Standing in the Gap for Burundi

Barry Whatley / Monday, August 12, 2019


Jean de Dieu is one of the key young African leaders of his generation.  Against the odds, he has pursued higher education, worked tirelessly many jobs that barely met his family’s needs, and eventually found himself leading a significant NGO in the country.  His commitment to his densely populated nation of over 11 million people (470 people per square kilometer) is remarkable. 

In his desire to provide opportunities for other leaders to rise with him to the challenge of seeing his country transformed, he and other Christian Burundian leaders, together with Barry Whatley, Canadian professor, missionary and educator, have formed a network-partnership dedicated to helping the church fulfil its critical role in seeing the nation transformed.   

This networking and training initiative, “Rethink Development” (RD), is an official partnership between a Canadian mission, Outreach Canada, and a local NGO, Partners Trust International.   But the scope of its reach is nation-wide, church-wide and NGO-wide. 

What is the mission of Rethink Development?  To inspire and equip the church to fulfill its God-given mandate in helping communities experience sustainable development, and the country be transformed, for the glory of God.

Strengthening the Hearts and Hands of Leaders

Burundi needs transformation, and the church is a key player. 

The Human Development Index (measuring financial stability, life expectancy and access to basic services) places Burundi near the bottom of the barrel of the 200 countries surveyed.  Most sub-Saharan African challenges are endemic in this country:  food insecurity, lack of access to basic services; a faltering education system; unemployment and underemployment.  But added to the mix here is a history of conflict and ongoing political instability.  The instability has led many NGOs to curtail their work, and others to even leave the country.   

But the bright light is the omnipresent church and a growing commitment among its leaders to be at the forefront of community transformation.  We want to strengthen the “hearts and hands” of these leaders, helping them have even greater “leverage” as the lead churches, NGOs, and other community service organizations.

Three Strategies of Rethink Development 

The strategy of RD is unique and three-fold.  First, we bring Christian leaders together!  Collaboration is key to learning from each other and working more closely together.  Our yearly conference is our show-case event, gathering over 100 leaders from the broad spectrum of churches and NGOs. 

Our second strategy is to learn together!  The scope of the needs in the country are so staggering that we can’t afford to not identify and research the best practices and learn from them!  Finally, we provide practical training for those Christian leaders who feel the need for greater clarity and more capacity in their important work.

The dream of this committed group of leaders is taking shape.  Our two conferences have been well attended and inspirational, and a third is on the horizon for November.  A learning cohort is being launched in September with 20 committed practitioners.

Thanks to this partnership initiative, Christians are rising up to stand in the gap for the development needs in their communities, with stronger hearts and hands.

Join the Story

To find out more about this partnership initiative, you can contact Barry Whatley at






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