The Power of Testimony

by Julie

Luke 15:7 …there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Our testimonies can be a very powerful tool that God can use to strengthen believers, and to call non-believers into Himself. Over the course of the summer I have found myself sharing my testimony perhaps dozens of times. I’ve shared a couple times in front of groups of people... 

But mostly I have shared my story on long car rides, or across the dinner table. I’ve spoken recently with maybe a dozen parents who have adult children who are currently living in darkness, away from the Lord.  This is an all-too common story that breaks my heart, but at the same time, I know the saving power of Jesus Christ.

You see, I was an adult who had turned my back from God, from my parents, my church, and pretty much anything that had to do with Jesus. I was living my life for myself. I thought I was seeking freedom, but what I found was bondage. My sin was tangled around every part of my life, pulling me further and further into a pit of darkness. I was such a mess and was at the end of my rope financially, emotionally, spiritually, and every other –ly word you can use to describe your life! I was completely lost.

Even though I refused to have a relationship with my family, they prayed. They prayed and prayed. And I’m not talking about sweet bedtime prayers. I’m talking about battling in prayer. They knew that they were fighting a spiritual battle and that God heard their prayers.

Finally one night…August 21, 2004… I was completely gripped with anxiety and couldn’t sleep. I had had enough. I had been trying to do it on my own for so long, but I just wanted to get out of the messy life I had gotten myself into. Somehow or another I knew the answer was Jesus. But, what would I even say to Him? What could I say? Do I have the right to pray after everything I have done? I hadn’t prayed in years! 

I simply said, “Save me.” I whispered it again. “Save me.” I began to sob. My shoulders shook as I repeated this very simple prayer, “Save me.”

In that moment I was changed. I was pure. I was forgiven. I was loved. I was a new woman. Praise the Lord. It felt as if Jesus came into my life and completely swept away the mess I had made of my life. I was completely clean inside. My stomach untangled. I could finally… breathe. I was free.

This is a real-life image of what Jesus did in the temple as recorded multiple times in the New Testament.  

Matthew 21:12-13 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said, “’My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

He turned over every table. He chased out every corrupt act from His temple. This is what He did for me. He cleansed me! Why? Because we are His temple.  

1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are that temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?

Every time I share how Christ saved me, the worst of sinners, I am once again reminded that Jesus continues to forgive me everyday. He loves us so much. I know that I was finally open to that love and was showered with grace because of my family’s prayers. Prayer works. God hears you. Keep praying. 

So, what does this story have to do with Burundi? Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with it. Or maybe it has everything to do with it. I am telling you, if some people who knew me 18 years ago found out that I was a Missionary today, they would laugh, or maybe not even believe you. Take courage that no matter where you have been, no matter what you have done - God’s grace is bigger. The blood of Jesus washes away all sin. Every single sin. And God has a plan for your life. You are never too far gone. Your son or daughter is not too far gone.

“Jesus, I pray that You storm into my life, Your temple. Turn over any table that shouldn’t be there. Chase out any unclean thing from my heart. Cleanse me, purify me like only you can. I want to live for You with all that I have.”

You see, the Gospel is not a story that you only need to hear once. I know I need to be reminded that Christ died for my sins and that He continues to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness.

I was recently asked to speak at a village church not far away from Kibuye. After reflecting on these very thoughts, I shared my testimony with them and told them how much Jesus loves them. The altars flooded with people repenting and asking God to cleanse them. At least one young woman came to Christ for the first time, Hallelujah! Heaven surely rejoiced.

So if you’re reading this and you are a follower of Christ, let me encourage you to share your testimony with someone! Redemption is a powerful thing, and maybe someone needs to hear your story of how Jesus redeemed you. And then pray. Pray for us living at what feels like the “frayed edges” of the world. Pray for Burundi. And pray for salvation across the globe.

If you’re reading this and you don’t know the Lord, or have not ever had a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ, let us know and we will pray for you and with you. God loves you and has a plan for your life. Trust me, God's plans are always much more exciting than any plans we could make for our own life!

If you're reading this as a parent much in prayer for your son or daughter, be encouraged. Your child's story is not finished, this is just where you are in the story right now. But keep praying. If you would like to hear a little bit more of my story, you can watch this testimony video that my home church put together a few years ago. Reach out to us and we will pray with you. And just like Heaven rejoiced when I surrendered my life to Jesus, and just like they rejoiced a couple weeks ago for the woman at this village church who made a decision to follow Christ, we will pray for a day of rejoicing the day your child accepts Jesus as her Lord and Savior! Who knows, maybe she will become a missionary one day sharing her testimony of how God didn't give up on her. Praise the Lord!


Sharing in the Joys

 by Rachel

Last night we had the new HAU medical school dean and his family over for dinner.  It was a fun evening to get to know some new friends and continue to practice my social French!  As typical of such evenings, the conversation eventually turned to differences between American and Burundian cultures.  Our friends were going to their family home upcountry to present their six month old son to the family and give everyone a chance to meet the baby.  He remarked that Burundians have many different celebrations, and we agreed...and mentioned that, in fact, most of those celebrations are totally different than ones we celebrate in America.  I was reflecting on all the opportunities that we've been given these past nine years to enter in to the lives of our friends, colleagues, and employees here--we are definitely the strange and the strangers here and to be invited in to these (typically) family parties has been a privilege and unique cultural window that we are very grateful for.  And, Burundians are very good at celebrating!  The parties are quite different than American parties (normally there is a lot of sitting and drinking Fantas, then speeches and prayers, followed by an occasional meal), and involve some waiting (we are always "early"), a lot of minimal understanding of what is going on (Kirundi), but at the end a general sense of happiness that we were able to participate in these special moments.

Peace and Alain's new baby, Nineza (it is good)

For example, one unique ceremony that almost everyone celebrates here in Burundi is the "Baby on the Back" ceremony.  When a newborn baby is old enough, typically around one month of age, the new parents will invite their families and friends to a party where, after the eating and drinking and speeches and prayer, the family will place the baby on the new mom's back for the first time.  Burundian moms almost always carry their babies on their backs, leaving their hands and heads free for other work and transport, and are practically wizards at using a towel or blanket to secure their baby well.  I tried it once with rather poor results...thankfully I caught Toby before he hit the ground!  We were able to attend a ceremony like that last weekend, in fact, and my favorite part was watching the joyful singing and parading around the pavilion once the baby was successfully well secured on the mom's back.  A celebration of life, to be sure.


Another ceremony that many of us have attended is something called a "dote."  Weddings are commonplace and easy to understand for us, but the dote is something different.  It's classically more of an engagement party in which the family of the bride to be and the family of the groom to be meet, sometimes months before and sometimes days before the wedding, and agree on the dowry or bride price to be paid.  I have heard that by the time of the dote these details have all been decided upon ahead of time, and everyone is going through the motions in a good natured "haggling" sort of way, until finally the bride is ushered in and presented to there groom and his family.  Also in years past, there were actual cows exchanged, but now apparently you can just provide a monetary equivalent to the value of the cows.  The last dote I attended was a little over a year ago, and it was a joy for me to celebrate the upcoming wedding of one of my amazing and talented generalist physicians at Kibuye.

Christiane and Methode

Finally, to complete the circle of life, the last unique ceremony that we've been able to be a part of is something called the "Levée de Deuil".  Literally translated, this is the "end of mourning."  After someone dies, there is a funeral and a period of mourning, sometimes a few days and sometimes a few weeks, depending on factors like the age of the person.  At the end of that mourning period, family and friends gather to celebrate the life of the person who died as a sense of closure and remembrance.  Eric actually attended one the first few months we were here in Kibuye, and wrote a blog about it here.  I think it's a really sweet sentiment actually, and our friends were particularly surprised to hear that nothing like this is celebrated in American culture.  

In addition to the above three, there are many other opportunities to celebrate together with our Burundian friends.  Sometimes it's as simple as saying goodbye to a colleague who's leaving the hospital for more training, and we share drinks and prayers.  Sometimes it's a medical school graduation or a thesis project finally completed; a new doctor launched into society.  Last year we were able to attend the baptism of our former nanny's daughter, which was very special.   In all these things, we remember the value of sharing these times together in community, like the verse in Romans 12: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Again, we are grateful to be included in these moments, and have learned much from our Burundian brothers and sisters. 

Goodbyes to some Stage Professionals:

Thesis defense and medical school graduation:

Kessia's baptism and party:


New Chaplains and New Chapels

 (from Eric)

When our team returned from the Serge conference last month, we found a new face leading morning chapels at the hospital.  Last year, after decades of faithful service, Pastor Pascal Nyawenda retired from his role as a Kibuye Hospital chaplain.  Now, Pastor Mélance has arrived to fill that void, joining Pastor Silas and Madame Pascaline on the chaplain service dedicated to spiritual care at the hospital.  It has been a joy to see the enthusiasm and energy that a new person has added to the team's work.  We see them praying with inpatients and outpatients, and if you take the time to ask them, they will enthusiastically share stories of healing, repentance, conversion, consolation and faithful presence.

Pastor Mélance, Pastor Silas, and Madame Pascaline

One of the things that I love about our chaplains is that they embrace not only the spiritual care of patients and their family members here at Kibuye, but also the employees and the numerous students that pass through the hospital at different stages of training.

Ever since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been a challenge to decide how to handle the long-standing practice of daily times of morning prayer/singing/devotions from 7:30 to 8:00 each morning.  After trying a number of different models, the hospital leadership restarted this practice a couple months ago.  The response from students and staff has been encouraging with an enthusiastic participation.

The chaplains' response to this was to reflect on how best to use this reinstated time to engage well those that are involved.  They are planning a number of different activities, but one of them is to dedicate one week per month to a thematic message.  The idea is, instead of a different speaker and theme each day, there will be one speaker on a chosen theme who will give four different messages from Monday to Thursday, and then Friday will be dedicated to Q&A.

I had the honor of being the inaugural speaker for a theme week, the chaplains asking me to speak on "Walking with Those who Suffer".  On Monday, I spoke on suffering according to the Bible.  On Tuesday, I spoke on the significance of a God who has suffered and died.  On Wednesday, we talked about consoling the sufferer, and on Thursday, we talked about Finding Hope.  Even this week, it seems that these messages have changed the tenor of some of our conversations about our work in ways that I think are positive and authentic.

I wasn't sure what to expect in the Friday Q&A.  I appreciated what the chaplains were doing by leaving that time for more interactions, but I wasn't sure how people would respond.  After an initial long silence, the questions started to come and had no difficulty filling the time.  They asked about God's redemption of evil and the presence of temptations in their lives.  They asked why prayer matters if God is sovereign.  They asked about the difficulties of caring for the whole person when the work is voluminous and overwhelming, as well as the proper way to talk about the offer of eternal hope with someone who has just receiving hope-shattering news.  In other words, they didn't pull any punches!

Pray for these chaplains in the months to come and for the patients and staff and students that they will impact.