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.

If you’d like to read all of Simon’s posts connect with him below.

Simon Guillebaud great lakes outreach

Tears and Bullets in Burundi…

As I stood up to preach, I burst into tears in the pulpit.

It was July 2003 and I had flown back from Burundi and on to the USA for my first preaching tour there. I was with a wonderful church called St Andrew’s in Mt Pleasant, South Carolina.

Memories of this moment came flooding back a few days ago when I visited my old office on the outskirts of Bujumbura. It was a time of reminiscing and rejoicing.

Back in 2003, I was distraught because at the very moment I was preaching at the midweek service, in Burundi rebels had attacked the capital. Indeed, they had taken over my office and were using the upstairs balcony as a launch pad for their RPGs on the nearby military camp (see the video clip above).

Many people were being killed, and I was concerned that my colleagues were among the dead. I found out later that our neighbour was killed, but none of my team. In fact, one of them had crept back through the carnage to rescue key documents on the computer for the printing of the annual national Bible-reading notes, risking his life in the process! Tragically, as it later transpired, most of the dead were 11-15-year-old child soldiers, high on drugs and believing the bullets wouldn’t affect them, sent in as cannon fodder by their cowardly superiors.

Over the coming days, three of our partner organisations – Youth for Christ, New Generation, and Harvest for Christ – teamed up to go and minister to the traumatised inhabitants. Risking their lives amongst unexploded mines and grenades, they cleared away debris, helped rebuilt trashed houses, prayed with people, and – very significantly – sang songs of praise. It’s hard for us to understand, but the rebels had sung those same worship songs (the roots of that rebel group were in Seventh Day Adventism) as they wrought havoc a few nights earlier; so for our brave young disciples to now be singing them again was to reclaim those songs and help remove the trauma and negative association that came from them. It was a powerful witness.

Bullet holes remain to this day.

Back to my preach at St Andrew’s. They ministered to me by washing my feet and allowing me to weep. It was holy ground. And I believe a deep connection was forged, which led to a long-standing fruitful relationship over the last few decades. In fact, we ended up living there for two years to set up GLO USA, and I’ll be back visiting in a couple of weeks again.

The rejoicing I mentioned that accompanied the reminiscing a few days ago on my recent trip was because of what has happened 20+ years later. That trashed Scripture Union office lay vacant for a number of years, becoming more and more decrepit, until we created a brilliant win/win. GLO would pay for the rent of the building, and put in four of our partners, who would love the chance to have free office rental and would take care of the property.

So I was thrilled to take my visiting team around the building. Some of the old bullet marks remain in the window frames, walls, and doors, reminding us of darker days. But a lick of paint or two, and with furniture filling the various rooms, it was vibrant with life. There was Evangelism Explosion, one of (if not the) strongest movements in Africa, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people coming to Jesus over the last two decades; there was Igniting Communities for Jesus, who have created a store at the back and have 28,000 Bibles to give out in the coming months, to complement their discipling widows and orphans out of poverty; there was UGBB, who work on 26 campuses throughout the country and are full of vision for the student scene; there was Restoration Burundi, working with returning refugees, as well as raising emerging leaders and producing radio programs accessed nationwide. And each of them are doing way more than the one sentence I’ve written on them. 

Meeting with the dynamic UGGB student ministry team last week, in an office once occupied by rebels.

It was bursting with life, and full of synergies, which is exactly what GLO is about: identifying, empowering and equipping the best local leaders of passion, integrity, gifting and vision, for the transformation of the nation bottom up and top down.

Back then we had six partners, now we have twenty-five! Beautiful!

Thanks to all of you who journeying with us. Even last week whilst we were there, nine people were killed by a different rebel group just a few miles to the North of us, so please pray on for peace and prosperity for this precious nation.

Could you support our strategic, nation-shaping work with a regular donation?

All good things come to an end…

Nothing has brought me more joy and pain in 25 years of ministry in Burundi.

Maybe that’s a little overstated, but building what is considered the best dedicated conference centre in the country certainly caused many sleepless nights, stressful days, frustrating weeks and more. Phase 1 launched in 2009, Phase 2 in 2021. It’s been a looooong journey, through the upheaval of renewed violence in 2015 when the country imploded, through Covid shutdown… but King’s Conference Centre as a social enterprise has more than survived… it has thrived!

And the key person coordinating and leading several dozen staff was the one and only Goretti Wege. What a wonderful woman she is! Her previous job was split into three roles after she left, such was her work rate. It was a gamble, however, in that she had no experience in hospitality or business. But she has rocked it.

KCC is a social enterprise to generate funds for gospel work in Burundi, whilst modelling excellence in Jesus’ name and creating jobs for many needy people. It has surpassed my expectations, and in a country where it is hard to do business, it has excelled, made a good profit, and been above reproach as it models and is known for its integrity and quality of service. As I write, indeed, we are No1 on TripAdvisor for hotels in the capital, with most comments being because ‘the staff were so welcoming and caring’, etc.

But all good things come to an end… and this week Goretti stepped off the stage, into retirement.

However, she did so with the best-case scenario in place:

Back in 2009, a young, fresh-faced Celestin Kubwimana was thrilled to get through the interview process and be employed as a receptionist at the front desk.

Handover day at KCC

His integrity, work ethic and attention to detail meant he was soon promoted to Head Receptionist. His upward trajectory continued as he became head of department for the hotel section, then overall KCC Operations Manager, and now he’s reached the pinnacle as General Manager.

It’s such a joy to have seen his journey. I can only say that the presence and favour of God are on KCC. Even visitors from other faiths have remarked on that! There have been so many challenges, but the staff have pulled together. When lockdown kicked off, it was necessary to let go of some staff to survive, and the staff all banded together in solidarity and shared their salaries to help those who were released. Beautiful!

This video is so moving – I just cried re-watching it, when they heard that their 40% pay cut was being removed, thanks to generous GLO supporters.

Read more about that story here.

So this is just sharing some good news. We hear so much bad news, and all the more we need to celebrate the victories, and tell the success stories!

Do pray for Celestin with his huge responsibilities, and for KCC to continue to generate loads of money to plough back into local projects to help the last, the lost and the least in beautiful but broken Burundi.

A Divine Encounter!

Simon Guillebaud GLO
Simon Guillebaud – GLO Founder

I love these stories! We get bombarded with so much bad news in general, that all the more I see it as part of our job at GLO to tell inspiring tales of overcoming. Meet Divine:

She was an orphan living in Nyanza lac in the South of Burundi. She was married young to a boy who mistreated her, indeed whose family rejected her and maligned her such that she preferred to flee to the streets. She was left with no other apparent option other than to sell her body to survive. 

That was five years ago.

Just a few months back, she came across the work of our partner Together for Development (TfD). She got trained up in sewing. She discovered that she had value, that God loved her, and wanted a healthy pure relationship with her.

What a transformation!

She is such a dynamo that she now organises a self-help group of 30 ladies. She’s led 15 of them to Jesus, and 12 of them out of prostitution. Each Wednesday she meets with them to share God’s Word and encourage them through life’s trials. 

Ephraim, leader of TfD, visited her two weeks ago, and she said to him: “I don’t have any family – no brother, no sister – you became my family, don’t abandon me.” He won’t, and in the meantime gave her a chicken! Here he is filming her and translating some of her testimony.

Love it! Go Divine! Thank you Lord!

Crazy Wild Workings in Burundi!

Earlier this summer, I asked for prayers for our huge team of evangelists during their two-week summer outreach campaign, and the results and stories are in. As promised, here’s what happened. First, the stats:

We sent out 850 evangelists across the country for two weeks.
They worked alongside 47 churches in their respective areas. 
13,831 people chose to give their lives to Christ.
16,474 people who had drifted in their faith renewed their commitment. 

Amazing! And there were other stories of marriages being restored, suicidal attempts thwarted or abandoned, community reconciliation and more. 

So here are a few of the many stories – all I can say is ‘Wow!’ and ‘Praise God!’ Enjoy the snapshots:

Goretti had been paralysed for three years. The team visited and prayed for her. She was healed, and straightaway gave her life to Jesus. Six of her family members and five neighbours also came to Christ on the back of witnessing her healing!

Éric and Aline had travelled 35km to consult a powerful sorcerer. Our team interacted with the trio, who were each deeply convicted. They renounced witchcraft, gave their lives to Jesus and did away with all their paraphernalia!

A poor 48-year-old widow in Gahombo had been blind for ten years. She was prayed for, healed, gave her life to Jesus and returned to her home where seven neighbours were blown away at her miraculous healing and likewise chose to follow Jesus, amidst huge rejoicing!

Makobero had been a witch doctor for sixty years. Having encountered the evangelists, he felt convicted and converted; at that point, six of his family also decided to follow Jesus, whilst he burnt all his idols!

22-year-old Désiré was seen by the whole community as a madman wandering around. When the evangelists visited his family, his parents said they’d only listen to the gospel if the team prayed for Désiré first and showed them God’s power. When he was healed, 31 people gave their lives to Jesus in response!

Sylvère had dropped out of school in 2018 because of mental ill-health or demons (read his full story here) – demons is what the parents believed. He ran around the community in a crazed state until he was forcibly locked up and sedated. His parents tried both recognised medicine and witchcraft potions, but things only got worse. But then, a few weeks ago, his father Jacques met a friend who advised him to go to a nearby church, where he had heard of an evangelistic outreach taking place.

I was exhausted on that day. The doctors had told me there was nothing left to do for my son but take him home. I felt hopeless and had already given up. My wife encouraged me to give it one last try and take him to that church. I was very reluctant. I had heard many stories of people whom churches had scammed.

When we got to the church, we were greeted by a group of evangelists who were praying. They immediately started praying for my son. While praying, my son screamed and shouted and moved hysterically. The more he yelled, the more they prayed.

Suddenly, he stopped moving. One of the evangelists talked to Sylvere and asked him a question, to which he responded verbally. I was in awe. It was the first time hearing my son speak for three years. I fell to my knees and immediately repented.

Ten members of his extended family gave their lives to the Lord and burnt all their charms.

Sylvere, left, is recovering from years of suffering.

Beautiful!

Thanks so much for your prayers, I have no doubt they played a huge role!

I hope you are encouraged. It’s our 17th year of doing this, and we’ll be back at it next year.

Shrivelled Legs, Soaring Soul!

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.

Macaire at his Graduation

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!