Tuesday, December 22, 2015

We're Moving!

From when Ben and I got accepted for our Envision internship back in November 2013, it took us four quick months to share our vision with others, fundraise, buy plane tickets, put all of our belongings in storage, step down from our jobs, and actually make it to Burkina Faso for the start of what would become sixteen incredible months of ministering to and alongside many incredible people. 
Ben and I in Burkina in July at one of the last projects we took part in before the end of our internship—teaching at a
week-long Christian English camp outreach for local students

I never imagined, though, that it would additionally take us four long months to get settled back in once we returned from our internship. 

Since we got back to the U.S. in the middle of August 2015, we've been in the nonstop process of trying to find new jobs and follow God to where He wants us next. We had no idea what that would look like, but it didn't seem like it should be too complicated. We both have bachelor's degrees and some decent job experience, so we just thought that everything would come together and we'd be living in our own cute little house in the ideal city within a month or so of returning from Burkina. Oh, how we were mistaken!

As it turned out, reentering life in the U.S. after being overseas was really complicated for us. Since we had no set city or even state where we intended to move, our plan was that Ben would secure a good job and then I would start looking for jobs in that area where he found one. Over the course of these past few months, Ben applied to so many jobs in so many different fields and so many different states, but not until November did he start getting a couple of calls back from interested companies. 

To be perfectly honest with you, I think that returning from our internship was just as difficult as preparing to go was for us. And preparing to go was quite difficult from the standpoint of having to take care of so many things and change nearly every aspect of our lives for the unknowns of living life in another country. But returning to the U.S. without any clear direction from God on where to go next, without the potential job situations we had heard about working out right for us, and without having any set source of income has made for an emotionally draining four months of transition. 

However, God has still taken care of all of our needs during this time, and we trust He always will as we seek to follow Him. We have much to be thankful for despite the hardships. As Romans 8:28 reminds me, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
One way that God took care of and blessed us during this transition time was allowing us extra time to spend with our families, and we got to visit family members in places such as Chicago (pictured).

In November, Ben did a phone interview with Allstate in Maryland. He then went for an interview up in Massachusetts for a manager trainee position at a Firestone store. We both liked that area and felt that we could see ourselves moving to Massachusetts, but just after his interview on that same afternoon, he got a call asking him to come in for an interview at the Maryland Allstate the following week. This turned out to be a bit of a dilemma. Firestone had offered Ben the job on the spot during the interview, but the Allstate job was what he thought would be a better fit. Long story short, he decided to turn down Firestone in hopes that he'd get an offer at Allstate. And after several more interviews and lots of waiting to hear back, he did! 

So we're excited to let you know that we will be moving to the Columbia, Maryland, area next week! Ben will be working at Allstate as an inside auto claims adjuster, and I will be looking to get a job there as soon as I can. We've since been working out the details of figuring out the area, renting an apartment, and getting our belongings moved there from Ohio.

Thank you for your continued prayers for us as we completed our transition back to life in the U.S. I still am so amazed and thankful for all of the wonderful people who God has brought into our lives to encourage and support us through all of this. Our new location will be close to a lot of major things, so if anyone ever plans to be in the D.C. or Baltimore area, let us know and we'd seriously love to meet up or have you over!

We really didn't try to end up in Maryland. As I said, Ben applied all over the place and many of you even know that our first plan was to try to move to North Carolina, but I find it kind of funny that God has moved us now from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest counties in the United States (also ironic because we really aren't at all the "wealthy type" of people and it costs A LOT to live there). I don't think that our missionary days are necessarily over. We both still feel a draw to the overseas mission field, and we very well could end up overseas again if God calls us there. But for now, our new mission field is in Maryland. I have no idea how long we'll stay there or what all is in store for us in this new state, but I trust that God has a plan in moving us there and I'm excited to find out what He has for us! 


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Finding the Perfect Place to Live

Have you ever had a pretty good idea of what your goal was, yet had no idea how to get to it? And then realized that what you want might not actually be realistic or even necessarily the best thing for you?

My goal that falls into this category was to move to the perfect place after we returned from Africa. This may sound silly, especially considering that I was happily willing to live in Burkina Faso despite the almost desert-like conditions and the limited access to first-world comforts, but now coming back to the U.S. after completing our sixteen-month missionary internship, I really had in mind that Ben and I would find the perfect place to live and work. My wish list was a bit extensive: somewhere near the beach, near the mountains, with four seasons but little-to-no snow, close to a city with lots of entertainment, by fantastic malls and outlets, within a day's drive of both of our parents (Ohio and Delaware), not too much traffic, meaningful jobs that we love, low cost of living, close to a major airport, and so on. You know, I figured if we now have the chance to move anywhere and do anything, why not find the perfect place? As it turns out, finding the perfect place to live with perfect jobs in the one-month time frame in which I'd hoped to find all of that hasn't quite come together as I'd hoped. 
Visiting a lovely beach in Cape Cod in September

In fact, not only has it not come together as I'd hoped, but it actually hasn't come together at all. Our time since we've been back in the U.S.—over a month and a half now—has been filled with trying to find new jobs while also reconnecting with many people. We've gotten to see family and friends in Delaware, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., Boston, Ohio, and Chicago, and we do feel very blessed in that regard. Although for now we're staying primarily in Dover, Delaware, with Ben's parents, we're actively seeking where God wants to take us next and intending to move as soon as we figure that out. 
Spending a day in Chicago recently with my sister (as well as my brother and Ben)

This job search has consisted of many miles of travel already, as we checked into areas of North and South Carolina, the area of the country that we originally thought might meet most of the criteria on that lengthy wish list. We did have a great time while there, getting to reconnect with one of Molly's best friends from high school and also getting to see members of a couple of the church teams we worked with in Burkina Faso. Although we saw many nice areas, we didn't have a clear leading to any city in particular on that trip (like I'd really hoped we would), and the job opportunities so far didn't seem to be what we are needing (also what I'd been hoping would just fall perfectly into place). So the search has continued on. 
Enjoying dinner and reconnecting with team members and their families from the Summit Church in North Carolina 

However, what I'm really glad I gained from that trip was the realization that wherever God leads us—whether it fits my picture of an ideal location or not—nowhere is going to be perfect, and realistically the perfect place to be is wherever He wants us. What I want should be to follow what He wants, and where could I possibly find more contentment than to be in the center of His will anyways? So maybe He will still lead us toward beaches and away from snowy weather; maybe He won't. Either way, I've decided to be happy to be trying to follow God's leading and follow the advice of Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your paths." God was faithful to guide and sustain us as we followed His leading to Africa, and no doubt He will continue to be faithful as we follow His leading to ____________ (insert unknown place where we'll eventually end up). :)  
Ben with his grandparents during our visit to their home near Boston last month

I have to remind myself every day to make the decision to be content and thankful for what God has brought us to, though. It's true; just ask Ben. I really desire to get settled somewhere, and to be honest, this has been quite a challenging time. We still don't know where we will live or what jobs we will do, and it is a very humbling position to be in to be without an income and staying with family (again, though, I can be very thankful that we have such wonderful families that will help us out during this transition). The reality is that coming back from Burkina has been filled with just as many challenges as preparing to go to Burkina, and that's something I never would have expected. 

We'd love to have your continued prayers during this time. We're working as hard as we can to find jobs and have a plan for the future, but we know that ultimately it is in God's hands. Besides, that's where I'd much rather have my future resting than in my hands; He always has better plans than I do . . . such as taking us to Burkina! I'm excited, and perhaps a little anxious, to see what not-quite-perfect place we'll end up in next, and I'm also eager to see how God's molding us through our missions internship will play into this new chapter. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Since Leaving Burkina . . .

We've had quite a transition during the month of August so far. We left our home in Burkina Faso on August 1 after a very busy July closed out our missions internship that had lasted over sixteen months. (Read about July's ministries in our newsletter.)
At the Ouagadougou Airport all packed up to goand with it feeling surreal that we were really moving away  

We then flew halfway back to the States and stopped in Europe, where we got to take our much-anticipated vacation that we had saved up for from the jobs we'd had prior to the internship. Finally, we flew the rest of the way to the U.S. on August 13 to stay with Ben's parents in Delaware while beginning to figure out what to do next. It's been a really exciting time, yet while we have a lot to look forward to and a lot of good things happening in the present, our hearts are a bit conflicted because we also have a lot that we're leaving behind. 
Loving all of the green and lakes and mountains in southern Germany

Leaving the ministry work that we've loved being a part of has not been the easiest. We quickly grew to love helping facilitate the partnership between the Burkinabé and the many American church teams that Envision hosted during our time there. Although we do have confidence that now was our time to move on and we're excited to see that it's others' time to join the Envision Burkina team instead, there still are many things we'll miss about being on that mission field. It was a privilege to be used by God in Burkina Faso, and we're so grateful that we weren't too afraid to take that step of faith that He was leading us to take when we first heard about the internship in March of 2013. 
Having a final game night at our house with our Burkina missionary friends

Please be praying for our peace during this transition time. Even though neither of us has experienced strong culture shock during any of our travels, it is still an adjustment. It's not easy to be in the position of transitioning back into the U.S. culture while we're also unsure of what God's leading us into next. Although most of the time we do have a peace about this, it is all too easy to slip into an attitude of worry. 

Pray also that we'd be sensitive to God's guidance. We're looking for new jobs and a new place to live, and that means that many changes are ahead. We are eager for this, yet since we're still unsure of what kinds of jobs to pursue and what state to move to, it is something that we're having to trust that God will show us the way to go in His timing. It's both exciting and scary to be as open to possibilities as we are at this current moment. 

These past few days, though, it has been a treat to get to be back in the States—seeing Ben's family and being back at their church, eating delicious pre-washed mixed lettuce (I know that's weird, but that's what I'd been craving in Burkina), window shopping at all the abundantly-stocked stores, and driving Ben's convertible (which since Burkina life forced me to learn to drive a manual with confidence, I can do now!). We do appreciate things in America differently than when we left, but there's so much more to it than that. God has opened our hearts and expanded our world in so many ways that we struggle to accurately convey, yet we'll try to share some of that with you in upcoming blog posts.
We were excited to get to be part of a family outing with Ben's family this weekgoing to the circus! 

Although we aren't able to make plans too far out right now since we're trying to get jobs situated as soon as possible, we really look forward to reconnecting with everyone from Delaware, North Carolina, and Ohio during August and September. If you're in one of those states and want to be sure we get time to connect with you, let us know so that we can start setting plans in motion. Thanks for your continued support and prayers during this time! 


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer Camp—Dorcas House Style

I honestly love being able to keep up with seeing what's going on at home through Facebook. While the site sometimes has its downsides, for me living overseas it makes it feel like I don't live quite so far away. Something I've been noticing a lot lately on my news feed are the pictures of people's kids or teens having fun at summer camps and youth retreats. I chuckle because while I feel very disconnected from that world and barely even register that it's actually summertime in America, I also just got to spend a week at “summer camp” myself here in Burkina. And not only that, but I got to do it alongside some wonderful ladies from my home church in Ohio!
The sign welcoming our group to the first day of camp at Dorcas House

My two worlds have collided in Burkina Faso twice before, where groups from my hometown of Lima, Ohio, were able to spend time in my current home of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. First my family came to visit this last December, and then a team of men from my home church, Shawnee Alliance, came in January to drill wells. Both of those experiences were very special for me, and this past week, I got to add a third experience to that list, as Shawnee Alliance sent a team of ladies to Ouagadougou to put on a special camp at a young women's center here called Dorcas House.
The team from Shawnee Alliance along with several of us from Envision and two from Nyack

Dorcas House is a life-changing two-year program for girls that was started in 2008 by a partnership between former Burkina missionary Amy Nehlsen and some ladies of the local church. Most of girls in the Dorcas House program are in their late teens or early twenties and are at risk because of poverty, lack of formal education, or other hard circumstances in their lives. The thirty girls live at the center, and this program then trains them in sewing, agriculture, literacy, and biblical understanding. Each time I visit the girls at Dorcas House, I'm blown away by their knowledge of the Bible, their sweet servant hearts, and their enthusiasm for both work and play.
One of the Dorcas House teachers displaying the freshly-ground peanut butter made right there at the center
(notice also the grinder at work in the background)

It was a beautiful week, and I enjoyed each day of getting to hang out, build friendships, and grow in Jesus with both the American and the Burkinabé girls. Despite the language barrier that the team had to overcome, meaningful relationships were formed. That sisterly bonding that happens between women is something to treasure when there's no one-upping each other or seeking special recognition but instead it is about bettering one another and genuinely enjoying each other's company. My heart is so full right now from the privilege that I had during those ten days to have spent so much time serving and laughing and sharing and worshipping alongside these forty-or-so ladies.
The girls listening as Amy taught from Scripture
One of the many times of everyone worshipping God together through dancing,
which is very much a part of Burkinabé culture

Just to give you a little better idea of what our time at camp looked like, I want to mention what the daily schedule included. For each of the five days of the camp that the Shawnee team had organized, we would have breakfast at 7, a personal devotion/team meeting time at 8, morning session with the Dorcas House girls at 9 (which included singing, dancing, and a Bible lesson taught by a team member), small group time around 11 (which was for memorizing the daily Bible verse going with the lesson, eating snacks, and doing team-building activities), crafts around 12, lunch at 1, rest time after that, a health lesson at 3, game time about 4 (everything from water balloons to frisbee to volleyball), dinner around 7, and snacks and testimonies around the campfire to end each night.
A few of the Dorcas House girls enjoying frisbee for their first time
The girls displaying the bags they made during craft time on the first day of camp

Each day was a very full day with so many fun things for the Dorcas House girls, much like the experience that many American kids are currently getting when they go off to Christian summer camps or youth retreats, but our time with them was ultimately all about Jesus and it seemed like the lessons they were taught were truths they'll hang onto. In fact, the most exciting thing of the week was that seven girls prayed to give their lives to Christ for the first time, and twelve girls are planning to be baptized this month!
Jess and me with the pink group—our small group for the week

I was so blessed to get to be a small part of leading this Dorcas House camp. God worked in big ways, and I pray that this experience will continue to be a spark for growth in the lives of everyone involved, including the other American leaders and me. What a privilege it was to get to “go to camp” this summer and to have made these wonderful memories as Ben and I now are (with very mixed emotions) getting ready to leave Burkina Faso in just sixteen days.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Youth Group

Ben and I sat on stools in the middle of a circle of about thirty teens, sweat dripping down every face in the crowd due to being crammed into a living room with lots of Burkina heat and no AC. These were students of many different ages, different countries of origin, and different reasons for their families living in Burkina. Some attend the international school, some French schools, and some homeschool. Yet all of them came together this particular Thursday night, as with every Thursday night, to have fun with other English-speakers, worship God, and learn about Him together. This time, however, was different than the usual WIRED youth group meeting because there we sat, in the middle of the crowd, with hands covering our shoulders, arms, and knees—the place where you sit to be prayed over if you're about to be leaving Burkina Faso.

WIRED has this tradition of praying over people when they move because the international community here in Burkina is used to many people coming and going. If fact, there were about eight of the teens we also prayed over who wouldn't be back next year either because they're moving or graduating. It's just a part of life that these third culture kids grow up with and are usually pretty used to by the time they reach their teen years.
Molly with some of her small group girls

So it was our turn to say goodbye. We won't be in Burkina when WIRED starts back up again in the fall, so during the last youth group meeting of this school year, we were urged into the center of the room where we got covered in the sweet prayers of this group of teens that had come to be so dear to us. We had spent nearly every Thursday night since we'd gotten to Burkina with these guys, and we didn't like to see it come to an end.
Ben playing guitar for worship at youth camp in May

It's hard for me to describe these teens because in a way, the international youth group here in Ouagadougou is just like one in America, but in another sense, it's very different. Youth groups in America might go on mission trips to Africa; international teens here have the “mission trip” in their backyards and are used to being a part of that community. Youth groups in America most often minister to kids primarily from one area; the youth group here ministers to kids originally from many countries all over the world. Youth groups in America usually have teens running around full of crazy energy; the teens here are like that too!
Some of the WIRED students doing a service project and helping with lunchtime at a local school

We love the things about this group that make them different from average teens, though. It's a beautiful thing when so many young people from different backgrounds come together to worship God. We've loved spending each Thursday night with them at youth group, helping with small groups, doing service projects with them, helping at camp and sleepovers and 30-Hour Famine, Ben assisting with worship band practice and speaking at youth group a couple of times, me leading middle school girls' Bible study, and both of us just getting the chance to get to know these awesome students and getting be a small part of their growth in their walks with God.
Ben during one of the times that he gave the message at WIRED

As I've thought about it, I've realized that this was really just the first of many aspects of our normal lives here that are starting to come to a close for us, as we will be moving back to the States from Burkina on August 1. We've already started saying goodbye to quite a few people we've grown close to here who either have moved recently or who will be visiting their home countries over the summer and won't be back to Burkina until after we've left. It's hard thinking about the next year's youth events and many other ministries here continuing on without us, but we do believe God has a different plan for us after this chapter ends, and we look forward to continuing to follow wherever He leads us.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

An Unexpected Gift

I have greatly enjoyed this season of drilling.  It is very fulfilling to spend time celebrating a newly-completed well alongside locals and missions teams.  The part that I have not yet shared much about is the times that we get a dry hole at a village and have to leave them with no well.

Praying for the drilling

This happened at one village called Sideradougou.  The Friends in Action drilling organization that we partner with has had a number of dry attempts at a well there. Their first time there, they tried drilling in two different locations in the village before having to move on without success.  The second time that they returned to drill at Sideradougou, Molly and I were part of that drilling team.  We spent a day and a half drilling in a third location there to attempt to get a well for the village, but all we got was a dry hole with lots of dust. 

Molly with some of our team members from Georgia

When packing up to leave for the next village, we were all a bit discouraged with not being able to get a well for this village in need of a water source.  We were, of course, quite disappointed that we still had not been able to hit water for this central village in the church's district that wanted it so desperately. However, as we sat down at a church and ate dinner with the team and the local pastor, we still were joking around and laughing together as we always do on drilling trips.  After we had finished dinner, a couple of the team members expressed concern that it might have looked bad to the locals that we didn't seem more upset about not being able to get a successful well.

We quickly learned that the opposite was actually true. The next morning as we packed up to leave, the pastor approached us and wanted to give us a gift: a couple of chickens and a goat.  He told us that the local believers who had been there the night before at dinner were amazed by the joy that we still had at the end of the day after working hard for many hours only to have a dry hole to show for it.

The local pastor (brown shirt) with the district pastor (striped shirt) and local believers
The story doesn't end there, though. In April while we were in the U.S., yet another Friends in Action team went back to Sideradougou to drill once more near the church.  A day or two of work later, they had a good flowing well in a location close to the church.  The church and locals now finally have a nearby source of water as a result of this fourth drilling attempt!

It is not always easy to see the whole picture of what God is doing and can be frustrating when things do not go as planned.  This is evidenced in that some of the previous dry wells would have been in less ideal locations that were farther away from the church, but this one is close by in a good location.  I was so glad to hear the report that the village finally has water after multiple dry holes.  God is so very good!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Year Overview

Here is a video that we have been using while speaking on furlough.  We have greatly enjoyed being able to share with others about our year in Burkina.  Thanks to Shawnee Alliance and Christ Memorial for the opportunity to share about our internship.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Upcoming Visit Home

In just a few days from now, we're going to be going on a trip that's kind of a big deal to us; we're visiting America for the first time in a year! It's pretty strange to think that we've been gone for that length of time, but we are so excited to get to go back and see the many people whom we've missed for the past year. 

We do have several things while we're back there that we need to take care of due to our internship extension, as we weren't anticipating being in Burkina past March 2015 and had only prepared accordingly. We'll need to work on getting renewed driver licenses and international licenses, gathering documents for completing taxes, going to dentist appointments and hopefully getting general checkups, and raising the rest of the amount of funding we need for the extra few months that we'll spend in Burkina. The timing for this works out perfectly, not only because we need to complete these tasks but also because Envision is not hosting any teams in Burkina during April, making this the ideal down time to spend away on this visit before teams begin to come again in May. Mostly, we're just really looking forward to spending time with our families and other people from back home.

Because our flight will be going through Istanbul, Turkey, and the plane ticket doesn't cost any more to stop there for a few days than it does to just sit in the airport on a layover, we decided to spend several days exploring that city on our way home. After those few days, we'll be flying into Washington, D.C. on April 3 and will be met by Ben's parents and siblings who live just a couple of hours away from there. 

Here is our schedule for where we'll be staying while we're back in the States:

  • April 3 - April 9: Dover, Delaware 
  • April 9 - April 24: Lima, Ohio
  • April 24 - May 3: Dover, Delaware
If you are near one of these places and would want to plan a time to go out for coffee or dinner so we can catch up, we'd love for you to contact us about doing that. We're really eager to share about our experiences with everyone back home and are working to be able to put into words just how much we've seen God at work throughout this last year.

Also, you're invited to come hear us speak! 
  • In Lima: We will be sharing on Sunday, April 19 at Shawnee Alliance Church's Dorcas House Fundraiser Dinner which starts at approximately 12:15 PM. Tickets for the dinner should be purchased in advance, and you can see the information on that below:
    • A beef/noodle dinner will be held following the 11:00 a.m. service on Sunday, April 19, West Campus. Cost is $6.00 Adult, $4.00 (ages 4-10), under 4 Free. Ticket sales have already begun in the church lobbies and the church office. Following the meal, Ben and Molly Collins will be present to share an update on their internship with C&MA/Envision in Burkina Faso, and the Dorcas House Team will be introduced.

So we are very much looking forward all that this next month will bring, and we hope to see many of you in April before our return to Burkina Faso for May through the beginning of August! 


Monday, March 23, 2015

A Year Later

Exactly one year ago today, Ben and I arrived in this new, overwhelmingly hot, dry, mostly Muslim/Animist country where we were committed to spend the next year. Thinking back to that day a year ago, I can tell you with great happiness that I am not the same person who stepped off that plane on March 23, 2014. God has done countless new things in my life while serving in Burkina Faso.
Some common sights of the countryside of Burkina: cows, termite mounds, and fields. 

Back during our first several months of living in Burkina, Ben and I would randomly turn to each other and say with amazement, “We live in Africa?!” It's funny to think back to when everything was so new and foreign. We had very little idea going into the year what we should expect, but God did. He put lots of people in our path early on to help us get acquainted with life in a new country where we initially didn't know more than five words of the language. The other Envision missionaries were all a huge help to us in getting settled, and we were also pleasantly surprised to find a large international community full of genuinely loving, English-speaking people (the English-speaking part is especially helpful for me, given my lacking language skills). These many people have become dear to us throughout this last year, and Burkina Faso now feels like a second home in many ways.
Me with a few of my good friends I've made here
Ben and one of his good friends he has made in Burkina

Coming into this internship, we really had no clue. We didn't realize how much we'd see that God provides for His children when they are following His leading. We didn't realize how perfect God's timing was in that we needed to be here to help during this particular year (and now will excitedly continue to be here several months beyond originally planned). We didn't realize how many new things we'd learn about culture and poverty and missions. We (specifically I) didn't realize how many more things we were capable of doing than what we would have thought before we started all of this.

Yes, at some moments we might wish that we could be elsewhere, like when we're out all day working in 100+ degree heat that drains you of all energy; or when the electricity is out for hours on end; or when we have yet another car problem from the abuse vehicles take on the bumpy dirt roads; or when we feel far away and disconnected from friends and family. But would I now trade this past year of so many unexpected and new things for the year of “predictability” that I nearly chose instead by almost not even applying for this internship? Absolutely not. Like I said before, God provides.
Charging elephants that we saw on a safari
Back in March of 2013 when we started considering this, Ben and I had felt God's tug on our hearts to do missions work somewhere at some time. We didn't know if Burkina Faso was where He was calling us when the possibility was first introduced to us, and we weren't sure if it was the right timing. But doors started opening and we kept following where He seemed to be leading, praying that He would direct our path. As we continued stepping out in faith, just one baby step at a time—visiting Burkina for a week in August 2013, turning in our application for the internship with Envision, sending out letters asking for support, speaking at some small groups and churches, announcing our departure date, packing up our house, getting on a plane knowing we wouldn't be back for a year—God confirmed to us numerous times that this internship is exactly what He wanted us to do, and He has continued to show us throughout this year that we are, indeed, right where He wants us at this time. It's amusing for me to think now about how much time I spent fretting about whether or not God was really calling us here; thankfully I've grown to trust Him more since then.
With my group of girls during camp at Dorcas House - one of my favorite things I've gotten to do since being here

If you've kept up with our blog, you can see that we've gotten to be involved with quite a variety of different projects and people during our internship. The fact that we've done so well being here and that we've had any bit of influence in this last year was truly God, not us, and we praise Him for all of it. Reflecting back now, here are some of the highlights we've had:

  • Working with fifteen teams of Americans here on short-term trips doing things like church hangar construction, well drilling, ESOL camp, Dorcas House camp, handicapped bike distributions, Compassion visits, orphanage visits, TOMS shoe distributions, and a variety of other things.
  • Getting to know people from all over the world who live in Burkina—from many different states in the U.S., Canada, Northern Ireland, England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Brazil, a few different African countries, several Asian countries, and more.
  • Working alongside Burkinabé pastors and other believers as they do evangelism nights in the bush—showing evangelistic films (using a generator) and preaching in remote areas without power or running water—and seeing people come to Christ.
  • Learning about the variety of missions groups and ministries in this country, and seeing how so many of them willingly work together to spread God's Word.
  • Helping as leaders at the international youth group for English-speaking teens, a ministry that we would never have realized is so needed in this country, and getting to know many of the great teens whose parents work here.
  • Being a part of the Envision team—having great leaders has made such a positive impact in our lives.
  • Learning how to be independent in this country—speaking very basic French, driving in the busy traffic, knowing what groceries are and aren't available in order to plan meals, getting used to bartering in the market, and adjusting to the heat (as much as one can).
Sweet boys watching the hangar-building work taking place

All of this barely scratches the surface of all of the memories are flooding my mind today as I think back over the last year. The biggest thing that keeps coming to mind is “Thank you, God!” He has carried us through the good days and the bad ones. We've tried our best to trust God with the unknown days ahead (sometimes failing to trust very well), and He indeed has directed our paths, just as Proverbs 3:5-6 says: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” It a nerve-wrecking thing to submit your ways to God and venture into the unknown, but if He is directing you to do something, we've discovered firsthand that He is more than able to provide and He brings about blessings in unexpected ways. He has brought so many people along with us in this journey to support us in prayer, finances, encouragement, and friendship, and that aspect alone has been a huge blessing in my life. I have so much to be thankful for.
Ben and me with a well we had just helped drill

After our month-long visit back to Delaware and Ohio in April, we're now looking forward to continuing on in Burkina for several months longer than planned. Please pray with us that God will continue to direct our paths, as once we've completed the extension of our internship at the beginning of August, we don't currently know where He has us going next. I do know that if it's anything like this experience has been, it will be quite an exciting journey to be on!


Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Tale of Ouo

For some time, the village of Ouo (pronounced "Whoa") had one drilled well and it belonged to the Muslims.  The Muslims would not allow the Christians to use the well most of the time, and if they did, it would only be at a special time when others were not using it.  This left the local believers with no good local source for water.

A few years ago, Friends in Action (our partner well-drilling organization) drilled a well by the Christian church in Ouo.  After the well was put in, the Muslims approached the local believers saying, now that the believers had a well, they could use their new well and the Muslims could use their own separate well.  The Christians, however, did not want to reject anyone from the new well, and told them that their well was for everyone to use, Christians and Muslims alike.

The original well by the church in Ouo

The imam (Muslim leader) of the local mosque was amazed by the grace and mercy extended by the Christians in the area with sharing this well.  The imam's youngest daughter was also amazed by what happened and became interested in the church.  He allowed his daughter to attend church, and has allowed her to remain part of the family since becoming a believer herself.  This is extremely abnormal, as a Muslim family would typically excommunicate a family member for leaving Islam and becoming a Christian, especially a daughter.

The Christian daughter, Muslim imam, and local Christian pastor

Throughout our time drilling, the daughter worked hard to help us.  She filled barrels of water for us to use for bathing and for drilling.  The closest water source was a few kilometers away, and she brought water to fill the large barrels bucket by bucket.

On this last drilling trip at the end of February, the team of guys out here from West Ridge Church in Georgia worked with Friends in Action to put a well in the village where the imam lives (7 kilometers away from Ouo).  The area that we drilled in was a Fulani village (a semi-nomadic Islamic people group that is hard to reach).  There was no church in the area, but the well was put in under one condition: the village was to allow the area pastor to come and speak.

Praying over the first well attempt

We lost the first attempt at a well, but God blessed us with a great water source on the second attempt.  The village was soon buzzing with the news about the well and questions about the people there to drill it.  Why would these people care to come from far away to give us a well?  Why would they provide water for us when we do not believe the same thing as them?  What does this local Christian pastor have to say?  

Hitting water at the second well site

Providing new opportunities for the local believers to advance the message of Jesus Christ is what's truly at the heart of these well-drilling trips, and this was so clearly put into action during our time drilling in Ouo. 


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Video for Missions Week

Here is a Skype interview that we did with our home church - Shawnee Alliance - for Missions Week.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Girls Rockin' the Well Drilling

If you've followed much of what we've posted regarding well drilling, you might have noticed that it's usually just men doing this type of ministry. There's a good reason whyit involves a lot of long hours of manual labor in the hot sun, day after day. Thus, this type of a mission trip tends to have more appeal to men. However, this past week, I had the privilege of getting to join in on one of these well-drilling weeks thanks to Chelsea, an awesome girl on the team from Georgia who gladly signed up for a week of roughing it in the bush of Africa to do missions on what's typically "a man's trip." Since Engage/Envision wouldn't send just one girl out to drill with all guys, her coming on the team meant that I got to go out drilling, too.
The drilling team minus Ben (who was taking the picture)

Now at this point, I've been living in Burkina for eleven months, and because working with short-term mission teams is Ben's and my main job, I've been on lots of trips to the bush; I'm used to the situations where we must drive for many hours to reach our destination, sleep outside, eat whatever local food we're served, take bucket baths, use the bathroom in inconvenient places, and so on. However, even with being prepared for what the conditions would be like, I knew going into it that doing a six-day drilling trip wouldn't quite feel the same as doing the normal four-day church-hangar-building trip that I always love. I was feeling somewhere in between eagerness to be a part of this new kind of ministry and uneasiness as to whether or not I'd enjoy living in the bush for nearly a week plus doing manual labor all day long each day. 
Ben and me with some of the locals right after we installed the pump on the first well we drilled

As it turned out, I was extremely glad that I got to be a part of this drilling trip. Not only did I really enjoy hanging out with Chelsea, I also enjoyed getting to know all of the guys on the two teams from Georgia and Wisconsin, learning what all happens on a well trip (prior to this, I had only helped with one well drilled in Ouaga), and being a part of giving people physical and spiritual water. 
Ben and me in front of the dusty drilling site with the drilling rig at work

A great story from this trip: At the site of the first well we drilled, a missionary from that area met up with us and did an evangelism night after we had finished drilling for the evening. It drew a large crowd of peopleabout 400 was the estimatesince many in the area had realized throughout the day that the well-drilling team was working plus a movie screen and loudspeakers always seem to draw a crowd in the bush. Although those of us drilling were all so worn out from our work that we weren't directly a part of this, the missionary showed the Jesus film near our well site and he and the local pastors preached, and forty people raised their hands wanting to give their lives to Jesus. Our team was overjoyed that so many new believers came to Christ, some of which were surely drawn there through the curiosity and questions that the well drilling sparks. This is the whole point of this ministryto draw people to the living water through the process of bringing them the physical water
Mark from Friends in Action directing two of the guys on the team on how to jet the well at our first drilling site
Another story: Our team of twelve ended up being able to drill three wells in five days, with the second of those wells being dry. It was the people of that area's reaction to the dry well, though, that was one of the most incredible things we experienced all week. After we all had spent an entire day's work of drilling in addition to a few hours the night before when we had arrived at that village of Sideradougou, the drill reached its maximum depth at 300 feet without hitting any water. It was pretty heart-wrenching, as a small crowd of disappointed Burkinabé looked on, to shovel dirt back into the dry hole that had taken nearly a day and a half to drill yet took less than ten minutes to refill. In fact, Friends in Action, the well-drilling organization, had actually tried two previous times to drill wells for this village, with both of them ending up dry. So this was the third time that we've been unable to give water to this church that wants it so badly because of its position as the central meeting place for the churches in that district. 
Our team praying over the difficult drilling situation
Chelsea and me on the drill site with some unexpected
extras joining in behind us for the photo ;)

We were all disappointed, of course, because we also very much wanted water for these people who have waited for it for so long, but at dinner late that evening, we still joked and enjoyed each other's company as usual. A few guys later brought up their concern that it might have looked to the villagers like we didn't care that we couldn't hit water for them. Yet on the contrary, the next morning as we were leaving, the area pastor let us know just how grateful and encouraged the believers there were that we tried to get water for them. He also said that they were pleased to see from our laughing and upbeat chatter the night before that the joy of God remained in our hearts even after putting in all of that work with no results. They then presented us with half a sack of corn and several chickens. How humbling it is to think that we were unable to give them the water that they so desperately wanted and yet they were so grateful for our efforts and our time spent with them that they would gift us with their very best things! 
The sweet kids at Sideradougou who loved playing games with us

I know that we were an encouragement to them through our many fun interactions with them and through our labor of love in trying to get them water, but they were just as much an encouragement to all of us through their response to having to yet again face the disappointment of not getting their own well. This kind of a reaction forces me to thinkDo I react with complete thankfulness to God and to others even when things don't go my way? When what I had been praying for and working for and hoping for doesn't happen? I think that all too often, the answer to this for all of us is "no." These Burkinabé believers were such an example of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18—"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus"—as us not hitting water affected us that one day but will continue to affect their everyday. 
Chelsea and me holding out bubble wands for the kids to blow

On a side note: my "low" of the week was experiencing something I had hoped I'd never have to: taking bucket baths completely out in the open because there was no other choice. Thankfully, both times that this was the only option, it was dark out and Chelsea and I took turns standing guard for one another and helping look out for anyone that might be walking our way. It's not going to go down in the books as my favorite experience, but I guess I'm a little tougher for it! On another side note, Sideradougou is the village with the nicest bathroom setup I have yet to see (as far as village bathrooms go), so I actually got the best experience and the worst all in one week. :)
Our camp site with the nice bathroom in view on the back left side. It's an open-top stall like always, but it has a door that locks, foot steps on either side of the hole so you don't have to stand in waste, and it even has a little hole cover to help keep flies away. It may not sound great, but I'm telling you, if you've seen other bush bathrooms, this one is impressive!