I have to start this one by saying that I did not transition gracefully from America to Burkina like I imagined I would. I had great hopes of instantly becoming this fantastic missionary who had such compassion and made wonderfully strong bonds with every person that she came into contact with, helped the poor and needy and told everyone about Jesus. Great ideals, right? :)
After almost five months, I have about the same goal set, but with a few modifications. Like anything in life, to do something new you usually spend a little time learning how. This is a small chunk of my story. Me, just learning how to live.
They are over-crowded, underfed, dirty, hot, and like everybody in the world, working to make a living. I had one of my more philosophical friends, in a conversation, tell me that suffering is a mindset. Suffering only exists because the person suffering is not choosing to NOT suffer. His personal rant ended when I asked him about people here who still get Dysentery and have no toilet, no doctors, and no relief from the 120 degree heat. People here suffer. It's not in their minds. I know a good handful of Americans who fall into his descriptions, but people here, no.
I came willing to give away everything that I have, and I was very discouraged when I really saw things that go on here. I realized my material possessions can't even begin to make a dent in the needs of the Burkinabe. That's "Burkina-bay" for those of you just as confused on the pronunciation as I was. I new that I just needed to start out by being friendly and getting to know people. This is possibly my favorite part of ministry, the people that you get to become close friends with. But to come to that place I was facing a double language barrier. There are people here that I became friends with without talking to them. That blows my mind and is 100% a work of God. But the rest, I really had to fight to be able to build friendships.
Most Burkinabe cant afford to go to school or cant afford it until later in life. Not college, I mean elementary school. I come across so many people who speak less French than I do and I have only studied for four months. I do learn language quickly, but I'm no master. The people are genuinely impressed and look at you in a new light when you try to speak the tribal language here. Moore (More-ay) is something that I really want to spend my time learning, but I just wont be here long enough this stay and it will leave my brain once I get back to America.
There are just so many things that most people are never told about missions work. Why is that? Why is world missions so romanticized? Why is is portrayed as something blissful and easy? There are moments of bliss, oh believe me, they are priceless. I just have to wonder why no one tells about the times when Muslims throw rocks on you while you are teaching children's church? American Christianity doesn't work here. The joyful handouts of food and gifts that Americans think of, don't even work here. That's another disappointment. I was very disquieted by the fact that handouts don't go over well here. People will fight and scrap to get everything and then still feel like they didn't get enough. Its really hard for me to see the opportunistic morality that takes over sometimes. It's really hard for me to witness the hardships and know what an uphill climb this country has in every aspect of life.
It is gorgeous to me now to see what God does in places that are so desperate for Him. The bible is real here. God intervening and making things happen where it is impossible for men, that's is so evident here! Trusting God for our daily bread, that's so real I could cry right now. I gave my leftovers from a restaurant to an old lady and she acted like I gave her a new car. Instead of feeling like a good Samaritan, I felt guilty. I wish I could help more people.
I heard the most impactful message that I have heard in a while from a visiting American pastor. It hit me really hard. He spoke about the woman at the well. My first thought, "Heard it!". How horrible is that? There is always something new that we can learn from scripture no matter how many times we've "heard it". Obviously, I didn't really hear it the first times anyways. We all know the woman's story, she had had several failed marriages and was now sleeping with someone who was not her husband. In a patriarchal society very close to how it is in Burkina Faso, that could have some serious ramifications. This woman was at the well getting water, when no one else was there. I guess she knew she had a reputation and didn't want to deal with the judgement of others. Anyways, Jesus talks to her and lets her know that he knows all about her past and what she is dealing with (I could just shout about how He shows me that He is an understanding God). He tells her that he has water that will make her thirst no more. He is talking about spiritual thirst and He is talking about salvation. Now she ends up getting saved, but the point that shattered my thoughts was why she was at that well. She didn't come to the well because she was looking for men, she didn't go to find fun, or adventure, friends, she went to that well because she was thirsty!!!!
It's a basic survival skill. When you are thirsty, you go get water! She went to that well because not only was she literally thirsty, her soul was dying of dehydration! She desperately went in search of something to quench that thirst. How many times have I started snacking when I was really just thirsty? Recall to yourself when you've done that too. Think about the moments in your life when you had nothing left to do but cry out to God, because your problems were too big? What got you to that point? What made you realize that you were just snacking on things the world has but now you are dying of thirst for something that will actually fill that void?? Have you even been there?
The people here are so thirsty. They know life is hard. They are like the woman at the well, they keep coming back to things that wont satisfy. They know they are thirsty, but no one is here to show them relief.
"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
"As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." Psalm 42:1