Wow! To say that Burkina Faso has changed since Tammy and I were last here would be an understatement. Though the culture and chaos are very familiar, there are many things that have so changed that we’re struggling, much of the time, just to figure out where we’re at. There are many more paved roads, concrete buildings, and even more motos on the road than before. Bicycles and Donkeys and carts, which were once Ouagadougou traffic’s worst enemies, have now almost disappeared from the big city replaced by the Apsonic three-wheel motorcycle/truck (Ouagadougou traffic’s new worst enemies!).
The villages are still villages, of course, but Ouagadougou is not the Ouagadougou we left six years ago. Unlike when everything we thought huge as kids seems small when we get older, everything in Burkina seems bigger than we remember it. We even had to call Mike Hillhouse to make sure we were still on the right dirt road to get to Tensuka, where I was to preach two Sunday’s ago, because it seemed so much further than we remembered and a handful of new buildings had gone up we didn’t recognize.
Among the most exciting changes we’ve experienced so far, however, has been seeing the faithfulness of those we left behind and their kids. Several pastors have come to see us and I’ve had several opportunities to preach. Burkina Faso is a tough work so most Bible teaching churches are small, but the fruit of past ministry is still evident. Pastors have clearly matured as they’ve faced opposition and the normal challenges of life in a third world country and stuck it out. And again, so many kids who were so much a part of our lives during our earlier ministry in Burkina are now all grown up. The toddlers are now ten, the tens are now teens, and many of the teens have now married and moved away.
It really has been amazing that, in spite of the incredible changes that have occurred in Burkina over the last several years that the relationships seem hardly to have changed at all. Every time we run into a church member, or even just someone with whom we’d developed a friendship in the village, it’s like we never left. They’re as warm, or warmer, toward us as they were before and that has meaning to us because it reminds us of the reality that our ministry here had meaning.
I recently heard a person who was reflecting on the challenges of her former work comment that we rarely enjoy adventures when we’re experiencing them. Ministry adventures are little different. As I’ve often commented in an effort to motivate and encourage others, real ministry is always messy. To minister means to serve the Lord by serving people whose lives are a mess, whose circumstances are often overwhelming, and for whom we often feel we have few answers. But we plow ahead attempting to apply Biblical truth, though it often seems impractical, believing that God will make something of what looks like guaranteed failure from our perspective and He does.
It’s amazing how good what we thought a mess doomed to failure looks after we’ve entrusted the results to the Lord. There are few vocations in life more difficult than planting churches among unreached peoples, but I don’t believe there are any that can match its rewards. Thank you Lord for the changes you make in lives that make the investment of our lives meaningful!