Emmanuel, God With Us

When I was in my early teens, I came to the conclusion that the only “gift” that salvation gives us doesn’t come in this life, but in the next. I was devastated, can you imagine? What a selfish and immature way to look at my faith. “What’s in it for me?”

God doesn’t promise us “the good life.” What I didn’t understand as a teenager, was that God promises us that life will be good. Good according to His plan for our lives, not our own.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 – NIV

So Christmas has come and gone. Full of unexpected challenges, and unexpected blessings. I want to thank each one of you for your prayers and support over the last week, especially those who reached out to connect with us. You are all our family, part of the reason why Nadine and I are able to do what we are doing out here, and how we can choose to keep going. Every message, email, comment, Facebook reply or phone call that we have received has meant so much to us.

Little Anick is recovering in a hospital about 30 minutes outside of Gitega. What a miracle! A short visit from a good friend of ours showed her to be laughing and in good spirits, receiving good care in one of Burundi’s better hospitals. She’ll be making a full recovery given time.

God is good.

Nadine and I will continue to visit her and cover the costs of her care over the coming month or so that she’ll need hospitalization. We are looking forward to this opportunity to invest time with her and her family. Who knows what God will do next in this situation? What plans does He have for this little girl? It’s exciting to think about.

Christmas Eve was tough. I wrote that I had felt some peace, and even that was a struggle to maintain. It’s like the prayers I continued to mutter in the wake of the accident: Faithless shouts to God to spare the girl’s life. It’s an example though, of how God hears our prayers and responds, even when we don’t think it could be possible.

We opened up a very special gift right before we went to bed that night. Mike and Mel, my brother-in-law and his wife, had put together an incredible video of our friends and family each reading a line from Twas the Night Before Christmas.’ Nadine and I watched it, laughed and cried, and then watched it a second time, and laughed some more. I proceeded to have my first full night’s sleep since the accident. What a gift!

We had a wonderful breakfast with our BYFC volunteer family, and then it was off to church. From there we had been invited to our pastor’s home for a special christmas lunch! It was amazing. The food was incredible, the company and fellowship even more so. Their daughter, Racheal, was visiting from Rwanda with her husband and she brought us two angels as christmas presents. Without knowing about what we had been going through, and without even knowing Nadine and I, she told us that God had told her to bring these two Rwandan-made angel decorations to us as signs that he was sending his angels to protect and bless us. God is good.

From there it was off to a big christmas afternoon gathering at our friends’ home. My dear wife had covertly arranged a birthday surprise for me, where everyone sang me happy birthday, and I was presented with a super-hero themed cake. Despite turning 27, my cake was decorated with toys that belonged to a 7 year-old boy. Not sure what that says about me, but it is what it is!

From there, we got to Skype and FaceTime with our family, and then fell asleep watching Elf with friends back home.

Was it the day we expected? No way. But it was such a good day. We felt God’s presence powerfully throughout, ever-thankful of the gift of Jesus Christ in our lives.

And now, it’s 2014. We are officially into the 2nd year of our work here. We are looking forward to the Shammah Health Center opening here very soon, and are continually seeking out God’s will for our lives as we move forward, thankful for His protection, blessing and goodness to us.

As we look back, we can see that despite what Satan has done to discourage and threaten us, God has been blessing our work here in Burundi.

In 2013, God helped us as we…

  • provided ongoing health education and consultation to BYFC’s schools in Gitega.
  • through the implementation of our training and education, we have almost eliminated the occurrence of preventable diseases such as malaria and typhoid at BYFC’s boarding school, now home to over 170 children.
  • we completely renovated the SHC building, readying it for operation in 2014.
  • we built a guesthouse, which has already played host to over 150 guests from all across the world.
  • gained strategic partners for the SHC’s ongoing operation and development.
  • helped BYFC to organize and revamp its volunteer recruitment/application processes, including process development, fundraising, and future recruitment and communication strategies.
  • participated in the first annual Tour du Burundi, and have begun to help facilitate planning for the second.
  • welcomed friends and family from Canada to visit BYFC and us here in Burundi.
  • attended an International Health Workshop in Kampala, Uganda.
  • visited our partners in Rwanda
  • found a church family in Bujumbura, where we are active in worship and the young adult & professionals community.
  • worked hard to study and learn Kirundi.
  • received a prize for our work in a ConceptLink organizational development course.
  • received training in financial management, accounting and planning.
  • developed a business plan, training materials, promotional media, budgets, treatment plans, operational guidelines, best-practice policies, and even more all for the SHC.
  • developed educational materials for our school-based work as well as the SHC.
  • culturally adapted and formed relationships with local leaders, businessmen, ministry officials and those within our community.
  • provided healthcare and love for the Homes of Hope children, our neighbours.
  • purchased a vehicle for BYFC which has been used for equipment and volunteer transport.
  • helped BYFC to develop their existing land for agricultural use and sustainability.
  • networked with an organization to bring milk-producing cows to Gitega.
  • have readied the SHC to open and begin making an impact in our community in 2014.

God is good, right? I mean, there’s no way we do any of this on our own. There have been mistakes, difficulties, challenges along the way, but we’re still here, and we’re still committed to working in Burundi. He’s given us a job to do, and He’s given us the tools, friends, family, and support we need to get it done. We have a passion to see the Shammah Health Center open and make a difference in the lives of Burundians across the province of Gitega.

A week ago, we were tired, discouraged, angry and restless. I may still be a little tired, but Nadine and I have been encouraged, blessed, and given so much over the past few days. We have been able to spend this precious time building and nurturing relationships with our friends here, from all over Central-East Africa and the rest of the world. After close to a year of being here, we are finally feeling like we are truly home, and putting down roots.

It’s 2014, and we can’t wait to see what God is going to do next in our lives, even as we continue to learn how to pray against Satan and his efforts to destroy what we are doing here.

Happy New Year to you all. I want to leave you with this verse, taken from Isaiah, as God speaks to his people. We are looking forward to God’s goodness in our lives in 2014.

“But forget all that. It is nothing compared to what I am going to do.” – Isaiah 43:18

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