Widow Nadine’s 6-year-old daughter died because she didn’t have £2.50 ($3).

£2.50 for a life. That is so wrong!

I tell her tragic story in this short 2-minute film.

Basically, for £2.50 ($3), Burundians can get a health card valid for three years for the whole family, which will allow them to get treatment at a government clinic without incurring crippling debts. 

Sadly, Nadine didn’t have this card to get her daughter treated, and her neighbours didn’t have the money to lend her either, so she hurriedly set about making a clay pot (her skillset) to sell… but there was not enough time, and her daughter’s ‘flu’ proved fatal.

Again, that is so wrong!

So GLO’s Christmas appeal this year is to right that wrong and provide 3000 of these vital medical cards to vulnerable families who our partner organisations have identified. 

I love this appeal because everyone can take part. Even my/our kids can afford to help a family, several even. To set a small village free from the constant fear and reality of not taking their loved ones to a hospital (because it’s too expensive) would be approximately £125 ($150). Let’s stop Nadine’s story being repeated.

What do you want for Christmas this year? I know what I want – to save lives – this will be my gift! 

I invite you to join me, be it for one family, ten or a hundred – every single one counts.


Thanks for journeying with us. We’re so grateful!

Simon Guillebaud

PS If you are looking for a meaningful and impactful Christmas gift idea, for yourself or a loved one, GLO has a great range of alternative gifts that will help lift families in Burundi out of poverty – do click here to see them.

PPS In the happy event that we meet our goal to provide 3000 health cards, we’ll make sure any additional donations are put to equally invaluable use, distributed to where the needs are greatest. Should you wish to specify a Christmas gift to a specific project or partner, please use this form: www.greatlakesoutreach.org/give-now/

On the back of last week’s blog, here’s some feedback from our adventures on the streets of Bath:

We were out three times this week. We set up our busker’s sound system wherever there was space and plenty of people walking past, and sang carols accompanied by guitar, followed by a quick Christmas message of hope after each song. Most people are on a mission with their shopping, but plenty smile as they walk past; and some linger, listen, or want to engage in conversation. Being a team is crucial because the spin-off conversations are where beautiful things happen.

For example, Libby sat next to Sarah*, who had cried out to ‘god’ for help the previous night, and now here she was, sat listening to us, crying away her tears of loneliness and recognising that God was answering her prayer. Sarah was very keen now to learn more about God and come to church with Libby.

My personal highlight was talking to brother and sister John* and Sue*. They stopped off to listen to us, and I asked them if they understood the Christmas story. She said: “No, I don’t really get it, God up there and us down here.” So I asked her to imagine looking down on ants and wanting them to know that she loved them. She could shout ‘I love you!’ and put food in their paths, but they wouldn’t understand that love as it came from a different dimension. But what if she herself became an ant? And then communicated on their level, and pointed up to the sky and said: “There’s someone up there who loves you, who provides for you, who wants you to know them, etc”

Sue totally got it. She was blown away, and they both listened and then actively decided they wanted to start a journey with Jesus. As they prayed with me, she blurted out: “Wow, wow, wow, what’s going on? I can feel this warmth on my chest, this is amazing!” “Sue, that’s God making Himself real to you. Remember this moment!” We talked further. She said: “I’ll never forget this day for the rest of my life!” It was simply wonderful.

There are other stories. Lots of seeds get sown. Do pray for the likes of Sarah, John and Sue. They are out on your streets too. There’s so much fear, loneliness and despair. We’re not any better than anyone else – we’re just better off, because we know the Source of all hope, comfort and peace.

Anyone can do what we’re doing. I’d love to see more of it. It’s not scary (maybe first time!), rather it’s great fun, honestly! Plenty of folks who aren’t remotely interested in God say how lovely it was to hear festive carols, and encourage us to continue.

Could you get together with friends in your community and have a go? Why not give it a shot? And let me know how you get on. We’ll be out another 4 times this week hopefully. Prayers appreciated.

* Names changed

Get Out There This Christmas

How are you doing? How are you feeling? I’m usually an 8.5/10 but would give myself 5.5/10 in lockdown. I feel like a caged, frustrated animal. Yet I’m aware that although we’re all in the same storm, we’re not all in the same boat – my boat’s one of the nicest, which makes me feel all the worse for being grumpy and lacking in positivity!

However, I’m determined to combat that darkness, and I want to challenge all of us to consider joining in something like the following:

It’s very simple. I’ve just bought this portable Bluetooth speaker. Now multiple times in the build-up to Christmas, a group of us will go out in the city centre and the streets around Bath to sing a carol and then share a short message of hope – which is the central theme of Christmas, innit?!

It’s not rocket science. If you’re a church leader, my mate Pat Allerton aka ‘The Portable Priest’ gives you a similar challenge.

There are huge opportunities here, let’s not miss them! I’ve checked and consulted the latest government guidelines (for readers in the UK), and this is kosher.

So many people are fearful, hopeless and depressed right now. Let’s get out there (appropriately space, of course!) and sing/speak out peace, hope and joy.

Could you do that? Ask your pastor for his/her blessing, he/she puts the word out, gather a group of fellow-frustrateds, and just go for it!

Another idea: sign up as a Deliveroo rider! That’s what I’ve done. I’ll get paid to take exercise, and I’ll get to share Hope with everyone I deliver a pizza or kebab to!

You can stop reading now, but please, seriously, what’s stopping you? Let me know how you get on.

Just don’t do a Larry Walters. The blog’s finished, but scroll down if you want to know what I mean by that…

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Larry

Few will have heard of Larry Walters. He was a 33-year-old truck driver living in San Pedro, not far from Los Angeles. On weekends he used to just sit around and watch TV. But this particular Saturday, he was bored with his usual routine, so he decided he wanted to do something. He went shopping and bought forty-two weather balloons and a deck chair. Returning home, he anchored the chair to the ground with some ropes, and then tied the weather balloons to it. When all was ready, he ensconced himself in the chair, with his air gun nestled in his lap. He then cut the ropes, and rose steadily into the sky.

Within minutes he’d attained an altitude of sixteen thousand feet. The air traffic control tower at L.A. airport reported receiving a number of garbled and incredulous messages from different pilots along the lines of, “You’re not going to believe this, but there’s man floating up here in a deck chair!” Soon Larry’s thirst for action seemed quenched, and he decided it was time to return to planet earth. He shot a number of balloons with his air gun and gradually floated downwards. Forty five minutes later he landed at Long Beach, about seven miles from where he’d taken off.

His excursion made front page news, resulting in a Timex ad and an interview on the Tonight Show. Quizzed as to his motivation for doing it, Larry Walters replied, “It was something I had to do – I couldn’t just sit there!”

Hmm… I’m so desperate not to ‘just sit there’ this Christmas and beyond.

Big Church Read

Greetings!

So lockdown started on a national level on Thursday. There’s no pretending these are easy times to go through…

…but I’ve got a proposition for you, which I’d love as many of you as possible to get behind. All the more in our enforced confinement and isolation, this could be a spiritually bonding and strengthening discipline.


We’re teaming up with St Andrew’s bookshop to get as many people as possible throughout the nation on the same page (literally) as we journey through the coming year.

Many of you have already read Choose Life – in which case, could you get your friends, family, youth group or church to join in?

If you’re not familiar with Choose Life, it was voted ‘Devotional of the Year’. It is a collection of 365 daily readings, inviting you to a year of good choices. If you embrace the challenge fully, it may be the most memorable year of your life!

Could you buy a stack load for Christmas presents? One mate has just bought 50 of them for his gang!

This Big Church 365 Read is a great way to connect youth groups, home groups, student CUs etc together during lockdown and being physically apart. Each week, I’ll post a short weekly video message to encourage those taking part.

How do I get involved?

There are two ways to join. You can buy the book for £12 and have access to the weekly videos OR join The Big Church 365 Read Club for only £24 (equivalent of £2 a month) and you will:

  • Be supporting the work of GLO to the tune of £12
  • Be sent a copy of ‘Choose Life’
  • Receive a free copy of my book, ‘Sacrifice’ 
  • Receive 10% discount on all purchases from www.standrewsbookshop.co.uk and other offers
  • Have the opportunity to join a Choose Life trip to visit Burundi – either as an individual or as a group (dates and costs to be confirmed).


If you’re interested in getting 5/10/20/etc copies, then email Steve of St Andrew’s Bookshop for some deals on bigger volume of books.

Thanks for all your support!

Simon

No time for God? Make time! Why not get out of bed or off the couch and onto your knees? It may lead to revival. Choose Life gives you 365 daily doses of challenge and encouragement. Blessed are the radicals!
– Brother Andrew, Open Doors

Daily inspiration to help us live life to the full. I wholeheartedly recommend this fantastic resource that will help shape your day to be filled with Jesus.
– Mark Melluish, Director of Tearfund and New Wine

I’ve watched this three times now, and cried the first two. It’s just so beautiful! Honestly, please watch it, you won’t regret it! It goes down as one of the top ten meetings of my life… 

So here is a huge thank you to those of you who responded to last week’s email.

Actually, the point of the email was to highlight the grace of God as the foundation of our lives during times of crisis, as evidenced so beautifully by many of our precious Burundian brothers and sisters; not to ask for money – that was just a PS at the end, offering you the chance to help out with the 30 KCC staff who had taken a 40% pay cut in solidarity together because of the Covid crisis, and were now struggling simply to live.

But wow did many of you respond…

…and so to this short ‘thank you’ film. Just look how folks reacted when they received the best news they could possibly have dreamt of… There were very few dry eyes left – but this time the tears weren’t of distress, fear, or sadness, but of unadulterated joy. And I invite you to feel free in shedding your own tears of joy as you watch as well.

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you! And thank you Lord!

Simon Guillebaud
www.greatlakesoutreach.org/donate

PS If you found the video uplifting, feel free to share it:
Facebook | Download video to share on WhatsApp

Greetings!

I’ve spent the last half-hour trying not to cry…

…I’m in a meeting with folks I journeyed with for twenty years, who are sharing reminiscences of (mostly) highs and (some) lows that we experienced together. And currently they’re battling through some really tough times.

My two biggest prayers for Burundi this year – once the pandemic struck – was that Burundi would be spared the worst of covid, and that the elections would go peacefully. For your encouragement, those prayers have both been massively answered. It genuinely seems like covid is not having an impact here – a few have got it, and all bar one have recovered, officially. Praise God! Truly, I’m so grateful to God and the many who prayed for both those things (and we had a definite and beautiful role to play in the peaceful elections).

But as with so much of the developing world, the economic impact has done far more damage than the disease itself.

Celestin and I shared an office for 5 years at our income-generating King’s Conference Centre (www.kccburundi.org). He quietly asks me for a chat and says he’s speaking on behalf of the staff, several of whom I observed on arrival were noticeably thinner. Due to covid and loss of business, either some workers had to be let go, or everyone would have to take a salary reduction. They decided to stick together, but everyone has had a 40% cut. Imagine your salary was $100/month, and now it’s $60… and food prices have gone up! “Simon, it’s desperate. We can’t afford the bus so are walking each day in the sun all the way, some of us from Buterere or Kinama and back (upwards of 20km).”

It turns out one of the ladies on the team was pregnant, and she miscarried a few days ago as she struggled to walk to work.

Burundians have suffered so much. So many are beautifully stoic, resilient, and full of faith. They will overcome these difficult days, because they always do. They have so much to teach us in the fracturing West, where increasing prosperity and entitlement have not fostered resilience, rather polarisation and victimhood.

Are you feeling resilient?

How will we in the West get through these difficult days?

One answer to that question came from Leocadie last night as we chatted. She said:

It’s only by grace. We survive each day by grace. Every month, every day, it’s just God’s grace…

God grant you all such deep and real grace through these challenging times!

Simon Guillebaud in Burundi

PS If you wanted to help the 30 staff recoup those losses (no pressure at all), you could donate here:

www.greatlakesoutreach.org/donate

Please let us know that this is ‘For KCC Staff’ in the message section of the donation form. In the happy event that we meet our goal to help the 30 staff, any additional donations will be put to equally invaluable use, where most needed.

Through the incredible generosity of so many of you, we were able to supply 615 GLO-related families with a chunky gift to help them with buying school uniforms and stationery, and getting their kids back to school. Just wonderful!

So on behalf of all the parents and children, THANK YOU SO SO SO MUCH!

GLO’s Grace went to visit our partner New Generation to film this ‘thank you’ video so that you can catch some of the joy of kids being able to go to school. It’s less than a minute, and might just bring a tear (of joy) to your eye.

New Generation is a great outfit working with street children and seeking to raise up leaders for the country. Do check out their work here

THANKS AGAIN! We couldn’t do it without you. God bless you LOADS!

Simon

PS It’s not too late to give if you hadn’t got round to it. If that’s you, please click here

Leo walked 12 miles each way to and from school every day, so desperate was he to learn. That blows my mind. In the West, we’re not usually as grateful for the gift of education (although lockdown frustrations have maybe changed that a little). Recognising Leo’s commitment, we bought him a bicycle to save both time and energy. He is so deeply thankful.

walk to school

Many of my friends in Burundi during their childhood would walk 2-3 hours a day to and from the nearest school. Education is power, education is the future, education is the hope of a better life. So you sacrifice everything for it.

But this coming Monday morning is the saddest day of the year for many parents. It’s the day their children should go back to school. However, if they can’t afford the basic uniform and pen/paper pad, they can’t go.

As I packed my three kids off to school this morning, it occurred afresh to me that it’s never crossed my mind that all of them wouldn’t be able to go to school. Can you imagine having to choose one over the others? Or accepting that none can go at all?

Sometimes God intervenes beautifully, as our volunteer Maria testified recently. She’d all but given up on her three children’s chances of going to school, but she got on her knees and prayed. An old friend out of the blue contacted her and gave her an envelope of money which was enough for her urgent needs. She will never forget God’s faithfulness.

GLO’s partner organisations include 615 staff. We are under no obligation to them in this regard, but we’ve committed to giving £30 ($40) per family so that, at this the most challenging time of the year financially, they can pull through and keep their precious kids in schooling. In a sense we want to be Maria’s God-envelope of cash out of the blue for 615 families.

Do you want to be a part of it? Zero pressure if you are financially strapped, as I know many people are at this time.

If yes, be it for 1 family, or 2, or 5, or 10, click here to donate.

God bless you so much for your generosity!

Simon

PS In the happy event that we meet our goal to send gifts to all our 615 families, any additional donations will be put to equally invaluable use.

Rend the heavens

‘Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.’ (Habakkuk 3:2)

Sunday’s sermon at Holy Trinity Cheltenham can be viewed below. The covid limitations and seating restrictions were a little strange, but it was good to be back in a church, and we had a powerful time.

Below is some of what I shared: 

A few years ago I flew to the Hebrides to speak at a number of meetings. It was great to go to places I’d read about from the 1949-52 revival there, and even talk to a surviving old man and ask him questions. 

The revival was steeped in prayer. Seven men and two old ladies had decided to pray and not stop until God visited them in a powerful way. One night, at a prayer meeting held in a barn, one of them said, “It seems to me just so much sentimental humbug to be praying as we are praying, to be waiting as we are waiting here, if we ourselves are not rightly related to God.” He asked God to reveal if his own hands were clean and his own heart was pure. Suddenly God’s awesome presence swept the barn. They came to see that there was a direct correlation between revival and holiness. A power was let loose that night that shook the island. A man arrived and felt compelled to go to church and get right with God. People had visions in their own homes.  

Duncan Campbell had been preaching at a conference in Bangor, Northern Ireland. He was due to stand up and preach when the Lord told him to leave immediately and go to Lewis. He told the man who had invited him that he simply had to go. Arriving as soon as he could in Lewis, he found that they were all waiting for him!  The stories are truly extraordinary.

Campbell shares: “Over 100 young people were at the dance in the parish hall and they weren’t thinking of God or eternity. They were there to have a good night when suddenly the power of God fell upon the dance. The music ceased and in a matter of minutes, the hall was empty. They fled from the hall as a man fleeing from a plague. And they made for the church. They are now standing outside. Oh, yes – they saw lights in the church. That was a house of God and they were going to it and they went. Men and women who had gone to bed rose, dressed, and made for the church. 

At another meeting, “suddenly, the power of God fell upon the congregation. Of course in Lewis and in other islands of the Hebrides, they stand to pray, they sit to sing. And now, one side of the church threw their hands up like this. Threw their heads back and you would almost declare that they were in an epileptic fit, but they were not. Oh, I can’t explain it. And the other side they slumped on top of each other. But God, the Holy Ghost moved. Those who had their hands like this stayed that way for two hours. Now you try to remain like that with your hands up for a few minutes and you will find it hard – but you would break their hands before you could take them down. Now, I can’t explain it – this is what happened. But the most remarkable thing that night was what took place in a village seven miles away from the church. There wasn’t a single person from that village in the church. Not one single person. Seven miles away, the power of God swept through the village. Swept through the village and I know it to be a fact that there wasn’t a single house in the village that hadn’t a soul saved in it.” 

The stories go on: “A schoolmaster that night looking over his papers 15 miles away from this island on the mainland suddenly was gripped by the fear of God. And he said to his wife, “Wife, I don’t know what’s drawing me to Barvas, but I must go.” His wife said, “But it’s nearly 10 o’clock and you’re thinking of going to Barvas. I know what’s on your mind, I know that you are going out to drink and you are not leaving this house tonight!” That was what she said to him – he was a hard drinker. And he said to his wife, “I may be mistaken, oh, I maybe mistaken, but if I know anything at all about my own heart and mind, I say to you now that drink will never touch my lips again.” And she said to him, “Well, John, if that’s your mind, then go to Barvas.” And he got someone to take him to the ferry, someone to ferry him across, and I was conducting a meeting in a farmhouse at midnight and this schoolmaster came to the door and they made room for him and in a matter of minutes he was praising God for salvation. Now that’s miracle. I mean you cannot explain it in any other way.” 

Campbell came for ten days but stayed for two years.  

“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalms 85:6)

Have you ever wept in prayer before?

I can count on one hand the number of times I have. I guess I/we could fake it, but that’d be worse than not praying at all, I suspect.

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO WATCH THIS… For those of us who heard it as he prayed, we were all left stunned.

Since lockdown, we have been meeting on Zoom every week with between 100 and 150 people from a dozen nations across time zones to hear what God is doing in Burundi. Various Burundian brothers and sisters leading different ministries have shared inspiring or gut-wrenching stories, and then we’ve unmuted and all prayed together, before moving onto the next leader. They’ve been amazing times.

In our last session, this is what happened…

Wow! Lord have mercy on us! May it be as he prayed! If that moved you, please share it with your networks through whichever social media platform – our strapline is ‘Transforming Burundi and Beyond…’, and this (with your help) could be seen by millions of people to stir their faith to humble themselves in prayer before God for a fresh revival. We so need it!

‘Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.’
(Habakkuk 3:2)

As Frank Laubach prayed: “Lord, forgive us for looking at the world with dry eyes.”

Bring it on!

Simon


Here are some links to the video on social media, if you’d like to share:

Facebook
Twitter
Vimeo
YouTube

Download a low-resolution version of the video (to send on WhatsApp or to show over Zoom)