Who is Simon Guillebaud?
In a Nutshell:
Simon Guillebaud [pronounced: Gilbo (as in Bilbo Baggins] is a veteran missionary who founded Great Lakes Outreach (GLO) - and is now their International Director. GLO is a UK charity which operates in Burundi, Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. He is a prolific author, blogger and vlogger, and internationally recognised conference speaker.
Where it all began:
Simon was born in early 1973 in Cuckfield, West Sussex. It was a time when Slade was Number One in the UK charts with "Cum On Feel the Noize" - a song which remained in poll position for 4 weeks. 1
Cuckfield was a large market town 13 miles north of Brighton on the South Coast, its name was thought to have originated with the cuckoo which the village now has embraced as its emblem and the local pub depicts on its hanging signage! 2 With his mum being a believer Simon had a Christian upbringing although his father didn't find faith until his forties.
An International Upbringing:
As he grew his family moved around with work and the young lad spent three years in Algeria and another six years living in France. This gave him an understanding of culture and languages that many in the UK did not experience. Returning home preteen, Simon was enrolled in Harrow School, an independent boarding for boys in Harrow, North London. The school was located in a beautiful leafy 300 acre estate, which encompassed much of Harrow on the Hill. Having been established in 1572, the school imbued within its pupils strength of character, lasting friendships and a desire to be of good influence in life. These principles were elemental within the schools framework to prepare its pupils to experience the diversities of life, culture and the abilities required for a life of learning, leadership, service and personal fulfilment. These were, and still are, the schools underpinning core values. 3
It was whilst he was at Harrow that Simon became a Christian when he attended a Scripture Union (SU) camp and encountered his own Damascus Road experience and had his eyes opened to see Jesus.
From Harrow to Leicestershire:
After graduating from Harrow in 1991 Simon went to Loughborough University in Leicestershire to study for a degree in languages and politics majoring on modern European studies. After graduation he found a job in in marketing.
A Miraculous Calling:
However, God had his had on the twenty-something man and Simon began to feel a stirring within... It all happened in a most miraculous way!
“God, I surrender, I’ll do anything and go anywhere.” I got a very dramatic answer to that prayer when someone came and told me he felt God was calling me to Burundi. [There I was] in my business job, sitting in front of the computer, I asked God for a radical sign about Burundi - if I should go? Whereupon the phone rang and the voice on the other end asked me: “Do you know anyone who wants to work in Burundi?” That was my call, if you can believe it!
All Nations College:
Simon decided to work with SU, through whom he had come to faith and learned to respect and trust. Having spent a short time abroad in Burundi he enrolled in All Nations College whose aim is to is to train and equip men and women for effective participation in God’s mission to His multicultural world. 4
Upon graduation Simon travelled back to Burundi where he spent many years as a missionary living in Bujumbura, Burundi's large capital city. Built on the north-eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, it is also home to the large Port of Bujumbura where ferries dock full of tourists and coffee, cotton and tin ore is exported to the world. Formerly known as Usumbura, Bujumbura was renamed when Burundi gained independent from Belgium in 1962.5 Since then it has been the scene of frequent fighting between the country's two main rival groups, the Hutu and Tutsi. This has left the country battle scarred and with an appalling legacy of orphans, street children and thousands of refugees fleeing the violence. 6
In fact Burundi is a country which has been torn by tribal war for decades. It is a most dangerous country for foreigners - and missionaries are no exception - in fact sometimes they stick their hands in a hornets nest for the sake of the gospel and Simon himself experienced some extraordinary situations with miraculous outcomes and angelic protection. Often he faced death, receiving treats to his life and on occasions cheated death when ambushed by extremists! However, he exposed corruption when he saw it, preached the gospel whenever he had the opportunity, helped people who needed it and began to see the Lord move in powerful ways. Over the past 20 years he has seen 100,000 people come to faith through his ministry.
Great Lakes Outreach:
In 2003, to help aid his work and mission Simon established Great Lakes Outreach (GLO), which works with local organisations for the transformation of the nation. GLO, a UK charity, works in partnership with those local organisations to help people and provide financial, logistical and life advice so that the transformation of the nation starts with each individual saved. Its main focus is evangelism and discipleship through personal contact, through schools work and education. It also helps with the fight against AIDS bringing much needed assistance to war made orphans and street children. 7
In 2008 Simon was joined in this work by Lizzie who he fell in love with and married. Over the next 10 years they would have 3 children as they continued their work as a family in their much loved Burundi.
Authentic | Inspiring | Challenging:
Each year Simon takes time to travel abroad to speak about his work and to raise much needed support for the work of GLO. He has a fruitful preaching ministry, seeing many people come to faith on a regular basis. His style is authentic, inspiring and deeply challenging. The stories he shares are a mixture of the desperately grim yet the miraculously stirring. Each story is a true to life testimony of God's grace and power. His power to save is not thwarted by the plans of man, of wars or democracies. When He acts He acts on the heart of humanity whether young or old, man women or child.
Simon says of his mission and experience:
"I spend three months of the year travelling around the world sharing my testimony and other [peoples] amazing stories, hoping to inspire people to be similarly radical and passionate in living out the adventure which Jesus calls each one of us to. Do not come if you aspire to a safe and conventional Christianity."
Author of More than Conquerors:
Simon is the author of five books: 'Dangerously Alive', 'Bike for Burundi', 'Sacrifice', 'Choose Life' and 'More Than Conquerors: A Call to Radical Discipleship' (previously published as: 'For What Its Worth') 8 - this has also has an accompanying DVD. To read these book is to live the journey with the Guillebauds, to read of their lives, their stories and experiences; and to be challenged by their authenticity and inspired by their mission and ministry.
In his book ‘For What it's Worth' aka 'More Than Conquerors’ Simon asks the question: ‘What’s it worth to follow Jesus?
"How far is too far - when He stretched out His arms on the cross and went that far? Do you want the adventure of living, or would you prefer the safety of existing? Aren’t you itching for a deeper and more raw expression of following Jesus? Aren’t we meant to be dangerous people, wide–eyed radicals, dreamers of the day? What does radical living look like in the 21st century? Or shall I just resign myself to a safe, sanitised, respectable middle–class Christianity?" 9
Member of the Order of the British Empire:
In 2018 Simon and his wife Lizzie were each awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) medal this year for their services to Burundi. At first he questioned whether or not to accept the honour but together they decided to accept them on behalf of the whole team at GLO and also the Burundian people. These medals were presented to them at an investiture at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday June 26, 2018 by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. Writing on his blog after the investiture, which he and Lizzie attended with their 3 children, plus Simon's parents and father-in-law, he wrote:
"It was an extremely impressive affair, I have to say. The Palace is absolutely stunning... the most beautiful thing happened as we stepped forward, which nobody else noticed except me: I’m a total cultural philistine when it comes to classical music. The only two pieces, I’m embarrassed to admit, that I can recognise at all are Handel’s Hallelujah chorus (everyone knows that one), and Rachmaninoff’s ‘Rhapsody on a theme from Paganini’. Rachmaninoff’s because it was the piece of music that Lizzie chose to walk into at our wedding, and I remember turning around at the altar and being utterly overcome by her pure beauty as she walked up the aisle towards me, such that tears immediately came to my eyes. Well, the live orchestra had been playing non-stop throughout the hour and a quarter ceremony, getting through lots of different splices of musical pieces. And just as we stepped forward, without missing a beat, they kicked in with that same Rachmaninoff piece. I smiled and looked upwards and took it as a little bonus affirmation from our Heavenly Father, who of course is the only Audience that really matters ultimately, even if it was nice to be in an earthly Palace surrounded by lots of important people." 10
Wessex Filling Station:
As we look to welcome Simon to the aptly named Inspiration Suite, at the Village Hotel Bournemouth we are really looking forward to what this exceptional man of God has to say to us. His character and renown precede him and he comes with glowing references; but he comes with a challenge to the listener through his stories and purity of faith. His mission is simple: to make Jesus known to all people; and that includes you. As we finished the above article writing about his visit to Buckingham Palace we must give Simon the last word about his call.
"I so long to be used to awaken a passion in people's hearts for radical discipleship. We are all just ordinary people, with the potential; to do extraordinary things because we have an extraordinary God." 11
Simon Guillebaud was interviewed by Brian Edgeley in June 2018 before his return to the UK.
- UK Number Ones of the 1970's : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_UK_Singles_Chart_number_ones_of_the_1970
- Cuckfield, West Sussex : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuckfield
- Harrow School : https://www.harrowschool.org.uk/Welcome
- All Nations College, Hertfordshire . https://www.allnations.ac.uk/about-us/principals-welcome/learning-ethos
- Bujumbura, Burundi : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bujumbura
- Invest Usumbura - The History : http://www.investburundi.com/history-usumbura/
- Charity Commission Great Lakes Outreach : http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/CharityWithPartB.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=1097267&SubsidiaryNumber=0
- Authors Page at Amazon Books : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Simon-Guillebaud/e/B0034PLBTC/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
- More Than Conquerors: A Call to Radical Discipleship by Simon Guillebaud. Previously published under the title 'For What It's Worth' Copyright © 2006, 2009 Monarch Books (an imprint of Lion Hudson plc.) Wilinson House, Jordan Hill Road, Oxford, OX2 8DR. Also referenced - The Worldwide Mission People Archive for 2010 : https://www.worldwidemission.org/year/2010/people/simon-guillebaud
- Simon Guillebaud's Blog : http://www.simonguillebaud.com/bird-turd-splattered-at-buckingham-palace/
- More Than Conquerors: A Call to Radical Discipleship by Simon Guillebaud. Page 13. See Footnote 9.