BlogGLO

Gloria Smiling with her sewing machine

Look at Gloria’s glorious smile! Her life has been totally transformed.

She was trafficked to the Middle East and spent ten years in prostitution. Hers was a truly hopeless and miserable life. But when she managed to escape back to Burundi, our Ephraim tracked her down and found her living in total poverty. 

He rescued her, trained her to be a tailor, got her a sewing machine, and now she’s able to make a living and provide for her daughter. Listen to her in this short film…

Just beautiful!

What I love is that with just £25/$30, we can help a vulnerable lady like Gloria start a business. And that’s what we want to do this Christmas. Could you help one such precious life, or two, or ten? Do click through to make a donation here

We have many such beautiful stories of transformation on the back of very small (to us) monetary interventions. Alida was desperate to avoid the last resort of selling her body, but the temptation was there. She tried to make ends meet by cutting hair. We then gave her a £7 loan to buy ladies’ hair products. That was a game-changer, because now she had more customers and made greater margins, so she was able to provide for herself. From her profits she’s now even bought herself a pig! And what I love is that the whole community now honours her for having resisted taking the prostitution route.

Alida Cutting Hair

It blows my mind that a £7 loan changed Alida’s destiny…

What’s Alida’s next step? Setting up her own salon!

It’s a bit early, but I wish you all a very happy Christmas, and here’s to making it all the happier for some of the last, the lost and the least on the planet!

GLO

Meet my youngest, Josiah, as he shares with me in this short video on a desperate need right now in Burundi.

Economically, Burundi has never been worse, even in the war years. There’s virtually no fuel, food prices are exploding, and the nation is back to being both the poorest and the hungriest country in the world (according to the World Bank). One of our staff recently commented that Bujumbura was ‘like a ghost town’.

And yet, I’m so encouraged (and challenged) by how our faithful partners model such joy amid crisis, holding on to the Saviour and reaching out to help those without hope in practical ways.

My kids are heading back to school in the UK next week. Education is a basic human right. Whereas we can easily take it for granted, our Burundian colleagues are desperate to get all their kids back to school on Monday morning. Although education is free, you have to fork out for school uniforms and stationery, which is beyond many of them.

Often, parents are forced to choose which of their kids can go, because they certainly can’t afford to pay for all of them.

I’m still haunted by my co-worker crying on me and pointing out that it’s the children of parents in ministry that are usually the first to drop out of school…

That is why we are pledging to give £30/$36 to every single employee of the 25 GLO partner organisations we are backing. They are all busting a gut in the toughest of circumstances, and this week is literally the most depressing and stressful of the year as parents invariably have to close the door on the hopes of one or more of their children continuing education.

Please help us help them. Could you cover one family, two, or more? We have 773 staff working with us. Thanks for your consideration. Here’s to all our children, be they in the UK, the USA, Burundi, or wherever, continuing and thriving at school this coming year!

BlogGLOInspiration

United Christians in Evangelism

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.

Well, with this latest visit and team, we joined up again with UCE at a different location, and again there were some beautiful stories including Ananias, who was on his way to kill himself (having just been released from prison after a previous suicide attempt) when he walked past our meeting and encountered God in a powerful way. I love his smile in the photo below, and you can be sure his wife is a happy woman! Click here to hear his own words on what happened at last week’s outreach, as put together by UCE’s Pacifique.

Ananias

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!

Lambert eating an extremely full plate of food
Lambert with his unbelievable plate!

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!    

GLO

Hope is in the air. 

Francine is widowed with 7 children. Life is unbelievably tough. Her ‘house’ is a hovel – actually probably quite like the stable Jesus began his life in – without a toilet, electricity, or a front door to lock and provide security. 
But with your help, their lives (and others) will be radically transformed this Christmas!

ICJ’s work in Murwi is about so much more than hand-outs. We’ve come alongside the poorest of the poor to journey with them out of extreme poverty. We’ve built a community centre with electricity so the kids can do their homework at night. We’ve taught them farming methodologies. We’ve given out animals to provide a livelihood. We’re building them solid basic houses.  

Take a look at how desperate their situations are in this short clip:

So this Christmas, let’s get Francine in her own home. And through our various local partners, let’s provide more hope, to her and others. It may be in the form of a goat or a sewing machine, basic farming skills, attending literacy classes, schooling for children, or having access to God’s Word. It’s very practical and very impacting. Every bit helps, please give whatever you can.

BlogGuest Blog

The timing of my last visit to Burundi was in order to attend the strategic congress launched by Burundi Mission Alliance. It was the brainchild of Onesphore Manirakiza, so I asked him to write a report in summary. Over to you, Onesphore:

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; It will surely come; it will not delay.”

Habakkuk 2:3

It had been always my dream to see church leaders from different churches in Burundi sit around the table discussing local and global mission. I held this dream from 1997 when God called me to be a part of such a movement which seemed so inconceivable at the time. The reality on the ground was so very different. There were many obstacles preventing it from happening. The repeated civil wars had divided the churches along ethnic lines, but also many churches had lost their commitment to unity and collaboration, instead competing and undermining each other.

I had to wait until 2017 to see the first gathering of leaders from different denominations and backgrounds celebrating the introduction of the gospel in Burundi and its impact on society. We had the opportunity to meet those (or the living descendants of those) who brought us the gospel. That was 20 years on from when I first had the dream of a mission conference. During that particular conference, missionaries to Burundi prophetically handed over the responsibility to indigenous leaders.

onesphore-manirakiza

What had begun as an event (mission congress) gave birth to a mission movement. The following year, we had a follow-up conference during which leaders expressed the need of a platform that would host and facilitate this movement of taking the gospel from the heart of Africa to the ends of the earth. That is how the Burundi Mission Alliance was born gathering 3 denominations, 3 independent churches and 5 para-church organizations and operating through 7 task forces in order to catalyze a missional movement from Burundi to the nations.

We met again this year in another mission conference to celebrate the achievements we had made thus far and to remind each other that local churches are indispensable in mission. We had 150 delegates from different denominations, independent churches and local mission organisations.

During our plenary sessions, we had a breakthrough where you could see that people wanted to overcome the historical barriers that divided the church of Burundi and prevented it from participating in the global mission. The leaders of the Baptist Union shared with the participants how missionaries and the first Burundian leaders had worked in unity and had been able to overcome the divisions in the country and the persecution against the emerging evangelical church.

Younger delegates were moved to hear leaders of the Baptist church – just about every Baptist pastor was murdered in 1972 – affirming and thanking the leaders of the Anglican church for the role they played in protecting their churches for 7 years. The Holy Spirit used that holy moment to unite participants and heal the wounds of the past. You could sense God’s reconciling Spirit tangibly filling the room.

It is with tears of joy that I am writing these sentences.

Many of us who had been waiting for this time were convinced that the Lord was bringing to a close a dark chapter in the history of the church in Burundi and opening a new chapter of hope, unity and partnership in local and global mission.

Simon guillebaud

How have we come to this momentum? The Lord has been putting together the pieces of the puzzle during the last 20 years. Simon Guillebaud came to Burundi as a missionary following in the footsteps of his ancestors back in 1999. Though his beginnings were small (working with Scripture Union), he quickly came up with a vision of empowering the body of Christ in Burundi for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). That is how Great Lakes Outreach was born. When he came back from 2 years in the USA back in 2012, he started gathering the leaders of the organisations GLO was supporting in a monthly breakfast meeting. Those meetings became a great connector that transformed former competitors into genuine co-workers.

When the crisis broke out in 2015, those leaders were among the few in the country who could stand up and speak for peace and non-violence. What had begun as evil God turned it to be a blessing for the Burundian church. We formed CIP (Christian Initiatives for Peace) through which our trust increased and led us to this missional movement.

I am so grateful to the Lord who has orchestrated all these things. I honour my dear friend and colleague Simon for having laid down his life as a worker for the renewal of the Burundian Church. May the Lord bless all the people who responded to Simon’s call for help from his first step in Burundi until now. God used them to fuel this vision and catalyze the transformation in Burundi. What was a dream twenty years ago is now a vision and has many leaders to accomplish it. Praise the Lord!

BlogGLOSimon Blog

The new school year is big business in the West, with supermarket aisles crammed full of uniforms, pencil cases, notepads, and more. I asked my daughter Grace to film me as I recounted one of the most moving encounters I ever experienced with a mother desperate for her children’s future:

Even a hard-working family with a modest income will struggle to shoe, clothe and supply stationery to all their children. Often, they’ll only be able to equip one or two of their children with the bare minimum. I can’t imagine having to choose between which of my kids get to carry on receiving an education…

It’s a heart-wrenching decision that parents will be making right NOW. Sadly, there will be thousands of children (particularly girls) who will not make it through the school gate this year, and if they do, they’ll be too ill-equipped or too hungry to learn. The children suffer, and so does Burundi when educational potential is not realised.

Every year I make this desperate plea because I know the transformational power of education to lift people out of poverty. During this most demanding time, GLO is committed to providing extra support to the 615 families of our hard-working GLO partners.

Please join us in giving these parents the joy of seeing ALL their children head off to school, proudly clothed in their school uniforms, backpacks loaded with pencils and books, with full stomachs and ready to learn. What a blessing!

In the happy event that we meet our goal to provide 615 families with a gift of £30 ($40), we will make sure any additional (one-off and monthly) donations are put to equally invaluable use, distributed to where the needs are the greatest.

GLOSimon Blog

It’s taboo. It’s hidden. It’s devastating.

So many girls suffer in silence, in shame, in sadness. We interviewed a few of them in the poignant video below.

Now that we have a teenage daughter, this issue resonates even more deeply with us than before. We would do everything in our power for her to thrive and not miss out on her studies.

We all are (or have) sisters, daughters, nieces, etc. So this is something we can all relate to and do something about. We can all spare £4/$5 to help one (or 5 or 10 etc) precious teenager in Burundi to continue her studies without having to miss several days of school each month.

It’s easy, it’s practical, it’s impactful. Do you want to help?

We’re looking at supplying 2,000 girls with a pack of five re-usable sanitary pads. It’ll be a total game-changer!

Please do join us in helping them…

With thanks,

Simon & Lizzie

BlogGLOSimon Blog

Great Lakes Outreach is a lean machine, I’m proud to say. And we use donated money carefully, accountably, and strategically.

Today is the culmination of 6 months’ intensive work, and is the launch of our spanking new website. You might think we commissioned a marketing agency for £20k, but no, it was all done in-house, so huge thanks to Paul and Adam – great work guys!

Why not take a look now, starting with the stunning short film on the front page explaining what GLO does? 
I’m very encouraged as we continue to have a nation-shaping impact. There are masses of positives in the mix. However, as you’d expect with the longer-term outworking of Covid, some people have understandably stopped their monthly giving to us. In fact, in the last few weeks, we’ve lost £685/month of regular support.

Monthly support is our bread and butter, and at GLO we’ve taken the title ‘GLO Ambassadors’ to describe those of you who are monthly supporters. We are so grateful to each of you because – as any non-profit organisation will tell you – it’s the regular monthly gifts that enable reliable planning and commitment of funds consistently in key areas.
Could you spare £10/20/50/month? Is there a luxury that you could give up to facilitate this?

What always happens in crises is the last and the least suffer the most. That’s Burundi. But in Jesus’ name, we’ll totally resist that trend – with your help.

So if you can dig deep, please do so HERE.

Do enjoy looking through the website. There are so many beautiful films, stories, and fresh content. One of our values is excellence, to the glory of God, and I think we’ve delivered that. Call me biased, but I think it’s as good as any international mega-minted NGO! 

God bless you all.
GLOSimon Blog

You will be healed if you have sufficient faith. Still sick? It’s your lack of faith! That loved one of yours who died? It was because they sinned.You can have anything you set your heart on… Just claim it by faith, and God’s Word says it is yours! Amen? 

Hmm…

I hate false teaching, heresies, lies like the above. Sadly, they are very popular and common in Burundi.

The Church is growing – you could say exploding in growth – which is wonderful. But the challenge of that growth is the prosperity gospel drivel disseminated on the radio, from the pulpit, or in the classroom.

And why is this nonsense spreading? In large part because of a lack of access to the Word of God.

A vibrant Christian Union may have 100-150 members, but only one or two (and sometimes none) of these students will own a Bible. That’s not enough!

We need to get more Bibles into the hands of students who are often passionate but hugely susceptible to these lies. Will you help us?

Thanks to the huge generosity of a few supporters, we’ve got matched funding of £20,000 to get Bibles into the hands of school children and college students.

Each subsidised Bible costs us £5, so our goal this Easter is to provide 4,000 Bibles, which will be doubled to 8,000 Bibles – beautiful!

Through Scripture Union’s Bible Project, we go into schools and provide Bibles at great discount, which the students purchase through a savings club with affordable increments. The students treasure the Bibles they’ve saved so hard for, and the money raised gets recycled – enabling more students to access Bibles. We’ve done it for years and it works!

Here’s us doing it last week in a school upcountry. 

Would you consider making a donation, all the more knowing that it will be doubled?

Go for it!

God bless you loads,

Simon

BlogGeneralGLOGuest BlogSimon Blog

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!

Check out the episode of my podcast where I interviewed Arne – his vision blew my mind!

Some more links:

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