It was the end of the service at Bujumbura Cathedral. On the way out we shook hands with the African clergy and one of them looked me in the eye and said in good English ‘You are Matthew Porter.’ I was a little taken aback and said ‘yes, that’s right’. ‘You used to play No10 for the Wycliffe Hall Football Team’. Again I agreed! And then Pastor Pascale reminded me how we’d been at college together nineteen years ago in Oxford. I was impressed with his memory and as he shared stories so memories came flooding back. It was great seeing him again and hearing something of life in Burundi.
Isn’t it funny how you can travel thousands of miles across the world and find someone who knows you? God’s big world is a small world.
We’ve been back from Burundi for ten days now. Hundreds of people were praying for us and for the success of the team as we went out to train church leaders in Bubanza, using the Alpha material. Bubanza is a rural region in the North West of the country and it was a privilege to get to know these lovely people and encourage them as they reach out to their community with the love of Jesus Christ. We did the job – presented the material, covering it in prayer, care and love – and we’re looking forward to hearing about what emerges. If you prayed for us, thank you. We are grateful for all the prayers. Every one.
This was my first time in sub-Saharan Africa, and I loved it. The people, the smells, the sounds, the weather, the fertile land with its red soil.
Two Sundays ago we visited two contrasting churches. In the evening we went to Bujumbura Cathedral for the evening service (where I was reacquainted with Pastor Pascale). We weren’t leading anything – just worshipping with the cathedral community. The Cathedral is a large but fairly simple whitewashed concrete building in the very centre of the capital. Interestingly rather than being filled with wooden chairs, the chairs were white plastic garden chairs! Probably lightweight to move around! The service was liturgical but relaxed with simple worship songs sung from the heart.
In the morning we’d been back up north to Bubanza to the region where the conference was taking place. We worshipped in a small ramshackle Anglican Church on the hillside which is a fairly new community and has no name. I shared a vision the Lord had given me in the night about the growth of this church community and then preached on being lost and found from Luke 15. I gave an opportunity for anyone lost to come back to Jesus and a few responded and we also prayed for those who were sick. Each of our six team (Chris Bayne, Lawrence Hutton, Val Carr, Dick & Di Syms and me) were asked to give greetings and we shared gifts. It was a lovely service – short for them – at about two and a half hours with various choirs leading us at different points. We sat on simple wooden benches and the floor was rough. It was very ordinary. It felt very New Testament. And I loved it!
Tomorrow I’ll be worshipping with a number of the congregations of The Belfrey in the centre of York. Whilst we are thousands of miles away from these two church communities in Burundi, and worshipping in different kinds of buildings, we’ll be praising the one true God together. Like them we will be lifting high the Lord Jesus Christ and welcoming the Holy Spirit. For he is the God for every person on the planet. In every generation. In every community and nation. Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world! The whole world!! And he wants people in the north of Burundi and in the north of England to know his saving power and love.
That’s why I’d love to return to Bubunza in the future and see what God has done. I know the church there is going to grow. I’ve seen it and tasted it and it’s exciting. And I know the Lord wants the same thing not just for the north of Burundi but for the north of England as, like them, we keep it simple – sharing the love of Christ, praying faithfully and planting churches across the region. What a privilege to play a small part in God’s big plans.