From the ashes of tragedy to beacons of hope: the transformative power of faith in Burundi

It was 1993. The average cost of a gallon of gas was $1.11. Bill Clinton was president. The Chicago Bulls won their third consecutive championship. And in February of that year, terrorism arrived on America’s doorstep with the bombing of the World Trade Center’s parking garage.

About 8 months later and 7,000 miles away, another country experienced unimaginable upheaval. After only 100 days in office, Tutsi military officers assassinated Burundi’s first democratically elected president. This sparked Burundi’s brutal 12-year civil war between the Hutus and the Tutsis. An estimated 300,000 people died, including many child soldiers.

Burundi’s brutal 12-year civil war between the Hutus and the Tutsis. An estimated 300,000 people died, including many child soldiers.

Bosco’s path

Bosco Mutebutsi (Listen to his story on the Word in Action podcast), National Director of Bible League in Burundi, lived this trauma firsthand. He was seven years old. The assassination had only occurred a week prior. But the bloodshed was already happening—everywhere. Bosco, his mom, and some extended family members, including 15 children and 5 adults, took shelter in a home.

At 5 A.M. on October 29, 1993, the killers arrived there. Bosco was one of three (all children) to make it out alive. His mother and father didn’t survive the violent attack. Bosco and his older sister, who hid in the swamp that morning, fled. They eventually found refuge in a church.

It’s hard to understand tragedies like these. Why did a young boy like Bosco have to watch such a brutal attack? Why did he lose his parents when he was so little? Still, the Lord did not abandon him.

Bosco Mutebutsi

For years after his parents’ murders, Bosco’s life was hopeless. He recalls how he felt at age 19, “I was at that point, really so hopeless. Life had no meaning at all.” Understandably, bitterness and grief filled his heart.

He only had one path in life: vengeance.

“All I wanted to do was finish school, go into the army, get a gun, and go after every person who killed my parents.” But everything changed when he committed his life to Christ at age 19. The hope of the Gospel transformed him.

A new way

It’s been just over 30 years since Burundi’s civil war began. Today, Bosco is a 38-year-old father of three boys. He is on a path full of hope and joy. A path that he fully realizes could have gone so differently.

“I don’t know where I would be if I went that route [of going into the army]. Maybe I would be dead by now or in prison. That was the hopeless route.” But when Bosco came to faith in Christ, the hopelessness and bitterness disappeared. He says confidently, “I was able to forgive the person who killed my parents. God gave me hope of another way of living.”

Now, Bosco has one path in life: hope.

Today, this hope…this joy…this better way of life is what motivates him to reach the many young people living throughout his nation.

Bosco, The National Director Facilitating A Project Philip Class


  • He sees his story in their faces.

  • He sees his wounds in theirs.

  • He sees the hopelessness in the eyes looking back at him.

He remembers what it was like to find refuge in that church all those years ago. And he remembers the joy and freedom he found in Christ nearly two decades ago.

Bosco explains with a bright smile,

To me, hope resides in believing in Jesus and knowing that He has a better path for you, which is different than the wounds you have gone through in your life. I’m not the only one who went through the civil war — there are so many young people and adults who still carry the wounds of the war. Once they find Jesus and build their lives on Him, He will give them a better hope and future as they learn to trust Him.

Sharing hope in a hopeless place

Since 2018, Bible League has been working alongside Bosco to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to the nation’s many young people. About two-thirds of the population is under the age of 25, making it so important to reach the next generation with God’s Word.

Bur Pp kids holding up Bible League bibles.

Though the war ended in 2005, many in this densely populated nation struggle to survive each day. One in two children under the age of five is chronically malnourished. This country bordering Rwanda and Tanzania is one of the poorest in the world.

Most people only make about $2 a day. What Americans paid for one gallon of gas 30 years ago is only about half of what Burundians make working in a single day.

“People cannot afford to eat twice a day. Most of them eat once a day, especially in rural areas. It’s really tough,” Bosco reveals the hardships faced by his people.

It is easy to feel hopeless in this place.

  • Not enough food to eat.

  • Not enough money to go around.

  • Civil war.

  • Starving children.

Yet, many young people are finding hope just like Bosco did.

A Child from Burundi feeling happy for Bible League's help.

Over the last six years, friends like you have reached more than 88,000 people in Burundi with God’s Word through Bible League’s Bible studies. The vast majority of those reached were youth. In 2023, Christians in Burundi reached about 56 young people per day using Bible League’s materials.

In this nation’s schools, there are religious education classes, so believers whom you’ve helped to train share the Gospel within these classes. Bosco explains, “We are seeing most of them coming to Christ as a result and joining the local churches and continuing to grow spiritually and having hope for eternity. We are seeing many young people transformed by the Gospel. I love what is written in Romans 1:16 and we are seeing that happening.”

Ferdinand’s path

One of these young people is 20-year-old Ferdinand. His heartbreaking loss and turmoil from a young age mirrors Bosco’s in many ways.

Ferdinand grew up Muslim and lost his father while young. His mother did her best to provide for her three children. At first, she sold sweet potatoes, but when sales failed, the leftovers became the only food for her kids. At age four, Ferdinand got Kwashiorkor, a disease caused by malnutrition. His family also couldn’t afford the school fees. Like countless other young people in this country, this family’s poverty forced Ferdinand to drop out of school.


meet Ferdinand from Burundi

Sadly, life continued growing harder for the young man. His mother began selling her body to support the family.

Ferdinand recalls with sadness, “Life was tough; we could not find food, then my mother went into prostitution to put food on the table.”

She also pressured her kids to bring in money, forcing them to shoplift to supplement what she couldn’t provide. “If you did not shoplift, she didn’t allow you to eat or would seriously beat you.”

In an already tumultuous time of life, neither of his paths were hopeful: abuse or stealing. Ferdinand chose stealing. But even in the darkest of moments, Ferdinand tried to better his life by playing Robin Hood. He eventually began saving some of the money from his shoplifting for not only food but school fees.

In many ways, Ferdinand’s life looked bleak. Yet, just as Bosco found hope and new life in God’s Word, so did Ferdinand. It all started when he returned to school and met Pastor Libérâtes.

Believing in Jesus

“He was living a difficult life. As a parent, I wanted to help him escape his hardships,” says Pastor Libérâtes as she speaks of Ferdinand. “His being a Muslim encouraged me. It is our job as pastors to seek, serve, and disciple the lost.

The 51-year-old mother of nine and Ferdinand both remember his first class with her where she taught a small group Bible study using Bible League’s materials. It was only fitting that on that day, Pastor Libérâtes was teaching the story of Joseph from Genesis 37. “Joseph dreamed of being a family leader, but his brothers hated him. Ferdinand loved Joseph’s story. He approached me, stating he had a problem,” she says.


Ferdinand speaking to someone of his favor Bible Story.

He was interested in the teaching but unsure about accepting it. Coming from a Muslim home, he knew following Jesus would cause problems. She assured him they would help him. Ferdinand wanted to know more about Jesus.

“He asked me, ‘Who is Jesus?’ I said, ‘Jesus is our creator; He died on the cross to save us from our sins,’” she remembers.

Ferdinand remembers that same moment with his mentor. “I saw her joy when she taught us and felt God wanted me to tell her my story. I told her about my life, and she listened carefully. She shared the Gospel with me, and I believed in Christ,” he says.


New faith…new challenges

Now, the 20-year-old was on a path of hope. And what Ferdinand thought would happen because of his new faith came true. Unfortunately, Ferdinand’s belief in Jesus only made his home life more challenging.

He recalls solemnly,

When I received Jesus, my mother began to mistreat me.

  • She got angry when I prayed and stopped stealing.

  • She ceased funding my studies.

  • She kicked me out.

  • I spent cold nights outside.

He dropped out of school again and began sleeping in the church, fed by well-wishers. He found himself cold, hungry, and rejected. Though suffering, his faith remained firm.

Ferdinand reading the Bible. The recourse that BLI gave to him

“I lived in sorrow, but I kept serving the Lord,” he says. “Even though my mother was against me, I followed Jesus and got baptized.”

One day, Ferdinand returned home for a visit. He brought his mom groceries, expecting the worst. But the reality was very different. She was amazed by his sense of responsibility and his faith. Her heart softened and she invited him back home. Though she’s still not a believer, she allows her son to practice his faith.

Transformed lives

Ferdinand’s radical change is also transforming the community. “He is a changed person. He is joyful and happy to serve in our church,” says Pastor Libérâtes. Other Muslims are coming to the church because of his powerful story. “Muslims surround us. It is God’s miracle for us,” she says.

Today, Ferdinand continues studying God’s Word through Bible League’s small group Bible studies to grow deeper in his faith. “Now, I understand the Bible, I pray to God and wait for His results,” he says.

There are still so many young people like Ferdinand in Burundi and around the world who are desperately searching for hope for a better tomorrow. Just as the Lord transformed Bosco’s life at the age of 19, He has done the same for Ferdinand at 20. And he did the same for Joseph at 17.

Reading and understanding the Bible with. Using Project Philip - Bible League.


Joseph’s path

In Genesis 37, 39-50, Joseph goes on a journey from a completely hopeless place as a 17-year-old whose brothers tried to kill him to a 30-year-old whom Pharoah put in charge of the entire land of Egypt. A path that ends with a dramatic family reunion with the brothers who tried to murder him. At that moment, he also had a choice between two paths: vengeance or forgiveness.

Joseph chose forgiveness, saying to his brothers, “It is true that you planned to do something bad to me. But really, God was planning good things. God’s plan was to use me to save the lives of many people. And that is what happened.” Genesis 50:20 ERV


A brighter future

It’s easy to see why Joseph’s story touched Ferdinand’s heart on his first day with Pastor Libérâtes. A young man whose family turned against him only to have the Lord put him on a new path full of life, hopes, and dreams. It is the same hope that touched Bosco’s heart all those years ago. The same transformation he dreams of seeing in the next generation of his country’s people.


Bosco’s face lights up as he says,

Having seen how the Gospel impacted my life, I want to give an opportunity to future generations and growing generations to encounter the Gospel to also have a better future…a better hope. Because there is a lot of hopelessness among young people. Therefore, I want them to be grounded. To anchor themselves—their lives—upon God because He is able to provide for them and care for their future.

Though Ferdinand is only at the beginning of his new path, he already has a much brighter future with Christ. One where God will guide him each step of the way—even in the worst moments of his life. One where the Lord will use him to save the lives of many people…just as He uses Bosco…just as He used Joseph.


Happy Christ followers in Burundi standing in from of church, thankful for Bible League's effort to resource them.


Ferdinand says, “I pray that one day, He’ll help me to teach others what I have learned. God willing, I want to care for people living difficult lives.”

Please join Ferdinand in praying for his future and the futures of the many other young people worldwide.

In the next hour alone, your gifts and prayers will reach about 137 kids and teens worldwide with God’s Word through Bible League’s Bible studies and literacy classes.

May they grow up rooted in the hope only found in the pages of God’s Word.