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.