“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.” Psalm 115:1
Église Évangélique Mennonite du Burkina Faso (evangelical Mennonite church of Burkina Faso)
In the spirit of this psalm, we exalt God for his work in Burkina Faso during the past 40 years. To God alone be all the glory!
However, before speaking of an anniversary, we must give thanks to God for those that he sent a long time ago to this same region, that is, the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) in 1937. It was the CMA that did the groundwork and sowed the first seeds of the gospel. Unable to continue its work in the region, in 1976 the CMA invited Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (AIMM) to establish itself in the region of Kénédougou. Thanks be to God for these pioneers and their sacrifices.
The mission and the church today
From 1978 to 2018, approximately 50 missionaries gave of their lives, their time and their gifts to bring the gospel of salvation to the people of Kénédougou. The mission reached the peoples of Tagba and Dzunn, who appropriated the Word of God for themselves as the first beneficiaries.
We want to express our gratitude to them for obeying the commandment of the Lord in bringing his message of peace to our country.
The church also planted a number of local congregations, using the Jula language. Each one worked to establish the Kingdom of God among various ethnic groups, using methods that were appropriate for them.
From the early days, the mission invested itself in translating the Word of God into the major languages of the province: Siamou, Sìcìté, Dzùùngoo, Naneregué. Alongside the translation, we did literacy work in three of these languages.
Today, we meet regularly in more than 20 places of worship with at least 16 trained pastors. We have close to 1 000 baptized members.
Almost all of the Christians are first generation Christians – the majority come from animist or Muslim families – a fact that explains certain situations of persecution that we know of. We have many Christian women whose husbands are not Christians.
Leadership training is a priority. In 2009, a centre for basic biblical training opened, responding immediately to the need to train servants of God who can read and write in the Jula language, so they would not be excluded from the grace of serving the Lord simply because they hadn’t completed a formal Western education.
Today, the church has arrived at a stage of self-expansion and self-management.
Not to pat ourselves on the back, but the churches have remained united during these 40 years. The prayer of the Lord in John 17 has been answered effectively in our midst. This does not mean that we have not been tested in our fellowship and unity, but God has granted us the grace to see his interest above our own personal interests.
For reasons of survival, a number of members have engaged in entrepreneurial activities. This has been an asset, opening up greater contact with the population of the province in order to witness to our faith and have easy access in different places to plant new congregations. In principle, these entrepreneurial activities should also lead the churches to achieve autonomy in a third realm: financial.
Young people make up the majority of the population, both nationally and in the church. The population of our local congregations is young. They reassure the elders that there will be people ready to take over. It is our responsibility to put our confidence in them and to give them confidence.
Women breathe life into our local congregations. They are the ones who work quietly and profoundly when they are convinced by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. We must review our culture in light of the Word of God so that it does not become a handicap for women to effectively serve the Lord like their mothers in the Bible.
On a social level, for more than 10 years the Église Évangélique Mennonite du Burkina Faso (EEMBF) has invested itself in the fight against AIDS in partnership with MCC. This program has allowed us to communicate Christian values and share the love and grace of God with thousands of persons. Today, on the basis of our confidence in Jesus Christ, we are accompanying a number of persons, especially women, who are engaging in activities that generate revenue. From our perspective, we hope to become an NGO in order to better contribute to development aid.
As far as Mennonite World Conference is concerned, our churches have brought a significant contribution through representatives in the Mission Commission, the Peace Commission and the Deacons Commission.
Although we are small in number, EEMBF is not seen as lesser among its sisters. We give thanks to God for this attitude of humility.
Following our retrospective look and considering all that the Eternal has accomplished among us, we cry out that thus far the Lord has helped us (1 Samuel 7:12). This is not to say that we have completed the work. In light of this recognition, the Lord says to us: “Look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting” (John 4:35). In the face of this call, we confess that there is more to do than what has already been done.
Our perspectives for the future fall into two areas:
1. Self-expansion. Burkina Faso in general, and the province of Kénédougou in particular, remain largely unreached by the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. After 40 years, the challenge is still there in its entirety. We must go, but it is necessary to teach all that was commanded to those who have already believed. The growth of the church will take place on the foundation of training and sending.
- Interest in targeting Muslims. Loving them and winning them for Jesus Christ
- A special ministry for children.
- A ministry directed toward the environment.
2. Financial autonomy. Financial autonomy is possible. To achieve it, we must create a foundation of mutual trust based on transparency. If church members are well taught and well informed on management of the resources of the churches, they will contribute enormously toward adequately meeting needs.
The celebration of our anniversary is a pause to review what God has done through each one of us, but more than anything to realize that there is more to do than what has been done.
We ask future generations not to see their predecessors as extraordinary persons. Whatever we did, we did with you. We have confidence in you and know that you are able to do more than what we did.
To the generation now rising, we want to pass the baton on to you. You must seize hold of it and act. Bring your part that is more beautiful than ours. In Jula we say, “Fen k abo I la mi ka fessa ni I y e”: That out of you might come something better than yourself.
Ala ka duba aw ye!
—Siaka Traore is a pastor and leader in Eglise Evangélique Mennonite du Burkina Faso and a chair of the Deacons Commission of Mennonite World Conference.
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier October 2019.