A GA Leader Goes to Burkina Faso

“You are going where?” I heard that question again and again as I told my friends of my next exciting missions adventure with God — going to Burkina Faso to help begin missions education for children. Preparation for this trip recalled one of my earliest mission studies as a new GA leader — missions in Upper Volta. I remembered my group of GAs making paper replica maps of the butterfly-shaped country and learning to spell and pronounce the name of the capital.

“Can you say Ouagadougou?” French is the official language of Burkina Faso, although this country’s heritage is primarily Mossi with the Mooré language widely spoken. With a low literacy rate for those over age 15, the challenges before me were for much more than the pronunciation of Ouagadougou [oh-WAH-gah-DOO-goo]. How would I help women understand the need for missions education and discipleship and equip them to begin?

“How in the world?” It has been a privilege and a joy as a WMU leader to encourage and equip women in many areas of the United States to begin missions discipleship for children with GA, RA and CA in our churches. Those audiences almost always spoke the same language, had sufficient education to be able to read and understand the printed resources from WMU and could rely on a church budget to support the new organizational needs. Burkina Faso would be a completely different world for facilitating an introduction to missions education and for equipping women to begin children’s groups. How in the world would this be accomplished?

“ . . . in all things at all times, having all that you need . . . ” (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV). God gave me this verse as a spiritual anchor of grace for serving Him in a new way in 2010. Later, these three short phrases spoke to me of His assurance to meet the physical and sociological needs as I prepared for my journey to Burkina Faso. During times of prayer for the Burkinabe people and for the missionaries serving there with them, I was reminded of the great love God has for them and that this adventure was born in His heart, put on the heart of the women in churches both out in the bush and in the cities and translated to me for His missions purposes in young lives in West Africa. There would be no obstacle to the teaching, and His purposes would be achieved if I were careful to follow His plan.

“How can I serve without light?” As the plane’s pilot announced our approach to the international airport in Ouagadougou, I couldn’t see anything out of my window. But then suddenly, a partially lit city emerged and the airport runway was beneath us. Stories from my missionary contact of how the electrical grid often malfunctions for several days became a major concern. How would light be provided in our gatherings, and how would missions education enlightenment come to these women without the slideshow presentation illustrations? God answered our prayers with power — electrical power that was working whenever the teaching began.

 

              

 

“To travel is to live,” said Hans Christian Andersen. Too often when it comes to opportunities for leadership development in the United States the attendance is lower than hoped for. Why? Leaders are content with what they already know and do not want to travel. The Burkinabe women put us to shame with their walking through the bush, across rivers and finally into a city some had never visited before. Some traveled for two days with a baby on their backs, a toddler at their sides and a bag of bedding, clothing and food on their heads. Some took daylong bus rides, sharing the seats with chickens and seemingly two hundred other people spilling out of the small bus. The church filled with weary travelers who knew that for missions to live in the next generations, they must travel.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4). This is just what the weary travelers did. Entering the church gates, greeting old friends and making new friends suddenly dispelled the weariness. The joy of singing praise songs and dancing before the Lord in their beautiful, colorful dresses and headscarves replaced the weariness.

“Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh my!” I never encountered any of the animals we think of in Africa. Nor did I, like Dorothy on her way to Oz, have any fears. My great adventure with God to Burkina Faso was filled with the beautiful faces of women and men eager to learn about missions education for their children; filled with the glorious sounds of women and men praising God, drowning out the Muslim call to prayer; filled with the simultaneous translation of English teaching into French and five other tribal languages; and filled with the serious responses of women committing to disciple children in a missions lifestyle.

I hope you will enjoy your adventure in Burkina Faso this month and, like the Burkinabe women, commit to disciple children in a missions lifestyle.

 

Debby Akerman is a GA leader in South Carolina, has served as the president of national WMU (2010–2015), and currently serves as Baptist Nursing Fellowship president-elect. Debby loves helping others discover the joy of missions and equipping women to lead children in a missions lifestyle.

 

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