Greetings from West Africa!
It has been some time since we had an opportunity to share the Lord’s work through FIA’s ministry in West Africa. Over the past 12 months, FRIENDS has been establishing a new base of operations and new partnerships in a different region of the West African continent. We have seen opportunities begin to develop with national partners and see great potential for supporting local and national evangelical movements through the well-drilling ministry. Our plans were for work to commence in May 2020.
COVID-19 and the global pandemic response essentially disrupted every one of our plans. While we have remained hopeful over the months that with each projected “end date” for border closures and travel bans, we can get back to our country of service and start on some of the projects we want to do. The reality is that we can’t plan anything with certainty.
I have been drawn fairly regularly to the reminder found in Psalms 20:7, “Some trust in chariots, and
some in horses, but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” Amid the challenges of trying to make plans and weighing decisions as we develop a new area of ministry, it can be very easy to proverbially be so focused on “the tree” that we miss seeing “the forest”.
Though travel bans and restrictions have denied FIA teams and personnel from re-engaging in our countries of service, we have been able to see God’s work progress.
Advances have been made establishing relationships with people and organizations positioned to support sustained growth and development in this new region of West Africa. Official government registration continues to progress, and the current situation has actually opened doors for greater representation at the national level. Opportunities have been created for FIA personnel to engage with language study and development, as well as to have needed times of rest/ restoration in light of the travel restrictions (another unplanned blessing!)
FRIENDS’ West Africa ministry has supported two much-needed projects over the past few months:
One of our new partners approached us to ask if we’d be able to help purchase a clay brick/block press to be used for making bricks for construction. This organization already has experience with the unit and trained personnel to operate the press. Providing the press enables us to support and accelerate their work of constructing schools, clinics, and church buildings as they plan to establish various ministry centers in the 12 surrounding communities. When possible, our own ministry will assist them with the water supply component in each project development. A side benefit to supporting this purchase is that FRIENDS also has some claim to the equipment and the operating personnel, which means that it can be used for other future FIA construction projects. A great opportunity for all!
Even though we have left Burkina Faso, a country where we spent 14+ years actively drilling wells and
serving the evangelical and local communities, FIA has continued to facilitate well-drilling for a growing community of displaced people. These people, predominantly Muslim and animistic by faith, have been driven from their homes by the growing terrorist movement in the northern part of Burkina Faso. As their numbers grow and new camps are established to help those who literally have nothing but the clothes on their backs, new issues of food and water scarcity, poor health and hygiene arise.
The Burkinabe government approached FRIENDS, as well as other registered not-for-profit organizations, to ask for help. Partnering with local evangelical leaders looking to share the love and hope of Christ to these displaced communities, FIA funded contractors to drill two wells. Our efforts relieved some of the burden, servicing upwards of 1000+ people who previously had no access to clean drinking water.
My heart was torn when one of our representatives there shared what happened during a celebration time after one of the wells was drilled. “During the time of thanksgiving after the wells were drilled, the [Muslim] call to prayer was broadcast by the local mosque in the village. As soon as the first sounds of the call were heard, the entire community of displaced people started to scream and run, because those words were the same words the jihadist would yell when they drove through their villages, shooting their guns. The call to prayer is a constant reminder of what they have lost, and seeing their fear has distressed me to my heart and soul. It is only through Jesus and His Hope and Love that these people can find peace and healing.” This scene continues to haunt us as we consider the lost and the hurting in Burkina Faso. Although we may be led elsewhere, our heart is still tied to the places we’ve visited, to the times we shared a meal, or possibly drilled a well, and to a people who have had much ripped away—not because of COVID-19, but because of this terrorist movement. We have much to be praying for.
We trust that as the Lord raises up those in Burkina Faso to heed the call to serve and be the hands and feet of Jesus in that location, we pray we will also respond as needed in the new region in which we are placed. Thank you for supporting this ministry and continuing to journey with us as the Lord leads us onwards.