by the Johnsons & Bassetts
Jesse and Joy Johnson, Daniel and Anne Johnson, and Jeremy and Sonja Bassett serve the Lord in Burundi, East Africa, with CMML.
Carl and Eleanor Johnson’s work in Burundi began in 1950, when they responded to the call to move from northeastern Congo (DRC) to take over a fledgling church work that would otherwise have been abandoned. Although Eleanor had only had minimal training in tropical medicine, she took needed medical services to small villages, drove desperately ill patients to the hospital and gradually gathered a group of competent healthcare workers to begin a church-run clinic. The clinic now treats approximately 100 patients a day. Eleanor also taught women’s seminars and trained Sunday school teachers. Carl focused on evangelism, church planting and discipleship. He obtained a projector that he took from village to village showing evangelistic films. He preached, mentored and discipled.
Three of Carl and Eleanor’s seven children, Janet, Harry and Ken, returned to serve in Burundi as adults. Janet taught Bible in schools for five years before going to serve the Lord in France. Harry, with his wife, Ruth, ministered in Burundi for 23 years. They continued the church planting and Sunday school work and started schools for the deaf and blind. Ken and his wife, Melli, helped with building projects, vehicle mechanics and logistics as well as starting an orphanage, The Rainbow Center.
When ethnic tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi escalated into Burundi’s civil war in 1993, the three families stayed put. The church and clinic property was known as a place of peace and by 1995 it had become a refugee camp. At its height, over 10,000 people were living on the compound. The Johnsons distributed food relief and helped in every way they could. This legacy of love laid the foundation for the continuing assembly work.
Supporting the Vision
Harry and Ruth’s oldest son, Jesse Johnson, and his wife Joy arrived in Burundi in 2006. By this point, Burundians were effectively running the clinic and the school for the deaf and blind, managing a fledgling Bible training programme for elders and coordinating church planting efforts country wide. Carl and Eleanor had left a legacy of over 70 thriving assemblies across the country.
Now, there are 168 assemblies grouped into a network and registered with the government as the Community of Emmanuel Churches. They have come a long way in their 70-year history. There are now second- and third-generation Christians in key positions of leadership.
Jesse was able to restart his grandfather’s evangelistic film ministry, which had stopped during the war. This ministry is flourishing. The evangelistic film team goes out into the countryside two weekends each month, now with a digital projector. In 2019, God used their efforts to draw 3,350 people to Himself! Films are shown outdoors beside local assemblies, which then follow up with those making a profession of faith.
Timothy Bible School
The local church leaders asked Jesse to assist with the elder training programme that has helped to equip more than 400 elders. In 2009 it was renamed Timothy Bible School and now provides eight intensive months of Bible teaching to church leaders over the course of two years. The school operates as a boarding school, with students coming to study for a month at a time. This two-year programme ultimately provides nearly 1,000 hours of much-needed teaching to each group of students. Jesse Johnson continues to teach and prepare courses. Daniel Johnson and Jeremy Bassett joined the teaching staff in 2012 and 2014, respectively. In addition to being one of the school’s ten teachers, Jeremy also helps to oversee a five-year transition between an old curriculum schedule and a new one, which is due to conclude in the year 2023.
This legacy of love laid the foundation for the continuing assembly work.
Jeremy works with a handful of Burundian colleagues in translation, formatting and printing to produce additional Emmaus correspondence courses in the Kirundi language. In the last few years, the number of courses available in Kirundi has increased from 16 to 30. Lord willing, the current goal of 48 courses available in Kirundi will be realised by the end of 2021. Pray that those involved in this work will have wisdom, stamina and unity as they labour together towards this objective.
In 2008, assembly leaders asked Jesse and Joy, who is a schoolteacher, to start a Christian school next door to the clinic and Discovery School was born. God has grown what was initially a small preschool into a thriving primary and secondary school with more than 1,200 students enrolled. Emma Walls, also from Apsley Hall in Belfast, taught Primary 6 during 2018-2019 and was an incredible blessing.1 In order to ensure that Discovery can continue pursuing this mission with or without financial support or personnel from outside the country, Jesse and Joy are constantly working towards making it sustainable both economically and operationally. Achieving this goal requires deep investment in creating effective systems and in discipling, mentoring and learning, with the school’s national administrators, teachers and other staff. The school’s mission is to graduate students who are ‘Rooted in Christ and Ready for Tomorrow’.
Ezekiel Ndikumana is a full-time employee of Discovery School where he serves as the Dean of Discipline. Ezekiel wrote: ‘The school shaped and strengthened my character and changed my lifestyle. Indeed, the vision of the school “Rooted in Christ. Ready for tomorrow” has become my permanent Christian standard. I know I am not to be a superficial Christian but I need to be rooted in Him. Moreover, the core values of excellence, ingenuity, wisdom, citizenship, discipline and integrity, contributed to building my character. After making the vision and values mine, they have become my techniques and tools that I use daily when interacting with parents and students. Every parent or student who comes to us frustrated leaves happy. At the end of the school year I have had many parents thanking us for the way we handle issues. This is the result of the Christian foundations of Discovery School.’
Gisuru School for the Deaf
In addition to his teaching at Timothy Bible School, Daniel (another of Harry and Ruth’s sons) and his wife Anne Johnson now work in church planting and deaf education in eastern Burundi. One of the students at Gisuru School for the Deaf, Mediatrice, became extremely ill when she was two years old; she eventually recovered but lost her hearing. Growing up deaf resulted in her being cut off from her community and culture, which had a negative impact on her. Mediatrice’s other name is Incutinamagara, which means ‘friends bring good health’. Sadly, Mediatrice had no friends and bad health, but we praise the Lord that her life is changing. Coming to the school has enabled her to learn a language so she can express herself, make friends and be part of a community. Daniel and Anne have seen a dramatic change for the better in her physical, emotional and spiritual health.
This new generation of mission workers serving in Burundi have the advantage of many strong, local believers to partner with in every aspect of the work; whether it is on the local church level, the national level, or within the social outreach ministries. In particular, God is using Ntakiyruta Phineas (chairman), Salathiel, Maurice, Pascal, Noel, Andre, and Remy – godly men who form a leadership team that oversees the social outreach ministries and steers the vision for local church planting.
Praise God for His faithfulness across the generations of His work in Burundi. Pray for His provision for the growth of His church in Burundi and for the future of these ministries. There are many opportunities for service. Contact us if you are interested in helping or coming to visit.
- for the Bassett and Johnson families as they continue to serve in Burundi
- for the church leaders as they oversee the ministries and steer the vision for local church outreach
- for the Timothy Bible School, as they train and disciple new church leaders
- for Ezekiel and the staff at Discovery School, and their students
- for Mediatrice, the other students and all serving Gisuru School for the Deaf.