Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards…

I’m writing this shortly before the end of our fabulous family holiday at my folks’ pad in France. It feels a little bit like the calm before the storm, and I wanted to share a little with you where we are at. Over the last few years I have written relatively few ‘Warriors’ emails as we have been out of Burundi, and our lives have been less eventful. We head back en famille to Burundi on the 22nd August, so it really is very soon. We leave France this Friday, I then fly to Northern Ireland to give 8 talks at the New Horizons family conference to about 4,000 people (prayers please), and then it’s just packing and getting ready for another chunky transition.
Looking back, it’s been over three years since we lived in Burundi. We left Bujumbura in June 2009 in time for Josiah’s birth in the UK, expecting to move to the USA that September. Unexpected visa issues delayed us for 11 months, which in the end was a real blessing as we had time in the UK with family and friends, and ministry-wise it was very fruitful for me blasting round the country preaching.
Our total time spent in the States in the end was only 20months. It was a wonderful experience. We absolutely loved it. We were part of a caring, generous, and hospitable community, a thriving church (where I was loosely on staff), the kids attended the wonderful church school, and our great friend Patti became their adopted in-country grandmother and babysat so regularly that I guess we averaged two date nights a month, wow! So on the family level, it was a blast, and I know we will always look back with fondness on that short season.
On a ministry level, my aim had been two-fold: expansion of GLO’s support base so we could have even greater impact in Burundi, and increased book/dvd sales so that again more lives were changed, more prayer support generated, and more money came in for Kingdom work. Well, we more than doubled our annual giving, but overall, if I’m honest, I was disappointed. In the UK, I guess as the result of 16 years of regular preaching, doors are open everywhere and invitations flood in. In the USA, however, I was unknown, and doors just didn’t seem to open much. So the second objective likewise didn’t pan out as I’d expected. To me, on reflection, it was just a closed door. We could have renewed our visas and tried further, but we sensed it was God saying, ‘No, it’s OK, you can go back to Burundi and seek to live for me there.’
The way the Lord spoke to me most clearly was through a line by Phil Vischer, the founder of Vegetales. He’d gone from boom to bust when a distributor sued him and he lost everything. He said something in an article which pierced me to the core: “The impact God wants you to have does not come when you pursue impact – it comes when you pursue God.” Bam, that was for me. You see, on reflection I had gone to the USA to pursue impact for God. Not a terrible thing, not even a sin, but just slightly out of kilter. I need to just pursue Him. I’m going back to Burundi, with my gorgeous family, and will try to learn that lesson by pursuing God and not impact for God. May He help us in that process.
I’ll write again before we leave in terms of seeking prayer support for what will be a tricky season with a number of challenges, but will stop there to prevent it becoming too long a missive. Thanks for your support over the years. It’s so utterly utterly valued.
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