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.”

What do you make of Halloween? 

I’m conflicted. 

On one level, it’s just an excuse for a good time, and I love the chance to engage with the community and be out and about. But on another level, I’m uncomfortable with the sinister underbelly and know that as a follower of Jesus, I need to be awake to those darker realities. 

So I thought I’d share with you two of my friends’ stories, who were witches themselves. I think their opinions and experiences are more important and authoritative than mine, and what happened in their lives is frankly mind-blowing. Well worth the listen:

From Witch to Prophet
Chris Wickland

Listen in web browser

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

Into the Light!
Kevin Wilson

Listen in web browser

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

Witchcraft manifests itself in different cultures in different ways. The following two stories are from our recent summer outreach teams in August in Burundi:

In Makamba province in a town called Kivoga, Nadine was a contemporary ‘Gadarene demoniac’, just like in Mark chapter 5. Her father had sought treatment at a mental hospital because of her deteriorating condition, as well spending all he could on traditional medicine and witchdoctors. Eventually the family gave up, and she lived on the rubbish dump, roaming the streets at night, half-dressed. She was feared and mocked by the whole community for her unsettling behaviour.

When our team of evangelists showed up, they overcame their initial fear and started praying for her. The demons manifested, but the team called on reinforcements, took her to the local church, and over the next three hours of intensive prayer, battled through for her total deliverance. Suddenly, after the last demon was cast out, Nadine’s screams ceased. She looked at herself and began weeping. She had no recollection of what had happened, but now asked for some clothes. 

When her father arrived and saw her ‘in her right mind’ (like Mark 5:15), he was so overwhelmed he fell to the ground. Our guys shared with him how Jesus had set her free, and he and seven other people present gave their lives to the Lord! 

Baltazar was a notorious witch doctor from Bugenyuzi. He was feared by all around him, and loved the reputation he had. Nobody challenged him as they didn’t want him to cast a spell on them (I know, many of you struggle to believe this stuff. Suffice to say, out there you don’t need to convince them the power is real).

One day, a neighbour approached and asked him to stop his witchcraft. A few days later, that previously healthy man was found dead at home. So that was the context when our team showed up. They heard the stories and decided to camp out on Baltazar’s hill and pray every night.

When he heard what they were doing, he went out to confront them. But as he approached them, he was overwhelmed by a greater power and fell to his knees. He asked for prayers and surrendered to Christ. He invited the team back to his home, where his wife likewise repented when she heard what had happened to him. A crowd came to watch as they burned all his charms, and he and his wife repented of all they had done to their neighbours and in the community. Everyone was amazed at this total transformation.

As the picture at the top makes clear, we can’t afford to treat this stuff as funny mumbo jumbo, be it in Africa or the Western world. There is a spiritual realm and a spiritual battle going on. That’s why we need to wake up and pray seriously. Piper highlights the critical issue as follows for us in the West: “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 firepower for conflict with a mortal enemy, but to ask for more comforts in the den.”

Be challenged!

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