Leaders Find Greater Inspiration in Burundi

Barry Whatley /Monday, May 30, 2022


I first visited Burundi in 2008, thanks to my involvement with a leadership program that was partnering with a local university there. It was intriguing to meet the students who had come from various backgrounds – about half of them were pastors; others were involved in local NGOs (development organisations); an important number were professional people from the business community and other levels of political leadership.  All were Christians eager to discover how they could have a more lasting and far-reaching impact for the kingdom of God in their needy country.

Burundi had just come out of a long and devastating conflict and civil war. A tentative peace, brokered in part by Nelson Mandela, was starting to take hold. But poverty and underdevelopment was endemic – making Burundi one of the 10 poorest countries in the world. 

The capital Bujumbura was full of movement and activity, and several entrepreneurial leaders and visionaries had started private universities and innovative ministries. 

I was impressed with this group.

One key leader, Etienne (then president of a large denomination in Burundi with over 600 churches) told me how he had become convinced that the gospel needed to be shared in both word AND deed. They had mobilized over 30 development workers who were training pastors and local leaders in hands-on community development work. The friendship with Etienne would grow over the years and I would have the pleasure of seeing firsthand the amazing transformations that were taking place thanks to this visionary leader. 

My relationship with Burundi would deepen as I looked for opportunities to learn about how churches and Christian organizations could become more effective in community development work.

I enrolled part-time in a university program in international development (completed an MA in international development in 2010). The door opened for me to do my field work in Burundi and in 2010 I traveled across that beautiful country to research some of the work that World Vision was doing in a particularly poor area of the country. Alongside me was a student of mine, Jean de Dieu, who would serve as my research assistant and translator. That experience opened the door for me to expand the scope of my work in Burundi. Jean de Dieu and I and a few other Burundian leaders would subsequently launch a ministry in 2016 we called “Rethink Development”.

Here is our purpose:

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.

This inspiration and equipping is very practical! With our local partner, Partners Trust International, we have opened a learning centre that serves as a hub for our “cohorts” of learners.

  • We offer practical training, for example, in how to evaluate the effectiveness of a local development project.
  • We mobilize local facilitators and provide top-notch training at subsidized prices. 

This is such a critical need for churches and local NGOs who would not have the budget, the human resources, or the wherewithal to provide such timely training. 

This has been a great journey for me! I continue to be inspired by the many committed Burundian leaders who pour out their lives in serving in such a challenging environment. God is at work through the church in such practical and inspirational ways, and we are privileged to play a small but significant role in seeing many of these leaders better equipped in their important work. 

How can you help with this project? 

We have called our work in Burundi, Rethink Development.  Our learning centre is in need of more computers and other hardware to become fully functional. 

A gift of $2000 would help us set-up another computer for the centre; a $500 gift would pay the salary of our local coordinator for a month; $100 would sponsor a student for a six-week training program. 

Thanks for praying and standing with us in this unique endeavour!

Donate to Rethink Development (Francophone Ministry) in Burundi.

Barry Whatley provides leadership and resources for French speaking Canadians and Africans in the areas of church health and revitilization, church planting and leadership development. Barry lives with his wife Laurie, in Hudson, Quebec.



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