Meet Thomas, a man who shows us what it means to serve.



On Monday, we introduced you to Michele, leader of the Study Tour. Michele is currently traveling throughout Africa, meeting people and listening to their stories. Today she introduces us to Thomas, a man listening to God’s call and serving in Burundi.

 Around the globe, World Vision has nearly 33,000 employees in roughly 100 countries. On another continent, in the heart of Africa, one man stood out among thousands. His name is Thomas Rottoh. Thomas is one of the few people I am eye level with, (meaning he also was not blessed with much height), But with his soft voice and careful words, his personality demands attention and respect. He is quick to laugh and even quicker to admit when he is wrong. 

Thomas has worked as the Operations Director for World Vision Burundi since 2009, but his draw to Burundi began nearly seven years ago. As our vehicle curled along the winding road from southern Burundi, along the Tanzanian border to northern Burundi, he told us the story of how God brought him to this country. In 2004 he was encouraged to go to Burundi. He quickly declined. His entire life—including his wife and three children—were in Kenya. He was comfortable in his work and had no desire to leave. He put it out of his mind until five years later, when he got a call from his boss late one Friday night: His next assignment was Burundi. He prayed about it for two days and accepted the position. Thomas had no idea what he was getting into…..what was originally a three month assignment marks nearly two years to date. Thomas laughs every time he shares this story. He shrugged his shoulders, threw his hands in the air, saying “What could I do?! I will go where God wants me”.

Thomas relates his story to that of Jonah. He spent years running from Burundi, but he finally gave in. He expressively tries to think of the English word for “spit” and lands on “spew”. God had to ‘spew’ him out multiple times to get him to Burundi let alone get him to stay there. As we spent time with him this week, he hadn’t seen his family since May and could barely contain his excitement knowing he would be home to see them in the coming week. As we travelled through the banana tree filled hills back to Bujumbura, Thomas closed his eyes, quietly clapped his hands, and whispered the words of the songs. Here is a man so in love with the Lord that the separation from his family scarcely measures as a sacrifice as he cares for the people of Burundi.

Late one night in the office, while sipping his favorite beverage, (tea with goat milk and sugar), Thomas shared his love for the Burundian people. He shared his heart for continued redemption amongst broken social structures within the country. He showed us pictures of the fingers and toes of small children that were being destroyed by chiggers in the pigmy community. With his head in his hands, Thomas was visibly filled with passion and despair for the people he was serving. The next night, while sitting around our makeshift campfire, Thomas shared his story of how he was originally running from what the Lord was calling him to do. He challenged Team Burundi to always go where God calls them and urged them not to feel misery for those in need, but rejoice in the good work being done and to become a part of it.

For some, sacrificing in work means staying till six or coming in early to the office. For Thomas it means living amongst a people that are not his own but who he has come to love. It means being away from his wife and children, and laying down his life for the Lord to use him however He wishes. More than any other person on this journey, Thomas affected the team with his dedication to serving the poor.