Hello Friends—Greetings in the wonderful and all powerful Name of Jesus!
We are writing to you today from a small but growing country in East Africa called Burundi. We are in the capital city, Bujumbura (about 800,000 pop) for a conference/revival with Living Church of Jesus Christ, with Pastors Edmond and Faith Kivuye. We met Pastor Edmond, back in January, through our friends–Pastors Phil and Sharon Smethurst. For many years, they told us about the church here and in our hearts, we knew that one day, we would come. In January, when he found out we would be in South Africa, Pastor Edmond extended a formal invitation to join them for conference and here we are.
The nation was originally settled by the country of Belgium, yet has a very strong French influence. Many wars and factions have been here, especially in the last 15-20 years. In fact, Pastor Edmond was arrested 10 years ago and accused of building his own militia. The fact of the matter—the government seized his teachings on spiritual warfare, edited out the scripture portions and accused him of setting up a private army. They threw him in jail with horrible conditions and little food or water but by God’s grace, on the 10th day, he was released. On the following Sunday, the church, about 1000 members at the time, grew by 700 in a single Sunday as people came to see the man who stood for righteousness. They were saved, filled with the spirit and joined the church the same day! Today, the building seats around 8,000 people and they are planning on building a 30, 000 seat facility in the near future. (FYI—this past Sunday, it was packed!)
The wars ceased in 2008 when a strong Christian man, His Excellency President Pierre Nkurunziza came into power. He was a former rebel leader living in the bush who hated Christians, actually kidnapping a pastor from Bujumbura. The pastor’s Bible was confiscated, and through a series of events, then rebel leader Pierre at the time, got a hold of the Bible, read it and accepted the Lord. He was so hungry for God and so willing to live for Him. He forsook all and followed the Lord. In a very short time he found great favor among the people and when time for the elections came, they asked him to serve as the country’s leader. He was voted in and sits in the highest office in the land even today. His Excellency is a mighty man—a warrior and a passionate worshipper. He attended our service this past Sunday. In fact, he brought one of the choirs from his palace (there are 3 that lead p/w 24 hrs a day 7 days a week) and spent some time leading us in worship. (The tears fall as I write even now—the anointing was powerful!) We felt as though we were seeing King David—he worshipped with total abandonment! The President’s wife is an ordained minister, a powerful teacher, and was the main speaker at the Ladies Conference here just a few weeks ago.
Living Church of Jesus Christ is quite unlike any church we’ve ever seen in Africa before. The African people definitely know how to celebrate and celebrate they do, but very few seem to understand the power of intimate and personal worship. However, this church is quite different. They love to linger in the presence of the Lord with Ps Edmond who is quite the worship leader as well. Much of the ministry here flows out of worship and the people stand long hours in the presence of the Lord, unhurried by time or obligation.
This morning, we had the privilege of leading the 6AM prayer service. Not knowing exactly what to expect, we arrived at the church to the sounds of people already in worship and prayer (probably around 750-1000 in attendance). Friends, it’s really hard to put in natural words the sights, the sounds, the feelings we’ve experienced.
Somehow, when we compare the church here with the American church—words can’t really describe. The people of Burundi really have so little of the natural things, but they are such happy, caring, giving people. The church is a bright spot for many here. It houses several schools, a clinic on the grounds, 2 fully operating hospitals in the city and multiple orphanages to care for children with no parents. When the people come to church, they worship the Lord with all their might, fellowship with the family, and love with a pureness and a sweetness that is beyond description. At this point, it is hard to write…I’m thankful to have had the privilege to see and experience for myself, this amazing place. As an emerging country, with a President that honors God, there are no limits to what God has in store for Burundi.
We have four more services before leaving on Thursday, but already, our hearts are full and we know that God brought us here…not because Burundi needed us but because we needed Burundi. We needed to experience His presence, far from the trappings and time constraints that we American’s live with. Yes, God can still move without air conditioning, kids church or nurseries, amazing sound, smoke and lights. He dwells among those who are hungry for Him and those who take time to honor Him. We are forever changed. It was worth every dime, it was worth leaving family, it was worth it all.
Thank you for those who made it possible for us to come. May the fruit of the ministry of WMI come to your account. Will we return you might ask? ABSOLUTELY! And maybe, just maybe some of you will want to come and experience a bit of heaven on earth—Burundi? Yes—Burundi. “Thank You Lord for opening the doors to come and experience your presence and your power with the beautiful family here. Only heaven and eternity will record what has transpired over these few days. Our words fall short when we think of how you’ve blessed us to worship with your people here in the continent of Africa. God, have mercy on America. Turn the hearts of our nation back to you. We trust you Lord! Our eyes are on you and our hearts are full of thanksgiving because you O Lord are worthy to receive all the glory, all the honor and all the praise”. AMEN!
Until next time—
Pastor Joe and Becky