BlogGeneralGlo

This is a guest blog by my Norwegian friend Arne. It’s something we’re looking to get involved in. It is so strategic, so empowering, so beautiful. 

This short film (under 4mins) explains the concept:

Over to Arne:

Hello folks!

Why do we think that the solutions for those who are poor in Africa are different from the solutions in the UK, USA and Norway? Every human throughout the world has God-given talents, as well as needs.

The need for a job, to feel wanted and valued, to provide for the family, and to have a relatively predictable and secure future – it’s the same for all human beings no matter where they live.

And the children need good role models of how to work to provide for the family, how to save and plan for the future, how to use and develop their own talents, how to be involved in community development and wealth creation, and finally how to submit to rules and authorities, and to God.

A transformed and sustainable Burundi is in need of transformed mindsets – a new way of building value-based foundations and strategies. We need to use methods bringing skills and a good character resulting in hope and a good future, one with dignity. If not, the next generations will find themselves in the same helplessness and hopelessness as is the case for many today. 

So how can a bank (microfinance is like a small bank, but for the poor) be a tool for such a transformation? We say that everything we do, we do to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor people in Burundi. And to glorify Jesus by using our God-given talents as for God (Col 3.23).

We’ve been doing this in Burundi now for 10 years, training people and providing loans to start up new small businesses. We’ve learnt plenty of lessons, and now have just under 20,000 beneficiaries, with a loan repayment rate of 96%. That is truly wonderful and amazing, and so many lives have been empowered, transformed and given dignity. I have no doubt it is the way forward. Not handouts, but hand-ups. Not giving out fish, but teaching people how to fish. Not short-term but long-term. 

Below are two typical stories from thousands that we could share. Enjoy them, and if you want to get involved, feel free to connect with us directly or through GLO:

“My biggest joy is that I now can afford education for my children,” says Odette. She lives in a remote village in Bubanza province where Hauge now is operating. I have never seen such a smile from people receiving aid, only when being enabled to climb out of poverty with new skills, with a strong character, and in a solidarity group with courage, hard work and unity.

Etienne is one of our customers in Hauge Family Microfinance. His village is cheering when he is showing the furniture he has made and is selling in his shop. He has become an entrepreneur and a leader for development in his local community. Three years ago, he received our training and a loan to buy logs. Today he has hired five people in the village to chop wood for him. A stable income has also made it possible to pay for his five children’s schooling.

Beautiful!

Some more links:

Hauge Family Microfinance Burundi: www.hfm.bi
Hauge Microfinance: www.haugemicro.no

BlogGeneralGlo

Do give yourself 57 secs of joy by watching this!

This is just the briefest of messages feeding back on your beautiful response to our Christmas appeal to provide health cards to several thousand desperately needy folks. £2.50/$3 was what it cost to provide them and their immediate families three years of access to medical care. We filmed this at one of the handout events where a thousand people received their card.
So we say A MASSIVE THANK YOU on their behalf.

Oof, there will be fewer senseless deaths! With guaranteed healthcare provision, they’ll have deep peace rather than crippling anxiety!

God bless you all LOADS!

BlogGeneralGlo

a man with a staff stands next to a fire in the street

Last Friday in Bujumbura, CIP was shut down, wound up, put to bed. Let me explain why that is probably GLO’s greatest satisfaction to date in our involvement in Burundi:

In April 2015, a political (and therefore national) crisis came to a head as the sitting President announced he would indeed stand for a third 5-year term in office. The constitution stipulated a maximum of two 5-year terms elected ‘by the people’. His first term had been elected by parliament as Burundi ended its 13-year war. So can you see how both sides would interpret the situation differently? His side insisted he’d only had one 5-year term elected by the people (which is true), whilst the opposition (and most of the international community) said he’d definitely already served two 5-year terms (which he had), and therefore should step down for the good of Burundi’s fledgling democracy.

That’s when it kicked off. Burning barricades, demonstrations, and fear became a daily reality in the capital.

Within a week of the crisis, all our key leaders met together and had the holiest meeting of my life. We went around the table, with the sound of gunfire and in sight of a burning roadblock, and counted the cost of active engagement in the crisis. For context, we remembered how after the genocide of 1993, someone wrote a tract entitled ‘Abantu b’Imana bagiye he?’ – ‘Where did the people of God go?’ Essentially in 1993, the Church hunkered down in fear, and failed in Her mandate to stand courageously against the onslaught and violence. Would such a tract be re-written in 2015? Not on our watch, we decided!

That was the birth of CIP: Christian Initiatives for Peace.

CIP consisted of a dozen or so strategic Christian organisations (mostly GLO partners). It tapped into their different specialties and constituencies to mobilise people on whichever side of the divide to embrace key accepted shared values: the sacredness of life, compassion, community, and personal responsibility. There were no egos, no jealousies, no rivalries – just total unity. “You’re best at social media, go for it!” “We’ve got the strongest network through schools, so let’s take the lead but we need your input on strategy and content.” “You three are the most coherent expositors and debaters, you go on TV and radio.” “You invite all the pastors as key influencers, we’ll provide the venue and food.”

In a relative vacuum of trusted information, CIP provided a clear voice and framework on how to respond to the crisis based on the teachings of Jesus. In all our attempts to contribute to the process in Burundi, consistently espousing non-violence and dialogue, we very intentionally trod the middle ground, so as to be accessible and trusted (or not) by all sides. The scope of our engagement was significant.

Writing in 2016, i.e. a year later, here are some of Onesphore’s thoughts on that period:

Let me tell you it was scary at times to stick our necks out, on TV and radio, using tens of thousands of tracts, at conferences, bringing youth leaders together, mobilising churches, trying through every means possible to stand for non-violence during violent times. People recognized us wherever we went, and as things became ever more polarized, radicals on each end didn’t like what we were advocating. I often wondered if I would pay the ultimate price of my life for what we were doing, but I (and the others with me) considered it worth the cost as followers of Jesus and because we love our nation so much.

We have so much work to do. But what I love is that GLO is intentionally unknown behind the scenes – not seeking credit for these initiatives, but simply working to facilitate powerful meetings that lead to reconciliation and healing. Some of what we’ve been involved in is too sensitive and can’t be talked about. Maybe we’ll be able to share those stories in a few decades’ time!

Indeed, some of the juiciest stories can’t be shared! But thank God, dire predictions of Burundi imploding never came to fruition. That’s not to belittle the suffering of many, with hundreds of thousands fleeing the country, and a shattered economy. I have to be sensitive in how I communicate this. Burundi has a long way to go to bounce back fully.

However, CIP completed its mission. On Friday, we wrapped it all up. Sadly on my part, covid stopped me flying out to join the last group evaluation and celebration meeting. Honestly it’s hard to quantify the impact, because the aim was to stop bad things happening, and we don’t know how many bad things would have happened without CIP. Suffice to say, we have myriad stories of individuals, like the young man who said: “I’m only alive because I came to your meeting. You told us throwing stones wasn’t the way. I stopped, whilst my friends carried on. They’re dead and I’m still here.”

One of GLO’s key mantras is ‘Everything is about relationship’. As I reflect, we were able to achieve what we did (under God’s grace) because in what was a very distrustful and suspicious climate and culture, we had met intentionally together for years every month to have team breakfast together, pray together and plan together. We’d been on retreats with our spouses together. We saw across ethnic and political divides. Together… indeed, it was all about relationship.

And it still is.

So I write this to praise God and salute my precious Burundian brothers and sisters who formed CIP back in 2015 and did whatever they did in the ensuing years. Instead of the 1993 tract ‘Abantu b’Imana bagiye he?’, the 2015 equivalent could be ‘Abantu b’Imana ni bo basutsemwo mabisi!’ – i.e. not ‘Where did the people of God go?’ but ‘The people of God threw water on (the fire)!’

As we look to the future, there are huge challenges to overcome. I’m encouraged by so many passionate and committed Burundians who are desperate to see the healing of their nation. By faith, with costly action, it will come. But for now, it’s RIP to CIP, 2015-2021!

BlogGeneralGlo

A montage of photos from the new KCC development

I’m seriously excited, because this last week has been almost 12 years in the making. Check out this 1-minute clip with photos

But honestly, there were times when I doubted we would we ever get to this point. Let me explain:

We helped Scripture Union launch the King’s Conference Centre in 2009 (See this video). It’s a sustainable success story and a hit with locals and international guests alike. Not only do several dozen staff receive a good salary to provide for their families, but profits are ploughed back into Kingdom projects like pastor-training, youth camps, and Bible distribution, etc. Beautiful!

But then to our horror, the neighbouring land was going to become a nightclub – this would have massively damaged our plans (who wants to sleep next to a nightclub?!). However, in the end, the owner agreed to sell the land to us if we could find $80k in a week. We prayed and fasted and the funds were miraculously provided that very week!

Owning the neighbouring land meant we could now plan on ramping up facilities. But after some years of plenty, the 2015 political crisis kicked in. Many fled the country. 30 of the 53 staff had to be laid off. It was desperate. Other hotels folded. Our staff took salary-cuts and we hung on in there. Indeed, KCC was the venue for some critical nation-shaping meetings during those tumultuous days, even as roadblocks burned and demonstrators were scattered.

And slowly but surely, through the testing years – including this year when hotel and conference bookings have been affected by the covid crisis – we carried on building Phase 2 one brick at a time… It’s a huge, beautiful project and we believe it has strategic significance in the nation – bringing together ministries and influential people from across all social, political and ethnic groups under the Lordship of the King! On the top floor, overlooking the city of Bujumbura is a dedicated 24/7 prayer room where a constant stream of believers from across the city will be seeking the Lord for peace, protection and national unity. 

And this last week, we were able to do a soft opening of the first two floors for business – especially the two big conference rooms which are the talk of the town in this stunning new facility.

So the point of this blog is simply to…

GIVE GLORY TO GOD
and to
THANK YOU FOR JOURNEYING WITH US!

Am I allowed to be proud and boast about Goretti as Manager and her team?! They’re top-notch! KCC is the No.1 Hotel in Burundi according to Tripadvisor

Goretti is the Manager of KCC

I love it that so many customers talk of the special atmosphere they experience – it’s because it’s the King’s Conference Centre!

One of our core values excellence in Jesus’ name – Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as for the Lord, not for people.” Other hotels might be bigger and better on different metrics, but we can be the best at customer service because we’re doing it for the King!

Please keep praying and journeying with us. There are 30 more hotel rooms and three more floors to equip. With your help, we’ll get there!

For the KING!

Simon

PS If you’re still reading, this webpage with a short video explains more what KCC is about. 

PPS Deo’s Provi gave birth to a healthy boy yesterday whom they’ve named ‘Akoravyoseneza’, which means ‘He(Jesus)hasdoneallthingswell’, just trips off the tongue!!!

BlogGeneralMore than Conquerors

Providence and Deo

Providence died in 2012, but will be giving birth this coming Monday…

Say that again?

On 13th September 2012, Provi plunged over a cliff at Butomangwa with her three RTNB colleagues (Burundi’s national Radio/TV) after a day’s news-reporting on a UNICEF project. All four were declared dead on the spot. Their bodies were taken to the morgue at Rutana hospital. The accident made national news headlines, and the Minister of Information announced on air each of the names of the dead, including hers.

The first three bodies filled up the morgue, so Provi’s corpse was laid outside on the ground in the sun. In the meantime, a lady called Cecile was praying, and she had a vision in which she saw a woman still alive at the hospital who needed rescuing. She made her way there and, although she’d never met Provi before in her life, she recognised her face immediately from the vision. The trunk of the corpse was so mangled and broken that Cecile struggled to follow through with what she felt God had told her. She summoned the nurse, who confirmed to her that Provi was indeed dead.

“No, she’s not dead, God has told me she’s not dead!”

Sure enough, on closer re-inspection, there was the faintest glimmer of life. Cecile’s husband Fulgence worked (and still works) for World Vision. They are an influential and respected Pentecostal family and they managed to get permission from the Governor to take the body home. There they had doctors attend to her whilst they prayed in the next room. After a while, she regained consciousness.

After an ambulance ride to the capital, she was seen by a top doctor at the Polyclinique. He examined her, and said: “You’ve had so much internal bleeding, yet your vital organs are somehow still relatively undamaged and functioning. I just can’t believe you’re still alive… are you a Christian? Do you pray?” She was able to share her faith and story with him.

Beautiful! And that was over eight years ago.

Back to the present day, due to the injuries sustained in that accident, she can’t give birth naturally. So instead, it will be by C-section this Monday at 830am (UK time).

It’s just a great story! We’ve supported her husband Deo for many years, whose own story is also pretty wild.

Through GLO, we’ve had the privilege of knowing and supporting many outstanding leaders of high integrity. And because of this, we hear countless mind-boggling testimonies like the above that challenge our (lack of) faith and inspire us to trust in Him who “does marvellous deeds”.

So we share these stories to encourage and inspire you, all the more during these challenging days.

Keep the faith!

Simon

PS If you’re looking at ways to help us, could you share GLO with your friends? Do you want to join in the Choose Life read? Could you consider a regular small donation? Or join us for our inspiring weekly prayer Zooms when we actually hear from the likes of Deo?

PPS If you need a ‘remote’ speaker for your church’s Sunday service, or a youth group – whatever context, I’d love to join you to stir the troops and bring a word of encouragement. Do get in touch!

BlogGeneral

Lizzie and I are doing the Navigators’ Topical Memory System scripture memorisation thingy (check it out here) with a few friends, which involves learning two new verses each week. This week’s ones included Hebrews 10:25, which speaks of ‘encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.’

Mark Twain said: “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Well, a compliment or a word of encouragement certainly goes a long way, particularly during these challenging times.

So here’s an idea which isn’t too difficult to implement but which will bring a lot of joy to people in your life (and yourself): why not set out each day with a goal of encouraging x number of people? 3? You choose a realistic number. 

Everybody loves being encouraged!

When someone randomly comes to my mind, I try to make it a point of emailing/phoning/whatsapping them, and it’s uncanny how often it is bang on the money. “I so needed that.” “I was about to give up.” “Your message confirmed I’m on the right track.” It costs me little, but can bring them (and me) so much.

Whether that ‘random thought’ was a coincidence or a prompting by the Spirit of God – depending partly on your view of life – it doesn’t really matter. It’s a great habit to get into, and anyone can do it.

So, brothers and sisters, through these dark days, hang on in there! Keep the faith! Don’t give up!

Look around, and be distressed.

Look within, and be depressed.

Look to Jesus, and be at rest.

Let us indeed be ‘encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.’

That last part gives me the excuse to share one of my favourite quotes, by Smith Wigglesworth:

“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.”

So take a minute to think…

…who can I encourage today…? Then grab the phone, knock on the door, get typing! And live ready!

BlogGeneralUncategorized

If you get cancer in Burundi, you die (unless you can find and and then pay for one of the few surgeons in the country to surgically remove it in its entirety before it spreads). There is no other treatment. There has never been any other treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation are alien concepts, unless you are rich enough to fly elsewhere to get it. In Burundi, 100% of those who get unresectable cancer die – usually a horrible, protracted, painful death.

 

Until now.

 

Yesterday I was at Kibuye Hope Hospital. They are the first to introduce chemotherapy in Burundi. It’s historic, it’s beautiful!

 

We saw the first batch of recipients, four precious little children with retinoblastoma. Tragically, many of them are still likely to die even with the chemo, barring a miracle. Because what would be detected and dealt with promptly in the West remains unaddressed here until it is too late. When parents eventually bring their child in, the cancer has spread too far.

Gorgeous 4-year-old Thierry, also suffering from malnutrition, has had his right eye removed, along with the tumour. But the cancer has spread. He will die.

 

It seems so totally grim, and yet he will die with dignity. The horrific growth that disfigured his face and would have only gotten worse has been removed. The same will happen with Ernest, whose face people currently shy away from because of the hideous growth on his eye.

My eye-surgeon friend John said that he’d had about 150 such cases in the last couple of years that were hopeless. That can now be reversed. Parents can be made aware that there is hope, there is a potential cure.

 

The end of a death sentence.

 

It was an intense day. We were making a film to raise funds for a new paediatric ward. There is a malaria epidemic at the moment, so people were crowded into each ward, three to a bed. The hospital’s reputation means people travel from across the country to get the best care.

 

It reeked of stale sweat. People cramped together means more disease spreading in a place where people should be getting healed. In one horrific incident due to overcrowding, two mothers with their babies were sharing a bed, and during the night one rolled over and unwittingly disconnected the oxygen supply to the other mother’s baby. It was only in the morning they discovered what had happened – a needless loss of life…

Beauty and tragedy side by side. Hope and despair jockeying for supremacy.

 

The (mostly) US Serge team – see www.mccropders.com for more info – are doing a stunning job there, in partnership with a lot of very committed Burundians. It is so encouraging to see the progress being made to transform what was a very run-down barely-functioning hospital a few years ago into the nation’s premier training hospital. God bless their efforts!

 

So here’s to many children (and adults) being healed of cancer in the years to come, at Kibuye Hope Hospital and hopefully elsewhere in Burundi. Here’s to that new paediatric ward being built as soon as possible. And next time you’re tempted to moan about the quality of healthcare you’re getting where you are, maybe try to remind yourself how much better it is than for many people around the world without the access you have.

General

Sometimes I amaze myself even at my own idiocy.

Over the years, I’ve taken literally hundreds of visitors to Musée Vivant, Bujumbura’s interactive zoo – so often that I’m an honorary member of staff, and never have to pay. Most visitors love it, others hate it. We get to hold pythons that slowly start constricting around us; the more intrepid ones climb into the cage and enjoy the incredible adrenaline rush of stroking or pulling the tail of a 15ft crocodile; and then there are the entertaining (but volatile) chimpanzees.

Today was my comeuppance. What heightens my stupidity is that I’d already got too close a few seconds earlier and he’d lunged and punched me in the face, giving me a sore lip. But that was nothing compared to what followed…

Often by dint of living in this country, blog entries are quite heavy. So all the more when things of a lighter nature occur, they’ve got to be worth sharing. I invite you to hereby waste 17 seconds on this clip and enjoy a laugh at my expense!

Above, the guilty chimp, having literally just chomped and swallowed a decent chunk of my T-shirt. Below, an unhappy camper, sad that a good T-shirt is no more…