I had the privilege of travelling to Burundi in June! Burundi is a small, beautiful country in East Africa, one of the poorest nations in the world, and has a tragically broken history. A little bit of context first though…
I’m Callum, married to Katie with two young kids, and part of Gateway Church Swindon in the UK. Gateway has had a relatively long history of partnering with others in Burundi – primarily through Donna Bloomfield, formerly from Swindon and now spends her time between the Isle of Wight and Burundi! But we’ve more recently been able to partner with City Gate Church in Burundi, as well as with a charity I’m a trustee of called Hope for Tomorrow Global!
Hope for Tomorrow Global was started by Donna to bring hope to the poor and marginalised in Burundi. We do this through Foundations for Farming training, helping children access education, provision of milk for children, and much more. You can read more of the work we’re involved in or support us by heading to our website: hopefortomorrowglobal.org (plug over!)
I first travelled to Burundi in 2018 and have been itching to return ever since! So I jumped at the opportunity to travel there again for a few weeks with Mark Thornett, who leads Apex Church on the Isle of Wight and happens to be my father-in-law. I’ll let you decide whether travelling with your father-in-law sounds like a good idea or not!
Of course, a few weeks isn’t enough to understand and experience all that God is doing in Burundi, just like a few words in a blog post aren’t enough to express it either, but here’s a brief(ish) overview of our time there. I’ve tried to pick out a few highlights – I hope it’s interesting and encouraging for you!
(The leadership team + Mark! From left to right: Sylvestre, Venuste, Jean-Marie, Mark, Jeremie, Murungwa, Budusy, Isaie, Donna, Claude, Jocelyn, Albert, Ntakarutimana.)
After spending our first day with the leadership team, we gathered together on Friday morning with City Gate Church. Amazingly, one of the Foundations for Farming groups had clubbed together to buy a rooster each for Donna, Murungwa, and Venuste. One chicken would typically be well outside the price range of most in the church, so for them to buy three was an overwhelming display of generosity! (It took a few minutes of Donna offering to share the eggs before she was informed that
roosters don’t tend to lay them!)
(Donna and her rooster with Mark and I!)
The next day, we visited several people in the community – something which hugely impacted me
when I first visited Burundi and again this time. It’s a huge honour to be welcomed into someone’s
home, to sit and listen to their story, and then to be able to pray with them.
We were on our way to visit a lady in the community before being unexpectedly (although not unexpected to God!) invited into the unfinished house that Apolline and her family were sheltering in (the house didn’t belong to them). As Apolline began sharing with us about her husband’s alcohol addiction and its effect on them as a family, her husband, Salvator, walks in mid-sentence! The team took the opportunity to share the gospel with Salvator, with Ntakaritumana sharing his own story of finding Jesus from alcohol addiction. Praise God – Salvator gave his life to Jesus as the team prayed with him! It was a beautiful moment to see Salvator encountering Jesus for the first time as Apolline was, quite literally, on her face in the corner of the room praying for her husband.
As you can imagine, this resulted in much singing and worship in the car – and a few tears too!
A few days later, we spent some time with Nadine and her children. After hearing about her living situation and praying with her, Murungwa shared with Nadine’s son about Jesus and asked whether he’d like to know him personally, to which he said ‘yes’! Watching Nadine pray for her son as he gave his life to Jesus was another incredible moment.
The final story I’ll share for now is about a lady called Aisha who we visited on the same day. Aisha
had given her life to Jesus at the end of 2021. Sadly, her husband was killed by a hippo while fishing
not long after, and life had become much harder for her. She was living in an unfinished house –
again, not her own – with her children and another lady’s family. You can see some of the photos of her living conditions below. Yes, that really is a large, deep, and dangerous hole right at the entrance
to the house!
It was heartbreaking to hear as Aisha shared that she’d begun to drink heavily since her husband had
died, had wandered away from Jesus, and had no food for her children or money to buy any.
However, as the team talked and prayed with Aisha, she recommitted her life to Jesus! They were
able to sort food for her and the children. The next day, the team let Aisha know that she’d receive
extra help with food and housing, as one of the most vulnerable families in the community. At the last
gathering of City Gate Church before I returned to the UK, it was incredible to see Aisha joyful –
laughing, smiling, dancing, and worshipping!
Clearly, life is still unimaginably difficult for Aisha and her family. There’s a long way to go in seeing
her and the many others of City Gate Church and the wider community lifted from the ash heap, as
Psalm 113 says – a Psalm that has become a prayer of hope and faith for many in City Gate Church.
Even so, God is already at work restoring joy to the joyless and hope to the hopeless!