When Yolanda (Liebenberg) Burgess was 14, her grandmother, who was a Christian, died of cancer. Just before her death, a family friend visited, bringing along an atheist friend who had never met her. As they walked out after their visit, Yolanda overheard the atheist friend say, “I don’t know what that woman has, but I want it.” At that moment, Yolanda decided to go into full-time ministry. Some missionaries in her home country of Zimbabwe helped encourage her to seek out a Bible college to help her prepare for ministry. She attended the church where Dale Marshall (BBC ’59) served, and Nick (BBC’95) and Lindale (BBC’92) Adams told her about Boise Bible College and helped her decide on Boise Bible.
Boise Bible College gave Yolanda a place to truly flourish for the first time. She still considers those four years as the best of her life. She says she felt seen, heard, and understood, primarily due to the relationships she built with professors, their spouses, staff, and other students. Boise Bible’s “open door policy” was indeed practiced, and she felt welcomed as part of the family. She still has close friends around the world from those years.
Yolanda also found the sound Bible teaching she was looking for. Professors Chuck Faber, Danny Harrod, John Whittaker, Terry Stine, and Dale Cornett (she says, “I could name more too!”) garnered her deep respect and admiration for the way they taught and lived out the Bible.
One particular class, “Communicating Vision,” really gave her a place to dream, create a mission, cast a vision, and ultimately form the foundation to start a non-profit. She also came up with the name of the ministry that is now a reality. However, starting a non-profit while in college proved to be a daunting task. Had Yolanda known then what it would take, she says, she probably wouldn’t have done it.
But God allowed her to see just far enough ahead to keep believing she could do it. Her ministry exists to create a system of support services that benefit women and children by meeting their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs, which in turn creates a self-sustaining community. They work primarily with abused, oppressed, victimized, widowed, orphaned, and impoverished people.
The desire is to lead women and children to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Yolanda says,
Ultimately, we know that each of us has a Jesus-sized puzzle piece missing in our hearts. Jesus is the absolute answer in all the pain, suffering, lack, emptiness, and longing...It’s not enough to meet needs without teaching the Gospel in such a way that makes it multiply in nature.
The spiritual need overlaps with physical and emotional needs, so they take a holistic approach, meeting those needs as well. This approach is working. The same women who were once considered to be at the bottom of the totem pole now are seen as leaders in their communities. Many have started businesses to support themselves and can help with local needs as well. They are prayer warriors and lay counselors in their churches and help out with children’s programs. Yolanda sums up, “After almost five years these women have transformed into empowered, confident, and Gospel-driven disciples,” and quickly adds, “not due to what we do but rather due to His work that He graciously allows us to take part in. What an honor and privilege it is to do what we do.”
Life After Boise Bible
Yolanda met her husband Andrew after leaving Boise Bible and considers him the perfect complement to her extraverted, go-getter, bold, outspoken personality. Boise Bible helped her see her strong leadership abilities as strengths and blessings to use for the Kingdom; she feels blessed to have a husband who agrees wholeheartedly.
Boise Bible College’s values have shaped Yolanda’s ministry. She can teach effectively and efficiently (scholarship). They minister to women from all denominations and don’t call themselves the only Christians (humility). She ministers in a community-oriented culture and learned a lot about that at Boise Bible. And as the world keeps changing, innovation is called for on an ongoing basis. Boise Bible taught her not to forget the mission and when something doesn’t work, to change, adapt, be flexible, grow, and learn so it can keep going. She’s willing to because she still wants people to have what her grandmother had.
Yolanda and Andrew are currently in the United States waiting for COVID to settle down so they can return home. To learn more about their ministry in Zimbabwe, check out their website for Jesu Ministries 2 Zim.
Please do not share or publish this article anywhere else or tag Yolanda on any social media. Thank you! – Yolanda