Saturday, August 27, 2011

Africa: Part 2

Saturday of the trip is when it gets kinda crazy. We woke up early, around 4 a.m., and loaded up the vans by 5 to make the journey to Pondou, an area in the Bush where we would be attending a wedding and staying the night. It was the wedding of a friend Kevin had made years ago, Jehojakim. It was a big deal, there would be many big name pastors at the wedding, as well as at least 2 missionary teams.

When we headed out that morning, a few people on the team were already feeling sick. The plan was to go to the wedding Saturday and stay the night there and then drive to Gauo the next day to help put a roof on a church in a very unreached and dark area. We were going to a crazy place to do big work with God.

The drive took about 5 hours on roads that look like this:
It was rough driving. We got 3 flat tires total on the 3 day trip. We stopped on the side of the road for breakfast and to use the bathroom (aka the bushes). At this point, 3 people I think were sick.

When we got to the wedding, we were a little bit late. But it didn't matter because in Burkina, nothing is on time. Everyone is always late. We arrived at about 10:30 a.m. and went inside the hot church, it was packed but there was room for us. People made sure of it, because we were white. When you're white in Burkina, you are treated way too nice. People get seats for you, feed you, and are just so happy to meet you. Most of the time, not everyone is this way.

The wedding lasted until after 2 p.m. It was quite an event. People were singing and dancing. The local youth group came in (they acted like American boy/girl scouts, wearing uniforms and carrying flags in). Different people spoke and prayed, including some very high up CMA people. The couple sat down in the front of the church while people sang to them.
It was quite an experience. To be honest, it was hot and uncomfortable and I felt sick and exhausted. I thought I might pass out or fall asleep sitting there.

We walked over to the reception where several Burkinabe left the reception area so that we could sit. Just because we're white. I didn't know the bride or groom. I didn't have a right to be in that reception when that meant that some of the bride or groom's friends couldn't sit and eat with them. I felt terrible. By this point, most of us weren't feeling that great physically. But we ate what we could and then left to go set up our sleeping area for the evening. It gets dark in Burkina at 6 pm so we had to set it up before then.

We had a 'bathroom' at our place, which means we had a brick wall around a concrete floor with a hole in the middle to use. The picture above is one such bathroom. (A bush outside was almost better sometimes). We also had a shower area where we could take a bucket bath (most of us didn't that night). I set up my cot inside that night, as we had a room for some of us to sleep in.

The Burkinabe people danced and sang all night in celebration of the wedding that night.

The stars were incredible that night. You could literally see the milky way. We took some neat pictures that night.

Okay, day 2 in the bush, Sunday. We woke up and went to church. They started the church service early for us, 7:30 I think, because they knew we needed to head out early that day. It was an interesting service. The people sang and their rhythm and music is so different from ours. We sang a song, Blessed Be the Name, and it sounded so weird in comparison.

The pastor talked about how God is our shepherd and leads us where need to go. He provides us with all we need. That's how the people live out their faith in Burkina.They have so little. They need Him to provide each meal, clothes to wear, water to drink (not clean water might I add). Everything comes from Him. We have no idea how to live out this kind of faith. We have our savings accounts and tons of grocery stores and restaurants to eat it. We have no idea how to depend on God instead of ourselves.

The village fed us that morning and then we hit the road. There was still a lot of sickness in the group. We drove about 3 hours to a village where we were meeting a girl named Lati. Kevin had met her 4 years ago. She was crippled and her family was starving her because she was of no use. Kevin wanted to help. He raised $800 in a week back in America to pay for her surgery. After that, she was fine. She was running and walking like other kids and her family was feeding her again. He hadn't seen her in 3 years. This Lati with one of the missionaries who is actually from Franklin.

It was such a privilege watching Kevin interact with this little girl who he loved so much, who he had given a new life. We met her brother and father in the village and we drove Lati and her brother back to their home village. It was on the way to our next stop Gauo. Lati was very fun to watch, very mischievous little girl!! When we dropped her off, she just stood at the road waiting, wanting to come back to us. It was heartbreaking leaving her.

We drove another 3ish hours to our destination. We stayed just outside of Gaou that night in the village where the pastor lived. He is the pastor of 4 churches, one of which we were roofing the next day. We drank some tea and ate spaghetti that night (spaghetti in the middle of nowhere, cooked over a fire--our cook was amazing!) We were prepped some for the next day. Two of our team missionaries who are living in Burkina (Kalen and Susan) had already been to the area we were going to. There was a lot of witchcraft and it was very spiritually dark. The people were not too fond of us white missionary folks. But, since their first visit, the people invited us to stay in their actual village that next night. This was a very big deal.

I took a bucket bath that night and I kinda liked it. I slept inside again because we weren't sure if we would have that luxury the next night. And it didn't really feel like being inside too much because the windows were just open holes and the doorway was open too.

The next morning, Monday, we were packing up to leave. Two of our girls were very sick. Kevin and Larry decided to send them back up to Ouaga that day. Larry would drive halfway and meet another long term missionary, Pete, who would take the girls to Ouaga and to the hospital. It was really hard watching them go.

A few of us headed to the work site. I was expecting to see walls and a roofless church ready for us. This is what I saw instead.

Just some poles in the ground waiting for a roof. No walls. Here is the church that was already there.

I had to bend over to get inside. And I am short. The people were definitely more shy towards us than others. We set up the scaffolding and the boys mostly worked while us girls did easy work, like putting nails in this tar stuff to use later. We also had the opportunity to talk to the kids. I know a little french so I was able to find out names and ages and ask about school and church. I also asked the kids if they like to play soccer (it's very popular in Burkina). This is Dappel. Such a cutie.

We danced and sang with the kids as there wasn't too much work for all of us to do. The four guys were capable of doing all the work. We took more pictures. Here are some friends I made.

They were so precious. All of them.

Many of our team was still sick. The sickness during this 3 day trip can be easily explained. As I said earlier, we were going to a dark place. Satan did not want us to go. He did not want us to do God's work. Sickness and hardship sometimes comes when you are working for God.

Getting the church up is kind of a story in itself so this is going to be the end of this blog. Sorry it's so long :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Africa: Part 1

I’ve been trying to write this blog since the day I got home. I just don’t know how to start. It’s going to be a long one, or a series of long ones. But bear with me and I’ll try to highlight important parts.

How was Africa? I keep getting asked that question. And so many thoughts come to mind. Humbling. Incredible. Intense. Hard. Life changing. Crazy. Enlightening.

I’m just gonna start with day 1 and see what happens.

Monday, July 25th. We left Franklin together, the team of 11, on a bus headed to the Atlanta airport. Our flight was at like 5 or 6, leaving ATL and headed to Paris. I was mostly excited, a little nervous. As I sent my last texts for the next 12 days, I realized how much I would miss everyone. But I was too excited to care too much.

We got to Paris at like 8 am Paris time. Our flight left after a couple hours and we stopped in Niger on the way to Burkina. Flying over the Sahara desert was really cool. I have always been fascinated by deserts.

The airport in Burkina was crazy. The plane doors opened to the outdoors, to stairs leading straight down to the landing strip. A little bus took us the 500 feet to the airport. It was crazy in the airport, especially coming from Atlanta and Paris. There were ceiling tiles out, not much air flowing, not really terminals, no stores of any kind. We met up with the missionary who would be with us for our trip, Larry. He lead us outside where a bunch of Burkniabe (people from Burkina) were trying to sell us hotel reservations, eggs, all sorts of things. All French speaking, very overwhelming.

We get in the van and head to the guesthouse where we would be staying for most of the trip. The guesthouse is the upstairs of Larry’s house. Larry lives with his wife and 17 year old son. They have been in Burkina for 7 years.

The roads were absolutely insane. There were women in dresses and heels riding around on motos and bicycles right next to the car, like 2 feet from our windows! It was insane. There were markets set up all over the streets. People everywhere, so many people! The clothes were very diverse. People would walk up to the car to try to sell us stuff.

We made it to the guesthouse and introduced ourselves to Larry. We met our cook, Sam. He spoke English and French and cooked the most amazing food. He made American stuff for us but it was so different since it was made with products that weren’t processed like American food. We had tacos the first night.

There were 6 girls in the room I stayed in. Thankfully, we had air conditioning which we were allowed to use at night. We had a sink and a shower, but no hot water, which we didn’t need anyways. We had to brush our teeth with filtered water from our water bottles/cups and we couldn’t open our mouths in the shower. This was sometimes tricky to remember. One night, one of the girls put her toothbrush under the faucet twice! We had to boil water to clean it in.

The sun went down at 6 and we were all tired from flying so soon after dinner and introductions, we went to bed.

The next few days we stayed in Ouagadougou, which is the capitol of Burkina. (Call it Ouaga for short). We worked at an Elementary School that had been established by the church. We only worked half days and that’s really all I could work. The sun was so intense and I am apparently super weak. That was one thing I realized on this trip—I don’t do manual labor enough. I can pay people to mow my lawn and other things like that so all this outdoor labor was difficult. Which is ridiculous of me.

And the kids. They worked so hard. It was incredible. Who knows how much they had to eat that day but they were out there, taking our tools and working way harder than us. It was crazy and very humbling.

They also chased our vans in and out of their villages. Every time we drove up, they would chase us. I sat in the back most of the time and there was a ladder on the back of the van. The kids would try to climb it and I had to tell them not to. Heartbreaking.

On one of the days in Ouaga, we took a tour of the city. We went and saw the rich parts of town, which exist. Embassy members, government officials, business men and their families live here. The presidents house had four street lanes as his driveway. We then went to Sector 30, where people were living in huts. There was a giant hole of trash and mud. And so many children. All just running around, no parents in sight most of the time. This just blew my mind. I kept thinking, what are they doing all day? But what else were they to do but run around and play and try to find food to eat. They have no toys, no tv, no school some of them.

Their houses were the size of a dorm room. No bathrooms for some people, just holes.

I think that's all I can do right now. Part 1 of the trip. Saturday of the trip, it gets crazy. That's going to be a whole blog in itself, those few days in the Bush.