My Experience in Burkina Faso

By David Swanson

The day begins early enough, up at 5:30am, shower, dress, and breakfast on the porch at 6am sharp. Breakfast is the same everyday; oatmeal, fresh bread, (fetched from across the busy street), and delicious sliced fresh fruit from the local outdoor market. The weather? Well, it's going to be another hot one, at least over 100 degrees with high humidity. The sky is gray and overcast, not because of clouds, but from smoke, and exhaust created by the immense amount of traffic moving through the chaotic streets, burning trash, and the wood burning stoves of street venders preparing meals for the day.

This is my first trip to Burkina Faso, West Africa. I can't believe I'm finally here after being invited over and over by my brother who has been coming to the country for the past 25 years ministering to the Burkinabe people.

Burkina Faso, which was once known as Upper Volta, is one of the poorest countries in the world. The country was colonized by the French in the late 1800's. The name change to Burkina Faso came in 1960 when it gained independence from France. With a high population density and limited resources, most of the region remains economically suppressed. Islam has had a long history in Burkina Faso and represents around 55% of the population. Christianity has a smaller presence which is around 10% of the population.

My purpose for coming to Burkina Faso was to experience and see first hand the needs of the Burkinabe people. Aside from the basic needs for survival, like food and water, there are several other areas in which ministries can provide help to the people. The "Raise the Roof" ministry (a term coined by the Burkinabe), was one of the first ministries started in Burkina Faso. A new metal roof costing up to $1200 is placed on top of a church building that has been built of hand made mud bricks by the Burkinabe. The church once outfitted with a new roof will provide shade from the sun and the dry environment during the rare rains. Many pastors will pray for one of these roofs for several years before their prayers are answered.

The main staple, sagabou, in Burkina Faso is made from millet and sorghum. The growing season is from May through September. During this time they must have rain to help the crops grow. This past season the rain came late and was not enough. It came down in torrents and flooded some areas and washed away some homes and churches. It also washed away some of the crops. Most Burkinabe will eat a meal once a day and the meal is normally Sagabou with some variations and sauces. This year the main need of the Burkinabe will be food. Money raised from donations will buy several thousand pounds of millet and sorghum. A five pound bag may last a family of four up to a month if they have only one meal a day.

One thing I did experience while in Burkina Faso was the amazing love and faith of the Christians there. They have barely enough to survive, but what they have they will share with you knowing and trusting that God will provide for them. They are a joyful people. Their joy is contagious and comes from the Lord.

Learn more about the ministry in Burkina Faso by visiting Bukina Faso Missions

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