OneWay recently lost a dear friend.
He was a friend of OneWay because he was first a friend of Jesus and of His gospel. Nothing mattered more to Jeff than that.
As a former drug and alcohol addict who turned to Christ in his thirties, Jeff lived out this truth like few others: "He who has been forgiven much loves much" (Lk. 7:47).
Jeff never seemed to get over what Christ had done for him. He could hardly pray without tearing up – or just downright bawling. And a worship service with Jeff was a singular experience in which one's heart would swell with praise just by observing Jeff's posture towards His Savior.
Yes, Jeff's love for Jesus was extravagant. And so was his love for others.
Jeff could scarcely see a lost person and not share Christ with him. One friend joked that a "quick" trip to the store with Jeff would always turn into a 45-minute endeavor because Jeff had to share the gospel with someone. In the words of his brother, "Jeff didn't just go into a restaurant to eat dinner. He went to eat dinner and tell someone about Jesus."
OneWay Africa Director Ray Mensah agrees. "Once, when he picked me up from the airport, we stopped at a McDonalds to have a quick meal. We shared the gospel with people in the restaurant, culminating with the manager of the restaurant coming to faith in Christ Jesus."
In 2017, Jeff and his wife, Michelle, lived out their passion to see people around the world come to Christ by visiting Ray and the OneWay Africa team in Ghana.
"Jeff and I paired up to do house to house evangelism," writes Ray (above, left), "which yielded great fruit to the Glory of God. We saw some precious souls come to Christ that day and also spent considerable time with a fetish priest who was also a Muslim.
"Jeff went the extra mile to show love to the man, sharing the gospel in the simplest and clearest ways the man could understand through an interpreter. We gave the man a Komba audio Bible, and the following year when I met the man, he had listened to it so many times, he knew almost all the stories of the New Testament and was very close to deciding to follow Christ. I am sure that man is a believer of Christ Jesus by this time."
Many times, Jeff discussed quitting his job and moving overseas to serve refugees and other needy populations. He would have gone in a heartbeat if he had ever felt God was opening the door. Ray Mensah put it this way. "Jeff would risk anything for the Gospel, and he challenged God's people to do the same."
Jeff also believed in prayer. He embraced the work of intercession and was a dear friend and promoter of our Prayercast ministry.
Once, when the Prayercast team desperately needed someone to record a prayer for the Solomon Islands, Jeff stepped in to help. Liz Lind shares, "Although we always prefer a national praying in our videos, when we couldn’t find one, we knew that if anyone could fervently pray for a nation they’ve never even been to, it would be Jeff!! And, of course, he did not disappoint."
Jeff was such a believer in prayer that even got his elderly mother set up with a computer at her home just so she could watch Prayercast videos and pray along. Jeff also organized almost unheard of all-night Prayercast marathons with the high schoolers of his home church (and they actually came!) because Jeff believed so much in crying out for the lost and training young people to do the same.
Jeff once insisted, "It's not enough to talk about prayer, preach about prayer, and make videos about prayer. It's time to pray."
Jeff loved people with extravagant love, especially anyone in need. Ray Mensah reflects again, "When I first met him, Jeff was in the habit of bringing a van load of people from challenging backgrounds to church with him. He was a friend of people with various addictions and he went the extra mile to help them recover and to start new lives."
Jeff loved inconveniently. He loved even when it cost him time or money or privacy. Countless stories could be told of those Jeff and Michelle took into their home, the teen mothers they befriended and helped, the sick friends he repeatedly visited and prayed with, and the prodigals he wept over, prayed for and spent time with. And all of this with a warm, disarming sense of humor that sought to savor the joy in life.
Ray Mensah summed it up this way. "A great tree has truly fallen and a huge vacuum has been left. The legacy of Jeff Burchett is great."
We grieve Jeff's loss as a friend and co-worker in the gospel even as we rejoice that he is now face to face with the Savior he loved so much. May we all be inspired to carry on the legacy of extravagant love that Jeff modeled so well.
Hear a tribute about Jeff by OneWay President Michael Thompson.