Africa Days 8 & 9: Feeling Muzungu in Burundi

The five-month-old daughter of our dearest friend in Burundi, Bienvenu Bizimana. Milka was born the day before I arrived in Burundi last year. In the background is Bienvenu’s wife and Milka’s mother, Emily.

We arrived in the central African nation of Burundi around 2AM on Thursday morning. Our dear friend, Bienvenu Bizimana, was all smiles in spite of our ill-timed arrival. Bienvenu is an amazing Heaven’s Family-sponsored national missionary and is one of my favorite people on the planet. You can learn his story by clicking here to read an article about him that was in our November magazine.

Using simple discipleship principles that he learned from reading The Disciple-Making Minister, Bienvenu and his disciples have multiplied exponentially, and seven-hundred house churches have been planted through nine generations of disciples making disciples. So far, two-thousand copies of the Kirundi translation of The Disciple-Making Minister have been distributed to Burundian spiritual leaders. After being here for two days, I can understand at least part of the reason for the wonderful expansion of the kingdom here: Burundians will listen to the gospel. Let me share just one example.

Late yesterday afternoon we traveled from Bujumbura to Bubanza Province in order to visit one of Bienvenu’s regional leaders—named Ettiene—who was recovering from a double hernia operation. (On the way there I learned that Bienvenu sold his refrigerator in order to pay for Ettiene’s surgery.) As we came out of the hospital, a small group of women—seeing the “muzungus” (white-skinned people)—walked over to ask for food money (and to touch our skin, to see if it felt like theirs).

Bienvenu began telling them in their native language of Kirundi that what they really needed was spiritual food. He proceeded from there to proclaim the gospel, and the crowd of women just kept growing. After fifteen minutes, several of them said that they wanted to repent of their sins and start following Jesus. Bienvenu promised he’d be back to help them, and soon, another house church will be planted. Becky and I were amazed.

Bienvenu preaching the gospel to a growing crowd of women

Burundi is one of the world’s ten poorest nations, and it has the lowest per capita GDP of any country in the world. We’ve been serving “the least of these” among Jesus’ family here, focusing on widows, the handicapped, the very poor, and drug users who have been set free by the power of Christ. For the last two days, we’ve been visiting them to see how they are doing. It has been a joy.

So far, we’ve helped six handicapped beggars get off the streets of Bujumbura by helping them start prospering businesses via $400 – $500 grants. All six were won to the Lord by Bienvenu, and all are actively involved in house churches. Some are doing so well in their small businesses that we’re discussing helping them expand their businesses with micro-loans. In the last two days, I’ve personally visited four of them.

Ildephonse (born with a deformed right hand), who used to beg for survival on the streets, at his prospering store.

Donatian, who lost a leg in Burundi’s tribal wars, is another man who formerly begged to survive. His corner store is doing well.

Bienvenu has also won a number of homeless drug users to the Lord who now all meet at a “beach church” along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. We met with two of them to talk about small-business micro-loans from our Micro-Loan Fund. One wants to start a small shoe store, and another wants to sell mobile phone credits. They’ll be putting together business plans with Bienvenu’s help to submit to us.

Bienvenu sitting in Bujumbura’s central park with three former drug users that he now disciples.

Isaac (at left) and Innocent (at right) used to smoke marijuana and sniff glue. Now they are serving Jesus and leading other drug users to the Lord. They told us that they want to keep their dreadlocks so that drug users can related to them!

I wish I could tell you every encouraging story your obedience is making possible in Burundi. But these blogs are not supposed to be novels! Below are a few more photos from the past two days. — David

One of the women at the hospital who listened to Bienvenu share the gospel

Africans love America’s president for many reasons…

There is nowhere we can go without hearing cries of children (and adults) saying “Muzungu, muzungu!” We stand out here, especially when we’re outside of Bujumbura. Babies often cry when they see us, utterly terrified.

A young Burundian with a great smile

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