TWR Canada past-president Ray Alary blogged every Thursday, telling behind-the-scenes stories and ministry updates you won't find anywhere else. You can still access his stories and read about his time as a missionary with TWR.
Earlier this month, I went to Burundi, a small country in central Africa. With just over 10 million people, the size of the country is slightly larger than Vancouver Island. It's a lush green country with ample fresh water; mountains and hills make up a large portion of the country’s geography. They grow bananas, mangos and oranges, and they grow their own vegetables. Most important of all to me is that they grow the best coffee beans in the world! Their coffee has no bitterness; the aroma is sweet, and it simply makes one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had. One morning, I went to the coffee market and bought 15 kilos of coffee for $30US!
Bujumbura, the largest city in the country by far, sits at the foot of the mountains, on a small plain on Lake Tanganyika. It is a beautiful setting for a city. The city streets are lined with trees, and, in the spring of each year, when the trees are blooming, it takes your breath away.
When I was looking up facts about Burundi, I was disheartened to read that according to The World Happiness Report 2018, Burundi is ranked as the world's saddest nation. How can a country that is so beautiful be so sad? The reasons are many: civil wars, corruption, poverty and repeated genocides. Documented history of the nation estimates that over 500,000 people have died in the genocides that have taken place in the country. Poverty is severe, and the average income in Burundi is $343US annually. For Canadians, it is impossible to imagine someone caring for a family with that amount of money annually.
As I write this blog, I am reminded of the fact that Burundi is just one of many countries that face huge challenges in Africa. If you look at it from a human point of view, there is little or no hope for these countries.
In the case of Burundi, how does one bring about change to a country where there are no simple solutions? The country is landlocked; agriculture is the primary industry in the country; most of the food grown is needed to feed the people in the country, and even with a lush green country, things like rice have to be imported.
One evening while in Burundi, I went for a walk. As I was walking, I looked to my right and saw a beautiful sight. In one scene, God provided the answer to my question of hope. The picture below is the answer:
In my mind, the sunset in the picture signifies the light of Jesus Christ, and the cross is the answer. The hope for this country will not be found in a political solution. It will only be found if people see the need they have for a Saviour. And TWR Canada can help with that.
I was told once that every family in Burundi has been affected in some way by the genocides that have taken place since 1965. Parents have been affected, so they tell their children about the injustices. The next generation is then influenced, and today a level of anger exists in every generation. Anger over time turns to hatred, and the cycle has the potential to begin all over again.
Most of you have heard the story of the man from Burundi who lost 13 members of his family. He was so angry, and hate consumed him. One night he heard a TWR program on peace and reconciliation, and he started listening to TWR on a regular basis. Over time, God spoke to his heart, and he prayed the sinners’ prayer and asked Jesus into his heart. Remarkedly, from a human perspective, God took away the anger and the hatred. He told me that forgiveness cannot happen without a relationship with Christ. It is simply impossible in our human strength alone.
When I saw the cross on the hill overlooking the lake, it reminded me how important TWR is in Burundi. We have the answer, we really do: the answer for Burundi is Jesus. I think it is so fitting that there is a program in Burundi called, Jesus is the Answer. It is so exciting to think that God has put us in such a unique position in Burundi. With media, we can reach the entire country. We can teach people the truth of God’s Word, so that their hurt and anger can be healed, and reconciliation can take place.
God is opening a door for us in Burundi. After sharing facilities with a sister mission for over 30 years, God is opening a door for us to have our own property. A larger space will allow us to do training with tools like Discipleship Essentials which disciples the church; as well, it allows us space to train church leaders – who have no Biblical training – using Thru the Bible.
Poverty will remain a part of Burundi for many years to come. Hurts from the past will take generations to be forgotten. And things will not change, unless the Church says we have had enough and agrees to work together. When the Church agrees to share the message of hope with the entire country, educates those leading the churches with the Word of God and when even the uneducated have the opportunity to learn the truth of the gospel, that’s when change can happen. And TWR Burundi now has the tools to help them do just that.
I have been praying for Burundi since 1997. Now it is 2019, and God appears to be opening the door at a level he never has before. I believe a new nation can be born, a nation that puts the past in the past, and people live not to get revenge but to serve our risen Saviour. Will you come alongside me as TWR Canada plays a substantial role in transforming this nation?