I have just returned home from a 10 day trip to Burkina Faso, Africa. I saw hunger, disease, hope, joy, generosity. I felt hot, dusty, thirsty, loved, appreciated, encouraged, hospitality, inspired. I was filled with heart-breaking experiences that consumed my heart with compassion. I wish I could put it into one simple post and tell you what what all this means. But I cannot.
In a place that could at times seem as far away from Heaven as one could imagine…
Sunday morning we went to church with the families at the Bible school. These families come from all over Burkina Faso, and the Ivory Coast, bringing with them the languages and cultures of many different tribes. During the service we heard five different languages sung and spoken. Yet we could hear one Voice.
Two Americans and two Burkinabe sang, “Jesus Loves Me” in two different languages. Simultaneously telling us we belong. For the Bible tells me so. One world; one Bible; one Voice.
Men from several different tribes danced as they sang. Each group had a rhythm and a motion that was unique to their tribe. One man in particular, sang with the most amazing smile. I will never forget that smile as it warmed me from the inside.
Make a joyful noise all the earth! One world; one expression; one Voice.
Children, cleaned and polished and wearing what was more than likely their only nice outfit, danced with abandon as the music played. I loved that they, too, could not contain God’s love inside but let it spill. Jesus loves the little children! One world; authentic worship; one Voice.
The sermon, given by Bob Vale, was translated: from English, to French, to Jula. Jula is a trade language spoken throughout the country. A traditional UMC message with three points 🙂 was heard three times. One of Bob’s stories was of a mama bear, a baby bear and a lion. He talked about the Holy Spirit protecting us. And well, it also taught us that a bear growls in a universal language! The message was not only for the Bible school students: the Holy Spirit was protecting all of us in tangible ways on this trip. I will be with you always. One world; one Spirit; one Voice.
Prayer requests were asked for and a family shared a story of praise! Their child had wandered off during the day. It wasn’t until late that they realized he was no where to be found. The family, and friends, searched all night. The family, and friends, let the neighboring villages know a child was missing. And it wasn’t until the next day that they found him. This little boy, who looked to be about six, had walked and walked and walked and ended up in a village miles away. No easy task for those little legs in the heat of the sun and without water to drink. But God had answered their prayers. As a mom, I could see the mom’s face and feel her fears grip me. I could tell I was holding my breath waiting for the translator to share what happened next. I could see their smiles and could smile with them as they rejoiced in celebrating their child’s return! One world; every mom’s prayer; one Voice.
Our group sang a few songs that morning. And as we sang, “Amazing Grace,” which I’ve sung a bajillion times, the last verse sounded louder to me. Or maybe it sounded new to me.
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
than when we first begun.”
For whatever reason, it became very clear to me just how long eternity is: when you finish up ten thousand years…you get to do it again! For whatever reason, that made the sun shine a little brighter and the colors around me a little bolder. It made me tear up. It made me smile.
And as we walked out the door after the service, I realized we had just experienced Heaven on earth. One world; one Forever; one Voice. Telling me that I’d spend that time with these people. And there’s no other place I’d rather be.