Friday, October 31, 2014

Political Unrest in Burkina

Before the start of this week, everyone in Burkina Faso knew that there were going to be planned protests on at least Tuesday to Thursday. There were even some minor demonstrations going on leading up to this week. The main thing that people were protesting was a proposed change to the constitution that would allow President Compaoré, the man who has been in power for 27 years, to run for another term. After multiple days of huge crowds protesting throughout Burkinahaving gatherings in city centers, blocking roads, looting stores and banks, going through the streets blowing whistles and honking horns, burning down government buildings, and not even stopping after getting tear gassed and met with occasional shots by security forcesthe president has conceded to the people and resigned today. However, this doesn't mean an automatic solution to the problem has been found; the country still remains at high tension because the person the majority wants to be in power is not yet there. This could have an effect on upcoming days for sure.
A picture posted on the BBC website of a crowd gathered in the center of Ouagadougou on Friday, October 31st

While I'd like to be able to give everyone back home the inside scoop on the situation, to be honest, I can't tell you anything more than what news reports are saying. We're doing our best to stay away from the action, not to go into it. Additionally, there's currently a curfew of 7 PM - 6 AM to slow the vandalism and looting that continues to take place. We've left our house only twice since Tuesday, the day that protesting really started increasing, and those times were just to go over to our friends' house nearby. On Thursday, we could see smoke from one burning building a few blocks away and we've heard a bit of commotion on our street several times each day, but that's really all that we've witnessed thus far. 
The view out our gate on Thursday afternoon, October 30th

Therefore, I'll just let you know that this is a website that's frequently updated that we're using to keep posted on the events:

We are very thankful that we have been away from the action and would appreciate your continued prayers that it would remain that way. Thanks to everyone who has been in prayer for us already. Most of all, please pray for the people of Burkina Faso. Pray for wise new leadership, pray for everyone's safety during any continued demonstrations, pray for restoration for those whose homes or businesses were looted and damaged, and pray for God to work through this negative situation to bring about good for His kingdom.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Putting on Two Sets of Clothes

"I NEVER forget to put on my clothes before I leave the house each morning, but sometimes, I do forget to put on my spiritual clothes for each day," the leader of our recent women's team told the group of nearly thirty Burkinabé girls in their late teens and early twenties, her words then being translated from English to French to a local language called Jula. 

These particular girls she was addressing live at Dorcas House, a Christian center specifically for young women, many of whom have grown up in extreme poverty with little formal education. During their time at the center, the girls get to spend three days each fall attending a special camp that a women's team from the Appleton Alliance Church in Wisconsin puts on for them. Dorcas House is a wonderful ministry located on the outskirts of the capital city of Ouagadougou where young women live for two years and receive all sorts of training in the Bible, reading and writing, health, raising crops and animals, sewing, soap-making, and other life skills. Although their training is nearly year-round, these girls also get to be a part of special events throughout the year such as this camp that I got to help lead with the Appleton women. 
The full group of Dorcas House girls wearing new headbands they beaded during craft time

For this year's camp, the teaching centered around what it would look like to clothe oneself as Colossians 3:12 instructs: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." The leader of the Appleton team clearly broke down what it would look like for the girls to "clothe" themselves with each of these five virtuescompassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patienceeach day. As I looked around the classroom with a total of right around forty women crammed inside, all sweating from the lack of even a fan to help out in the 90+ degree heat (there is no electricity out there), it was evident that these girls were hungry to learn more about God's truths. The three-part lesson centering around striving to be dressed in the proper spiritual clothes was very applicable and understood by these young women, especially since a woman's clothing and hair are considered very important here and often indicate her wealth.
With the group of girls that I got to help lead during the three days of camp

The twelve of us women from Appleton and Envision slept on cots at Dorcas House in their beautiful new guest house (which even got running water hooked up just in time for our stay) so that we could all be there together for the whole camp timeThroughout the three days of camp, then, the Dorcas House girls were divided into four groups with about seven girls in each group. The eight women from Appleton lead the groups along with three of us Envision women plus Amy, a former missionary who founded Dorcas House in 2008 and returned during Appleton's visit to help lead the camp. The camp days for these thirty or so girls involved morning times of biblical teaching, memorization of six Bible verses, special meals with tastier-than-everyday food selections for the girls, craft times of making headbands and tie pillows and bookmarks, sports times with playing games like baseball and four square and rope ball, and evening times of singing and dancing and sharing testimonies while enjoying campfire treats. 
Since baseball isn't at all a Burkinabé sport, we were a little surprised that the girls really seemed to enjoy playing it

Then the girls got a special surprise at the end of the campgoing along with the theme of learning to clothe oneself spiritually, they had the chance to literally clothe themselves as well. The Appleton women had brought suitcases stuffed with donated clothes, shoes, purses, and jewelry in order to set up a boutique where the Dorcas House girls could "shop." The level of excitement amongst these girls was off the charts as they emerged from the boutique showing off their new items to us and to one another! 
These two were clearly happy to find matching skirts in the boutique

It was such a joy to get to see the girls' enthusiasm during each of the events that we did with them, and it was particularly fun for me to get to spend time with the group of girls that I was assigned to help and to also get to know the eight women visiting from Appleton who truly loved on these girls. 
Displaying the heart tie-pillows they had just completed

And the time I spent listening to the same message that the girls were learning got me thinking, toohow often do I get up in the morning and neglect to clothe myself with these five qualities that the girls were being taught? Truth be told, most of us probably spend more time preparing ourselves physically for each day than we do spiritually. How different might my day look, though, if I could be ready to respond to each case of need I see with compassion for others like Jesus', taking the time to welcome interruptions of other people's needs rather than continue on with my own busy agenda. Imagine how my whole day might change if I had prepared myself in advance to treat every person I meet with genuine kindnessWhat if I had prayed first thing that I would respond to the person who sometimes gets on my nerves with true humility, knowing that this person is every bit as valuable to God as I am. How would it look for me to be ready to be a person of gentleness, maybe having the ability to gently advise or gently insert wisdom in tough situations. And picture me being equipped to be a person of true patience, not getting frustrated if I have to wait too long in traffic or if my repair guy doesn't show up on time or if God doesn't answer my prayers within the time frame that I had in mind. 
Holding the tiny baby of one of the interns at Dorcas House

Sometimes I think it's easy to feel like you're doing okay with showing these five virtues, but I'm pretty sure that just "doing okay" isn't all we should be striving for. It's easy to do okay with implementing these when life is going smoothly, but what about on our worst days when everything seems to go wrong? Being patient, for example, isn't nearly as difficult on a day when you have nothing to do as it is on a day when you have deadlines and your schedule is jam-packed and you feel like everything that can go wrong is, indeed, going wrong. 
A few Dorcas House graduates doing a special song and dance right before the end of camp
With my group after the girls had received their farewell gifts from the Appleton team

I don't know about you, but I know that if I could REALLY be clothed in these five virtues from Colossians 3:12 every day and in every difficult situation, my life would look a lot more like Christ's. Doesn't it just make sense that we should be clothing ourselves at the start of each day with not only our shirts and pants but also with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience? It's a lesson that I think is every bit as needed for all of us as it was for these sweet Burkinabé girls that I was privileged to spend a few days with at Dorcas House.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Power, Love, and Self-Discipline

Envision has had several teams or team members drop out lately for a number of reasons, and sometimes these reasons are legitimate.  The inability to raise funds, family or health problems, lack of interest, and more can all be understandable barriers to short-term mission trips taking place, but our staff is bummed when that happens because we enjoy working with teams that come to Burkina Faso.

Some reasons for canceling trips here are not as legitimate: Ebola, events in Ukraine, and events in Israel.  These have all been given to Envision recently as reasons that people have decided to drop out and not come to Burkina Faso.  I understand the concern, given that the threat is very real . . . in other countries and in other areas of the world.  If the virus were to begin spreading in Burkina, we would most likely shut down our site and not host teams again until the direct threat was gone.  Even though the Ebola virus is centered in West Africa, Burkina is not currently affected by Ebola and is not even neighboring any of the affected countries, so currently it is as safe of a place to be as America.

All of this makes me think of 2 Timothy 1:7: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline." It is easy to read this verse and enjoy how nice it sounds in theory, but it is not always easy to live it out.  I recommend reading the whole chapter, but this verse stands out when taking into consideration the things that are happening all around us in the world.

I noticed a few people post their PANIC on Facebook when they heard that somebody had "first entered" the US with Ebola.  Yes, it was indeed terrible for this individual with the virus, and caution was very much required for those who were near the affected person, but I've noticed that
 Facebook responses frequently go too far over the top.  A response of prayer would be much more helpful than a response of panic.  As Ebola has now spread to a couple more people in the US, the news seems to be fueling fear in people across the country rather than just promoting logical precautions for those nearest to the situations. 

If we live in fear, we may never accomplish anything!  This seems like what Satan would want, for Christians to live in fear and accomplish NOTHING.  Irrational fear and worry that holds back progress in life is not from God.  Limiting ourselves through fear limits God's ability to work through our lives.

One of periods in church history that I find the most interesting to study is the time of persecutions in Rome.  When sickness and plague ravaged the land, the Romans would leave the area and abandon the sick.  However, the Christians were the ones who went in and helped the sick, only armed with faith and prayer.  When others then noticed the Christians' love, they wanted to discover what drove them to do such a thing.* This is an inspiring part of church history that we should learn from and reenact.  Where is our faith and prayer during these current situations?

This is not to say that all worry and thought should be cast aside; God gave man a brain for a reason.  If there is an immediate and unnecessary risk, it should not be taken.  However, the distance between Burkina and Ebola is not small enough to currently put one traveling to do short-term missions work in Burkina at any elevated risk.  In fact, I honestly feel safer here in the capital city of Burkina Faso than I did in many US cities (and I have lived and worked in some dangerous city areas).  Plus, 
while the US has now hosted several cases of confirmed Ebola, Burkina still has had zero.

This being said, I found it funny when a Burkinabé pastor from another denomination called a team that was planning on coming out to tell them to cancel.  One of his reasons for wanting them to cancel was because the US had Ebola but Burkina Faso has none, so he did not want to risk it spreading here.  This is also not a realistic view, as the size of the US and the location of that team was a great distance from known cases.

Our Envision site leader, Betty, has said, "The best place to be is in the center of God's will."  This is not to say that it is easy or always what we want, but it will bring about the best God has for our lives.

One of the team members who was worried before coming out to Burkina told me afterward, "I do not understand what I was worried about."  Like virtually everyone who ends up coming to Burkina on a team through Envision, he left very glad that he was faithful in following God's call to come and do ministry here.  I am excited about our upcoming teams and really hope that no more people needlessly drop out and thereby halt the work that God could have done in and through them during their experience here. 


*You can read a little more about this period of church history here:

A special thanks to Mike Riddering for the first two pictures

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Air France, Mail, and Cheese

This post is a bit different from our normal writings.  This seems to be something that is a part of life here as an expat, so we thought it would be interesting to share.

Air France has been on strike for a few weeks thus far.  This may not be something that affects you, but it is amazing how much it affects some people here in Burkina.  It's interesting to see how something like this can have a larger ripple effect.

Empty shelves at the local grocery store

Air France is the major air cargo carrier here in Burkina.  As the country is landlocked, the infrastructure is fairly limited to trucks, trains, and planes.  In order to get fresh and current items into the country, planes are often the best route.  From what I was told, Air France used to fly in planes multiple times 7 days a week, and now they are only running planes into Burkina 3 days a week.

Here is a picture of the actual cargo plane here in Burkina, thanks to a friend.

Many of the stores here are running completely out of their supply of cheese (among other products).  This is due to the Air France strike and the limited amount of food supplies being brought into the country.  This is an inconvenience, but something that one can easily live without.

Air France also brings in the mail from the US.  It is not like we get any mail, so this does not affect us, but we have friends here who do and they have not gotten any mail for a few weeks due to the lack of flights.

I would never have thought about or have been affected by such a strike.  It is amazing how different things happening in the world affect different people.