Saturday, February 25, 2012

Children's Crusade in Bobo-Diolasso

It was over 110 degrees...but I LOVED it!  Jesus is awesome!

Daniel 7:14

So you know that book, Where the Sidewalk Ends?  That’s where I live :).  The pavement ends, then the road continues on in dirt for a few more meters, and there I am!   Or there we are, rather; that’s the entrance to SIL.  The guards are all wonderful and by now have discovered that I don’t speak French, so they just greet me and ask where I’m going and what room is mine.  And then inside the compound is beautiful because it’s green, which a nice escape from the desert.  Almost all of my neighbors work for Wycliff, working on some stage of translating the Bible in to local languages. 

One of my neighbors, a lady from Switzerland, said that she has lived and worked in Burkina Faso for 30 years (I’m so jealous!) and has been writing the Bible in one of the languages in Banfora.  The best part is that she said they just finished typesetting the New Testament, had it printed, and the first load of New Testaments are in trucks and on their way to Burkina Faso right now!  She said that the tribe will receive the shipment on April 14th.  I was soooooo excited!  Ever since I heard about Wycliff, I’ve thought it was a wonderful organization.  And now to see it in action…it really is amazing.  Imagine – a goal of having the Bible printed in every one of the 6,912 languages in the world.  I keep thinking about how different my life would be if I had grown up without a Bible to read in my own language.  I look in to the eyes of these sweet children and desire with everything inside of me that they could have a Bible all their own to read, also.

I remember many many evenings when I was growing up, sitting around the fireplace on the living room floor with my sister and leaning against my dad as my mother read to us from the Bible.  Even though I was sometimes bored and wanted to read a novel instead, I know now that those times shaped me in to who I am today.  As a matter of fact, everything that I am today is shaped by the Biblical influence that I grew up with.  I think about how blessed I am because of that.  And then I think about the 13% literacy rate of Burkina Faso.  Eighty-seven percent of these precious children don’t get to have the Bible read to them at night. Did Daniel not say, "All people, nations, and languages will worship Him?" ( Daniel 7:13,14).  That therefore must include every one of the 1000+ languages on the continent of Africa.  Oh Jesus, send workers to the harvest field of West Africa. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lundi, le 13 février

This morning it was harder than it has been.  I hadn’t been able to fall asleep until very late, and so I woke up very tired and overwhelmed with culture shock.  I walked around getting ready, not trying very hard to fight off the feelings of, “What am I even doing here?”  “I feel useless.”  “This is pointless.  I can’t even communicate.”  The missionaries warned me that I would get to this point.  I felt terrible, and I felt guilty about feeling terrible. 

So I hit my knees.  “Oh God, help me.  I’m sorry I’m giving in to these feelings.  I’m being selfish.  I know you brought me here and that this is your will in my life.  I have no strength today.  Be my strength.  I can’t do this alone.  I need you.  Help me today to love you so much that it bubbles over and embraces those around me.  Walk with me.  Please.  You’re all I have.” 

And then I got up and rode my bike to Bible college.  And now, at the end of the day, it’s strange…because it’s not that I really feel any different.  I still feel inadequate.  I’m still struggling with trying to make my heart and my mind reside in Africa, rather than my heart in Africa and my mind in Arkansas.  I still feel like I’m walking on the edge of failure.  But I smile at how amazing God is…because he taught me today.  He taught me how to feel beyond it.

I can still feel the overwhelming contentment of standing in the heat with Demanta and Rebekah (the two women at the Bible school) as they run my braid through their hands, patiently correcting my pronunciation.  I feel the excitement of knowing I had a whole conversation with them in French/English/sign language as I struggle to communicate with them just a little more than yesterday. 

I feel the laughter that the ladies and I shared when Pastor Jack stopped dead in his tracks at his first sight of my hair this morning. 

I feel their hugs as they wish me goodbye and safe journey and please come and see them tomorrow. 

I feel the wind cooling me down as I zip past the market, breathing in the scent of fresh fruit, and the sun scorching my neck as I stop at a stoplight with two dozen other bicyclers, all smiling at me and greeting, “Bonjour!”   

I feel my bike start to wobble as I let go with one hand to high-five a group of school children who are running past me, shouting, “Nasalla, Nasalla!  Sa va?”  (‘white person, white person!  How are you?) 

I feel the calloused handshake of my ‘favorite’ person here at SIL as he grins that huge African grin and asks me to please turn around so he can ‘be mystified’ by my hair. 

I feel the coolness of a Coca-Cola in my hand as I stand talking to the guard, speaking slowly in French and looking at him expectantly to fill in the gaps of my sentences with words I don’t know. 

And I feel the familiar creases of my Bible cover as I open it and read about Jacob, who left behind his home and his family and the comforts of an established way of life to travel alone to a strange land and new people.  He had no one but God.  I read of Jacob and I think of that day so many years ago when I first knew the draw of Africa…and I feel at home.     

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Universal Language

They say that music is the universal language.
Well I've never understood language barriers like I have since I got to Burkina Faso.  It frustrates me because I'm chatty and I want SO much to talk to all the people who surround me when I ride my bike across town.  I want to ask them about themselves.  I want to invite them to church.  I want to explain why I'm on a bicycle trying to hard to be like them, to be a part of them.  At first I thought we weren't communicating at all.  But this week I began to see it differently. 

At church last week,  the pastor began service by saying that he was thankful for the missionaries, Ken and Gin, and that he was thankful for the new young missionary lady that was visiting from the States.  Because he was talking about me, Gin leaned over to translate.  He said, "We are thankful for our new friend, whom we love already!"  I turned a huge smile to the congregation as the all clapped and cheered in agreement, and he continued, "And we can tell that she loves us, too.  And it is obvious that she loves our children.  We have been observing her as she watches our children, and we can see that she loves our children very much."  And then he asked me, via Ken as translator, to "come and speak to our children."  I had nothing prepared, but as I walked to the group of children and looked into their beautiful faces,  I decided to tell them the story of Samuel, how he was a great prophet who was called of God when he was just a little boy.  I told them that God loves children and he speaks to children.  I told them that God loves them, that I love them, and that I want them to love God with all their hearts.  As I spoke, I couldn't help but reach out and run my hand over their heads and caress their sweet soft faces, smiling without even realizing it.

When I sat down, one tiny little boy ran over and threw himself in my lap, saying not a word but looking up at me with laughing eyes that said, "Hi! I like you, white lady!" I laughed and kissed him and told him that I loved him.  He toddled over and took his sister's hand and brought her to me, as well.  On the drive home, the three little boys who ride with us took it upon themselves to give me a vocabulary lesson in French and in Moree.  They made me repeat after them until I sounded just like them, and squealed in laughter when I pronounced something incorrectly, sometimes collapsing into giggles and patting my arms and hands.  When they got tired of that, little Robert silently took my hand to hold in both of his and laid his head on my shoulder.  I decided that there wasn't another place in the whole world that I would rather be. 

They say that the universal language is music.  I disagree.  I say it's love.  

Monday, February 6, 2012


I was shivering cold when I woke up this morning, which I thought was an odd, if welcome, surprise.  I opened my apartment door and blinked in further surprise.  I frowned and whispered to no one, "Is it foggy?"  The air had that dense, hazy look that comes with the thickest of fog that sometimes rolls in off the Arkansas River.  And was cold. And dark.  The air was so thick that it seemed to have texture to it.  In total confusion, I walked out in to the courtyard where other people were walking around.  I looked closely - they were all wearing masks.  "Holy cow," I thought, "it's dust!"  Sure enough, what had appeared to be fog was in fact sand from the Sahara so thick that it was actually blocking out the sun.  It was obviously daylight outside, but the dust was so thick that it looked like a heavily overcast day.  When I got in the missionaries' car, Gin greeted me with, "Welcome to Harmattan!" and laughed when I told her I had though it was fog.  Everyone we passed was wearing some sort of cloth mask over their nose and mouth, and the dust continued to block the sun all day to the extent that I was actually cold during my French lesson.  When I got back to my apartment, I decided to make a cup of coffee to warm up.  I tied a bandana across my mouth and nose and walked next door to the kitchen, where I found some neighbors cooking lunch, each one also wearing a mask to block out the dust.  I laughed when I saw myself in the mirror.  "I look like a bandit.  And I'm here as a missionary."  Every time I took the bandana off, no matter if I was inside or outside, I noticed that everything smells like an old, dusty closet that has just been opened for the first time in years.  Ive had to squint when I walk to protect my contacts.  I thought of the stories mamma used to tell about blizzards in Alaska, and I think that Harmattan must look somewhat like those white-out conditions...African style :).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fighting Language Barriers

“I do NOT want to learn French today.  I do not.”  That was my first thought as I closed my Bible and put away my coffee cup on Thursday morning.  I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before until after 4 am, and now as I waited for Ken and Gin to come and pick me up for Bible School and a two-hour French lesson, all I wanted to do was lay back down.  French took too much brain power.  One-on-one language study is VERY intense because you can’t hide behind the other students if you don’t understand.  And Pastor Abel is determined that I will learn.  Too hard today.  Nope.  

We got to the Bible College, and some of the pastor’s children were there since schools are out on Thursdays here.   Ken handed me a coin and said that on Thursdays he always bought the kids candy, so why didn’t I take them down to the little stand on the road and get them some candy.  So I took hold of a little brown hand and we started out.  We walked through potholes and over trash piles until we got to the end of the road, and then turned right and walked through more potholes and over more trash piles, bicycles and motorcycles whizzing by greeting us happily,  until we started passing stands with odd collections of things to buy.  Twice we passed a stand and I looked down at the adorable little girl beside me and asked, “Ici?  Pour bon-bons?” and she shook a braided head with a soft, “No.”  She led me to the correct stand and I squeezed past all the people standing talking and laughing outside until I found the owner.  I held up the coin and said, “Cinq cent pour bon-bon pour les enfants,” and indicated the girl and her tiny little brother, chubby-faced and already covered in dirt as only little boys can become so early in the morning.  The man nodded and handed me over four suckers, but then asked me a question in French.  I blinked at him.  A lady standing near saw that I didn’t understand and came over to explain that to the owner, talking rapidly in French.  A few other people came over to help out (people here really are very friendly and helpful) and they were all touching my arm, occasionally throwing out an English word, and chattering away in French at 100 kilometers an hour.  Then they all decided to help until it seemed that everyone who had just been outside was now inside, leaning in close and trying to tell me how to make change.  Finally they got it all figured out and handed me back some small coins, and as they continued to chatter at me and at one another with encouraging smiles and handshakes and shoulder pats, my heart swelled with love for these strangers and I changed my mind.  I DO want to learn French today.  Oh, how I want to learn French today.  I want to talk to these beautiful people, to join in the conversations must always be terribly funny because they are never not laughing.  I want to speak with these delightful children, and be able to tell them in French instead of in English that Jesus loves them as I kiss their coffee-bean-colored foreheads.  I don’t want to be an observer here.  I want to be a part of this life, this pulse of Africa.  I want to be a part of Burkina Faso.  I want to learn French today.