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.
I have been sharing these experiences and thoughts this month because, well, there was just too much going on to tell at any one time. If you’ve been following along, thank you for your patience and commitment to hearing these stories. They all make up one experience, fitting together like pieces of a puzzle, showing the many needs in Africa, the amazing and huge differences in our worlds, the enormity of God.
A tradition of the Burkinabe is that when people come together to pray, every one participates. Together. At the same time. Whether we prayed over a young girl who was needing respite from nightmares or praying over a new believer, everyone prayed and everyone prayed out loud. At once. It was a cacophony of sound to my ears the first time. A beautiful melody the next, as I understood that God can make sense of it all and does not miss a word. He hears each and every word and at the same time feels the pounding of each heart and the passion in each voice.
This trip was a cacophony of experiences as well. Days filled with experiences that could have covered three days; days filled with emotional tugs that on a normal day just one would have knocked you down. Being on a “vision tour,” with people from ten different churches, meant they showed us everything. The hope being that everyone goes home with something God’s touched their heart about, something they feel led to be a part of. And then ultimately ten pastors, and their congregations, passionate about our friends in Burkina Faso.
I can vividly recall telling myself, “Karen, what’s that one thing God’s saying to you. What’s that one thing He wants you to go home with. Hang on to that.” Because had I not, I would have been plowed under. The needs there are so great, they run into each other, they run each other over. And they can be overwhelming.
If you’ve been following along this journey with me, you’d know I came home with two. These are in addition to the need for clean water which will always be number one. On March 18, I shared about a new church and it’s new believers and how the idea of a relationship with a village warmed my heart. And then yesterday, March 26, I told of a dream to have pastors healthy enough to deliver God’s Word to healthy ears. Dee Dee Sterling commented on my facebook post with an idea for connecting even further with these pastors.
I cannot tell you today how I will or FaithWorks! will continue to play out these two ideas. But I am praying about each. What I love about these is that each one involves “relationship.” Each one calls for us to know a pastor by name and invest in him, his family, his ministry.
As I think about these next few days we’re heading into: Jesus being denied yet caring about us enough to pray for us; Jesus willingly going to the cross, knowing our names, and carrying our sins with Him; Jesus rising again, alive, to lead us into a New Life, I will be praying heavily for these people who have the most basic needs, praying for relationships to be built and asking God to point us in the direction we need to be going in order to help these people have a better life. And eternal life.
So if you’re still reading this, again thank you. If you’re still reading this, I’d like to challenge you to place yourself somewhere that you can help change someone’s life for the better. Even if that “better” is something that seems little, it more than likely is not little to them.
The great thing is, you don’t have to go to Africa to do that. Touching someone’s life at Project WARM, handing food to a family on Good Friday, loving a young boy or girl in Tapachula, Mexico, helping a child know Jesus Christ in FaithWorks!, knitting a prayer shawl and placing it over someone in the hospital, pounding nails into the Matthew 25 House for a local family, saying hello to someone as they enter Clay Church, hanging out with a teenager at the Firehouse, is just the beginning of a host of opportunities to serve God’s Kingdom.
This is one of the last things I remember Betty Arnold, John’s wife, saying to me. She said this in reference to the many, many Hot Shots we delivered, which prevent people dying from a snake bite, but really can apply to anything we do in Burkina Faso or South Bend and anywhere in between:
“Imagine getting to heaven and meeting someone who says, “Because of your Hot Shot (or insert: clean water, food, irrigation, ox & plow, medicine, etc.) I was able to be alive and know Jesus. And because of that, I am able to see you here today!”
I know that’s something I want to hear. And I’d like to be standing next to you as you hear those beautiful words too.