In March 2008, I wrote the following, which relates to the next post coming shortly:
It was nine years ago that I heard God’s call to go to Burundi, leaving family, friends, job, security, and landing in a crazy war zone which was rated the most dangerous country in the world for some of those ensuing years. I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it to my thirties, or have the chance to get married. Plenty of others died around me, but my time obviously wasn’t up, and the Lord still had work for me to do.
Those early days were amazing. I arrived with a few hundred dollars and got most of my money stolen, but borrowed a bicycle off an older missionary and started evangelizing as part of the team at Scripture Union. SU was bankrupt and unable to do much, but the vision was there. A new chapter began. God’s grace and favour were on our work, and the growth and impact were amazing. We opened up two regional offices, and two new departments (children’s ministry and ‘Aid for AIDS’). From using a bike to a motorbike to a 4×4 truck, I was preaching around the country like a headless chicken, risking my life on ambush-prone roads in rebel-controlled territory. It wasn’t easy, but the rawness and desperation of the situation fuelled my passion to give everything to see people come to Christ before they died. Maybe that sounds melodramatic – but the fact is, life was truly dramatic.
The longer I was here, the more I realized that my potential contribution to the Church in Burundi could be multiplied and leveraged by identifying the most gifted Burundian believers and empowering them to transform their own nation for Christ. They could do the job better than me. After all, it was their country, language, culture, proverbs etc. People were giving me so much money that we were legally required to set up a charity. (I had become an al-Qaeda suspect, believe it or not, because I was receiving dozens of direct debits into my own account and then taking out $25,000 in cash to Burundi, as the banking system there was terrible – i.e. my profile fitted the typical al-Qaeda mule!)
So Great Lakes Outreach was born. As well as funding the growing activities of Scripture Union, we helped Evangelism Explosion take off nationally, were part of the start-up of a group reaching out to Muslims, provided seed-funding to Youth for Christ, Harvest for Christ, a ministry reaching out in the universities, an orphanage, and a streetkids project. I can only say that the people running these ministries are of the highest integrity, vision, and passion for Christ. I learn so much from them. They humble me. It is a privilege to get alongside them and help them be released and unleashed to accomplish their dreams in Jesus’ name. Between us, we are being used to do some amazing things. A friend who was working here in 2000 came back to visit a few weeks ago and said how incredible it was to see what the Lord was doing through us since those humble beginnings. To God alone be the glory!
Where am I going with this? It is not a prayer letter, rather it is an attempt to fill you in on where we are at, as most of you haven’t been with us on the journey since the start.
Now, praise God, the seemingly impossible has happened. Peace has come, and the country is rebuilding. We have an evangelist as President, and opportunities are incredible. There are huge problems to address, but we are moving in the right direction, and God’s people are playing a massive role in this nation.
Now consider this statement:
“A missionary’s job is to do himself out of a job.” I wonder whether you agree. The fact is, that is what I am aiming at. My biggest attempt in that direction is the building of a conference centre to generate funds that will then be pumped back into evangelism and discipleship programs throughout the country. We are progressing very well with it, and the skeletons of the three big buildings (350-seater theatre, administrative block with restaurant, and 30-bedroom guesthouse) are nearly complete. It will be the best conference centre in the country, we hope. I have mentioned this project in passing before, but now we are at a key phase. We have enough money to do 80% of the work, but are missing the last $160,000/£80,000 for all the interior fittings, tiles, etc. Without that money soon, the project could stall and we would miss out on all the funds the centre would generate for outreach.
I want you to buy into the vision.
The vision is not bricks and mortar. It’s transforming the nation. It’s investing in the next generation. It’s developing leaders. It’s providing the Church with a resource for them to use. It’s creating self-sustainability which will enable SU to be guaranteed a steady source of income for evangelism countrywide for years to come. It’s empowering local believers in a dirt-poor country to stand on their own to feet. It’s lifting the name of Jesus over the nation of Burundi. It’s providing excellence in His name. Exciting stuff!
I am inviting you to continue to be part of a significant move of God. I am not pleading for money – you get enough begging appeal letters! This is an invitation to be blessed by God as you give, to sow generously and reap generously, to give joyfully, to store up treasures in heaven. And at some stage to come out and see the fruit of your giving. My own life experience is that he has blessed me a hundredfold as I have laid it all down for him. May it be yours too.
Do you get the vision? God bless you mightily!
Life to the full, let’s do it!