I’m back out in Burundi with a team of supporters for a week of introducing them to our various wonderful partners. As I knew would happen, the team members are blown away at the calibre, integrity and commitment of these Kingdom warriors. As Justin noted, the repeated story is that almost all of them had the chance to take the easier option and leave for whichever affluent peaceful country, but they chose to stay and make a costly difference here, in beautiful but broken Burundi.
Ephraim shared how he’d fled to the Congo during the war, but after a few years felt convicted to return to bless his nation. As he was on his way back, he was taken by militia who beat him to (half) death, tried to dump him down a latrine (he didn’t fit through the hole), and then hanged him from a tree. He said to them that they couldn’t kill him because God had told him he would go back to Burundi to preach healing and forgiveness in Jesus. They carried on beating him up. He was bleeding from his nose and ears and left in a crumpled heap. His last words to them were (as with Stephen in Acts when he was stoned): “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing!”
As he carried on sharing, he broke down in tears. It’s very rare to see a Burundian man cry. As the proverb goes: “Amosozi y’umugabo atemba aja mu nda” (‘A Burundian man’s tears fall inside in his stomach’). His passion and compassion for his countrymen, coupled no doubt with the pressures of daily living and looking out for others, led to the dam of emotion breaking within him, and there was a holy release. The team sensitively reached out, laid hands on him and prayed, as our tears merged with his.
There is so much weariness, despair and crushing poverty in this the poorest nation in the world. But there are also many Ephraims and Lyduines (his wife) exhibiting truly remarkable and vibrant resilience coupled with incredible vision, fruitfulness and lasting transformation. As I’ve often said, some of God’s best troops are in Burundi. It’s a privilege to serve them.
I love these stories! We get bombarded with so much bad news in general, that all the more I see it as part of our job at GLO to tell inspiring tales of overcoming. Meet Divine:
She was an orphan living in Nyanza lac in the South of Burundi. She was married young to a boy who mistreated her, indeed whose family rejected her and maligned her such that she preferred to flee to the streets. She was left with no apparent options other than to sell her body to survive.
That was five years ago.
Just a few months back, she came across the work of our partner Together for Development (TfD). She got trained up in sewing. She discovered that she had value, that God loved her, and wanted a healthy pure relationship with her.
What a transformation!
She is such a dynamo that she now organises a self-help group of 30 ladies. She’s led 15 of them to Jesus, and 12 of them out of prostitution. Each Wednesday she meets with them to share God’s Word and encourage them through life’s trials.
Ephraim, leader of TfD, visited her two weeks ago, and she said to him: “I don’t have any family – no brother, no sister – you became my family, don’t abandon me.” He won’t, and in the meantime gave her a chicken! Here he is filming her and translating some of her testimony.
Earlier this summer, I asked for prayers for our huge team of evangelists during their two-week summer outreach campaign, and the results and stories are in. As promised, here’s what happened. First, the stats:
Amazing! And there were other stories of marriages being restored, suicidal attempts thwarted or abandoned, community reconciliation and more.
So here are a few of the many stories – all I can say is ‘Wow!’ and ‘Praise God!’ Enjoy the snapshots:
Sylvère had dropped out of school in 2018 because of mental ill-health or demons– demons is what the parents believed. He ran around the community in a crazed state until he was forcibly locked up and sedated. His parents tried both recognised medicine and witchcraft potions, but things only got worse. But then, a few weeks ago, his father Jacques met a friend who advised him to go to a nearby church, where he had heard of an evangelistic outreach taking place.
“I was exhausted on that day. The doctors had told me there was nothing left to do for my son but take him home. I felt hopeless and had already given up. My wife encouraged me to give it one last try and take him to that church. I was very reluctant. I had heard many stories of people whom churches had scammed.
When we got to the church, we were greeted by a group of evangelists who were praying. They immediately started praying for my son. While praying, my son screamed and shouted and moved hysterically. The more he yelled, the more they prayed.
Suddenly, he stopped moving. One of the evangelists talked to Sylvere and asked him a question, to which he responded verbally. I was in awe. It was the first time hearing my son speak for three years. I fell to my knees and immediately repented.”
Ten members of his extended family gave their lives to the Lord and burnt all their charms.
Goretti had been paralysed for three years. The team visited and prayed for her. She was healed, and straightaway gave her life to Jesus. Six of her family members and five neighbours also came to Christ on the back of witnessing her healing!
Éric and Aline had travelled 35km to consult a powerful sorcerer. Our team interacted with the trio, who were each deeply convicted. They renounced witchcraft, gave their lives to Jesus and did away with all their paraphernalia!
A poor 48-year-old widow in Gahombo had been blind for ten years. She was prayed for, healed, gave her life to Jesus and returned to her home where seven neighbours were blown away at her miraculous healing and likewise chose to follow Jesus, amidst huge rejoicing!
Makobero had been a witch doctor for sixty years. Having encountered the evangelists, he felt convicted and converted; at that point, six of his family also decided to follow Jesus, whilst he burnt all his idols!
22-year-old Désiré was seen by the whole community as a madman wandering around. When the evangelists visited his family, his parents said they’d only listen to the gospel if the team prayed for Désiré first and showed them God’s power. When he was healed, 31 people gave their lives to Jesus in response!
Thanks so much for your prayers, I have no doubt they played a huge role!
I hope you are encouraged. It’s our 17th year of doing this, and we’ll be back at it next year.
We are entering a dark period of history, and we need to be ready for it.
I fear we are far from ready.
Are you ready? Am I?
“God did not give us a spirit of fear.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
I believe it is absolutely critical for believers in the risen Jesus Christ to embrace and live out this verse.
We live by faith, not fear. Or at least that is how we are meant to live. But my observation in lockdown was that many believers were as susceptible to fear as anyone else, absorbing endless fear-inducing messages and being crippled into inactivity and despondency when we should have been beacons of hope and light in that dark time.
Remember the Satanic Lullaby? (Check it out here). This message went viral because it resonated with so many of you. Indeed, huge numbers of people are getting taken out by it. But whether we’re being lulled to sleep or conditioned into fearful living, it’s crucial that we recognise what is going on. The stakes are high.
Folks in the West – I’m not talking to Burundians or many other cultures and nations that have suffered for so long – we need to develop resilience (*see bottom for eleven tips on how to do that). We are possibly the most unresilient generation in the history of humanity. Despite being the most materialistically ‘developed’ society ever, we’re experiencing a darkening shadow of existential emptiness, anxiety, and hopelessness.
Since the Second World War, this largely peaceful period has shaped us over decades to seek comfort and ease above all else, which has weakened our ability to stand firm in a crisis. We’ve simply had it easy for too long – collectively, not necessarily individually – and we need to wake up. Jesus said: “In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
We just weren’t ready for the Covid crisis, and we’re still not ready for the multiple crises to come. Last month I listened to this measured but extraordinary prophetic word (watch it here), and it really chimed with my spirit. It’s 38mins long but well worth the listen. The picture painted is very bleak indeed on the one hand, but provides a glorious opportunity for those of us who choose faith over fear, have a balanced theology of suffering, and develop healthy resilience whilst boldly living out the glorious gospel.
Looking back and learning the lessons of history helps us to be able to look forward with confidence and vision. Tim Dieppe does just that in this excellent article, and challenges us at the end with the question: ‘How will our generation of Christians go down in church history?’ Read it here…
Along a similar line, Dr Stephen Backhouse wrote:
“In 165AD a plague swept through the mighty Roman Empire, wiping out one in three of the population. It happened again in 251AD where 5000 people per day were dying in the city of Rome alone. Those infected were abandoned by their families to die in the streets. The government was helpless and the Emperor himself succumbed to the plague. Pagan priests fled their temples where people flocked for comfort and explanation. People were too weak to help themselves. If the smallpox did not kill you, hunger, thirst and loneliness would.
The effect on wider society was catastrophic. Yet following the plagues the good reputation of Christianity was confirmed, and its population grew exponentially. Why is this? Christians did not come armed with intellectual answers to the problem of evil. They did not enjoy a supernatural ability to avoid pain and suffering. What they did have was water and food and their presence.
In short, if you knew a Christian you were statistically more likely to survive, and if you survived it was the church that offered you the most loving, stable and social environment. It was not clever apologetics, strategic political organisation or the witness of martyrdom which converted an Empire so much as it was the simple conviction of normal women and men that what they did for the least of their neighbours they did it for Christ.”
We can all be those people again in our day! We are here for such a time as this! The cliché is true: we may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future – and we can live confident in that.
Smith Wigglesworth gave this challenge to followers of Jesus:
“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 if need be, wake up! If awake, then get ready, and live ready! Not on your own, but deeply rooted in an active community of believers. This is no soft sell, but I look forward to seeing what oozes out of us…!
11 Suggestions (amongst many possible ones!) On Developing Resilience
Live connected – in a community of faith, down your street, with family and friends. We can’t do this in isolation.
Acknowledge and welcome God into every part of your day – I try to picture myself wearing glasses, and the lens through which I see everything is Him. I invite Him to filter everything. That brings much more peace and stability.
Switch off the news – it’s good to know what is going on in the world in order to pray effectively, but you don’t need to absorb relentlessly negative news 24/7, it’s so depressing! That’s why I started my ‘Inspired…’ podcast, to counteract all the bad news with wonderful stories of overcoming faith.
Memorise Scripture – storing up God’s promises in your heart and standing on them gives strong backbone.
Get exercise – ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ – it’s true. Push yourself, even if you don’t want to. It doesn’t have to be much but it makes a huge difference.
Be grateful/thankful – acknowledging and focusing on the blessings in your life brings joy and lightness that can blast away the negative thoughts.
Keep things in perspective – as my Burundian brothers taught me, you will make it! God is still on the throne. The sun will rise tomorrow. One step at a time.
Embrace the reality that you can’t be in control, and that change is a given – Remember the serenity prayer? “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”.
Take care of yourself – not in a narcissistic or self-absorbed way, but make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, working reasonable hours, not stuck indoors the whole time, doing activities that bring joy, make you laugh, etc.
Listen to the right voices – God’s voice, your friends’ and families’ voices, trusted voices, not the relentless bombarding cultural lies we are being fed. Seriously limit time spent on social media. Get off that screen, cross the road and talk to a neighbour over a cup of tea!
Ask for help – We all have tough seasons. Find a trusted brother or sister in Christ and share it without shame. Allow yourself to be encouraged by them and remember, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Corinthians 12:9). Likewise, look out for those who may be in that place now.
Last Sunday night, we had an evening meal with GLO Partner United Christians for Evangelism (UCE). They are a superb outfit doing incredible things on minimal funds, which is what I find so utterly inspiring. When I was last out here in October, we had done an outreach in Gatamba in Karuzi Province, which had been a real adventure and very fruitful – some of you might remember the demon-possessed lady Teresa who had thrown both her shoes at me from the crowd who was then prayed for, set free, and helped to make a fresh go of life having fallen on very hard times.
Anyway, back to our evening meal. UCE had lined up a few people (as seen above) whose lives had been transformed during the outreach last October, for us to hear their stories. It was very encouraging. Here’s what happened to them at the Gatamba rally (from left to right):
Lambert came to the gospel rally with liver and stomach problems. He was also known as a drunk. But he wanted to be set free, so he came forward for prayer and received God’s touch. On the spot, his desire for alcohol disappeared, and he is a totally new man. As a side note, I have never seen anyone eat as much in one sitting (see below), probably three times my healthy portion – we had a good laugh together about that, he took his eating very seriously!
Liberate’s brother had told her of UCE’s powerful ministry because he’d been healed previously at one of their rallies. She’d been bedridden for six months with horrific pains from her head to her toes. She’d visited three witch doctors who had only made her poorer and certainly hadn’t helped improve her health. So in her desperation, she was the first to come forward at the Gatamba rally to receive prayer. In her words, she felt ‘a strong warm wind go through my whole body, blowing away all my body pains and leaving me free!’ She is now an active member of her church community.
Rose hadn’t walked for two and a half years. One of her legs was paralyzed, but as she received prayer the paralysis went. She is now back cultivating alongside other women in the community.
Eric had long-term intestinal problems, which medicine and herbal remedies gave fleeting relief to. He heard the noise of the rally, came to listen, sought prayer, gave his life to Jesus, and was healed on the spot. He is now busy evangelising, has joined his church’s choir, and longs for others to encounter the Jesus who changed his life.
Diomede had a seriously swollen knee. After prayer, the swelling disappeared, and he got up on the stage and demonstrated his complete healing. On the back of experiencing that undeniable miracle, he became a follower of Christ Jesus on the spot, and over supper testified that he had never experienced such peace as he does now.
It was a joy meeting them and I like sharing such stories, to stir us in our own faith. Many Burundians are so open, hungry, desperate, and a whole lot less cynical than most of us in the West. They have much to teach us. We thank God for His gracious work in their lives. And keep up the great work, UCE!
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.
Things would have looked very different if Chrissie had died when the doctors said she would.
Decades ago, she was dying and had been given six months to live. She was partially paralysed, bald, her whole body was swollen ‘like a Michelin-Man’, and she had two wrecked lungs. On her hospital bed, she heard an audible voice: “It’s time to go home; I am going to heal you!”
She was allowed out of the hospital some weekends. One weekend, back in her apartment and resting on her beanbag, she believed she was dying but then suddenly felt painful pins and needles in her head. She put her hand to her head and felt bristles on her scalp. Her hair was growing back!
She picked up her Bible, and a piece of paper fell out of it, with 1 Peter 2:24 written on it – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed’.” It turns out her pastor had prayed that verse over her for 6 weeks whilst she was on a life-support machine, and he’d put it in her Bible.
By the following morning, she had a full head of hair, her paralysis and swollenness had gone, and her breathing was fine (indeed, she never again had an asthma attack). She returned to the hospital, and when her doctor saw her and reached out to touch her full head of hair, he fell to his knees speaking in tongues. He wasn’t even a Christian! That week, 17 hospital staff who knew what she was suffering from gave their lives to Christ in response to her evident miraculous healing!
What do you make of that?
Chrissie Chapman died a few days ago. She was a truly remarkable woman. In her death, I want to do two things: give you the opportunity to be stirred by her quite extraordinary faith journey, and contribute to her legacy.
So if you want to hear more crazy stories like the one above, why not watch to this talk or listen to it on the Inspired… Podcast via Apple Podcasts or Spotify. She gave it in 2016 and I would genuinely say it’s one of the most powerful talks I’ve ever heard.
Following her healing, Chrissie pursued a clear call to serve the Lord in Burundi. She wrote her Burundi story in ‘The Night the Angels Came’, which you can buy here.
So that’s the first thing, and it’ll bless your socks off if you listen to that talk or read her book. Now the second thing – an opportunity to contribute to her legacy:
As she joked, she was a single mother with 54 children, all from different fathers! To be clear, she wasn’t spectacularly fertile and promiscuous; rather, she’d taken in 54 precious, vulnerable lives! In turn, those infants needed schooling, so she started what is now called the King’s School in Bujumbura, which now has 714 kids in the student body.
All of the original 54 are now over 18-years-old. Several of them babysat for us and became our good friends. Some have been through university and have found jobs, but for about ten of them, their studies are still ongoing. During Chrissie’s latter years, a significant concern for her quite naturally was finding sponsors to see them all through. Yet as things stand, there is a shortfall.
In brief, would you like to honour Chrissie as she graduates to glory by helping the remaining students to finish their studies, and to contribute to the replacement of the 12-year-old(!) dying computers in the King’s School’s ICT lab, and other such needs, as the King’s School was a key part of her legacy?
This is not a GLO project per se, but our DNA is to bless transformational Kingdom initiatives in Burundi, which this most certainly is. If you do want to help, God bless you.
(If you would prefer to give in US$, please click here)
One of my favourite stories that Chrissie shared was of her encounter with an old man in a miserable displacement camp during the war. He was sat with an empty bowl in prayer. She went over to see him and asked him his story. He was in his seventies. He’d witnessed his wife and kids hacked to death, and his house burned down. He’d walked six days to get to the camp. Sat there in his stinking rags with that empty bowl… that was all he was in the whole world. Yet he was able to declare:
“I never realised that Jesus was all I needed until Jesus was all I had!”
What . A . Line!
Chrissie, we salute you! We’ll all, by God’s grace, see you again sooner or later. In the meantime, let’s live our lives to the full, making the most of it in service of the King!
I’ve had a fun day so far, and yet it’s been such a normal day. Let me explain:
Our church was serving the local community at the weekend by providing four skips for people to bring their stuff and save them a trip to the tip (many locals don’t have a car, so it’s very much appreciated). There was one last skip that needed filling, so a couple of us did that this morning. As the skip was loaded onto the truck and about to be driven away, I showed the driver a picture on my phone, and asked him if he’d seen it before. He said no, but the conversation that ensued led to me praying for him, exchanging numbers, and him expressing interest in doing an Alpha course.
I then showed the same picture to the guy who’d helped me fill the skip. He’s a lovely Hindu from India. We prayed together as well.
Then back home, the bell rang and I answered the door. I showed that lady the picture as well, and her English was very broken but we established that she was my catholic sister from Brazil, and parted joyfully.
And now I’ve just got off from a Zoom call with someone trying to sell me (good) stuff, at the end of which I asked if he’d mind me sharing with him for a few minutes. I pulled up the same picture again. Another great conversation ensued, at the end of which I prayed with and for him, and he agreed that when he was next in the area (he knew my address now because of what he was trying and succeeding in selling me), he’d come over for a beverage to talk further.
So what am I sharing with all these folks? Well, the picture I show them and the briefest summary outline of what I share is below:
Honestly, it’s so easy. And I’m genuinely not even that good at ‘doing’ it yet, as it’s a relatively new approach to me. But if you’re winsome, open, loving, respectful, it’s such fun – all four encounters today were so positive.
You could do this!
They were such simple encounters – with a truck driver, a man helping me fill a skip, a lady who knocked on my door, and someone selling me stuff – just day-to-day normal meetings.
So I’m offering and recommending you this simple conversation starter and tool. Let me say it again, you can do this!
A few Saturdays ago, 16 of us did it in the town centre, and in one hour we led 10 people to Jesus, including one Wiccan lady with her pentagram. People are spiritually hungry – not all by any stretch, but many – and they don’t want religion (yuck!), but many do want Jesus!
Why don’t you take an hour or so to memorise the script, check out these training/example videos, and then give it a go?!
On this day last year, my dear friend Caleb Meakins graduated to glory after days battling to overcome injuries sustained in a car crash in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His death left many of us reeling, because he had so much love, energy and passion to give, and it all felt so wrong.
To understand Caleb, you had to know the defining moment in his life. His English father worked for Tearfund and had married his Ethiopian mother. In 1996, his Dad’s plane was hijacked and crash-landed in shallow waters just off the Grande Comore Island in the Indian Ocean. As the plane was losing altitude, his father stood up and shared Jesus with the screaming passengers. Not all of them died, and that was how Caleb came to know through the testimony of the survivors that his earthly father had been consistent in his faith and courageous to the last.
As a student at Loughborough university (coincidentally the same one I attended fifteen years before him), Caleb had contacted me after being impacted by a book I’d written. I wasn’t part of his inner circle, but I was keen to help nurture and encourage this supremely talented younger brother in any way possible. He came out to visit us in Burundi and my kids absolutely loved him. Later on, we shared a twin-bed for several nights together whilst speaking at a conference in Northern Ireland. I got some hilarious footage of him snoring loudly, so he wasn’t the best room-mate if I’d wanted a good night’s sleep! In fact, the flu he had at the time, he duly passed on to me, which meant I remembered him with a distinct lack of fondness for another fortnight!
But how we laughed! And how we dreamed together! Caleb was a beautiful blend of big dreams, creative ideas, entrepreneurial nous, winsome ability to connect, deeply kind and caring, empowering of others, self-deprecating, adventurous, willing to take risks, the list goes on.
I’ve just had a nostalgic look through a few of the films on his YouTube channel. One of the many things he did was take on a challenge of doing 40 days of failure – i.e. taking on something that he knew he’d probably fail at, to see how it worked out. It was about overcoming the fear of failure, and invariably ‘failure’ was a great learning experience!
Simple things like getting on a train and doing his first ‘live’ song! (He talks about it in this TED talk starting at 4mins 45secs) Caleb had a truly dreadful singing voice, but he stood up, introduced himself, and blasted out the song ‘Stand by Me’.
Stone silence and heads down from all the passengers.
“OK, that didn’t go so well… could any of you join me if we try again?”
The second rendition saw a builder and another woman join him at the chorus. Progress!
“Hey guys, come on, let’s do it! Let’s try one more time!”
And the whole carriage sang together with gusto, and clapped and cheered at the end!
He said he went from 0% to 100% confidence. And that experience was repeated time and time again.
Seriously, if you’re going to waste some time surfing the web this week, why not check out him getting dressed up as an Arab sheikh and trying to test-drive a Lamborghini; or embarking on giving a lecture at UCL in front of several hundred students until the actual real lecturer arrived; or blagging his way onto the red carpet with Sarah Jessica Parker for her movie launch; the list goes on. Friends posted him challenges, and he rose to them, showing us all in the process that taking risks and stepping out usually turns out just fine. This led to a few TED talks where he spoke as an ‘expert in failure’ (see the one mentioned above and this one).
I love it that Caleb was courted for a job in the UK by an outfit that always got who they wanted – they saw how good he was – but he turned them down! He then decided to go (back) to live in Ethiopia, and had his finger in so many creative pies there when the accident happened. Indeed, there’s so much more that I could share about that chapter, but this needs to come to an end.
I last saw Caleb when speaking at the summer Shift event on the Troughton farm near Cheltenham. Shift was a movement he’d started with the aim of seeing his generation captivated by God and impacting culture. Several hundred of us laughed and worshipped and dreamed together over several days. He was only 31-years-old, and he didn’t seek the limelight in any way, but it was clear everyone looked to him as the leader.
I have to say, he packed more into those 31 years than many do in their three score years and ten. Certainly, he wasn’t one whose highest aspiration was to arrive safely at death. But now he’s gone. What a spectacular loss he is to the many, many people he influenced – most immediately, of course, to his wonderful mother Ruth, and his sisters Lydia and Abi, who have lost the two closest men in their lives. Lord, comfort them!
There was so much more to come from Caleb, as we saw it. Yet it wasn’t to be. Many things happen that we simply can’t understand. Trying to muster a satisfactory explanation is futile. His death was a tragedy. Today is the first anniversary of his passing. But because of the timing of his death, with the onset of the pandemic, there was no memorial service in England and we didn’t get the chance to come and grieve together.
That’s why I wanted to write this. To remember our precious brother. Mercifully, ‘we do not grieve as others do who have no hope’ (1 Thes 4:13). The last talk I gave on that Shift weekend was from 1 Cor 13:12, where Paul writes: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Well, dear Caleb, you’ve beaten us there! Now you know fully, even as you are fully known. How amazing that must be! We miss you, we honour you, we remember you. And as we thank God for your life, we vow to step up and take risks, embrace ‘failure’, and be part of a movement that shifts our culture in the right direction.