My blog is turning into a C.A.R update board, which isn't what was intended. But it is crucial this info gets out to as many people as possible to get more prayers offered up.
Please email me if you want these updates direct - I get them daily, and am only posting the occasional one. Do share this as far and wide as possible. I repeat an earlier blog posting comment: For the Christian, ISLAM stands for I Sincerely Love All Muslims. Islamophobia is not in the spirit of Christ. With that in mind, here goes from Pierre, it's not good news:
I was having some difficulty getting on-line during the last few days, hence the lack of news. We held our weekly gathering of pastors and leaders today, despite torrential rain that lasted from morning into the afternoon. It was encouraging to see people ready to walk through the downpour to get there.
We continue to ask for your prayers. International institutions are all leaving the country, and France too is advising all people from there to get out, which bodes terribly. Kidnappings and other lawless acts are continuing. A month since seizing power, those now in charge are proving incapable of restoring law, order and normal running of the country. We owe our survival to God alone.
(This is a bit of a cheap pop at the UN, but reflects how people in the CAR feel)
Last Sunday, Baptist church pastors from the EBEC denomination held a meeting of their different parishes at a place 35 km away on the road to Boali. Just as they were taking the offerings, Seleka troops turned up and took all the money.
A number of villages in the interior have been burned to the ground - they say over 200 in the Ouango Bangassou region and over 400 in Mbrès. Other news coming through concerning churches and Christians is giving the greatest cause for concern. I was visited at my house by a pastor who had arrived from Ndélé, and he gave a report at our gathering this afternoon. He had already lived through what happened in Birao in 2004, 2006, 2007, when Christians paid the price and a number of them were cremated alive when their houses were set on fire. The rebels tore up all documents relating to Christian matters, but did not touch those of a more secular nature.
In Ndélé Christians are being tied up, beaten and made to pay sums of money to have their lives spared. Such are the threats, that some of them after experiencing such humiliations, are joining the rebellion. Many are afraid to confess their faith. The pastor's testimony confirmed yet again what kind of plan the Muslim rebels are working to. In the various towns just as in Bangui, it is Christian properties that are being targeted. The Christian Cultural Centre headed by Jean Bosco has been ransacked, and the items belonging to a missionary Claude P, who used to work in the CAR, have been carried off.
In Bantaganfo, also abandoned by international NGOs, there is a similar reign of terror against Christians.
According to information that has fallen into our hands, the rebels have a hit list of pastors and other Christian workers. There are continued attacks against places of worship, but through prayer, a number of plans have failed.
Please continue to pray for us, and for the big day of prayer that we will be holding May 18. Pray that these internet connection problems will be resolved this week, so that I can continue to send news.
God bless you.
The following letter is written by Pierre, my dear friend in the Central African Republic. He's under tremendous pressure, his kids are traumatised, lots of his friends have been killed, people are looking to him as the leader, and he manages to write such stunningly wise and gracious words. These have been translated from French. It's well worth reading in its entirety. You will be humbled by his attitude. And then please continue praying, it's definitely making a difference at this critical time in the nation's history. Here goes:
Beloved in the Lord, greetings !
We do not know how to thank you for all the prayers you are raising to God for the people of the CAR in general and the Christian population in particular. The SELEKA tsunami has swept over the entire country excepting only the farthest eastern regions (Obo et Zemio), where there are Ugandan and American troops in pursuit of Joseph Koni’s Lord’s Resistance Army and also standing guard at the Chinko river to stop the rebels getting across. We have not lost sight of the exhortation of the apostle Peter, ‘’knowing that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings’’ (1 Pt 5 :9b). From the explosions in Boston to the attack on the French embassy in Lybia, also including the one that was foiled in Canada, the islamists can be seen as of now to be active on all fronts, plunging hundreds of families into mourning everywhere they go.
In the CAR, we have a tradition of different religions co-existing peacefully together. In the same family or household you could see people holding to different religious convictions without family unity being compromised in any way. This state of affairs will certainly change following the actions of the rebels, which may well lead to social tensions and religious conflicts.
We know that all that is happening is primarily spiritual. Every religion has its own call to mission and self-propagation – every Muslim, for example, is obligated to play his part in bringing the world into submission to Allah, whether by political power or religious supremacy. The Christians of the CAR, who have never troubled to go and evangelise the Muslim tribes in the north, like the Goula, Rounga and Youla, now have the responsibility of bringing salvation to these invaders, more barbaric than the Vikings, who suddenly are all too easily within reach. God is definitely judging his church in CAR – he chastises those he loves (Heb 12 :7-11), and Christians need to know that he loves Muslims and wants them saved as well.
It was over fifteen years ago that our mission movement Nations En Marche (NEM) first began appealing to the conscience of the church in the matter of evangelising the ‘greens’ or ‘cousins’ through the 30-day periods of prayer that we held each year in accordance with the lunar calendar. Personally when I had the vision, I knew nothing about evangelising our cousins. I went into a long time of prayer, after which first the imam in our part of town and then a lady ‘cousin’ who would later be converted came to see me. Then, during a seminar in a church in Miskine, a woman came and asked for prayer. The next day she came back to testify that she was a Muslim and that, following the prayer the day before, she had been healed of an illness that she had been suffering from for years. She asked to be baptised, These testimonies reinforced my faith and opened the way to ministry among our cousins.
Through much prayer and much love, we saw many results among them. Then, nearly two years ago, at the approach of Ramadan, the murder of two children by a Muslim businessman led to riots in the capital and the destruction of a number of mosques. In a circular letter I invited Christians to contribute to the rebuilding of these, both as a sign of compassion on their part and also as a way of disassociating ourselves from the perpetrators. After Saul approved the murder of Stephen, if the Christians instead of praying for him had demanded that he be put to death himself, then the church would have lost one of its greatest apostles. Unfortunately my call was not heeded. In our part of town a month ago the first reprisals, which drove all the men from their homes to spend the night in the open, were motivated by the destruction of the local mosque those two years previously. The ‘cousin’ never forgets a wrong done to him. He bears with it when he is in a position of weakness, but as soon as he has the upper hand he takes vengeance. Certain of the young people in the city are experiencing this now.
In CAR, the cousins have long been trying without success to win the country for Islam. It is also the only country in this sub-region of the continent where they have a radio programme propagating their religion ; and yet, despite all contextualisation, there was no great number of conversions. NGOs and social works did not produce much in the way of results either. Primary, secondary and other schools were set up, but did not have any great impact. Last year’s legislative elections undid the good results for them of the ones in 2005, when they had 52 deputies out of a total of 108 in the National Assembly. It was a case of having to go up a gear. Now, they have executive, legislative and military power. The jihadists are establishing themselves. Documents written by the current man in power, explaining the reasons for the rebellion, could not be clearer concerning their ambitions for the islamisation of the country and the imposition of sharia. Inshallah !
The first and greatest commandment is to love God, while the second is to love your neighbour (Mt 22 :37-39). That neighbour may well be a ‘green’ or a ‘cousin’. We must avoid confusing our own legitimate interests with the priorities of the Kingdom of God. Unceasingly, we have sent you sad news reports of all the atrocities being committed by SELEKA rebels. The world has remained indifferent, but as one answer to prayer, the Deputy General Secretary of the UN has come to Bangui, while the International Court of Justice has exerted itself so far as to express concern. We must never condone evil, while at the same time keeping our hearts from all animosity. We do not cry for vengeance but for justice. Has not the Lord said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay ?’
In 1997, at the time of the mutinies under the PATASSE regime, our part of town was considered pro-mutiny and treated accordingly. Chadian MISSAB soldiers had received orders to go from house to house and execute every male above the age of 12. My house was ransacked, and I only just escaped with my life. I was a fugitive in my own country, had to stay with a family elsewhere, could not see my children. At night I had nightmares that caused me to jump out of bed in fright. Did I really have to love these people, who were threatening my very existence ? Yes, I did. When the executioners hammered the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet, they could hear with their own ears his prayer, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Lk 23 :34).
We have seen God’s love for the ‘greens’, men and women saved by the blood of Jesus. We have seen some of them suffer persecution from family members. Some have given up, but others have persevered.
A week before SELEKA entered Bangui, we were praying and preparing for a big evangelistic outreach to take place on Easter Sunday and for the annual Pygmy conference in Bobélé due to start the following day. This time of prayer was scheduled to end 24 March, the same date that President BOZIZE was overthrown. Coincidence or preparation? The same week, I was invited to speak in a church on the subject of the rapture. By way of an accompanying theme I had also prepared to speak on the Lord’s return, the resurrection, the marriage of the Lamb and the great tribulation. I put to the church the question, whether it was more appropriate to speak of the tribulation, rather than the rapture. Was that a prophetic word? I mention all this, to show how the sovereign God was preparing us for what was going to happen. Whatever turn events may take, he is always in control.
We pray that he will enable our brothers elsewhere in the sub-region to learn of what is going on here. We will continue to keep you informed as well, in order to direct your prayer and intercession. Hard times are before us, with a humanitarian crisis looming. Everything has been destroyed and needs rebuilding from scratch ; who will pay for it? Many families have lost everything ; who will help them? People have not been able to cultivate their land this year ; who will give us food? Who will help with medications and other essentials?
Our eyes are turned to God, who never disappoints, who declares : ‘’Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you’’. (Heb 13 :5).
May he bless you.
Warning: there are some grim pictures below, if you don’t want to see them.
Maybe the first thing I should say is that I love Muslims. I have Muslim friends. For the Christian, ISLAM stands for I Sincerely Love All Muslims. Islamophobia is not in the spirit of Christ. With that stated up front, please read the following:
I’ve been sick and mostly in bed for a month now, but one of the reasons I can’t slip into self-pitying mode is knowing what is happening to the people of Central African Republic. You might not have known of its existence even, because it is just about the least significant country in the world – hence no international outcry about what is happening right now.
I’m aware of it because I spent a short stint there in 1994 which profoundly marked me. I came back physically wrecked with malaria and amoebic dysentery but deeply touched by the remarkable people of faith I lived with. Pierre (named changed), the church leader, is sending out daily updates of what is going on right now.
How to encapsulate a highly complex scenario in a few sentences?
Similar to Mali, this is all part of the fallout of post-Gadaffi Libya, with lots of weapons and anarchy in much of North Africa spilling over into the surrounding nations. The CAR could be the next Somolia. A ragtag and disparate band of splinter rebel groups – now the SELEKA coalition - kicked out the government last month. They are all fighting under the banner of Islam and only submit to their own respective warlords, so it’s a recipe for carnage. The UN is completely emasculated, the French as former colonial power don’t have the political will and are already caught up in Mali, so this largely Christian country is being destroyed. The very limited international new coverage – you have to really search it out – plays down the religious dynamic as you’d expect in the name of political correctness.
I care passionately for any person, regardless of faith. But the agenda here is very clear. With outside funding, there has been a clear plan for the islamization of the CAR. Pastors have been targeted, many have been killed, already restrictions on worship have been implemented, and all the key new appointments are Muslims. And don’t think this will be a moderate Islam.
Within a few months when the rebels moved into Mali and imposed Shariah law, an area the size of France was expunged of any, yes any, Christian church or witness. It happens very fast and ruthlessly. In Egypt, it’s happening more slowly because of the vast Christian minority. In Syria, Christians have been used by Islamists as human shields against Assad’s government shells and their long term future is desperately bleak. The strong Christian presence in Iraq has been decimated.
Most of us in the West would prefer simply not to know. It’s just too grim. But I lived with Pierre, I played with his kids. His nephew was murdered two days ago. The capital city, indeed the whole country, is now lawless. Rape, murder, pillage is happening as you read this. Look at this sample of horrific pictures and weep with them. Pierre has lots of people huddled in his house right now. And when the dust settles, unless God intervenes powerfully in these crucial days, yet another country will suddenly swing to being under a strict Islamic regime with limited freedoms for minorities and women.
So may you, as has happened to me, gain a renewed sense of perspective of your problems right now.
Please pray, please share this with others, please act.
When I woke up this morning, I jumped out of bed and knelt down to recommit my life to the Lord. Why? Because I turned forty today. Wow, seriously old! When I was a teen and in my twenties, I thought forty was simply ancient… and so now I’m ancient! This is what I prayed:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you that I’m still alive. During the war in Burundi, I never thought I’d make it to thirty, let alone forty, and yet here I am, still going strong. Every day is a gift. I praise your name. You are the Giver of all things. I’m overwhelmed with your grace in my life, in giving me luscious Lizzie and precious Zac, Grace and Josiah to share the adventure with. So blessed. Lord, I surrender myself afresh to you, laying it all down. Take my heart, mind, soul, strength. All I am, have, desire, hope for is yours. Glorify yourself in and through me. Have your way in my life. However long you give me, may I not settle for anything less than total commitment to your cause. May I finish strong for your glory. Thank you Jesus!
And it just so happens that today is not only my fortieth birthday, but more significantly is the day the last Guillebaud in a generation died. This morning, Great Aunt Veronica slipped into God’s presence at the age of 91. She was a rock of faith. She was actually my most faithful corresponder, first by snail mail to Africa and then later even getting to grips with email in her late 80s. Three of her siblings gave their whole lives to the Lord in Africa, amongst other things translating the Bible into languages in Rwanda, Burundi and the Sudan. She sometimes put herself down when she spoke to me, like she was a lesser Christian. But no, she ran her race.
Selfishly, the reason I will miss her most is for her prayers. Maybe she prayed for me every day of my life until today. If not, I’m more confident that she covered my back for the last fifteen years. Every day. Could someone else step up to fill the breach please? Thanks Veronica, God bless you so much, enjoy the party!
And so strangely, as I reflect on this milestone day for me, and for the Guillebaud lineage, what do I desire the most in the coming season? I mean, what an amazing life God’s given me so far! I’ve had the privilege to travel the world (am preaching in Canada right now) sharing Christ, I’ve written books which have by God’s grace touched people on all continents, I’m privileged to be part of a significant nation-shaping move of God in Burundi even now, but honestly, I’m challenged today afresh by Veronica. In this coming season, I think I’m asking the Lord for something rather simple and foundational.
The disciples asked for it. They knew they needed it. They didn’t ask Jesus to teach them to preach, or to cast out demons, or to heal the sick – all of which they got to do – but they did ask him to teach them to pray.
So Lord, here I am, 40-years-young, still alive and well, doing OK but nowhere near what I’d like to be for you, dissatisfied with not seeing more fruit in my life, striving for authenticity but deeply aware that I can talk a better game than I’m willing to deliver, yet honestly wanting nothing more than to be in the heart of your will.
Teach me to pray.
Last week, an old man in Muramvya had a dream. Jen Eckersall, who’s working with us out here, was upcountry visiting homes and doing a discovery Bible group with a few families when he said: “Last night I had a dream in which I saw a white person and two Burundian missionaries coming to my house and knocking on my door.” He looked over at Jen and the team and said: “Those people in my dream were you three. Can you explain to me why you were knocking on my door?” So Jen’s team mate shared with him Revelation 3v20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
God prepares people’s hearts to listen to and receive His message. It’s happening repeatedly around the country. We were in the North at the weekend as the SU team and we visited five schools, six churches, and showed films at five locations – not bad for a weekend’s work – and in the process saw hundreds of lives impacted, some for the first time, others coming back to God, one demon-possessed man flipping out in the service. The battle is so very real out here. Thanks for those of you who pray.
Georgette Butera, who is an old Burundian friend of mine now living in England, wrote the following to me. I have to say, as I wrote back to her, it left me really discouraged. Why? Because there are so many needs out there crying to be met and I feel swamped, able to help completely transform some lives but not all of them. Since Georgette sent it to me last week, poor Carine’s right leg actually burst. I cannot imagine her pain, and if it was my sister I would do anything to get her help. But as I said, I’m inundated with needs. What to do? Well, the least I could do was to pray, and then share it with you, in case one or two or several of you out there want to help save this gifted and brave young lady’s life from agony and despair. Here goes from Georgette:
“We have sponsored Carine for many years now. She was born in August 1989 and was the eldest child in her family. She badly survived the 1993 ordeal. This is what she said when we found her:
‘I remember one morning at around 10 am, we heard screams in a small lane near our house. Most of the roads had been sealed off and the killing had started. My dad lifted me up and we went hiding in our banana plantation. My mum had my two young sisters. My dad was very frightened and sweating a lot. I was scared. My dad decided to take me back home and handed me to his young sister and asked her to take me away saying that he couldn’t stand seeing me being killed.
People were running away in all directions. We met other people fleeing and we followed them. We met pygmies who lived in our property and they decided to look after us. They asked us to follow them. There lived a kind man, a Hutu who hid us where he kept his goats. After a few days he asked us to leave because his sons had heard a baby’s cry. We stayed in the bush for 2 weeks and it was very hard. Someone heard where my mum was hiding and took my young sister to her and I never saw them again.
After that we heard people calling us we thought that they were going to kill us but we soon realised that they were soldiers sent by the local Administrator to look for us as his mother was with us. We were escorted to the refugee camp that had been recently set up. It is in the camp that I heard that my parents and sisters had been killed with many other people. I did not believe it because I kept hoping that they fled to another place. I lived in appalling, squalid conditions in the refugee camp from 1993 until 1997. Someone who knew my parents took me to Bujumbura and there I was taken on by the charity ACTS, being looked after by Judith.
My bone disease started in 1999. In 2000,I heard that people from England paid someone to take me to Kampala for treatment. I was operated on, got better and said goodbye to my wheel chair.’
The operation was successful and all things worked wonderfully. People were generous and all the money needed was raised on time to enable her to travel back to Burundi with her new crutches. After a few months she was walking unaided. But twelve years on, the bone infection is threatening again. Carine has been helped through secondary education and has passed all her exams. Unfortunately, her sponsor could not support her through university. I took on the responsibility but was not expecting a young girl like her to keep suffering. I was distraught when I saw the picture of her femur last Friday but was also convinced that she should have treatment. Please pray for her healing and support her in any way you can. We are seeking to raise £3,000.”
That’s it from Georgette. What to do?
Yesterday I walked down the corridor at home and came face to face with a snake*. My protective instincts kicked in immediately as I sensed danger for my loved ones. It was an incredible adrenaline rush. The sheer ferocity of its defense was awe-inspiring. Eventually after much ducking and diving it took six health thwacks to the head to beat it into submission. Another average day in Africa…
*The snake in question may or may not be the one in the photo. Some people say I am prone to exaggeration. The fact is, last night’s snake is dead, that’s the truth - and a little embellishment just adds a little spice to the tale/tail!
In March 2008, I wrote a call to action that has now been beautifully fulfilled. I’ll paste it again below to remind you of it, if you want to be inspired afresh by what God has done. And nearly five years on, we stand on the brink of the next phase…
What were we trying to do?
- Build the best dedicated conference centre in Burundi – we’ve done that! It’s called the King’s Conference Centre, because it belongs to the King!
- Model excellence in Jesus’ name – we’re doing that! We’re currently the no.1 hotel in Burundi on www.TripAdvisor, and we pride ourselves on giving all our customers a great experience. Many talk of the ‘special’ atmosphere and joy they sense in this place.
- Generate funds for God’s work around the country – we’re doing that! Healthy profits from our many conferences are being ploughed back into youth camps, pastor training, weekend outreaches and more.
It’s beautiful! By God’s grace, we’ve delivered on what we set out to do.
Where am I going with this?
Lizzie and I have just started a 40-day prayer challenge by Mark Batterson called ‘Draw the Circle’. I strongly recommend it. We’d be the first to tell you, our praying together as a couple has been weak. Well, hopefully things are about to change. At 6am each morning, we’re now on our knees together. We’re on Day 2, and this is what we’ve just read (which has prompted me to write to you all):
He talks of receiving a phone call one day. The voice on the end of the line said: “We want to give you $3 million dollars. No strings attached. We love your vision and trust your leadership. Some people wouldn’t know what to do with that money, but you have vision beyond your resources.”
Vision beyond your resources…
$3 million dollars – that’s what we now need for KCC Phase 2 – exactly the same sum I’ve been praying for for the last few years. We’ve got the neighbouring land and plans are already drawn up. In fact, building is due to start this month. It’ll mean we can make $500k in profits each year to transform tens of thousands of lives. Others are copying what we’ve done because they’ve seen how successful we are, so we need to keep ahead of the game.
I’m asking you to pray with me please. To the Infinite God, all finites are possible. We too have vision beyond our resources. I’m not asking for your money. Very few people can put a significant dent in that massive sum. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He is no man’s debtor.
God bless you!
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 4x4 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!
I’ve heard it referred to as Burundi’s equivalent of the USA’s 9/11, which I don’t think is an appropriate comparison for a number of reasons, but it gives the outsider at least a measure of understanding of quite how big a deal last Sunday’s fire was and still is to this impoverished nation.
One week on, here are some more photos that reveal the devastation, and some new pieces of information for those of you who pray and care for what goes on in Burundi. Please do lift up these precious people. I hope I’ve got my facts right below – they are gleaned from personal conversations, and reading what other people have written.
They say 70% of the nation’s food passes through Bujumbura’s market. So what is potentially the hungriest nation on earth is even more hungry right now. Food shortages have led to a tripling in prices for rice and beans - the staple diet - and almost all other food prices have risen as well.
Many people kept their savings locked in their stalls. 90% of the stall owners were uninsured. One lady died trying to get back into the inferno to retrieve – wait for it - $310,000 in cash. We still don’t know how many people died.
“Markets always burn on Sunday mornings in Burundi.” So say a number of people. I remember smelling the Jabe market fire a few years ago. If it’s arson, but you don’t want to kill people, then Sunday morning’s the best time. Who knows? There are so many conspiracy theories which I won’t go into, but all sorts of rumours are rife. A few people have been arrested already on suspicion of causing the fire.
So it’s all a bit chaotic. Poor shell-shocked vendors litter the streets. The busses have been directed to other makeshift stations. There are a huge number of thieves, some who have traveled down from other cities to make the most of the carnage. One Dutch friend was held at gunpoint and had everything taken, and another Burundian friend from church had a similar experience.
A few football fields on the outskirts of town have been cleared with a view to turning them into the new market site. It’s impractical, far from the centre of town, and unlikely to work well, but what other options are there?
In talking with a senior diplomat, we discussed how surprised we were that the incident didn’t lead to full scale looting and destruction of the town centre. There was certainly some pillaging, but most people ran to the scene and then just watched, incredulous, as the fire tore out the capital’s heart. We also talked of how incredibly resilient Burundians are when faced with tragedy. They have already been through so much. They have seldom known easy days. There is a certain amount of fatalism. ‘Ni ko bimeze’ or ‘c’est comme ça’, that’s just the way it is.
Please pray for all those affected, and for the decision makers, who need a lot of wisdom. The government’s monthly revenue in taxes from the market was over $3million, so I’m told, which means there are concerns they’ll struggle to pay civil servants’ salaries at the end of the month.
We will be able to help some of the victims, as $30,000 has come in through you generous folk. Thanks so much for digging deep on their behalf. Keep lifting us, and may God bless you where you are. SG