“One day, while sitting in class, my makeshift pad leaked. When I stood up, I realized that I had stained my school uniform. I asked a classmate if she could spare a pad, but she too was in need. I wrapped my jumper around my waist and requested permission to leave.”
For Exaveline, what should be a typical day turns into a recurring nightmare when her monthly period arrives. At just 16 years old, she cannot afford sanitary pads, and she has exhausted all possible methods to prevent staining her school uniform. Unfortunately, her attempts often fail, leaving her feeling ashamed and frustrated.
As a result, she frequently chooses to stay home from school, missing out on valuable education. This not only affects her self-esteem but also hinders her academic performance. Imagine if this was your sister, daughter, granddaughter, niece or friend.
Exaveline is not the only one. A staggering 80% of women in Burundi lack access to menstrual pads. We want to help change that. Many of our Partners run sewing schools, where they teach people valuable business skills so they can gain employment (an excellent initiative in itself). They produce packs of reusable sanitary pads in their workshops for teenage girls so they no longer have to drop out of school each month.
Can you help us provide 5000 precious young women with dignity, hygiene and access to education each month?
You might struggle to believe some of the following stories from last month’s outreach. I hope not though. ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrew 13:8).
So here are some feedback highlights, having asked folks to pray last month as we sent out 1,439 young evangelists from 88 churches for two weeks all around Burundi.
The top-line summary is that they saw over 23,000 people come to faith! It’s the modern-day Acts of the Apostles! Here goes:
An Urge for Healing
In the small village of Bwambarangwe in Kirundo province, 41-year-old Diomede had lain paralysed from the waist down and in increasing despair for the last three years. Our team visited him and shared the gospel, which he accepted as he was desperately in need of hope!
Interestingly, they didn’t pray for his healing initially. But as they parted ways and stepped out of the compound, he felt the urge to call them back to pray for him to be completely healed. Once they’d said ‘Amen!’, he took his crutches and stood up. He then let them go and carried on walking! He burst into tears and shouted for joy.
Hearing his cries, people rushed to see what was happening. Just like in Mark 2:12, they were ‘all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” Thirteen people responded to the miracle by surrendering their lives to Christ.
In Her Right Mind at Last
In a town called Kivoga, Nadine was a contemporary ‘Gadarene demoniac’, just like in Mark chapter 5.
As her condition detoriorated, her father sought treatment at a mental hospital, as well as spending all he could on traditional medicine and witchdoctors. Eventually, the family gave up, and she wandered around Kivoga deranged and half-dressed, feared and mocked by the whole community. She lived on the rubbish dump and roamed the streets at night.
When our team of evangelists showed up, they overcame their initial fear and started praying for her. Demons manifested, but the team called on reinforcements, took her to the local church, and over the next three hours of intensive prayer, battled through for her total deliverance.
Suddenly, after the last demon was cast out, Nadine’s screams ceased. She looked at herself and began weeping. She had no recollection of what had happened but asked for some clothes.
When her father arrived and saw her ‘in her right mind’ (like Mark 5:15), he was so overwhelmed he fell to the ground. Our guys shared with him how Jesus had set her free, and her Dad and seven other people present gave their lives to the Lord!
From Cursing to Repenting
Baltazar was a notorious witch doctor from Bugenyuzi. He was feared by all around him, and loved the reputation he had. Nobody challenged him as they didn’t want him to cast a spell on them (I know, many of you struggle to believe this stuff. Suffice to say, out there you don’t need to convince them the power is real).
One day, a neighbour approached and asked him to stop his witchcraft. A few days later, that previously healthy man was found dead at home.
So that was the context when our team showed up. They heard the stories and decided to camp out on Baltazar’s hill and pray every night. When he heard what they were doing, he went out to confront them.
But as he approached them, he was overwhelmed by a greater power and fell to his knees. He asked for prayers and surrendered to Christ. He invited the team back to his home, where his wife likewise repented when she heard what had happened to him. A crowd came to watch as the team burned all his charms, and he and his wife repented of all they had done to their neighbours and in the community.
Everyone was amazed at this total transformation.
Wow! Wow! Wow!
There are more stories, but I’ll stop there. It’s a different context to ours maybe, but the same gospel message – the same Holy Spirit in us, the same power in the name of Jesus, the same Heavenly Father who longs to forgive his children and lavish them with his amazing grace.
Sometimes it’s just plain wrong… and we have to do something about it.
It is wrong that a pastor serves God faithfully his whole life and then ends up with no pension, in total poverty, abandoned by his children, dying penniless and uncared for, sometimes regretting he’s given his life to the Lord’s service in the first place.
And yet such a scenario is relatively common in a country where very few people get a pension. Daniel was a pastor for 36 years before retiring. He reminisces:
“I taught the Word of God in schools, planted many churches and mentored many people… but now I’m 81. I’ve got diabetes and other health issues. I can’t do any physical labour in the fields. I live a lonely life in total poverty.”
That is wrong.
John is 76. He served Jesus for 46 years, planting multiple churches and leading many to the Lord. When the war kicked off in 1993, he lost his wife and six children but kept going. He says:
“Now I’m too old to work and I’m desperate. An old injury means I can’t walk far. My shack leaks when it rains. I go days without food. My surviving children live far away and don’t help.”
Again, it is just plain wrong that he laid down his life and now lives in misery.
Last year, GLO partner UCE bought some land upcountry to build a retirement village for precious brothers like Daniel and John. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enable dozens of these faithful servants to live out their latter years in peace – well-fed, nurtured and valued?
That sounds right to me!
Whilst another organisation is committing funding to the building work, we want to help the whole project be self-sustaining by buying a lot more of the available surrounding land to develop for farming to feed the community.* Sowing into this means that whatever you give will keep on generating blessing for posterity!
There’s also a dream for it to one day become a place of refuge and discipleship for new Muslim-background believers suffering persecution. I love this! Do you want to be involved?
100m² costs £25 / $30
1000m² costs £250 / $300
10,000m² (1 hectare) costs £2,500 / $3,000
Whatever you can give, it will have a beautiful long-term impact, providing crops year after year after year – the gift that keeps on giving!
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…
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!