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.
Cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping. Those are things we do every day. Well, they do those things every day in Burkina Faso too. Just looks a little different than what we’re used to.
Meals begin being prepared early in the morning and clean up goes well into dark. Most “kitchen” areas we saw consisted of a fire, a mortar and pestle, and lots and lots of pans. Some with water saved for drinking, some with water for washing dishes, some for rinsing the dishes, some for cleaning. This picture on the right shows some meat being saved for the next day. I cannot say for sure what it is, but we were told our meal had some goat in it that night.
This chicken was walking around our feet and enjoying the sunshine just a short time prior to this picture being taken! The young man was quick at catching the chicken and getting those feathers off. This one became known as “lunch” and helped inspire the saying, “It’s not every day you get to meet what you eat!” He was then cooked over the fire inside.
When we arrived in this village, the pastor’s wife was busy pounding what we think was salt. One of her son’s recognized that word and helped us to believe that’s what it was. It was coarse, white, and granule-looking. She was happy to let everyone have a try at it, giving her strong arms a rest.
We saw laundry being done in large pans. One with soapy, dirty water and one with clean water. This little girl is holding the soap used. She then hung it to dry on the fence, but it was not uncommon to see it on the ground, hanging over roof tops, or in trees. We also saw laundry being done in a river, with clothes laying out on the nearby rocks to dry in the sun. This would be the same river that the children played in, bathed in, and animals drank from and pooped in.
This fence line shows a simple, little garden. When there is water available, people can grow onions, cabbages, tomatoes.
But every day they require water. They keep track of how much they’ve brought up by moving a rock to the side. That’s their counting system and ensures that they share. Equally. Here’s a video of water being brought up from a well located at the Bible school we visited. As you can see, it’s not an easy job, but one that’s much easier with the help from some friends. Teamwork helps lighten the load.
Just a little different than our grocery stores or shopping malls. But what they needed they could find. Sometimes it required a journey. These pictures above were taken “in town,” not in the bush. But even there, villagers had access to stuff along the streets as you can see in this picture to the right, taken as we walked to visit the village chief.
It is a very different lifestyle. It is a very hard life. But by the end of the day, we saw families be families. I watched dad’s hold children in their laps. I heard a husband and wife sing together. I met a young girl who wanted me to meet her mom. I took a picture of a mom and baby who wanted to see themselves together (maybe for the first time). I saw a dad share his plate of food with his daughter. I watched older brothers hold the new baby in the family.
And one of my favorite memories, was laying in my cot one evening while the pastor’s family was gathered around their fire. They were maybe 30 yards away from us. It was very late; the sky was a dark, dark blue. The day was done for us. But they were laughing up a storm. And it was the women’s laughter that stood out to me. Well into the night, despite the fact that they’d be up at the crack of dawn starting the fire for breakfast, they laughed and laughed and laughed.
We think life is difficult here. We think life is hard. They do too. But laughter sounds the same in any language. And just like here, even if only for the moment, it can say, “all is well.”
It was the most beautiful sound. And I slept well that night.