This morning was holy ground.
I’m back out in Burundi with a team of supporters for a week of introducing them to our various wonderful partners. As I knew would happen, the team members are blown away at the calibre, integrity and commitment of these Kingdom warriors. As Justin noted, the repeated story is that almost all of them had the chance to take the easier option and leave for whichever affluent peaceful country, but they chose to stay and make a costly difference here, in beautiful but broken Burundi.
Ephraim shared how he’d fled to the Congo during the war, but after a few years felt convicted to return to bless his nation. As he was on his way back, he was taken by militia who beat him to (half) death, tried to dump him down a latrine (he didn’t fit through the hole), and then hanged him from a tree. He said to them that they couldn’t kill him because God had told him he would go back to Burundi to preach healing and forgiveness in Jesus. They carried on beating him up. He was bleeding from his nose and ears and left in a crumpled heap. His last words to them were (as with Stephen in Acts when he was stoned): “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing!”
I love my brother. He’s doing truly beautiful work with sexually-trafficked ladies, prostitutes, widows – basically the most vulnerable of society. If you’ve got scornful sceptical anti-Christian friends, they should come and meet Ephraim and friends. This is undeniably wonderful.
As he carried on sharing, he broke down in tears. It’s very rare to see a Burundian man cry. As the proverb goes: “Amosozi y’umugabo atemba aja mu nda” (‘A Burundian man’s tears fall inside in his stomach’). His passion and compassion for his countrymen, coupled no doubt with the pressures of daily living and looking out for others, led to the dam of emotion breaking within him, and there was a holy release. The team sensitively reached out, laid hands on him and prayed, as our tears merged with his.
There is so much weariness, despair and crushing poverty in this the poorest nation in the world. But there are also many Ephraims and Lyduines (his wife) exhibiting truly remarkable and vibrant resilience coupled with incredible vision, fruitfulness and lasting transformation. As I’ve often said, some of God’s best troops are in Burundi. It’s a privilege to serve them.
Holy ground indeed…