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Mission impossible becomes mission possible

Burundi Adventist soldiers share their faith under difficult circumstances

Mission impossible becomes mission possible

[Photo courtesy of the East-Central Africa Division]

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Burundi Adventist soldiers are playing an important role in evangelism that has already led many souls to Jesus. The troops are on a peace-keeping mission in Somalia, assigned to them by the United Nations. Since other Adventists in Burundi are doing their part to share the gospel through Total Member Involvement (TMI), these soldiers felt called to share their faith in the place where God had placed them as well.

Adventist beliefs were unknown in the Burundian army. There are no Adventist chaplains, and no representation for Adventist soldiers. This made witnessing very difficult. The chaplains of other faiths called them a group of heretics and tried to force them to worship on Sundays. The Adventist troops began meeting for a private church service on Sabbath.

According to Fidel Nimpagaritse, an elder at the Baidowa Camp Church, “One chaplain came and ordered that our small church be demolished. He said, ‘It is better to watch pornographic movies than listen to the Advent messages.’ So he forced us to worship together as one army in a single church led by the Catholics. We declined that invitation and I reminded him the words of Peter to the priests: ‘We would rather obey God than men.’ Even if the threats were strong, we didn’t surrender, but we continued to worship near our demolished church site.”

The small group made the issue a matter of prayer, and eventually gained the right to worship on Sabbath. Not only that, but these Adventist soldiers were able to share their faith and several soldiers who had once criticized them chose to join the Seventh-day Adventist Church!

Major Ntakarutimana Jean de Dieu says, “Since we had no one to baptize them, we gave them endorsement letters so that once they got back to Burundi they could be baptized.”

Jean Claude Bavisenge, one of the soldiers who heeded God’s call and was baptized in Lake Tanganyika in Burundi, shares: “I praise God for my colleagues combining two missions together. They knew we needed prayers for our mission to have a serious and successful impact. One of the things  that brought me to conviction was that we read the word of God by ourselves, and found the precious truths hidden in the book we always carried in our hands.”

Major Mumanyi Douglas notes, “It is sad to say that many people have a common mindset that the military cannot accept Jesus as their personal Savior. That is very wrong! Being a Christian is matter of personal choice. Being a soldier doesn’t exempt you from remaining a human being with needs like anybody else. It is not a ticket to free oneself from salvation and committing crimes.”

Eric Ntiyankundiye, an elder in the Burundi Army Seventh-day Adventist Church, says that they now have about 200 members. “It is not about us, but about what God Himself can do through His willing vessels,” he says.