This is most definitely worth the read. I share it for three reasons – 1) it shows how incredibly tough life is in Burundi, 2) despite the toughness, or maybe because of it, it highlights the depth of faith of folks I get to interact with, and 3) it shows the beauty of God’s faithfulness through your giving to GLO so we can provide hope and rescue to many out here.
So the context: A few weeks ago, I gave a financial gift from one of our supporters to a widower friend called Peter (actually names are changed to protect his family’s identity) who has been going through a torrid time. Part of his amazing/beautiful/tragic story is included at the bottom of this, which I wrote in 2010. Alli, a wonderful Canadian co-worker who is very close to Peter, sent me this email, which I share with you with both her and Peter’s permission:
I just wanted to share a series of text messages that preceded the incredible gift Peter received through GLO. He’s a man of faith who has ridden many storms but after a few days of being ill, he wrote to me…
“This morning my body is great apart from an empty stomach. You said you like to know my situation and my heart. This morning my babies (children) didn’t have anything to eat before going to school. Luckily God provided a midday meal for the two youngest, but not the older four. For them, I’m waiting for a miracle every minute, that when they come home from school at lunchtime they will find something to eat.
May I claim to be blessed because I am all out of options?! May I rejoice I am at the very end of my rope with nothing left to hold onto?! Of course that’s exactly what I should be doing, trusting God to take control and care of everything while I stay in my bed just waiting. But the truth is that it’s not easy. If you have a secret please share it with me! I have to make sacrifices as I wait for the period of the seven skinny cows to be over. I pray that you will read and interpret this with love! Love is all that remains when everything else is over.”
3rd October, upon receipt of gift from GLO:
“Halleluia!!!! God is so so so good! The totally unimaginable has happened, so long hoped for, so long awaited. God has just done it! I can pay all my debts, I can pay the costs to wrap up my degree, I can pay several months of rent AND feed my children!! Isn’t He wonderful? What an amazing grace!!! I am crying with joy!!”
Simon, do send this on to those who gave the money for their encouragement. Peter is a widower, father of six, who determined to break a curse on his family – a curse that kept all previous family members in poverty, intelligent but never getting a degree, strong but all dying before the age of forty. He is the first to break this pattern but the enemy has thrown everything possible at him to try to stop him. He was miraculously healed of incurable cancer but his young wife died of cancer while he was pursuing his university studies at night school. He first registered in 2007 and finally graduated with Distinction last week, October 15th, 2016. Please continue to pray for this brave man, that the Lord will continue to use his living testimony for the Kingdom.
Thanks dear Simon for being a powerful inimitable indefatigable agent of hope for so many Burundian heroes.
What a privilege to be able to help such precious people! All we do is through the generosity of folks like you around the world. I get the joy of actually doing the face-to-face giving, but I want you to feel a part of it. God bless you loads! If you want to help for the first time, or for the umpteenth time, please do so at www.greatlakesoutreach.org/donate
Blog over, but if you want the amazing back story, read on:
Written on 29th June 2010 – Bitter/Sweet or Sweet/Bitter News of Death in Burundi…
Sarah is dead. The funeral is today.
It seems so wrong. Many prayed and fasted – some believed and even claimed – but all hoped that God would heal her, yet finally she lost in her protracted struggle against breast cancer. The night before she graduated to glory, frail Sarah had called her six children around her, and with poignant strength of voice told them she was leaving soon. She then gave each advice about the future once she had gone. And now Peter has had to break the news to the kids, although the youngest is only a toddler (born 2 weeks before the mastectomy) and cannot possibly comprehend what has happened. On learning of his mother’s death, 4-year-old Francis blurted out: “O Papa, if Mama is with Jesus, will you take me there too?”
It seems so deeply wrong in this case because of Peter’s story. The sting of premature death (she was thirty one) is always doubly painful, but God’s intervention in healing Peter seemed to suggest He would surely do the same for Sarah.
Peter is one of the most godly men I know. His testimony is a powerful one. He was a wild womanizer and musician who worked for Burundi’s secret service, and so got up to all sorts of colorful and unsavory acts before his conversion. I first met him about eight years ago when he’d been miraculously granted leave from prison. He was very sick, and needed medical treatment, but the head of the prison had refused him permission, saying: “You’ll only ever be allowed out of here over my dead body.” Under the influence of a massive fever, Peter had replied: “You will watch God take me out of here under your very nose!” He returned to his cell, and an overnight prayer meeting was convened. Nobody was allowed to leave before the Lord had answered their petition. They prayed through the night, and after 9am, one of the group said: “I believe the Lord’s just told me that you’ll be released by 4pm.” They packed his bags in faith, and at 345pm a prison officer opened his cell, looked at his packed bags, and said: “Who told you that you are to be released? Give me your telephone!” Peter replied: “I have no phone. It was God who told us!” And he was carried out of prison under the nose of the head honcho who had said “over my dead body”.
Peter was very sick, and I used to visit him in hospital. He had an armed guard to make sure he didn’t try to escape, but that wasn’t needed. Peter exuded peaceful joy amidst his personal suffering, and drew other sick patients to the Lord. He grew thinner and thinner, and I flew back in the spring of 2003 to prepare to get married to Lizzie, not knowing whether I’d ever see him again. However, a year later, when we returned, a new fatter Peter greeted us. During my absence, two men had come to him and told him: “We know that you’ve been told you only have three months to live, but we believe God is going to heal you for a purpose.” And here he was, living out that healing. His weight had almost doubled. But he was still separated from Sarah and the kids because of now being back in prison.
His crime? He had allowed a ‘friend’ to use his bank account to transfer some funds, and it transpired the money in question was stolen. It showed up on many accounts including Peter’s and his ‘friend’ fled the country. Peter was immediately put in prison and would not be released until that money was returned or the guilty man gave himself up – neither eventuality very likely. But the believers in prison set aside four days to pray and fast on the issue, pleading with the Lord to convict the thief to give himself up. On the fourth day of their fast, he was in neighboring Congo about to commit suicide when the Lord spoke to him and said: “Go back and give yourself up because many people’s lives are ruined because of your behavior.” And so he arrived and admitted his guilt to the police.
Peter’s release was delayed another two years, even though it was clear he was innocent. He developed rare incurable cancer in his throat. I have a photo of him with huge swollen jowls. A mutual friend sponsored him to go and get treated abroad at significant expense. He finished a course of drugs and then just surrendered the issue to the Lord. When Sarah subsequently contracted cancer herself and they traveled repeatedly to the cancer specialist hospital in Uganda, the specialists refused to accept that Peter had had the cancer he described. Even when he produced the paperwork they said there had to be a mistake. It simply wasn’t possible.
The rollercoaster story has more in it, but I’ll stop there.
That’s why we thought Sarah wouldn’t die. God has intervened repeatedly and undeniably in Peter’s life. They had been forced to spend extended time apart, and now at last they were back together. Surely the Lord would do for her as He had done for Peter…? And yet slowly, inexorably, with the occasional upturn, the cancer took her. Faith means embracing question marks for much of the time. There aren’t always tidy answers to our big questions.
Yet Sarah was so grace-filled and dignified in her fight, working until just recently as the family needed the money to survive. Peter’s job is to help rehabilitate former child-soldiers and prostitutes and equip them to choose better lives. Despite incredible odds heaped against him, Peter managed to earn distinction in the first two years of university where he is doing a 4-year degree at evening classes. He earns about $100/month. Now he will somehow have to care for his six children without his life-mate. Aaarrgh!
So Sarah is dead. It’s terribly sad. There are lots of tears being shed right now. But today as I think about her, death really is more sweet/bitter than bitter/sweet for followers of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life. For the first time in years, she is free from pain. For her loved ones, the bitter grief is slightly mitigated by the fact that “we do not mourn as those without hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1Thes.4v13-14)
As I say so often, life is a gift. Live it fully! Health is a gift. Appreciate it! Loved ones are gifts. Cherish them! We have so many gifts… So let’s enjoy them, maximize them and share them.
Do pray for Peter as he faces up to the latest massive challenge in his ongoing pilgrimage. And if anyone wants to help him and the kids, do get back to me.