Simon Guillebaud’s Blog
Our founder Simon Guillebaud has his own blog at simonguillebaud.com. On this page we feature a selection of his posts related to GLO and our projects. Simon also posts biblical encouragement, sermons and reflections on current affairs.
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Yesterday we got to meet with Macaire – this story is as good as it gets!
When he was 12-years-old, he contracted polio. He was taken to several hospitals but his legs shrivelled up and he was left disabled.
Language can be harsh sometimes. There are different cases in Kirundi. The ‘people’ class begins with ‘umu’, so ‘umuzungu’ is a white person, ‘umugore’ is a woman, ‘umusore’ is a young man, etc. The ‘thing’ class begins with ‘iki’, indeed ‘ikintu’ means a thing. And so Macaire aged 12 stopped being an ‘umuhungu’ (boy) and became an ‘ikimuga’ (cripple). Thankfully there are now efforts to stop using that word – people now use ‘umuntu agendana ubumuga’ which means ‘a person with disability’ – but it illustrates how disabled folk have been generally marginalised, rejected, and dishonoured.
Yet, although Macaire was a victim of polio, he is no life victim!
He always said he didn’t want to resort to begging, and he ended up training as a tailor. What he soon discovered, however, was that running a bar was more lucrative. He’d hire girls to draw in men, and business was thriving. He was so charming that, in spite of his disability, one of those young ladies called Dallia agreed to marry him – even though it could have meant she would bear no children. As it happens, though, they now have six children together, and another six grandchildren so far!
Dallia came to faith first and prayed for Macaire. When he was radically converted, he knew he had to leave his drunken ways behind, close the bar, and lose his main source of income. He started praying for people and many of them got healed. Word got around, and people flocked to his house. This was during the war when there were rebel movements and any unusual gatherings were treated with suspicion. So many people came to his house that he started planning morning and afternoon sessions.
One day, the authorities came and arrested him. He was put in prison with three other pastors. The latter were released when they signed a document saying they’d stop those meetings. But Macaire refused: “I’m doing God’s work. Whilst others are killing, I’m praying with people and being used to heal the sick. I cannot sign!” So they kept him in prison. Then the Governor came and ordered him to stop those meetings. He replied: “Sir, I will sign that paper on condition you agree that when you die and you come before God, you will tell him that you were the one who stopped Macaire’s work!”
At that, the Governor baulked! Instead, he encouraged Macaire to register a new church and helped him in the process. A couple of decades later, Macaire has planted 23 churches!
All those years, he either walked on his hands, or rode a modified tricycle pedalling with his arms. He’s getting older now, and ten years ago announced that he was praying for a car. That was so unlikely, because he lives upcountry and has a very simple life. But his grandchildren and children joined him in that most unlikely of prayer requests.
I sat with Macaire in his house. We had come up to visit and film him, but it was too dark inside. The house has a mud floor and mudbricks. Yet here he’d started a Bible school in it, and he himself was one of the first eighteen students to get degree-level accreditation through Nation-2-Nation Christian University. You’ll find it hard to believe, but our local partner UCCD now runs over 200 such Bible schools around the country, churning out thousands of graduates with internationally-recognised qualifications. Beautiful!
Macaire graduated a few months ago. As he walked (on his hands) to the front before a rapturous crowd to receive his diploma, visiting GLO trustee Lacey was struck by his dignity and grace. She wondered what his story was. And the Lord spoke to her about a need Macaire had in his personal life. When she heard about his persevering, believing prayer for a vehicle, she knew that she was to be the answer in this case.
So here he is now, in his own car, with his grandson Gilbert as his driver – Gilbert, who listened to his grandpa’s declaration a decade previously that the Lord would give him a car to prolong his ministry!
His legs might be shrivelled, but Macaire’s soul continues to soar. “God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good!” And Macaire’s journey with Jesus continues, now on four wheels!
Choose Life is a daily devotional by Simon Guillebaud. Living in a war zone for many years, Simon is attuned to making the most of each week, taking nothing and no one for granted. The Choose Life challenge is here to inspire you to do the same.
Simon tells us; “As I say so often, life is a gift. Live it fully! Health is a gift. Appreciate it! Loved ones are gifts. Cherish them! We have so many gifts… So let’s enjoy them, maximize them and share them.”
For 2022, Simon will be recording and sending out a weekly Choose Life vlog (video blog). Sign up here if you would like to receive this by email and journey with Simon in 2022!
Have you got your copy of Choose Life? We have arranged great prices with our friends at St Andrew’s bookshop – buy it here!
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There are a few reasons why Innocent is the skinniest healthy guy I know. His stories are nuts. Read on…
He realised as a young man that he had the gift of healing. On one occasion, he prayed for a hunchback who had been bent over for 18 years. The man immediately straightened up, and piled him high with avocadoes in gratitude!
Another time, he was leading one of our Harvest Initiatives outreach teams, and they were taking a lunch break after the Sunday service. Two non-verbal (the currently PC term, I gather, for someone who can’t speak) girls asked him to pray for their healing. He left his team members eating, led the two girls into a room, and said to God: “Lord, even if I have to stay here three days, I won’t give up praying until you heal them!” Actually, within ten minutes they’d started crying audibly, and were indeed completely healed. He took them to the choir practice, and said: “Hey, I’ve got you two new choir members!” The head chorister said: “Don’t mess us around, we know those girls are mute!” Innocent turned to the girls: “Did you hear what he said? Anything you want to tell him?” They opened their mouths and started singing a worship song! Three of the choir members fell to their knees whilst others gasped and burst into tears! The two hadn’t said a word in over a decade.
However, he says it comes at a cost. He fasts two days a week, and sometimes for much longer. “It’s tiring digging deep in the Spirit and seeking God’s face, there is a real battle going on. And I come from a relatively well-off family. My Mum and sisters are fat (fat is good in the culture, not an insult at all!). I’m the skinny one. When I used to go into the bush on my evangelistic outings, I ate rubbish and had lots of stomach issues. They don’t believe in Jesus, and so don’t understand why I’m willing to suffer so much. Once they said to me, ‘You’re so skinny, we’re going to tie you up so you don’t go back upcountry!’”
He gets no encouragement or support from home. He’s getting married to Khelia on the 20th November, and his salary is only $60/month, which is ridiculous considering the amazing work he’s doing in raising up young school kids as leaders to fulfil their potential. The family has said: “Well, if you want to go ahead with the wedding, we’re not helping you, let’s see your God provide!” Indeed, He will.
Purpose Discovery is the name of the organisation Innocent started. It’s all about helping young people discover and embrace their purpose in life. His vision is that of an emerging generation on fire for God transforming their communities through their respective spheres of influence – sounds good to me – which is why we’re backing him as one of our new key strategic leaders.
If anyone wants to connect with Innocent, or help make the wedding day a stunning testimony of God’s provision, message me and I’d love to share this friend with you! I’ll post his wedding picture in a few weeks’ time.
Update: a huge thanks to all those who generously donated towards Innocent’s wedding, it was a wonderful occasion! Photos can be seen here.
Things would have looked very different if Chrissie had died when the doctors said she would.
Decades ago, she was dying and had been given six months to live. She was partially paralysed, bald, her whole body was swollen ‘like a Michelin-Man’, and she had two wrecked lungs. On her hospital bed, she heard an audible voice: “It’s time to go home; I am going to heal you!”
She was allowed out of the hospital some weekends. One weekend, back in her apartment and resting on her beanbag, she believed she was dying but then suddenly felt painful pins and needles in her head. She put her hand to her head and felt bristles on her scalp. Her hair was growing back!
She picked up her Bible, and a piece of paper fell out of it, with 1 Peter 2:24 written on it – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed’.” It turns out her pastor had prayed that verse over her for 6 weeks whilst she was on a life-support machine, and he’d put it in her Bible.
By the following morning, she had a full head of hair, her paralysis and swollenness had gone, and her breathing was fine (indeed, she never again had an asthma attack). She returned to the hospital, and when her doctor saw her and reached out to touch her full head of hair, he fell to his knees speaking in tongues. He wasn’t even a Christian! That week, 17 hospital staff who knew what she was suffering from gave their lives to Christ in response to her evident miraculous healing!
What do you make of that?
Chrissie Chapman died a few days ago. She was a truly remarkable woman. In her death, I want to do two things: give you the opportunity to be stirred by her quite extraordinary faith journey, and contribute to her legacy.
So if you want to hear more crazy stories like the one above, why not listen to this talk she gave four years ago (different to the one I posted on Facebook). I would genuinely say it’s one of the most powerful talks I’ve ever heard.
Following her healing, Chrissie pursued a clear call to serve the Lord in Burundi. She wrote her Burundi story in ‘The Night the Angels Came’, which you can buy here.
So that’s the first thing, and it’ll bless your socks off if you listen to that talk or read her book. Now the second thing – an opportunity to contribute to her legacy:
As she joked, she was a single mother with 54 children, all from different fathers! To be clear, she wasn’t spectacularly fertile and promiscuous; rather, she’d taken in 54 precious, vulnerable lives! In turn, those infants needed schooling, so she started what is now called the King’s School in Bujumbura, which now has 714 kids in the student body.
All of the original 54 are now over 18-years-old. Several of them babysat for us and became our good friends. Some have been through university and have found jobs, but for about ten of them, their studies are still ongoing. During Chrissie’s latter years, a significant concern for her quite naturally was finding sponsors to see them all through. Yet as things stand, there is a shortfall.
In brief, would you like to honour Chrissie as she graduates to glory by helping the remaining students to finish their studies, and to contribute to the replacement of the 12-year-old(!) dying computers in the King’s School’s ICT lab, and other such needs, as the King’s School was a key part of her legacy?
This is not a GLO project per se, but our DNA is to bless transformational Kingdom initiatives in Burundi, which this most certainly is. If you do want to help, God bless you. You can contribute here. (If you would prefer to give in US$, please click here)
One of my favourite stories that Chrissie shared was of her encounter with an old man in a miserable displacement camp during the war. He was sat with an empty bowl in prayer. She went over to see him and asked him his story. He was in his seventies. He’d witnessed his wife and kids hacked to death, and his house burned down. He’d walked six days to get to the camp. Sat there in his stinking rags with that empty bowl… that was all he was in the whole world. Yet he was able to declare:
“I never realised that Jesus was all I needed until Jesus was all I had!”
What. A. Line!
Chrissie, we salute you! We’ll all, by God’s grace, see you again sooner or later. In the meantime, let’s live our lives to the full, making the most of it in service of the King!
Last Friday in Bujumbura, CIP was shut down, wound up, put to bed. Let me explain why that is probably GLO’s greatest satisfaction to date in our involvement in Burundi:
In April 2015, a political (and therefore national) crisis came to a head as the sitting President announced he would indeed stand for a third 5-year term in office. The constitution stipulated a maximum of two 5-year terms elected ‘by the people’. His first term had been elected by parliament as Burundi ended its 13-year war. So can you see how both sides would interpret the situation differently? His side insisted he’d only had one 5-year term elected by the people (which is true), whilst the opposition (and most of the international community) said he’d definitely already served two 5-year terms (which he had), and therefore should step down for the good of Burundi’s fledgling democracy.
That’s when it kicked off. Burning barricades, demonstrations, and fear became a daily reality in the capital.
Within a week of the crisis, all our key leaders met together and had the holiest meeting of my life. We went around the table, with the sound of gunfire and in sight of a burning roadblock, and counted the cost of active engagement in the crisis. For context, we remembered how after the genocide of 1993, someone wrote a tract entitled ‘Abantu b’Imana bagiye he?’ – ‘Where did the people of God go?’ Essentially in 1993, the Church hunkered down in fear, and failed in Her mandate to stand courageously against the onslaught and violence. Would such a tract be re-written in 2015? Not on our watch, we decided!
That was the birth of CIP: Christian Initiatives for Peace.
CIP consisted of a dozen or so strategic Christian organisations (mostly GLO partners). It tapped into their different specialties and constituencies to mobilise people on whichever side of the divide to embrace key accepted shared values: the sacredness of life, compassion, community, and personal responsibility. There were no egos, no jealousies, no rivalries – just total unity. “You’re best at social media, go for it!” “We’ve got the strongest network through schools, so let’s take the lead but we need your input on strategy and content.” “You three are the most coherent expositors and debaters, you go on TV and radio.” “You invite all the pastors as key influencers, we’ll provide the venue and food.”
In a relative vacuum of trusted information, CIP provided a clear voice and framework on how to respond to the crisis based on the teachings of Jesus. In all our attempts to contribute to the process in Burundi, consistently espousing non-violence and dialogue, we very intentionally trod the middle ground, so as to be accessible and trusted (or not) by all sides. The scope of our engagement was significant.
Writing in 2016, i.e. a year later, here are some of Onesphore’s thoughts on that period:
Let me tell you it was scary at times to stick our necks out, on TV and radio, using tens of thousands of tracts, at conferences, bringing youth leaders together, mobilising churches, trying through every means possible to stand for non-violence during violent times. People recognized us wherever we went, and as things became ever more polarized, radicals on each end didn’t like what we were advocating. I often wondered if I would pay the ultimate price of my life for what we were doing, but I (and the others with me) considered it worth the cost as followers of Jesus and because we love our nation so much.
We have so much work to do. But what I love is that GLO is intentionally unknown behind the scenes – not seeking credit for these initiatives, but simply working to facilitate powerful meetings that lead to reconciliation and healing. Some of what we’ve been involved in is too sensitive and can’t be talked about. Maybe we’ll be able to share those stories in a few decades’ time!
Indeed, some of the juiciest stories can’t be shared! But thank God, dire predictions of Burundi imploding never came to fruition. That’s not to belittle the suffering of many, with hundreds of thousands fleeing the country, and a shattered economy. I have to be sensitive in how I communicate this. Burundi has a long way to go to bounce back fully.
However, CIP completed its mission. On Friday, we wrapped it all up. Sadly on my part, covid stopped me flying out to join the last group evaluation and celebration meeting. Honestly it’s hard to quantify the impact, because the aim was to stop bad things happening, and we don’t know how many bad things would have happened without CIP. Suffice to say, we have myriad stories of individuals, like the young man who said: “I’m only alive because I came to your meeting. You told us throwing stones wasn’t the way. I stopped, whilst my friends carried on. They’re dead and I’m still here.”
One of GLO’s key mantras is ‘Everything is about relationship’. As I reflect, we were able to achieve what we did (under God’s grace) because in what was a very distrustful and suspicious climate and culture, we had met intentionally together for years every month to have team breakfast together, pray together and plan together. We’d been on retreats with our spouses together. We saw across ethnic and political divides. Together… indeed, it was all about relationship.
And it still is.
So I write this to praise God and salute my precious Burundian brothers and sisters who formed CIP back in 2015 and did whatever they did in the ensuing years. Instead of the 1993 tract ‘Abantu b’Imana bagiye he?’, the 2015 equivalent could be ‘Abantu b’Imana ni bo basutsemwo mabisi!’ – i.e. not ‘Where did the people of God go?’ but ‘The people of God threw water on (the fire)!’
As we look to the future, there are huge challenges to overcome. I’m encouraged by so many passionate and committed Burundians who are desperate to see the healing of their nation. By faith, with costly action, it will come. But for now, it’s RIP to CIP, 2015-2021!