When you live in the world's poorest nation, life is an adventure of faith. Thank you for sharing the adventure with us!
This short film is a beautiful update on an extraordinary life journey, well worth 5mins of your time. It's part of a series we're doing telling stunning stories of triumphant faith under fire from Burundi. You hear so much bad news, but there's great news in the mix as well! We want to pump out all the good news we can amidst all the heaviness which is also our current reality. Do subscribe on YouTube if you want to see the others as and when we release them over the coming weeks...
In 1993 when the war broke out Dieudonne was at Boarding School. His father and other relatives were killed. He was 17 and it was very difficult to continue at school. He was very involved in the Catholic church at this point. After two years he went to stay with a friend at university. Here he encountered God challenging him to ‘love our enemies and forgive.' It was like an audible voice in the room. He asked for peace and was filled with peace and joy.
At a Crusade for Christ he made a decision for Jesus. It was 1998. Someone gave him $5 at church and asked what he was doing for Christmas. He caught a bus to the city centre and saw a group of young children. He asked them what they thought of Christmas. They sang together. With his $5, he bought some soda and bread to share with them. It was a powerful time of celebration. He experienced a great deal of joy and a clear call to go to the streets and preach the gospel.
Dieudonne began to take a group of street children to the beach every Sunday. Their numbers swelled to around 200. They prayed for food and one day there was none. Dieudonne told the children that God is a God of miracles. They took time and pray and out of the blue, Simon Guillebaud turned up with food left over from a party. This was the beginning of the adventure.
Every Christmas since he first met the street children, Dieudonne has hosted a party with street children. Numbers have sometimes reached 2000.
One day whilst he was preaching on the beach, a member of the Billy Graham team happened to be there. He invited Dieudonne to a conference in Amsterdam with Billy Graham, a great honour. He was one of 11000 evangelists from all over the world. But after one week he suddenly felt completely alone. He realised he was missing the children on the streets.
In 1999 a malaria epidemic broke out and Dieudonne rented a room for sick children. This was funded by a generous businessman. He had planned to stay for a month but ended up staying there for four years.
These were the early beginnings of the organisation Dieudonne founded, New Generation. It is inspired by King David, author of the Psalms. Dieudonne seeks to follow David's principles of leadership.
Francois is married to Doreen. They have four children, two girls and two boys. Doreen adopted the two girls as orphans before she married. This had made it unlikely that any Burundian would want to marry her.
As an adolescent Francois had many issues. He failed at everything. He was always unhappy. He had no joy. He didn’t get on with his family. His parents sometimes kicked him out for the night.
Francois struggled with studying at school. So he cried out to God, “I will serve you if I get through school.” He didn’t actually know what it meant to serve God but somehow he felt peaceful when he offered to serve Him!
It was a tough year and he struggled with bad behaviour and the temptation to cheat. But he passed! People said it was ‘a miracle’.
Francois went to celebrate his success at a dance with other teenagers. His parents were angry because this meant he travelled to a different province they didn’t want him to visit. On the way back, he met someone who was born again. They shared with him about Jesus. He discussed his problems with his new friend and confessed his sins to God. It wasn’t easy. He prayed, “I can’t do it, I am very weak, I can’t be a good Christian.”
His friend, a preacher, invited him to stay at his home. Francois was impressed at how God was using his friend despite his young age (the same as Francois) and he prayed to serve God like that, bursting into tears. Friends shared with him the story of David fighting with Goliath and this inspired him.
When he eventually returned home, his mother was angry with him. His parents weren’t interested in his faith but they liked his new good behaviour. He worked hard to keep the peace. He helped by cleaning their house, losing lots of weight, trying to do everything right to show he was born again.
In 1999 he went to an SU Bible Camp where he met Simon Guillebaud and the rest of the SU team. They helped him and came to visit him at his Catholic school. Following this, he started sharing his faith at school and lots of people came to listen to him. Many were changed. But the school was annoyed with him, saying he was disturbing the students. It was a difficult time. He persisted and after two years he started an official SU Bible group in the school. Many of his friends received Jesus.
Soon after that, he met Onesphore who shared his vision for Harvest. Harvest clubs gather groups of young professional Christians. They fellowship together and work to mobilise believers in holistic mission projects. Harvest invited Francois to join their team.
Francois launched a new outreach club in the Musaga community. So he really ‘grew up’ with Harvest. By 2011 Francois had completed his mission to plant clubs in every province. He didn’t know what the next step would be.
At an SU youth camp, he had become aware of a community of Batwa people in Busiga. He felt called to go there. He shared this with his fiancée, Doreen. At the time, Doreen had a good job working at Kings Conference Centre. It was a daunting challenge to move to Busiga but she accepted it. When they were married, they spent three years in Busiga helping the Batwa, pioneering the work of Harvest here, which still continues today.
Donatien comes from a Catholic family with 10 children. He is the youngest.
Donatien's parents decided not to send their children to school. Donatien really wanted to go to school so he used to follow other children there. One day his Dad was very annoyed because he didn't know where he went. So he followed him to see. His Dad saw that Donatien was following other children to school. So he decided to send Donatien to school too. It’s by the grace of God this happened as he is the only one of the ten children with an education.
In 1995 he succeeded in the national tests (only 20% succeed).
Donatien has a favourite saying: “You can’t say to someone ‘God loves you’ if they don’t have shelter." He has been involved with the work of Harvest for many years.
In 2007 during the National Outreach, the Harvest team came across a lady who’d been ill for seven years. At this point, Donatien was a new convert. She couldn’t stand by herself – the community said if he prayed for her and she stood up, they would receive Jesus. So he prayed and she rose to her feet – around 20 people received Jesus. Some thought this was witchcraft. After a week, the lady died. At the funeral, 50 more people received Jesus. Donatien explained that the healing wasn’t from him, it was from Jesus.
Goretti Wege is one of Burundi's leading ladies and a real light in the GLO team. Born and bred on the slopes of the country's highest mountain, she narrowly survived the Civil War and now serves tirelessly as General Manager of Kings Conference Centre (KCC), leading a team of 20. Goretti came to faith aged 14 whilst meeting together with a group of three other girls at High school to study the Bible. She is still friends with two of them. At weekends they used to go in search of food and wood to help old people in the village. Goretti says the highlight of her job is seeing people arrive at KCC feeling tired then leaving a few days later refreshed and with their spirits lifted. The crisis of 2015 was heartbreaking as KCC had to cut their staff team by half but praise God, they managed to keep the business going throughout the year, whilst many hotels had to close down. Those who are still employed at KCC decided to tithe their money to those who lost their jobs and the whole team still meets regularly to pray together, like a family. The next extension of KCC brings hope for more jobs in the future.
When talking about her faith Goretti said she has learnt to forgive every day.
Jobs are a scarcity in Burundi so whilst he was at school, every day, Thierry used to pray that he would find work to start as soon as he finished his studies. The Friday of his graduation from High School, a friend called to tell him to go to KCC, which was recruiting. He started work on the Monday. He had also petitioned God for a specific salary and at the end of the month, imagine his delight that his salary matched what he had asked for! Thierry is also an answer to prayer for the whole KCC team and customers, providing the best customer service in the restaurant.