Thursday, March 31, 2011

Burdened for the Widows of Burkina

Saturday morning we spent some extended time with a local church’s widow’s group. I was greatly moved upon hearing some of their stories.

When a woman in Burkina loses her husband (which sadly is not all that rare) she not only has the tragedy & grief to deal with but also faces many additional challenges from her community.

Regardless of how she is widowed (Malaria, HIV, car accident or appendicitis like my dear friend Sarah’s husband) the wife is blamed for the husband’s death. They believe that if a woman’s husband dies suddenly then SURELY she has put a curse on him & killed him. He could have died while serving in another country with the military, but she is still responsible. Thus begins the social alienation from her community.

In Burkina (and other West African countries) a woman is considered property… property of her husband. When her husband dies his family inherits all of his property, wife included. Most families are quick to descend on new widows (who most assuredly have conspired & killed said husbands) and pillage their homes & belongings. They then decide if a brother, uncle, or other relative then inherits the woman, as well. Without her own consent, she can lose her husband & be remarried to a virtual stranger within hours.

Sometimes being remarried like this is actually a best-case scenario because then the woman can keep her children. Even her children are now her husband’s family’s property, and if they DON’T marry her off to another member of the family she may never see them again.

Sadly, many of the Christian widows are remarried to Muslim men & severely persecuted for their faith. Many are beaten, and all of them work non-stop to tend to the households. Add to that the fact that most households here are Polygamist, and that adds a whole additional dynamic of stress as a woman enters a new, established home.

Regardless of where they land, they are considered cursed women and outcast from their own community. No one associates with a widow. In fact, children of widows also suffer- they often can’t find a suitable spouse to marry as they are also branded as “cursed” and no family would marry their son to a daughter of a widow- surely she would kill her husband, as well!

It is just tragic & heartbreaking to see these otherwise loving, social & loyal people (Burkina means “the Land of Integrity”) turn their backs on those in need & even kick them when they’re down. It is the opposite of what we believe & aim to practice as Christ-followers…

“Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor.” Zechhariah 7:10

“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” 1Timothy 5:3

“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.” Exodus 22:22

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure & faultless is this: to look after orphans & widows in their distress & to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

“The Lord watches over the foreigner & sustains the fatherless & the widow…”Psalm 146:9


The kids love getting their picture taken and then looking at the image. It's not long before they start goofing off, making silly faces for the camera. This group of kids are from our visit to Trudie's Bible Club...a weekly activity for the neighborhood kids that includes music, games, and a brief Bible story/lesson.

Our time was cut short, however, because the children ran off in fright when one saw, in the distance, "the Masks" coming. This is a gang of people wearing masks and leaves, plowing through town during the season of the dead, whipping and hitting anyone in their path.


We Are Family...

These little girls at the Maranatha Bible School remind me of my niece..I'm getting homesick, I suppose.

Location:Bobo, Burkina Faso

Word Pictures

Soon we will be leaving Burkina taking many memories with us. Here are some of the things I will remember -
People: beautiful smiling faces, brightly colored, boldly patterned outfits, greetings all around. Women carrying anything and everything on their heads ad babies on their backs. Amazing strength and stories of struggle from the women we met and got to know. A great love for the Lord - singing, praising, dancing, and praying. Children - so many children who love to get their pictures taken!

Sights and conditions: dust, dust and more red dust, everything is dry. Piles of trash, plastic bags everywhere (great free resource for crocheting with plastic bags.) Mango trees, round thatched huts, bumpy roads, boys with red tomato cans collecting for the Imam. Trucks piled high with things, animals and people. Hot, very hot. Sweat - taking sweat to a whole new level! Soothing air conditioning at night in the guest house. Power cuts, water cuts...squatty potties.

Animals: Donkeys, chickens, goats, sheep, dogs, lizards everywhere - often on the road in front of the car.

God at Work: Amazing things are happening in Burkina. Dedicated missionaries with a heart for God and a passion for the people of Burkina to know God. A national church that is growing and developing leaders. Still this is a land where many are lost following false gods - either Islam or animists. A strong sense of need to pray for the church here in Burkina, missionaries and most of all for the lost. May the church grow strong and remain faithful to our faithful God. May the missionaries persevere and have renewed energy for the task God has called them to. And may all the lost be set free from the darkness and bondage of sin and come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. To God be the glory in Burkina Faso!

A Hard Day's Work

Here's a little glimpse into life in the bush....for a woman.
A glimpse of life in the bush....for women. Gives a whole new perspective of Take-Your-Child-to-Work Day....everyday!

Goodnight, Africa Moon

When we stayed the night in the bush, we slept outside, falling asleep to the sounds of animals up high, and down low. In the distance was a tribal celebration that drummed until the rooster crowed.

Mother Comforts

Attending our third wake, I saw something so universal to a mother's heart. A small child, not more than 2 years old, in a tattered tank top and undies walks over to a clothesline and begins tugging at a piece of fabric. Once it is down, the child carries it over to mama as if to say, "mama, please carry me, hold me, rock me". Look at another photo on the blog to see how they hold the babes on their backs.

Well, mom was preoccupied with the happenings of the wake, so, the child, instead, reached into moms shirt and pulled out one of her two "pacifiers" and cuddled up. This is so common and casual around here.

Shortly after, I walked over to say hello to the child. Once I picked the child up, though, the child began to cry. I quickly returned the child to mama. White people sometimes frighten the children, but most are quite excited to say hello. I later learned that the mother had said to the child, in Joula, that I would take the child home to my village, causing the child to fright. Basically, mom was giving stranger danger warnings to her young child, not unlike the warnings I give my own children. Still, it's quite interesting to be on the other side of that statement.

Sunday, March 27, 2011



Church steps at kenedougou

Lunch with widows

Pastors son who took tons of pics with Janna's camera

Compassion kids

Lori taller than the trees


Day 12
Out to the bush! Our group filled two Toyota land cruisers and let me tell you, these aren't the cutesy SUVs that we float down the highways in the US.
We utilized everything in that Landcruiser except the periscope exhaust during our two hour trek off the paved road!
Some highlights:
Severe washboard roads at 50+ mph, frequent bailing off the side of the road, down the 6 foot embankment to the 'smoother' frontage road , then back up on top when the frontage road ended. All this while one land cruiser pulled a long flatbed trailer and dodged the regular moto, bicycle, goat, or brahma ... I have two thoughts on that.. Faith in our driver and white knuckles!
There was plenty of both!

Brand new Christian churches, believers, church planting. Good stuff. Two years ago, this was a completely unreached group. Love the system of local pastors leading these churches while expat missionaries are available to support the pastors as needed. Cool

Visiting the church that Salem alliance youth spruced up two years ago. Still looks great and the kids are still singing favorite Canyonview songs and still talking about Jack Bauer...

Sharing digital camera technology with the village kids. They loved taking photos of their friends, especially with our sunglasses on : )

Village sharing squatty-potty with white women who scream and laugh as we splatter on our shoes, we are crazy tubabu(white lady)

Attending a 'greeting' (wake) for the family of the chief of the village that died last week.

Can no longer say, "I've never seen a fetish burning"...that was weird/amazing.
posted by Debbie, Cheryl, Janna, Mia

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs....

Last Sunday I attended church where I met a beautiful Deaf woman and an interpreter. We were amazed at how much we understood eachother! There are a few differences but we have a way to communicate! I am so excited to see how God had this planned from years ago...I never would have thought that learning American Sign Language would have prepared me for Africa - yay God!

Well, later in the week I ran into the interpreter and we had a chance to chat some more. Then, on Friday, five of us gathered to chat. That was funny because I totally had a faux-pas with the French greeting of kissing both cheeks...I kind of kissed on the lips, accidentally, during the switch! Oops! Anyway, tonight I met five more Deaf individuals!!! Also, our team has been exposing the hearing community to Deaf language via a song that we sing with ASL. The song is "You are Holy" (copy/paste link below), and we were able to sing it for the Deaf group that met tonight. They loved it!!!

There are many more, but alot of them are working and couldn't gather at the same time. The time flew by before we had to head off to our next usual.
My passion, now, is to pray for these who are isolated and outcast. They are educated and have so much to offer but nobody wants to give them the opportunity. Another benefit of America is that we have civil rights, ADA, and resources.

I hope to see them again, but, until then, I exchanged e-mail with one in hopes that we can connect via videophone or something like that.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's a girl thing....

A team of all women brings a certain uniqueness...which is most obvious with the chatty factor. For example, we went to "The Rocks", the mini Grand Canyon of Bobo, for a bonfire, hike, and dinner. A local missionary remarked that usually the hike down is pretty quiet but we are just chatting away all the way down. In our guest house we girls, some more than others, get a little wild.... Rockin out to Toto's "Africa" song, peeling down to next to nothing just to keep cool, making "your mama" jokes.... I'm sure the guard is selling tickets to watch the scene! It all began on the plane ride(s) out where everyone in the plane knew exactly where we were because of the giggling and talking.

Most fun, though, has been the morning class with the pastor's wives at Maranatha Bible School. The topic was what to do when your "not in the mood", from 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. We found ourselves suddenly on very common ground....women. No language or color differences with this topic. That is, until we started listing the reasons for "not tonight"....

"I pulled my hip out of socket while harvesting from the trees today"
"It's my first day home with the newborn baby"
"My arm is broken"
Or, when he comes to bed, "Please pray for me, I'm not feeling well"

While we all were laughing up a storm, there was a certain shock from the Americans about how extreeme these excuses were. Hmmmm....

KFC burkina

this might be the most pathetic chicken in bobo. when we come across things like this we often chuckle,but it is always followed by a sadness. One thing we have come to see is that God has a plan for the weak and discarded. this little chicken will be a meal for some one and some one will be blessed by Gods provision, but maybe not full.

posted by Janna

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mah twiggy bah

It's hot, who knows how hot. 110+ every day, I'm pretty sure.
Went to vbs type thing for compassion international kids today. Sang the song where half the kids sing hallelu, hallelu, hallelu... and the other kids respond with 'praise ye the lord'. The kids stand when they sing their part. Do you know that song? Awesome, the kids loved it. We actually sang it in JULA believe it or not!
hallelujah is the same word, but praise ye the lord is "mah twiggy bah"
We also sing a song, 'God is Holy'. This is a repeat type song that has a two part round type of chorus.
Since Cheryl is fairly fluent in ASL, we also added the ASL signs to the first half. God is Holy, God is Mighty, God is Worthy, etc.... We've been able to communicate that we are using ASL and teach them the few signs. They are fascinated when Cheryl does a little sample monologue. today, one of the Burkina girls, about 12 years old, repeated the song after me IN ENGLISH with the ASL SIGNS!!! She was amazing!!! Her friends thought it was hilarious that she was speaking such ridiculous sounding words! So much fun : ) We get laughed at A LOT here :) lol. apparently, our jul a accent is a little off...

we did have JULA lessons today and yesterday. another lesson tomorrow. pretty fun. people here are ALL relational so knowing a few words really goes a long way. LOTS of people walking and will enjoy talking to you if you only say hello.

Fun talking in JULA. Only have met MAYBE 6 burkinabe that can speak any english at all.

a sera
(peace be with you, bye)
- Posted by Debbie


Location:compassion kids

Chicks and Flowers

Chicks and Flowers

Maranatha Bible Institute. Lori did such a great job telling the parable of how much God cares for little birds and YOU! The rest of us filled in as pantomiming birds and chickens. The kids loved it : )
We followed that hour with sharing testimonies with the wives of the pastors in training. It is always encouraging and therapeutic to realize that you are not alone in your personal troubles or painful history.
What the enemy means for destroying, God claims for good. Hallelujah

Say What?

We have been stumbling over some VERY pathetic attempts at Jula for 5 days now! Today, we had our very first official Jula lesson!
Greetings here are about 6 sentences long! The English translation would be something like this:
Good morning
mmm hmmm
are you at peace?
I'm at peace.
How's your family?
Family is good
You HAVE to say this routine EVERY time you greet someone as you shake their hand--you CAN"T let go until you recite the entire greeting! - you can imagine why church starts late!

In Jula....
Anisogoma (or anclee, anesoo depending on time of day)
hera sera
somo odu

Now say that as fast as you can and you will start to imagine how confused we've been all week! We haven't been able to just say Hello!
Language lessons were so fun for us and our tutor- she was laughing out loud at our mispronunciation WAY too often : ) Good times!
I have to say, we are quite proud of being able to greet someone in Jula!

Posted by Deb

Hello from Pondou!!!

Hello from Pondou!!! This is where you end up when you drive for two hours northeast of Bobo. Temperature hit about 110F today, you know I love it! Eighty families live here at Pondou (which is really more like a compound, then a village). Each of the families brought their own chickens, burros, pigs, etc. The men are in a four year training program to be pastors of Burkina villages. The wives also get some training, but have the additional responsibilities of children, meals, getting water from the local pump (see photo)... This was our first opportunity to share with Burkina women. Cheryl (or Debbie- as she is called here) worked with Susan and Janna to present the up cycle plastic bag crochet project. The women were very interested and many already had crochet skills. This was VERY helpful, because we were not prepared for the lack of scissor experience! They were excited to see the possibilities, which included tote bags, hackysack type balls, wallets, and even a pair of sandals that were crocheted out of used plastic bags.
Pantomining was the key communication in this session! The Burkina sisters did very well and were excited about the project.
Lori and Mia had fun teaching new sunday school teaching tools. At one point, several women were pantomiming Daniel in the Lions Den. This is VERY outside their normal style. Usually very reserved, etc. It's so fun to think of 80 pastors wives headed into Burkina and able to make the bible fun for kids to learn from.
Deb presented Moms In Touch Prayer format.

Please pray for Miriam and her baby, Zaphat. When I saw her, I immediately realized that she was carrying around a great deal of pain and shame. As the day went on, I was increasingly aware of her. Just before we left to go home, she was brought over to our group to be prayed over. She suffers from epilepsy and had tried to run away because of the shame, but thanks to God protecting her in an unbelievably dangerous situation, she walked one and a half days back to Poundou in the 100 degree weather with her baby on her back.
If you are at all prompted to pray for Miriam, please pray that her husband will not beat and shame her. Please pray that she will receive medical attention for the epilepsy. And that her son does not have it (she is very worried that he will have it too). She is SO stoic, so strong, so silent, and carrying around a burden that could destroy her. It breaks my heart.
posted by Debbie

The Electric Slide, Africa style...

It has been great to keep in contact with home but power goes out unexpectedly and lately, often. And would you think that it would happen when our US family & friends are asleep? Nope. So, as soon as it came back on 5 minutes ago all of us jumped up to grab our Internet connection before it goes again. Funny scene, for sure!!!

We have been busy and having a memorable time. More details and photos to come. But for now, I really need to publish this post before ----


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stop to smell the flowers




Pictures from Bobo

Playing djembe with Jonathon

Kids in Poundou

Making soap at S.O.S.

Lori with baby at home stay. (ask her later)

Location:Burkina, posted by Janna

susan and marguerite on plane

911, please hold...

We saw many things en route to Bobo, but the most unforgettable sight was a woman lying on the road, pools bleeding from her head and unconscious from a moto accident that had just occurred. People broke of branches from bushes and waved a warning to upcoming vehicles much like we do in America with cones and road flares. Unlike America, however, there was no ambulance to call, no hospital nearby, and even the closest one would not likely have the advanced treatment options we have in the US. Though I have thus far been fortunate not to have ever needed the services of 911, I am comforted to know that resource is available.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

In sickness and in health....

I'm still processing this, so, bear with may be a little rough.

I came down with a severe head cold as soon as we left American Soil, so, take-off and landing for 3 flight thereafter nearly blew my eardrums! Furthermore, on our last plane I headed for the bathroom and en route saw people using the complimentary sleep-masks to cover their nose & mouth, as well as their scarfs and blankets to cover their faces. Arriving at the lavatory, it was evident that someone with diahreeah did not notice that the lid was closed on the toilet seat know. Lastly, there was a man in the aisle across from us who was vomiting into a grocery bag throughout the flight and he just left it on the floor when we made our stop prior to destination! It spilled all over the floor and the crew was not the least bit interested in cleaning it up.

I soon realized that common medicine, like DayQuil, is not available out here, making me ever more grateful to God that another team-mate had some for me to use. I can't help but think about what it mean for Jesus to come in contact with the sick...making himself vulnerable by contact, meeting us where we are, leaving the comforts of heaven because he is fully committed to His bride. How do I respond to that?


Friends and family.....we want you to know we are safe!
there is no problems here in Burkina and we are removed from the problems in Libya.

Deuteronomy 31:8
8 "It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. ”

posted by Janna

Friday, March 18, 2011

We made it! We are in ouagadougou! On our way to sleep! 54 hours of travel.....

The shuttle

Yes this van has a sweet carpeted ceiling

Casablanca first moments

Well, we are 6 white women looking to blend into a Muslim country...not easy to say the least.
We arrived very early this morning and now have a few minutes at a free hotel to unwind. We met as a team to talk over the next few hours and pray. I have never been in a Muslim country much less tried to pray in a semi- public place. Eyes open,void of "fluffy christianese", and all accompanied with a slight sense of danger....It was humbling and beautiful.

Pictures of us in NYC

love that they say "dip" instead of swipe

On our way to hotel in Casablanca

Lori is a GREAT leader. We have had a lot of laughs.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The journey begins...

"This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad"
Psalm 118:24

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Another God Sighting

Another example of how our preparations for Africa have been used and applied right here in Salem....

One of the goals on this trip is to teach national women how to crochet with "plarn" (plastic yarn) made from discarded bags. Our hope is that they will make goods to sell at the market, thus earning income. We'll try and get some photos posted of the bowl, shoe/loafer, and wallet/purse already made. But, if you can't wait for that, click the link below for some google images showcasing the possibilities!

Now, back to the God Sighting. We have been caring for a dog whose owners have been homeless since late December. They are now in a shelter but can't take the dog, so, while they are getting back up on their feet, we are "foster parents" to a spry 12 -year old American Eskimo. Her owners come about once a week to visit. During a recent visit, the plarn project came up and I learned that the wife loves to crochet! Well, it wasn't long before I found myself showing her a sample and encouraging her to make and sell goods for income. Hellooo! That is exactly what we're going to be doing in Africa.

I guess God is giving some opportunity to "rehearse"...while pointing out that missions in Burkina and missions in Salem have more than one common thread.

Speaking of threads, here's that link I mentioned:,or.r_gc.r_pw.&pdl=300&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&biw=1344&bih=545

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We leave a week from today! Some changes in flights mean we get long layovers in New York City and Casa Blanca. Will probably sight see in NYC and relax poolside in Casa Blanca! Does mean one less day in Burkina.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Prayer requests
  • Quick acclimation to time change, climate, and food.
  • Good sleep before and during trip.
  • Good health, no migraines, stomach issues, or illness.
  • Safe, hassle free travel going, returning, and in country (connections, customs, etc.)
  • God's protection in all ways.
  • May we be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Eph. 6:10)
  • Protection, health, smooth logistics for families at home. Encouragement and comfort for children who miss mom.
  • Unity and love in team relationships.
  • Quick connection and bonding with the women we meet in spite of language differences.
  • May we be an encouragement and blessing to all we meet.
  • Flexibility, contentment, and grace in all circumstances.
  • May we be used by God for His purposes and glory.
  • May we serve with humility, grace, and love.
  • May our focus be on God.
  • May we depend on God, leaning into Him, trusting Him with every aspect of our trip.
  • May we be Spirit filled and led.
  • May the fruit of the Spirit be evident in all we do.
  • May the peace of God which transcends all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7)

Friday, March 4, 2011

God Sighting

God is the Master Planner (Isaiah 25:1) and is ALWAYS at work in our lives. Sometimes He gives us a peek, reminding us that He cares about every detail...and whoa, how exciting it is to see!!!

Recently, each of us "Burkina Babes" was charged to write a 5 minute testimony that we would share with the women in Africa. This requires a lot of streamlining, editing and rehearsing; which all pays off when the tears come flooding down, washing away with them any train of thought! You all know what I'm talking about...I know I'm not the only one (wink). Well, I'm preparing to share this snippet while in Africa but God didn't want to wait until then....

After our last team meeting we wanted to get a group pic and tried to get to the group meeting on the other side of the accordion style room divider to request a volunteer photographer. After failed attempts to enter through the divider, then through the sliding door that would lead around, we decided to go out toward the church lobby in hopes of finding someone available. Note: I would not have exited this route otherwise. We came across two women and began a conversation that revealed one woman in search of a room to rent as she had recently been released from prison, where she became a Christian, and was trying to get back on track. That conversation led to them coming to my house to look at renting our guest room...or, at least that's what I thought.

(skipping ahead) We ended up talking about her story which led to me sharing my "5-minute testimony" which couldn't have been more applicable to her situation. (goose bumps) The rental situation didn't work out for her needs, so, it seems that God just wanted us to meet and chat a bit. All I can say is, praise God for alternate exits and divine intervention!

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1 Peter 3:15