off the rails and I’m free!’ Of course, the reality is that Thomas is far more ‘free’ when his wheels are on the rails and he is operating in line with how he has been created to function.’

I preached this sermon at All Saints Weston Sunday evening on the back of a massive sucker punch on my return from Burundi Thursday, and the combination of physical weariness from the sponsored cycle ride and the bad news I was greeted with probably contributed to my tearfulness in it. But what comfort is those verses, and what a challenge and commission as well!

Isaiah 61:1-4 “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”

It’s bad. Really bad…

In the area around Thierry’s house, seven people have been killed by hippos. Then there are the crocs, snakes, mosquitoes, parasites, the open sewage leading to cholera… the list goes on.

Thierry, my Anglican pastor friend, has lost his house (and his church) to the huge floods in Burundi. Lake Tanganyika has risen by twelve feet to its highest level since 1960, displacing 200,000+ people, many of whom are utterly destitute. Take a look at this clip filmed by my colleague Raissa from a dugout canoe.

Lord, have mercy on Burundi!

Staple foods like rice and beans have increased in cost by 40% in one year. I can’t imagine not being able to feed my kids, or having to choose who eats on which day. Added to that, there is a crippling fuel shortage so folks are walking several hours each way to work every day.

Lord, have mercy on Burundi!

Video by GLO partner, New Generation, who are providing relief to those living in makeshift shacks.

Brothers and sisters, the struggle to survive is worse now than at any time since the extremes of the 1993 genocide – worse even than the war years. I hate writing that, but despite the insecurity back then, at least prices were more manageable and most people could afford to eat.

Lord, have mercy on Burundi!

Raissa surveys the damage

So we cry out in lament, and respond in hope. What was extraordinary was how Raissa, having filmed those distressing scenes the other day, returned home feeling inspired.

Inspired? Seriously? Yes, because she was blown away that Thierry still laughed, still had hope, still trusts Jesus. What resilience! Thierry believes God hasn’t abandoned him, and he has a role to play in his nation.

Our partners are under such intense pressure, and yet are doing stunning work. But they’re struggling to feed their own families, let alone help others, be they victims of the current floods or all the other compounding problems, affecting daily life in the world’s poorest nation.

So we want to help our partner organisations so they can continue to provide for their families, and the work can continue to thrive in this, the most difficult of seasons.

How to Make a Difference…

It’s as desperate a heart-plea as I can muster on behalf of our suffering brethren. We’ve recently sent out money to build ten houses, and there are so many more needs to be met in Jesus’ name.

Lord, have mercy on Burundi!

From my uncle Ross Paterson’s book ’The Antioch Factor’, I find this section very challenging:

Walter Lewis Wilson was an American doctor born towards the end of the nineteenth century. He was a faithful Christian who hosted visiting missionaries to his church. One visitor from France didn’t mince words, asking him, “Who is the Holy Spirit to you?” Wilson’s answer was doctrinally correct, “One of the Persons of the Godhead… Teacher, Guide, Third Person of the Trinity.” But it was an empty and rehearsed response. His friend pushed him harder, challenging him, “You haven’t answered my question.” Wilson opened up with real candour, “He’s nothing to me. I have no contact with him and could get along without him.” 

The following year, Wilson listened to a sermon at church from Romans 12 on the call to offer his body as a living sacrifice. The preacher called out from the pulpit, “Have you noticed that this verse does not tell us to Whom we should give our bodies? It is not the Lord Jesus. He has his own body. It is not the Father. He remains on his throne. Another has come to earth without a body. God gives you the indescribable honour of presenting your bodies to the Holy Spirit, to be his dwelling place on earth.”

Wilson was struck to the core and rushed home to seek the Lord. He fell on his face and pleaded with the Lord, “My Lord, I have treated you like a servant. When I wanted you, I called for you. Now I give you this body from my head to my feet. I give you my hands, my limbs, my eyes and lips, my brain. You may send this body to Africa, or lay it on a bed with cancer. It is your body from this moment on.”

The next morning, Wilson was working in his office when two ladies arrived, trying to sell him advertising. He immediately led them to Christ. The previous night’s surrender had enabled him to access new power from on high. From that day onwards, his life entered a new dimension of evangelistic fruitfulness. He went on to pioneer a church plant, a mission organisation, and a Bible College, as well as becoming a best-selling author.

Do you want to be entrusted with that same power from the Holy Spirit? Well, who is the Holy Spirit to you? Like the early Wilson, can you get along perfectly well without him? Or are you truly willing to offer him your body as a living sacrifice, without conditions or caveats? There’s so much more power that I want to plug into for God’s glory. But will I trust him for every aspect of my life? Will I “consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3v8)? These are big, big questions.

“With regard to my own experience with the Holy Spirit, the transformation in my life on January 14th 1914 was much greater than the change that took place when I was saved December 21st 1896.”

We might question those last words, but can’t deny the reality. As a surrendered vessel, Wilson had entered a new realm of effectiveness. Our relationship with God is a two-way thing. We give Him our bodies as a living sacrifice, and in return He releases a power and anointing and gifting.

How much do you want of God?
Nobody has less of God than they want.

I’m a man of faith. I believe in Jesus’ resurrection, which we will celebrate this coming Sunday. But some things are beyond resurrection!

“One of the major challenges we encountered was the lack of adequate equipment such as computers.”

Taken from an update by a GLO partner in 2023

So many of our amazing leaders, and their teams, struggle on, using tired laptops which are painfully slow, often crash and are barely able to handle the demands of opening a spreadsheet.

We need to do something right now. I once lost three weeks of work when my computer crashed – for these key leaders it’s happening on a regular basis and is so frustrating, debilitating and damaging to their ministry.*

Here’s a video I recorded at the office of our partner EE. They have a little collection of somehow-still-functioning dinosaur laptops (from 2013!) that have almost miraculously survived the dust and heat for over a decade:

That’s why we want to send 150 laptops this month to support the vital work in Burundi. These computers are tools which will be used for the transformation of lives!

For example, UCCD use laptops and projectors to give university-level education to rural communities. Harvest Initiatives use them for the Jesus film outreach, through which thousands have come to faith. New Generation co-ordinate their transformative outreach of street-connected youth. Partners like HTV and Trans World Radio edit programmes to broadcast to millions!

This Easter, please help us enable our partners to focus on what is really important – transforming Burundi and beyond through the power of the resurrected Jesus!

Costing just £140 each, we want to give 150 quality laptops to our partners, schools and other projects in need. Will you help us?

I’d love for you to get involved – If you want to contribute, click here:

As I stood up to preach, I burst into tears in the pulpit.

It was July 2003 and I had flown back from Burundi and on to the USA for my first preaching tour there. I was with a wonderful church called St Andrew’s in Mt Pleasant, South Carolina.

Memories of this moment came flooding back a few days ago when I visited my old office on the outskirts of Bujumbura. It was a time of reminiscing and rejoicing.

Back in 2003, I was distraught because at the very moment I was preaching at the midweek service, in Burundi rebels had attacked the capital. Indeed, they had taken over my office and were using the upstairs balcony as a launch pad for their RPGs on the nearby military camp (see the video clip above).

Many people were being killed, and I was concerned that my colleagues were among the dead. I found out later that our neighbour was killed, but none of my team. In fact, one of them had crept back through the carnage to rescue key documents on the computer for the printing of the annual national Bible-reading notes, risking his life in the process! Tragically, as it later transpired, most of the dead were 11-15-year-old child soldiers, high on drugs and believing the bullets wouldn’t affect them, sent in as cannon fodder by their cowardly superiors.

Over the coming days, three of our partner organisations – Youth for Christ, New Generation, and Harvest for Christ – teamed up to go and minister to the traumatised inhabitants. Risking their lives amongst unexploded mines and grenades, they cleared away debris, helped rebuilt trashed houses, prayed with people, and – very significantly – sang songs of praise. It’s hard for us to understand, but the rebels had sung those same worship songs (the roots of that rebel group were in Seventh Day Adventism) as they wrought havoc a few nights earlier; so for our brave young disciples to now be singing them again was to reclaim those songs and help remove the trauma and negative association that came from them. It was a powerful witness.

Bullet holes remain to this day.

Back to my preach at St Andrew’s. They ministered to me by washing my feet and allowing me to weep. It was holy ground. And I believe a deep connection was forged, which led to a long-standing fruitful relationship over the last few decades. In fact, we ended up living there for two years to set up GLO USA, and I’ll be back visiting in a couple of weeks again.

The rejoicing I mentioned that accompanied the reminiscing a few days ago on my recent trip was because of what has happened 20+ years later. That trashed Scripture Union office lay vacant for a number of years, becoming more and more decrepit, until we created a brilliant win/win. GLO would pay for the rent of the building, and put in four of our partners, who would love the chance to have free office rental and would take care of the property.

Meeting with the dynamic UGGB student ministry team last week, in an office once occupied by rebels.

So I was thrilled to take my visiting team around the building. Some of the old bullet marks remain in the window frames, walls, and doors, reminding us of darker days. But a lick of paint or two, and with furniture filling the various rooms, it was vibrant with life. There was Evangelism Explosion, one of (if not the) strongest movements in Africa, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people coming to Jesus over the last two decades; there was Igniting Communities for Jesus, who have created a store at the back and have 28,000 Bibles to give out in the coming months, to complement their discipling widows and orphans out of poverty; there was UGBB, who work on 26 campuses throughout the country and are full of vision for the student scene; there was Restoration Burundi, working with returning refugees, as well as raising emerging leaders and producing radio programs accessed nationwide. And each of them are doing way more than the one sentence I’ve written on them. 

It was bursting with life, and full of synergies, which is exactly what GLO is about: identifying, empowering and equipping the best local leaders of passion, integrity, gifting and vision, for the transformation of the nation bottom up and top down.

Back then we had six partners, now we have twenty-five! Beautiful!

Thanks to all of you who journeying with us. Even last week whilst we were there, nine people were killed by a different rebel group just a few miles to the North of us, so please pray on for peace and prosperity for this precious nation.

Could you support our strategic, nation-shaping work with a regular donation?

View from a stage, we see the back of a preacher raises his hands on a stage in front of hundreds of Burundians also raising their hands with eyes closed

As I look around, I think it’s fair to say we lack gospel confidence in this country. For what it’s worth, I want you to know that yesterday, more people came to faith in Jesus than any other day in the history of humanity. The kingdom of God is advancing!

So, last month I’m preaching in the bush in Burundi to about 3000 people, and we’re very clear in the appeal, only come forward if it’s your first time to choose to follow Jesus… and that night, 224 people responded. That’s one outreach in the middle of nowhere. I pray for the Palau Association. They were in Uruguay this week, and they have seen several thousand people come to Jesus at multiple outreaches. Folks, Kingdom fruit is exploding across the world!

It happens that in this country, we’re seemingly on the back foot. But we don’t need to be. I am not – and I hope neither are you – ashamed of the gospel!

This sermon was preached at Living Rock church near Leicester a while back as part of their sermon series on the first Epistle to the Corinthians. My passage was 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, and I spoke about ‘the Fragility of the Messenger but the Power of the Message’.

Watch or take a listen here:

A few quotes/anecdotes:

Tony Lambert observed the extraordinary growth of the church in China through seasons of intense persecution, and came to the following conclusion: “The reason for the growth of the church in China and for the outbreak of genuine spiritual revival in many areas is inextricably linked to the whole theology of the cross… the stark message of the Chinese church is that God used suffering and the preaching of a crucified Christ to pour out revival and build his church. Are we in the West still willing to hear? The Chinese church has walked the way of the cross. The lives and deaths of the martyrs of the 1950s and 1960s have borne rich fruit.”

If you’re a good preacher, be careful, or particularly talented in whatever field, you don’t want to get in the way of the gospel, you want to be a servant of the gospel. A good preacher can obscure Jesus by their preaching, either in the presentation or the message. Like the little girl who used to attend a church with a big preacher with an even bigger personality. One Sunday, when a smaller man was guest speaking she could finally see the stained-glass window of Jesus behind the pulpit said, “Where’s the man who usually stands there so we can’t see Jesus?”

Moody’s encounter with the Holy Spirit in New York transformed his ministry. After one service, two old ladies called Mrs Sarah Cooke and Mrs Hawkhurst approached him and told him, “You are good, but you haven’t got it… we have been praying for you… you need power!” Moody, an already well-respected minister, was surprised. “I need power?” asked Moody. “Why, I thought I had power!” The ladies poured out their hearts that he might receive the anointing of the Holy Ghost and soon there grew a great hunger in his soul. “I felt I did not want to live any longer if I had not this power for service.” There began a period of six months’ pleading with God for more. Then God visited him as he walked down Wall Street in New York; he was never the same again. Although his sermons and doctrine had not changed, his effectiveness in winning thousands to Christ was evidence of this new power.” The same sermons that previously might see 5 now saw 50 come to the Lord, endued with power…

This man was born in a gypsy tent, of humble origins, and yet ended up being invited to the White House by two presidents. Rodney ‘Gypsy’ Smith came into the world in 1860 in Epping Forest, just outside London. Forty five times he crossed the Atlantic to preach the gospel to millions of people on both sides. His passion was almost unparalleled, and there was great fruit in what he did. What was his secret? Private prayer. His praying was even more powerful than his preaching. A delegation once came to him to enquire how they might experience personal and mass revival as he had. They wanted to be used the way Gypsy was. Without hesitating, he said: “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle round yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.”

One young Zimbabwean man wrote the following before he was martyred: “I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made – I’m a disciple of his. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still… I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity… I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till he comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till he stops me. And, when he comes for his own, he will have no problem recognizing me… my banner will be clear!”

Or Do they?

Nothing has brought me more joy and pain in 25 years of ministry in Burundi.

Maybe that’s a little overstated, but building what is considered the best dedicated conference centre in the country certainly caused many sleepless nights, stressful days, frustrating weeks and more. Phase 1 launched in 2009, Phase 2 in 2021. It’s been a looooong journey, through the upheaval of renewed violence in 2015 when the country imploded, through Covid shutdown… but King’s Conference Centre as a social enterprise has more than survived… it has thrived!

And the key person coordinating and leading several dozen staff was the one and only Goretti Wege. What a wonderful woman she is! Her previous job was split into three roles after she left, such was her work rate. It was a gamble, however, in that she had no experience in hospitality or business. But she has rocked it.

KCC is a social enterprise to generate funds for gospel work in Burundi, whilst modelling excellence in Jesus’ name and creating jobs for many needy people. It has surpassed my expectations, and in a country where it is hard to do business, it has excelled, made a good profit, and been above reproach as it models and is known for its integrity and quality of service. As I write, indeed, we are No1 on TripAdvisor for hotels in the capital, with most comments being because ‘the staff were so welcoming and caring’, etc.

But all good things come to an end… and this week Goretti stepped off the stage, into retirement.

However, she did so with the best-case scenario in place:

Back in 2009, a young, fresh-faced Celestin Kubwimana was thrilled to get through the interview process and be employed as a receptionist at the front desk.

Handover day at KCC

His integrity, work ethic and attention to detail meant he was soon promoted to Head Receptionist. His upward trajectory continued as he became head of department for the hotel section, then overall KCC Operations Manager, and now he’s reached the pinnacle as General Manager.

It’s such a joy to have seen his journey. I can only say that the presence and favour of God are on KCC. Even visitors from other faiths have remarked on that! There have been so many challenges, but the staff have pulled together. When lockdown kicked off, it was necessary to let go of some staff to survive, and the staff all banded together in solidarity and shared their salaries to help those who were released. Beautiful!

This video is so moving – I just cried re-watching it, when they heard that their 40% pay cut was being removed, thanks to generous GLO supporters.

Read more about that story here.

So this is just sharing some good news. We hear so much bad news, and all the more we need to celebrate the victories, and tell the success stories!

Do pray for Celestin with his huge responsibilities, and for KCC to continue to generate loads of money to plough back into local projects to help the last, the lost and the least in beautiful but broken Burundi.

“One day, while sitting in class, my makeshift pad leaked. When I stood up, I realized that I had stained my school uniform. I asked a classmate if she could spare a pad, but she too was in need. I wrapped my jumper around my waist and requested permission to leave.”

For Exaveline, what should be a typical day turns into a recurring nightmare when her monthly period arrives. At just 16 years old, she cannot afford sanitary pads, and she has exhausted all possible methods to prevent staining her school uniform. Unfortunately, her attempts often fail, leaving her feeling ashamed and frustrated.

As a result, she frequently chooses to stay home from school, missing out on valuable education. This not only affects her self-esteem but also hinders her academic performance. Imagine if this was your sister, daughter, granddaughter, niece or friend.

Exaveline is not the only one. A staggering 80% of women in Burundi lack access to menstrual pads. We want to help change that. Many of our Partners run sewing schools, where they teach people valuable business skills so they can gain employment (an excellent initiative in itself). They produce packs of reusable sanitary pads in their workshops for teenage girls so they no longer have to drop out of school each month.

Can you help us provide 5000 precious young women with dignity, hygiene and access to education each month?

It’s easy, it’s practical and it’s impactful.

*Please note: Your donation will be added to our Health fund, from which we will provide these. Any excess money will support similar healthcare initiatives for those in need.

Last Sunday, I preached at Emmanuel Croydon to finish off their Ephesians series with chapter 6 and the Armour of God. I entitled it ‘Battle Stations!’

Do take a listen here:

Ephesians 6 – Recorded 26th November 2023

And below are a few juicy quotes:

John Piper: “Probably the number one reason why prayer malfunctions in the hands of believers is that we try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom. Until you know that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for… But what have millions of Christians done? We have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance. No strategic planning. Just easy peace and prosperity. And what did we do with the walkie-talkie? We tried to rig it up as an intercom in our houses – not to call in fire power for conflict with a mortal enemy, but to ask for more comforts in the den… Most people show by their priorities and casual approaches to spiritual things that they believe we’re in peace, not in wartime… In wartime we’re on the alert. We’re armed. We’re vigilant. In wartime we spend money differently, because there are more strategic ways to maximise our resources. The war effort touches everybody. We all cut back. The luxury liner becomes a troop carrier… Who considers that the casualties of this war don’t merely lose an arm or an eye or an earthly life, but lose everything, even their own soul, and enter a hell of everlasting torment?”

John Eldridge: “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.”

R. A. Torrey: “We’re too busy to pray, and so we’re too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results.” 

John Stott: “What we need is not more learning, not more eloquence, not more persuasion, not more organization, but more power from the Holy Spirit.” 

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.”