Posts Tagged ‘Burundi’

Mission trip to Burundi 2009

February 2, 2010

Here follows an attempt to describe, as well as can be done, the work of Jesus Christ by His Holy Spirit on behalf of the Father working through a group of people elected by Them to go and proclaim the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus to the people of Burundi. As with such descriptions of the work of the Living God, with the exception of the divinely inspired Bible, this represents a futile attempt to convey the glory, splendour and life transforming truth of the character of God as reflected by His works.

This most courageous prayer by the great medical missionary David Livingstone has been very much on my heart this past year:

Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any ties but the tie that binds me to Thy service and to Thy heart.” – Dr. David Livingstone

In July 2009 the Dundee based Christian charity Mission International (http://www.mission-international.org) took a team of 15 people to the central African country of Burundi. The team comprised one doctor, one dentist and his son (undergrad theology student), three CMF-Dundee medical students (CMF, Christian Medical Fellowship, http://www.cmf.org.uk), the sister and brother-in-law of our team leader, and the daughter-in-law of the aforementioned sister, along with her daughter and two friends, and finally the daughter of the again aforementioned sister and her son. We had only met briefly before the trip (I myself had not met anyone until arriving at the airport), but even before we left we had a clear sense of purpose; that each member was there by the will of Him who gives life and for His purposes in Burundi. Each brought a unique set of abilities and talents to the group, which made for a far much more enriching experience.

It was November 2008 when Christ Jesus laid it on the hearts of those who would eventually lead the team to begin preparing for the trip, and by the work of Christ in Spirit, that being the Holy Spirit, the rest of us were also called to go and serve there.

For most of us this would be our first time in a developing country, myself included. I was excited but felt unprepared because of unforeseen university commitments that didn’t finish until five days prior to departure. Nevertheless, I trusted in Him who had led me through many much worse situations with a clear and guiding hand. So, after a long day of travelling and some sleep, I was ready!

The first five days were spent in the capital Bujumbura were we met with our partners REMA ministries. They were to be our organisers and translators for the duration of the trip. The life transforming nature of Jesus residing in the heart of man was so evident in these men, and was a real inspiration to us all. Listening to them talk about how for one, as a child, he saw his father murdered in front of him and 30 years later went and forgave the man who killed him. Similarly, it was absorbing to hear how another had to flee to the nearby Congo as a refugee when civil war broke out in Burundi and his experiences both there and in Burundi as a Christian were remarkable.

We visited various churches were we all had to introduce ourselves to the congregation through a translator. Then our team leader or assistant would deliver a sermon. African church is like nothing else I’ve experienced before. Even the ‘African’ churches in America I’ve been to don’t come close. There is so much colour and music and dancing, and the sincerity of the worship is refreshing to the soul of those who often find worship in the United Kingdom rigid and joyless. Despite their circumstances, people in Africa appear not to have lost sight of how to love one another. The numbness and consciouslessness of the ‘post-endarkenment’ West appears frankly absent.

On day four of the trip, a Sunday, I preached my first of two sermons. I prepared the night before being ever mindful of the message and supporting texts that the Holy Spirit had laid on my heart. By the time I went to bed I had the framework of a sermon penned in my moleskine notebook and supporting Scriptures bookmarked and underlined in my beloved Bible. That night I prayed for clarity of thought, that I would proclaim Christ crucified, that the Spirit would work through me to reach the people in the congregation, and that my words would be His words.

The next day the pastor gave a short sermon before I gave mine, and if ever I felt God speaking directly to me through someone else, then this was it. The texts he preached were Psalm 89:20-26 and 2 Samuel 7:3. The latter verse especially was the one that said emphatically “I have ordained that you be here today to give the message I have given you to these people, which has been made real by the experiences I have brought you through. Now go and tell them about Me.” So I stood up and greeted the congregation, prayed, and began “Satan hates you…….“Half an hour later I sat down having felt closer to God than ever before. The Scriptures seemed to come to life and take on a dimension and power and authority that was not of this world, but could only be accounted for by Him who is the Word giver. Indeed, they were not my words but His words, He laid more on my heart as I spoke and I found that within my soul there was a deep conviction that burned relentlessly. Indeed the weight of responsibility was, in the absence of His sustaining Hand, overwhelming. I HAD to tell these people why the world is as it is, what God has done about it, and what will happen in the fullness of time. I preached with a sense of urgency that the words of Christ need to be taken seriously. I ended by reading out my prayer of commitment that I made many years ago when I became a Christian.

My heart was thudding in my chest, but more than that, I felt bathed in the Holy Spirit, sustaining me, giving me words of love and wisdom. I also felt a clear sense that God was telling me that this would not be the last time I would preach, and that He has given me the ability to preach. This latter point did come as a revelation of sorts to me, having never envisaged myself as much of preacher before. But now, I actually love it and want to do it again!

Our dentist gave a short sermon after me then there was an alter call. About 20 – 30 people came forward and knelt before Jesus. It was awesome. We prayed for them before heading off to watch Brazil versus the Burundi national football team.

The next day we travelled to the province of Rutana were we would be serving Him who “knitted us together in our mothers womb” (Psalm 139:13) in two villages: Bukemba and Nembouye. The journey took all day but was very beautiful as we ascended up into the mountains. Rutana is one of the poorest provinces with a high proportion of refugees.

In Bukemba we undertook medical and dental work, Sunday school/children’s work and theological training simultaneously each day for five days. Again this was awesome. I was so happy seeking to glorify God by serving the people medically and with dentistry, even though our ‘clinic’ was in a ruin with a temporary roof! We did this in Nembouye as well, although there was a purpose-built clinic there courtesy of God’s hand working through the people at REMA. We tried to pray for as many patients as we could too.

Medically speaking, it was incredibly interesting to see first hand tropical diseases such as amoebiasis. But there were also some harrowing cases, such as the baby with probable pyloric stenosis and a congenital heart defect of some description. All we had was essentially a stethoscope, Oxford handbook of Tropical Medicine, some BNFs and a few boxes of medicines (primarily antibiotics, multivitamins and minerals, rehydration, analgesia). I loved this though: limited resources, and relying on clinical acumen!

For me, Burundi answered so many questions that I wasn’t even asking and I now see many experiences of recent years in a new and clearer light. The great tapestry that is God’s divine purpose for each one of us, that is, the tapestry that says “and we know that FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD, FOR THOSE WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE.” If you don’t love God and haven’t given your life to Christ, all things ain’t working together for good in your life! Sorry. Anyway, exposition of Romans 8:28 aside, I now clearly know that I am called to work as a doctor in Burundi in the future; that combining medicine with pastoral work such as preaching or theological training is where my future lies. I know this will not always be easy, that it may cost me many of the comforts of a Western medical career; it may even cost me my health. But as the scripture says “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” – Matthew 6:20, such is my commitment to my calling.

There was a revival/crusade the second weekend we were there and I was preaching again. This sermon was shorter than the previous one, but again, I felt Jesus working through me guiding my words and exhortations. The conviction to see people come to Christ was burning within me purely. By this I mean that it was a conviction derived from God’s revelation of Himself to me through personal experience and Scripture, and I was testifying about Him to the people. In other words, He Himself gave me the conviction, and I relied on Him to convey it. That day, around 50 people came forward and knelt before Christ and gave their lives to Him. But more than that, I saw two people physically healed of infirmities. One frail elderly lady who had knelt right in front of me was clutching her back in pain the whole time. One of the pastors asked me to pray for her so, this being the first time I’d been asked to pray that someone be healed, I put my hand on her shoulder and prayed:

“Father, you are creator of heaven and earth, the author of life, the life giver, good and gracious, the God who has revealed Himself to undeserving humans through your Son, Christ Jesus, whom you gave to expiate our sin and propitiate your wrath against us, by His name I ask that you heal this lady, afford her physical health and spiritual healing, grant to her your Holy Spirit to reside in her heart and transform her as Paul writes in Galatians 5, may your name be glorified above all, do not lose her, Father, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.”

When we had all finished praying for our respective people, she arose and walked back to her seat elegantly and relaxed. There was none of the ginger steps or clutching of the lower back. A short while later I saw her standing up straight smiling and laughing. She looked bright and alleviated of a great burden. She looked alive whereas previously she had looked essentially dead. Another lady had a similar experience of physical and spiritual healing. Oh, how I had underestimated and limited the power of the Holy Spirit to heal with immediate effect! Typical of my Western mindset, all rationalistic and reasoned, allegedly. I now consider this to be perhaps more dysrational and dysreasoned. I use the prefix ‘dys-‘ because it is used in medicine to denote the presence of an abnormal or pathological process, the outworking of which is erroneous function. Perhaps a parallel may be drawn with the Western mindset? Bring back the pursuit of unity in diversity as opposed to the enthralment with pursuing disunity (dysunity) in diversity!

We returned to Bujumbura for the final few days of the trip, taking in a church or two, the market and the HOPE orphanage. I haven’t even had time here to write about this most incredible centre that Mission International has helped set up. I had a really profound experience here spending time with the children, playing games and stuff. Similarly, the hospital we visited for HIV/AIDS orphans went right to the depths of my soul. But I didn’t become an inconsolable mess, but rather Jesus came to me and clearly showed me “I want you to help here in the future, come and care for them through medicine.”

The two greatest trials/experiences in my Christian life have been firstly, several years ago learning to forgive several people who hurt me very deeply, and secondly, more recently, a test of obedience regarding a single person. Because of Him who lives in me, learning to forgive and be obedient, and the aggregation of all other sanctifying experiences, I am willing to say “Yes Lord, send me, I’ll go.”

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