Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Youth Group Trip to the Orphanage

One of the ministries that Ben and I weren't necessarily originally planning to be a part of but have found we really love is helping as leaders for the international youth group. These thirty or so English-speaking kids of all sorts of nationalities meet once a week at a house in Ouagadougou, and there they have youth group in much the same way that I experienced it as a teen in the U.S. They begin each Thursday night by playing those crazy youth group games (you know the ones—like trying to be the first team to unfreeze and wear a balled up frozen T-shirt and other equally silly tasks). Then they move into a worship time led by the youth band that really does a great job, complete with guitarists, drummers, a violinist, a pianist, and singers. Following that, the youth pastor shares his message for the night, after which the students break into small groups with their leaders (part of what Ben and I do) to discuss the message topic and how it relates to them personally. Finally, they end with prayer in their groups and a snack time. They are an energetic bunch, but I've been extremely impressed with these students' knowledge of the Bible and the depth of some of their relationships with God.

This past Saturday, this youth group got to have a service day. Now, you may think that living in Burkina Faso means that everyday life is like being on a mission trip, but the reality of it is that even here you sometimes have to be intentional about making time to serve others, which can be especially  difficult for teens that have school responsibilities and after-school activities and busy schedules just like teens anywhere else.
Our full group on the visit to Sheltering Wings Orphanage

So this service opportunity was to go to the Christian-run Sheltering Wings Orphanage in the town of Yako, a place where Envision often takes teams on their mission trips. Around twenty students and eight leaders/parents loaded into two vans at 8:00 in the morning and set out on the two-hour drive north. Once there, the students didn't hesitate to start playing soccer and board games with the older kids at the orphanage, doing coloring and activities with the young kids, and holding and feeding the toddlers and babies (and I got to enjoy holding the babies too!).
Loving some time with this sweet baby

After lunch, the directors of the orphanage gave a tour of the grounds to those in our group who hadn't been there before, and even though I had been there several times, I went on the tour and got to see their newly-renovated section next-door to the orphanage that is soon to be a women's center. Sheltering Wings is really such a well-run place, and the Christian directors there are always have new plans and are making new improvements for both the orphans and the members of their community. The specific number of how many orphans are living there at the moment has already escaped my memory, but I believe that the number of babies/toddlers is somewhere in the teens and older kids somewhere in the twenties. The kids are very much cared for there; the staff clearly follows through with their intention to be more than just a holding place for the children who live at the orphanage.
One of the baby bedrooms
The toddler play area at the orphanage

This day trip with the youth group was such an enjoyable time of once again seeing the ongoing hard work at Sheltering Wings that is done by the caregivers on a daily basis to give a home to those young ones that might not be cared for otherwise. It was also a joy to get to be a very small part in that caring process, along with twenty enthusiastic youth group teenagers who got the chance on a regular old Saturday in Burkina Faso to do a kind of mini mission trip of their own.

Although your weekend service projects might not be able to look the same as this, with spending time at an orphanage in Africa and all, these same types of Saturdays can be spent really anywhere by giving a few hours to try to make somebody's day a little better and to love on those who really need it. Equally exciting is getting to see teenagers learning to experience the joy in giving of themselves and serving in Christ's name. The important part, I think, is that we all take the time to do what we can, wherever we're at. Keep in mind that even these teens in the international community here have very busy lives that could have led them to think that they couldn't give up a Saturday to serve; doing a service project in Africa can lose its glamour when you live there. However, whether in Burkina Faso or the United States or anywhere in between, there's always someplace we can all find that's in need of servants willing to invest their time to care for others. And wherever we serve, we can pray that Jesus' love would shine through us as we do what we can to point others to Him.