Burundi (MNN) — In what church leaders are calling a "historic step toward unity," 500 Burundian churches gathered early last week and the previous week to worship the Lord.
Although the civil war that wrecked the nation for over a decade ended in 2005, divisions throughout the nation remain thick. Disunity between the Hutu and the Tutsi ethnic populations in particular created historic conflict resulting in endless turmoil. Reconciliation is far away for many.
And yet, churches from all different divisions of the country came together for the Love Burundi Festival hosted by evangelist Andrew Palau, son of Luis Palau. Local church leaders noted the unity as a significant change.
"We know that the hope of the country is based on unity," pastor Jeremie Ndayishimiye told the Luis Palau Association. "So we really thank God to see how many people, how many leaders, [were] willing to come together for this festival."
And many came. The outreach culminated in the two-day Love Burundi Festival on August 6 and 7. An estimated 60,000 people crowded the capital city's COTEBU grounds during the weekend. Decision cards are still being counted, but early numbers indicate that 8,000 people made public decisions to accept Jesus Christ during the festival.
Each individual received a copy of the Gospel of John and discipleship materials at the festival. They will all be given follow-up guidance from local churches as well.
The event began with a week of community outreach and service. In the days leading up to the festival, ministry teams from the U.S. and volunteers from Burundi's churches facilitated a "Season of Service" throughout the city, volunteering at a much-needed eyeglasses clinic, gatherings for women, and a school for deaf and hearing-impaired children. Coaches from Play for Hope, a Rwanda-based youth program, hosted basketball and soccer clinics at 17 different locations throughout the week.
Palau and musical guest Dave Lubben also took the festival to more than 2,000 inmates at Bujumbura's Mempimbo prison earlier in the week. Hundreds of inmates accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior after hearing Palau share a message of reconciliation and freedom in Christ from John 8.
Tens of thousands of people heard the Gospel throughout the week, from children, to prisoners, to hurting individuals. The weekend festival even received coverage from all national media. Many noted how the Lord was clearly moving in Burundi. Pray that this festival will have planted the seeds of life in many hearts, and that this may be the inspiration for change that the church in impoverished Burundi needs.
The Palau Association reaches hundreds of thousands with the Gospel each year. To learn more about their ministry, visit palau.org.