A New Hospital, an MBE, Leadership Handover, and More…!

The last three days have been truly memorable: on Friday we had the official ceremony for the launching of the building of a hospital. On Saturday it was a huge televised first graduation of GIA students, and Lizzie and I were awarded MBEs. On Sunday, we celebrated the extraordinary 17 years of YFC’s growth, a book launch, and handover of leadership. More below…


Giving a succinct summary is a challenge. I have such a sense of joy, satisfaction, elation and anticipation for the future, amidst the ongoing extraordinary challenges we face in this beautiful but broken nation.

Friday’s ceremony in Bugarama was the end of the beginning of a long journey. Building a much needed hospital was/is our plan, with GLO local partner PTI. Three years ago we were granted land. Then it was retracted. Then more land was given. The saga seemed never-ending, and was hotly contested. On New Year’s Eve, the Minister for the Environment, who was about to provide the last signature in the tortuous process, was murdered. Would it ever happen? Well, the answer is now a definitive ‘Yes!’ We are very grateful to the Government for giving us a staggering 4 hectares in a country where land is at such a premium. In the years to come, we trust countless lives will be saved and impacted.

Then on Saturday and Sunday we had two days of beautiful and moving celebration. I think I’ll write in more detail on another blog shortly as there’s too much to say. Gitega International Academy is the first English-speaking boarding school in the country. Many of the nation’s key leaders’ and influencers’ children attend. Under Youth for Christ, it has exploded over the last five years, and I say with confidence it’s the nicest campus in the country. The stories of maturing students’ transformed lives were touching to listen to. The first graduation took place during a massive televised event with 1000 guests from across Burundi and around the world. And on the Sunday, it was pure celebration of all that God had done over the last 17 years. Freddy, my Burundian soulmate who I met on my first day in Burundi, who never wore shoes or underwear until he was 14-years-old, is now a household name in the country. He’s been used by God to build four schools, three orphanages, and more. He was now handing over (a very rare thing over here) the leadership of the thriving ministry to his faithful co-worker, Euphrate. He launched his book ‘Where Cow Grass Grows'(available here) which tells his inspiring life-story.

And a little bonus in the mix on Saturday was that Lizzie and I were both awarded MBEs in the Queen’s birthday honours list for services to Burundi. I’m so grateful to Lizzie for journeying with him through all the craziness and challenges of life out here, and we’re happy to receive the honour on behalf of all the precious sacrificial brothers and sisters we have the privilege of working alongside in Burundi. All for God’s glory!

As I drove back through the mountains with a wonderful team from Charleston last night, they got to experience two sticky incidents of being stopped by authorities (including the security services) concerned about our motives. It took a while on both occasions to defuse the situation. You see, things are very tense here. Suspicion is high. There is plenty of fake news and misinformation, so I understand their wanting to check up on us. We are just desperate to contribute to the development and blessing of this nation, whose needs are overwhelming.

We return to the UK this coming Sunday for the usual summer preaching tour and family holiday. Grace (9) has had her bags packed for two weeks already including pyjamas for the plane(!), which gives a taste of how much they are looking forward to it. We had an attempted break-in this week and a man shot dead fifty yards away. So understand I really mean it when I say thanks for all your prayers for us- and for your encouragements and gifts to the work. What a journey!

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  • Wow indeed !!! Many blessings.

  • Thank you for the inspiring blog. Praise the Lord that He gave you both an MBE, via the Queen.

  • Congratulations to you bothon your MBE. So deserved. Praying for you all x

  • Wow! We are having a ‘bake off for burundi’ at our school next week to support Restoration of Hope who look after orphan boys. We are a private school and I like the idea of the richest caring for the poorest. I LOVE hearing about what God is building and the courage of people who have laid down their lives. Well done, I’m going to start supporting GLO financially too. You are both an inspiration x

  • Amazing work for the Glory of God. MBEs well earned!

  • The Lord has truly blessed your work in Burundi – your well earned MBEs are in recognition of your sacrificial lives. Praise the Lord!

  • Amazing blessings surround you as you both selflessly continue your life’s work Thank you for choosing to go back into such a desperately difficult situation and having the sheer determination to see things through. Your MBE’s are well deserved. Blessings from us.

  • Amazing blog! Thank you…blessings on you all as a family xx

  • Wow, Glory be to God.
    Congrats for your deserving MBEs. You are a blessing

  • Wow – my first childhood friend Lizzie you are an angel indeed with your husband and work. Congratulations and love ❤️ xx

  • Many congratulations to you both on the MBE. Who would have thought it at Longbarn all those years ago Lizzie? Or when we first met Simon? Stay faithful to the Lord whose faithfulness is unending. Have a good time back in UK

  • WOW indeed!!!! Your photos are fabulous and sum up all the joys and blessings you have experienced in return for solid dedication to the Lord and his people in Burundi despite the tensions, violence and daily challenges to the safety of your own family and friends.
    Congratulations to you and all the team serving together to earn not one but TWO MBEs, you all deserve them.
    The graduates all look so smart and so pleased and what a testimony to the Lord’s grace and mercy that so much blessing is being poured out on that school.
    I love the story of your friend Freddy and despite the incredible success of his work for Jesus he has the humility to let the mantle fall on Euphrate to continue the work.
    It’s great to see the beauty of you and Lizzie in the photograph together but honestly, the photo I love most of all is that guy leaping (how high?) with his drum!

  • Congratulations to you both – for everything you have achieved both spiritually and materially. You’ve made such a positive impact on so many people. The gongs are a bonus and we are so proud of you. Love to you and the children. I can’t give you lbw first ball this year but still hope to meet up before your trip to Crete. Love and best wishes. John and Chris

  • Praise the Lord, Simon and Lizzie, God has done great things through you. What a privilege to have your service recognised by the Queen: you must have great supporters in the UK who proposed you. I pray that the hospital in Bugarama will soon be built and operational. May you have a blessed time in Europe this summer!

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