BlogGLO

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.

GLO

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

BlogGLO

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.
GLO

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 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

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!

BooksGeneralInspiration

Amused

George Orwell wrote about the time a wasp “was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed oesophagus.  Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him.”

Back in 1985, Neil Postman wrote ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’. The book is obviously dated, but whatever warnings he flagged up back then concerning the dangers of being conditioned and shaped by vapid television content – well, they need to be heard all the more nowadays with social media, Netflix, etc.

Lockdown is such a weird time. Some people are equally or more stretched with work than before, whilst others are on furlough or simply less pressured. I’m in that latter category.

When one’s schedule is full, time has to be well-used. Personally, I have 5 less speaking engagements each week now than during pre-lockdown days. So when things are more fluid, it’s easy to waste time, and become professionally (or spiritually) flabby. That is my biggest challenge, and I suspect it’s the same for many of us.

And my biggest concern is for my (and your) spiritual journey.

Picture yourself in five years’ time answering the question ‘What did God teach you in lockdown?’ I don’t want my answer to be a fumbling bumbling ‘Err… hum… Well, I got to watch 5 seasons of This is Us, 3 more of Homeland, finished off The Crown, etc’.

The biggest danger to our souls – way bigger than Covid to our bodies, I suggest – is amusing ourselves to death.

John Piper writes: “If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

I’m scared that might become true of me particularly in this season…

…So as the new year has kicked in, I’m desperate to feed my soul nourishing fare rather than neutral (at best) or positively destructive crap.

Not just desperate… but determined. Can I spend at least as much time reading/praying/worshipping as in front of the box, for example? Hmm…

Anyway, here’s just sharing a few books and a podcast that will do you good, without trying to overload you.

The single most influential book in my life was E. G. Carré (ed.), Praying Hyde: Apostle of Prayer.

I’ll paste at the bottom some of it and what it did to me. You can’t manufacture personal revival, but it absolutely nuked me as I dug deep and spent time in the Lord’s presence. You can buy the book here.

I’m currently reading Jon Tyson’s ‘Beautiful Resistance – the Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise’. You can buy it here. It came out of a superb recent sermon series. In fact, if I have one recommendation for podcasts, his preaching/teaching would be it. He is so insightful, clear and unapologetic on how the Church needs to shape up in this cultural moment. There’s never a duff sermon from him, so do sign up.  (Search for his series on the Controversial Jesus – brilliant!)

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. He writes of a man who was born in a gypsy tent, of humble origins, and yet ended up being invited to the White House by two presidents. Rodney ‘Gypsy’ Smith came into the world in 1860 in Epping Forest, just outside London. 45 times he crossed the Atlantic to preach the gospel to millions of people on both sides. His passion was almost unparalleled, and there was great fruit in what he did. What was his secret? Private prayer. His praying was even more powerful than his preaching.

A delegation once came to him to enquire how they might experience personal and mass revival as he had. They wanted to be used the way Gypsy was. Without hesitating, he said: “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle round yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.”

So do buy that book here and get in the circle!

Another good one is Ross Paterson’s ‘The Antioch Factor’. I liked this book so much when it came out that I bought 800 of them to get the message out! Buy the book here.

Obviously I’d recommend signing up for Choose Life, which many of you have. I’ll be putting out a weekly vlog each Tuesday and there’ll be other things coming out of that to sharpen/challenge/encourage us in the coming year.

I’ll stop there. Don’t be that unsuspecting severed wasp over lockdown! Resist!

Scroll down if you want to read a bit of my encounter with God through Praying Hyde sixteen years ago

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Pengwern Jones was a close friend of John ‘Praying’ Hyde. What he observed of Hyde is worth including at length because it can teach us so much:

“I owe him more than I owe to any man, for showing me what a prayer-life is, and what a real consecrated life is. I shall ever praise God for bringing me into contact with him… The first time I met him was at Ludhiana in the Punjab, where he lived at the time. I had been invited to speak a few words on the Revival in the Khassia Hills to the Conference of the United States Presbyterian Mission, who had their annual session at the time there. I had traveled by night from Allahabad to Ludhiana, and reached there early in the morning. I was taken to have a cup of tea with the delegates and others, and I was introduced across the table to Mr. Hyde. All that he said to me was, “I want to see you; I shall wait for you at the door.” There he was waiting, and his first word was, “Come with me to the prayer room, we want you there.” I do not know whether it was a command or a request. I felt I had to go. I told him that I had traveled all night, and that I was tired, and had to speak at four o’clock, but I went with him; we found half a dozen persons there, and Hyde went down on his face before the Lord. I knelt down, and a strange feeling crept over me. Several prayed, and then Hyde began, and I remember very little more. I knew that I was in the presence of God himself, and had no desire to leave the place; in fact, I do not think that I thought of myself or of my surroundings, for I had entered a new world, and I wanted to remain there.

We had entered the room about eight o’clock in the morning; several had gone out, others had come in, but Hyde was on his face on the floor, and had led us in prayer several times. Meals had been forgotten, and my tired feeling had gone, and the revival account and message that I was to deliver – and concerning which I had been very anxious – had gone out of my mind, until about three thirty, when Hyde got up, and he said to me, “You are to speak at four o’clock; I shall take you to have a cup of tea.” I replied that he must need a little refreshment, too, but he said, “No, I do not want any, but you must have some.” We called in at my room and washed hurriedly, and then we both had a cup of tea, and it was full time for the service. He took me right unto the door, then took my hand and said, “Go in and speak, that is your work. I shall go back to the prayer room to pray for you, that is my work. When the service is over, come into the prayer room again, and we shall praise God together.” What a thrill, like an electric shock, passed through me as we parted. It was easy to speak, though I was speaking through an interpreter. What I said, I do not know. Before the meeting was over, the Indian translator, overcome by his feelings, and overpowered by the Spirit of God, failed to go on, and another had to take his place. I know the Lord spoke that night. He spoke to me, and spoke to many. I realised then the power of prayer; how often I had read of blessing in answer to prayer, but it was brought home to me that evening with such force that ever since I try to enlist prayer warriors to pray for me whenever I stand up to deliver his messages. It was one of the most wonderful services I ever attended, and I know that it was the praying saint behind the scenes that brought the blessing down on me.

I went back after the service to him, to praise the Lord. There was no question asked by him about whether it was a good service or not, whether men had received a blessing or not; nor did I think of telling him what blessing I had personally received and how his prayers had been answered. He seemed to know it all, and how he praised the Lord and how easy it was for me to praise the Lord, and speak to Him of the blessing He had given.”

I recently devoured the book containing the above passage, as I hungered for the effectiveness in intercessory prayer of the likes of John Hyde. I was back by myself in Burundi, separated from my precious Lizzie and unborn son for what would be several months. I’d arrived back heavy-hearted, my malaise compounded by my Mother’s freshly-diagnosed cancer. However, what followed were days of unparalleled intimacy with Jesus. Largely undisturbed early from the crack of dawn and late into the evenings, I could spend hours in God’s presence, seeking his face, praising him, and engaging in intercessory prayer. I share an entry from my journal of that season to illustrate some lessons learnt from spending real concentrated time in the Lord’s presence:

“29th September 2005: I’m reading this book on Praying Hyde, and it’s so challenging. As I tried to emulate him by letting rip in prayer for ages on my bed in the dark, it suddenly struck me that these few months will probably be my quietest ones for the next several decades! So instead of bemoaning my loneliness, this could be the most fabulous time of nurturing intimacy with the Lord by spending as much time with him as possible. Let’s be positive! I’m rubbish in general with my own company, but loved the chance tonight to pray so undisturbed – not something I really did much over the last few months of hectic preaching around England. So Lord, I give you this time, I surrender my life afresh, have your way, do whatever you want with me. What a great privilege it is to be a child of the King!

30th September: It’s my fasting day. I feel caught up in an extraordinary state at the moment, somewhat a mountain top experience. It surely has to do with the fact that I’m spending so much time in the Lord’s presence – what a numbskull I am and how slow to learn the fact that intimacy, which we all crave, can only be attained and sustained through disciplined commitment and time given to him. We want effortless intimacy, but it just doesn’t happen that way.

So I was up at the crack of dawn, and jumped out of bed with a ‘Good morning, Jesus!’ I prayed passionately, sang, read the Bible and then started preparing a sermon for Sunday. I wanted to make notes on the computer, but it seemed like it had fused with the latest power cut. The power wouldn’t go on, although everything else electrical was working. I prayed over the computer, and went off to start searching the Scriptures for the right message. I came back to find it working! And then the sermon just flowed as never before. The Lord was being so clear, the ideas and structure flowed so easily. Truly preparation of the messenger is as important as preparation of the message.

God knows how long this season of beautiful intimacy will last, but in any case I want to maximize it. Keep the discipline, Simon, and guard the time spent in his presence. Don’t let business crowd him out. It’s so obvious, and we all know prayer is of paramount importance, but Satan will do anything to distract us from what renders him powerless. I remember someone once asking me, ‘How much do you want of God?’ Because ‘nobody has less of God than they want.’ Keep me hungry and thirsty for more of you, dear Lord!

1st October: …Whilst I was in the bath in the evening, Bruno came round, and so I knew he’d be back again shortly. Instead of viewing him as a nuisance who wanted to use up my valuable time to improve his English, I decided to see him as someone sent by God to come to faith through me. But before reading this Praying Hyde book I would’ve just prayed: “Right, Lord, Bruno’s coming round. Please open the eyes of his heart to see you, and give me the right words. May he come to know you.” Such a piddly prayer would take about twenty seconds. Instead I really prayed, and spent serious time, delaying supper until I’d done so. I worshipped away on the guitar, and proclaimed the Lord’s victory until my fingers were too sore to carry on. I was full of faith, so claimed his life for Jesus, and interceded on his behalf.

Then Bruno showed up again. He’s a nice lad, 22-years-old, we chatted about football, studies, etc, and then I asked him what he thought about Jesus – was he ready to face judgment? Basically I then led him through the gospel and asked him if he wanted to receive Christ as his Lord and Saviour right now – no pressure – but do you want to be ready? He did! I prayed and he repeated after me. He’s coming with me to church on Sunday. Seal your work in his life, O Lord!”