Tuesday, February 14, 2012

That Which is Precious - Burkina Faso

Today we visited the Philadelphia Church in Ouaga. It is the church Marcel pastors and oversees, in addition to several others. You do not need a map to find such a church, whether here or in the bush, you simply follow your ear. Long before the block walls and tin roof come into view, a boisterous melody fills the air with the song of the redeemed singing their praises to God.

Thus far it has been my favorite part of being in Africa, to walk into a dimly lit room filled with people singing jubilantly unto the Lord, they bring such brightness to the darkest of places; both with their voice and their appearance. If you have seen the photos from previous trips here, you know the Burkinabe are those who love bright, bold color; from the clothing and hats adorning the women, to the beads woven into their daughters hair; it is this colorful array that will be forever etched in my mind.

We are always seated up front since we are the guests from America. I love this spot, not because I want a seat of honor, but because it places me just a step away from the many children who flood the front of the church. As I sit watching them I see my own grandchildren reflected in their mannerisms and personalities. There is Mary-Jane, my dancing girl; Zachary my curious, every busy little guy; Eva with her gorgeous big eyes and Ava, so small yet so ready to take on the world. Their color and language may be different, but children everywhere long for one thing, to be loved and cared for. I am reminded of what Jesus said, that we are to become as little children, wholly dependent upon him.

If there is an aspect of life in Burkina I will take away from all of this it is the realization that life is precious. Whenever Loren is introduced the first thing he does is raise his Ipad high over his head and show the congregation photos of his beautiful family. They ooh and ahh over the photos of Amber and MJ and Jude and Isaiah, but it is when he mentions that Amber is pregnant with their fourth child the people in every church we have visited applaud and shout for joy. For them, there is nothing greater that can happen than for a family to be given the gift of new life. Perhaps it is because they recognize the fragileness of life here in Burkina. Daily they are just one illness, one accident, one season of famine away from disaster and potential death. They are thankful for one more day, one more child, one more proof that God is the giver of life and his mercies are new every morning.

I watched them as they gave of their offerings this morning. It was as joyous a time as their singing of worship and praise had been just moments earlier. I asked myself, “How could this be?” Then came understanding. They were joyful because they HAVE something to give; that in the past day or week or month God had somehow, once again, provided for them. They gave cheerfully and with exuberance because they were so thankful God had given to them.
Loren’s message to the people today was on storms. What I have seen here in Burkina is we are much more alike than I ever imagined. They struggle with the same issues as we do, in their homes, in their families, in their marriages and their work, even in their church. We are all sinners in desperate need of a Savior and it is only by the grace of God we are changed and transformed. When the storms arise, we are all prone to ask, “Where are you God?” The answer is always the same. He is with us, perfectly at rest, knowing he will bring us safely to the other side.

It is the same message from the book of Mark, which Loren shared with TFAB some months back. Today, in Burkina, God used his word to bring faith to the heart of four who committed their lives to Christ. I asked Marcel afterwards if these were people who previously attended his church. He said no, this was the first time they had come. He told me this is happening almost every Sunday, God continues to bring in a great harvest here.

It is why we come, it is why TFAB and Ekklesia are committed to training the pastors who will feed and shepherd these new believers and the precious people who fill their churches, both in the city and the many villages scattered throughout this vast land. They will come this week; on foot, on bicycle, by cart and by scooter. They will travel long distances then sit for many hours to hear the truth of God’s word taught. They will be well fed that they might in turn go and feed the people with good, solid spiritual food. We come that the people of Christ here in Burkina might grow and be strong.

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