(September 4-13, 2019)
I am very happy to share with you this personal report from my trip to Burundi. There would be much to tell but the main thing is God’s wonderful work.
a) How it came about
Our brethren in Burundi had planned a total of three conferences and had sent invitations for them: a pastors’ conference in the northwest and a youth plus a (two-day) pastors’ conference in Bujumbura, the largest and most important city in Burundi. Werner was the planned speaker and I looked forward to accompanying him once again.
Two days before our departure date Werner’s passport still hadn’t arrived. So I turned to our heavenly Father with the question what His plan would be if the passport didn’t arrive before we had to leave. Should I also stay home and use the free time to work on urgent projects or should I – God forbid! – go alone? Somehow I sensed that „going alone“ could not be excluded à priori. This led me to a serious conversation with God. „Father, who am I that I should speak at a pastors’ conference? What do I have that I can bring these experienced men and women?“ And somehow deep inside me was also the fear that my potential willingness to go alone might spring from a secret desire to be admired. „Now at last I have the opportunity to make an appearance“ or something like that. The Father gave me no answer but I sensed his question, „Are you willing to go on my word, do you trust me? Didn’t you confirm your willingness to be led according to my will, even if it cost you your life?“ – It seemed that God was taking this quite calmly. So I didn’t worry either, and prayed and expected Werner to somehow receive the passport at the last minute.
Then a word from Désiré, our brother and translator in Burundi, and Werner’s confirmation helped me to simply accept whatever came. The passport didn’t turn up but my wife Dagmar plus Werner and Regula with additional brothers and sisters came to the airport, anointed me with oil in the middle of the check-in hall, prayed and sent me out for this ministry in Burundi. As of this moment I wasn’t even for a second in any way stressed or confronted with fear. The peace of God really filled me and remained on me.
At the Zurich airport Werner was able to indicate in one or two sentences what he would have taught. He referred to a book which we had both read with great profit dring the summer. This book was now ultimately my preparation for the ministry – for me personally in this present situation and also the topic on which I should teach. Thus I spent the short evening of my arrival – tired as I was from the trip – primarily in prayer and conversation with my heavenly Father. I had the impression that I should speak about the priesthood, about its meaning when Moses appointed his brother Aaron and Aaron’s sons as priests; and about its meaning regarding Jesus and ourselves. This topic is found in the whole Bible, from the first to the last book. But where should I begin and where should I end? Without pressure or haste I just listened, receiving a few impulses on that evening and a few more early the next morning. Thus, equipped with a short and very incomplete list of points and Bible verses, but filled with God’s peace and the certainty of his presence, I stood in the hotel lobby at the appointed time.
It is difficult to describe in words what I experienced in the following days. After a hesitant beginning on the first day, with two personal testimonies and an introduction, the Holy Spirit began leading me in „real time“. He brought up questions which I could put to my brothers and sisters, thus including them; gave me illustrations or simply new revelation and knowledge to use in the following sentence. My heart and my mouth simply flowed over and Désiré translated everything faithfully into Kirundi. I had the strange feeling that it was not myself speaking.
b) What God taught me
I will summarize the fulness of experiences from these few days in two points:
1. „To him who is able to do IMMEASURABLY more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to HIM be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen“ (Eph. 3:20-21).
This is no longer merely a word I had heard, but living reality. God does not demand of us that we understand all his ways, to say nothing of being prepared and certified for everything in the Swiss way. But He will be faithful if we place ourselves totally and unconditionally at his disposal. „God, who has called you…is faithful“ (1 Cor. 1:9).
2. „For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do“ (Eph. 2:10).
In his prophetic vision of the new temple and the renewed Israel, God shows the prophet Ezekiel a strange detail regarding the priest. They are to wear clothing which doesn’t make them sweat. The text says literally, „They (the priests) must not gird themselves with perspiration“ (Ezek. 44:18). Perspiration is a sign of human effort and ultimately a result of sin (see Gen. 3:19). – I believe that God showed me His understanding of „walking in the good works He prepared beforehand“: HE prepares the good works and HE prepares his sons and daughters to walk in them in HIS timing, from HIS rest and HIS power, led by HIS spirit in order to bing the works to completion to HIS honor.
As I wrote above, during these days I never felt under pressure to produce something of my own or to prepare – as my previous natural inclination was – structured and in detail. Nor did I fear that I might embarrass myself. It never felt like work, even though I was really tired following the meetings. It was like being active as a result of God’s rest, without ever leaving this rest. I never want to do it another way again!
„Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!“ (Rev. 7:12)