Author - Andrew Burt, Echoes International Mission Worker
Andrew and his wife Lorna joined a GLO church planting team in Enniscorthy in the Republic of Ireland in 1999. He now leads this local church and is mainly involved in leadership, Bible teaching, pastoral care and children’s and youth ministry. He has two teenage daughters.
“You give them something to eat.” Mark 6:37.
These were the remarkable words that Jesus said to his disciples. They’d seen that the crowd who were there to listen to Jesus were in desperate need of food. They were concerned for them. However, they didn’t feel like they had the resources to meet that need. And so, they asked Jesus to send them away to the surrounding towns to buy food for themselves.
But Jesus didn’t want them to send these people away. He didn’t want to let them fend for themselves. He wanted his disciples to give them what they needed. And through these words, God called me into His mission.
For years I had been challenged about the need to share Jesus with this hungry world. I had grown up in a Christian family and had put my faith in Jesus as a kid. I wanted to serve God, but in the background, where nobody would notice me.
When I was 21, I started my PhD in Biochemistry and was trying to share my faith with my friends in the laboratory. But then our Bible study leader sent us onto the streets of Airdrie to speak to the young people who were hanging about. We invited them back to our youth hall and chatted to them over pool and table tennis.
We didn’t expect much to happen, but God blew us away with the opportunities he gave us to share our faith. We were naive, but God showed us that he wanted to speak in power through us.
This radically shook up my Christianity. I was speaking to people who’d huge problems, whose lives were empty, and I began to realise that I had the answer that they needed. I could point them to Jesus. And as I did this, the reality of the gospel went deeper in my heart! Paul wrote: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Philemon 1:6
This outreach didn’t last long, but from it my brothers and I started a youth and children’s club in a community centre which we ran for the next 3 years. It was also during this time that God brought Lorna into my life, whose passion to share Jesus with others was deeper than mine! We knew that God wanted us to serve him together, however we felt like we needed to be better trained to do this more effectively.
We had done a GLO summer team together in Northern Ireland and so started to wonder if God was leading us to go to Tilsley College in Motherwell. At a Wider Horizons weekend in February 1996, God confirmed to both of us that this was His plan.
God wanted to take the little I had and through the power of God, feed spiritually hungry people.
We were married later that year, having signed up to go to Tilsley the following year to allow me to finish my PhD. As we waited to go, we were involved in starting an outreach group in our church. Looking back, we’re amazed at how God was giving us experience in the kind of evangelism that we’d later do in Enniscorthy.
The summer before we started Tilsley, we went to Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland, for another GLO summer team. The team was led by John and Linda Stanfield, who were about to move down to Enniscorthy. We’d no idea that just over a year later we’d be joining them!
Our year at Tilsley impacted us deeply. We learned so much through the teaching we received, the friendships that we formed and the practical experience that forced me into areas of ministry that I would never have volunteered for. Most of all our passion for evangelism was fanned into flame.
However, I still was thinking about going back into a career in Biochemistry. This was not only because I passionately believed in marketplace evangelism. It was also because I still didn’t feel able to be effective in serving God. Like those disciples, I felt totally inadequate as I looked at a world in desperate spiritual need. I wanted God to send them to someone else so they could be fed.
But one day, while we were on placement in Hereford, I read Jesus’ words, “You give them something to eat.” Mark 6:37. This was God’s call to me. Yes, the need was far greater than my abilities. Yes, I was inadequate for this work. But this was not a responsibility that I could pass onto others. God wanted to take the little I had and through the power of God, feed spiritually hungry people.
There were still many questions to be answered – about where we would go and what we would do – but for me, this was God’s unmistakable call into the ministry of sharing Jesus, the Bread of Life, with a starving world.