Greetings from Burundi! There is so much good to report from my short visit (49 meetings and counting so far after seven days), but I thought I’d just share a couple of beautiful encounters to stir your faith. GLO’s motto is ‘Transforming Burundi and Beyond’, and I love how stories from Burundi encourage you in the ‘Beyond’ around the world, wherever you are as you read this. Here goes, as posted on facebook:
I met with Abdoul today. He’s a brave man.
He used to be in charge of 15 mosques, and prided himself in zealously winning Christians over to Islam. He did regular public debates, and became troubled by vivid dreams of Jesus calling him. As he studied the Koran and the Bible, he was struck how the Koran talked of guiding ‘in the right way’ (Surat 1:6) whilst Jesus said ‘I am the Way’ (John 14:6). It was so costly when he decided to follow the Way. He lost everything, was kicked out of his community, and survived a grenade attack and a machete-wielding mob of Muslims angry at his apostasy. But he wouldn’t flee. He’s carried on living humbly, boldly and consistently. He’s been offered $20k to return to Islam, as well as a house, but he’s adamant that nothing can woo him, as he struggles to provide for his family on the $100/month we give him. He’s written a resource used in many churches, and is fearless in living out and sharing the freedom and joy he has found in Jesus. Again, as with so many of my brothers and sisters out here, I am challenged and struck to the core by their willingness to suffer for their faith.
Abdoul, my brother, I salute you!
Also, when preaching at a mass rally in the bush last Saturday, a demon-possessed lady threw her shoes at me from the crowd. It was even caught on film. She was led away behind the stage, prayed for by the intercessors, and delivered. Her name is Teresa. What a smile she has!
She told those praying for her how she’d been to many churches previously, asking to be set free from the voices in her head. “Those voices were telling me to be violent and abusive to people, and that’s why I came to your meeting as well.”
Now, as you can see, she has been beautifully set free (we have an extended interview with her which I’ve not included). She also had terrible problems sleep-talking and sleep-walking, and those have gone as well.
We are committed to journeying with her, helping her and her family with housing and clothing. Just wonderful!
It’s interesting to me because a (typically Western) secular materialistic worldview doesn’t have room for the idea of demon-possession. Even many Christians (through lack of experience maybe) struggle to believe that demons are real. So with the above undeniable story (unless you want to think we staged it!), it would be reframed as mental illness. Honestly, it could just have been mental illness, but it’s still a miracle!
Again, I’m trying to put myself fully in the sceptic’s shoes… apart from us staging it (surely not), then what would have given this lady the courage to completely expose herself to public ridicule and shame in front of such a crowd? And the timing could not have been precise, as she (they) chose the exact strategic moment to kick things off when I was calling the crowd to make a commitment.
For what it’s worth, I think mental health (extremely common) is very real, and demon-possession (unusual) is also very real. They are absolutely not the same. Medicines can be helpful for those suffering with mental health issues, but the secular mindset would misdiagnose demons – because it cannot accommodate them in its worldview – under the banner of mental health, and therefore prescribe medicine as a cure. But medicine helps a physical condition, not a spiritual one; medicine as a physical solution can’t effectively address a spiritual condition, if someone is indeed demonised. That is (one of) the West’s (many) blindspots.
It’s a huge area for discussion, but there’s some food for thought!
Anyway, I just thank God for precious Teresa’s miracle, and am cheering her on in her new chapter of freedom.
And lastly, King’s Conference Centre. Honestly, it’s been my biggest ministry headache over the two decades of involvement in Burundi. This second phase has taken 12 years so far. It’s nearly finished and is a massive beast. But wow! It is genuinely beautiful, and is raking in money now having re-established us as the best conference venue in the country. It is rammed almost every day, people love it, and that just means lots more profits can be ploughed back into God’s work in Burundi. Beautiful! Take a quick look here:
So many positives, so much more to share, but that’s a taster. I hope it encourages you, stirs faith, and challenges you to be all in for Jesus – that’s the gift that Burundi has given me.
God bless you loads!