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A Season of Harvest

Church planting in Burkina Faso is exploding

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When we stepped off the plane in August 2000 into hot and steamy Ouagadougou (the capital of Burkina Faso), we came with two willing hearts, two little boys, and two words in French—“oui” and “merci.” I guess “yes” and “thank you” are probably two of the most important things to have in your “word bank” as new international workers, but we had a long way to go!

Mud-brick homes dot the plains of Burkina Faso’s Kenedougou region, where a new day is dawning on a season of harvest. (Photo by Daron Short)

During our first term we learned French, helped one of the Ouaga churches, added two little girls to our family—and then received the unexpected call from God to move to and work in the Kenedougou region, a place we were told had been resistant to the gospel for years. We really had no idea what we were getting into—we just trusted that God would make it clear as we moved forward and listened to His voice.

One of the things that God impressed upon us was that we could not do this work alone. My husband was convinced that God had a thousand people who would join us on the adventure through prayer, and so our home assignment before heading into Kenedougou was spent “gathering the troops”! As we flew back to Burkina after that year, God assured me that we were going back “in force”—it wasn’t just our family on that plane; it was full of prayer warriors returning with us (along with several other planes accompanying us to hold all of those people—a whole fleet). It was a vision that stayed with me throughout the two terms we were in Kenedougou, and God proved time and time again that the results we saw were because people were praying specifically for this work.

One more important piece of the puzzle also fell into place—the Burkina national Alliance church also sensed God leading them to take an active role in reaching the Kenedougou people. Thus, upon our return we had an immediate partnership with the Bobo-Dioulasso church district. The timing of everything convinced us that God was going to work, but little did we know just what He had in store!

We started slowly—every Sunday our family drove more than an hour to the village of Ndorola to encourage and help this small church, which did not have a pastor. My husband preached, I taught Sunday school under a tree, and after two years, the Bobo district sent a missionary pastor and his family to minister there.

During these years, my husband had also been working with a few other groups in the Kenedougou region who were requesting help, and as evangelism campaigns were held, it was obvious that this formerly “resistant” area was resistant no longer. People were responding to the gospel, new groups were being started in villages where there had never been a church, and the work had become more than we could handle.

The mission asked an Alliance international worker couple if they would join us in the Kenedougou work. We worked out a preaching schedule, with our families going in two different directions on Sundays. My husband and our colleague also met with the pastors and lay leaders of the churches in the region to set up evangelism schedules, and they started holding seminars to disciple believers.

As time went by, the work exploded. Each church started looking to the villages around them in order to start new churches. Church planting was woven into the Kenedougou DNA—as soon as a new church was starting, they were looking outward and planting new churches, sometimes within months. The church has grown from four groups to about 50 today; in the Sifarasso area there are now 15 new churches.

We saw hundreds come to Christ. People were healed, others were delivered from demonic oppression, animistic leaders were burning their fetishes. Many times we were told by prayer supporters that what was happening was similar to the stories from the Book of Acts. It was an international worker’s dream!

Though exciting, the work wasn’t without heartache. We lost a pastor friend to cancer who was having a huge impact in the villages where he was working, and another dear pastoral couple lost their baby to malaria. Our hearts broke as we would see people come to Christ, have powerful testimonies of God working in their lives, and then turn away because of the family, religious, and cultural pressures around them—knowing the truth but unable to stand strong in the face of adversity. Many young people were being persecuted, some beaten, for their decision to follow Christ. We strongly sensed the spiritual battle that was being waged around us, and it wasn’t without cost.

Most international workers want to work themselves out of a job, to see their ministry transition to the national church. Another thing God impressed upon my husband when we started in Kenedougou was that our time there would be limited. The needs were so great we could easily have worked in the region for the rest of our lives, but we strongly sensed that God was calling us to turn the work over to the national church sooner rather than later.

We began praying for God’s perfect timing, and when a new ministry role was presented to us in 2012, we knew in our hearts that this was His will. Some thought we were crazy to leave a ministry that was seeing so much fruit. But we knew that God was asking us to pass the reigns primarily over to the national church and that He was calling us on to another season in our adventure of serving Him overseas.

Currently, we are the team developer couple for the international worker teams serving in two West African countries. We absolutely love our colleagues, cheering them on in their ministries, helping them strategize and work together, serving them in a pastoral role, and keeping a finger on the pulse of the overall health of the teams. We are convinced that this is God’s plan for us at this time.

Do we miss Kenedougou? That goes without saying. We visit when we can, and part of our hearts will always be there. But we cannot help but rejoice as we continue to hear the reports of what God is doing through His church—many people are continuing to come to Christ, the church is strong and growing, and God is powerfully at work. To have been part of this for even a bit of time is something that we will always be grateful for. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:20–21).

The Power of Christ

Matthew, a farmer from the village of Sifirasso, became a believer a few years ago when he spent time with a Christian while working in his fields. When he returned home, he and his family wanted to learn more about the Bible and what it means to follow Jesus. In 2012, they invited Tychique, an Alliance pastor, to come teach them. By Christmas 2012, 11 new believers were baptized. They held evangelism meetings and showed the JESUS film. The Alliance mission helped to build an open-air shelter for Sunday meetings. In March 2013, Pastor Tychique and his family were assigned by the district to live in Sifirasso as the church plant grew. Although many people came to faith in Jesus during the first year of Tychique’s ministry in the village, the power of witchcraft and fetishes was strong. Curses and demonic activity continued to be a huge spiritual battle for those who chose to follow Jesus. It was the hardest year of Tychique’s ministry, but he was encouraged by a dream that he interpreted as Jesus giving him power over the demons. Many people from all over the region come to the church at Sifirasso daily. They bring their fetishes and items used in witchcraft to be burned. The pile of discarded sorcery items outside of the church is growing daily. These new believers are seeking truth and power that is only found in Jesus. We visited the church recently, and the crowd was very large. The visiting pastor from the district committee used the Alliance symbol of the Fourfold Gospel, emphasizing the need for faith in Jesus alone for eternal salvation, the power of Jesus for healing, the power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit for daily sanctification, and the supremacy of Christ above all powers of the evil one. As he was preaching, people in the crowd started to shake and stiffen. As this happened, those around them would motion for the church leaders, who led the person out toward the pastor’s house, where they would pray for deliverance. Nearly 20 people experienced this manifestation of the enemy fighting to retain control of their lives. As the pastor continued to speak, an elder urged the crowd to listen to the truth and not be distracted. He commanded any sorcerers to leave the area and told them the Christians were not afraid, because Jesus is more powerful than they are. When the pastor asked if anyone wanted to follow Jesus, six adults and four children came forward and publicly declared their faith. Each gave a testimony and vowed to no longer practice witchcraft and to quit worshiping idols. They promised to continue to attend church and to pray with fellow believers. One man stated that he came from Mali with a group of 30 people from the same village who all wanted to follow Jesus. He was their representative in coming forward that morning. When the crowd was dismissed after four hours, most people stayed in the area, talking and praying. A few more demonic manifestations required groups to pray for individuals who were affected. Pastor Tychique says this type of thing occurs all day on Sundays. People leave only as night falls. Every morning, groups of people come to the pastor’s house to pray for deliverance. Every evening he leads a Scripture reading and discussion session and more prayer times. He has called two representatives from each village who can read in either Jula or French to attend a weekly Bible study. These men will then organize daily Scripture reading and prayer times in their villages. As I was listening to the pastor and saw with my own eyes what was occurring in the service, I was completely overwhelmed. This is the true work of the Church. This is the battle between the power of the enemy and the victory we have in Jesus. The fight for people’s souls is real, and the devil is losing ground in the area of Sifirasso. Pray for the protection of Pastor Tychique, his wife, Nathalie, and their children. Pray for the new believers who are fighting for freedom from spiritual bondage. Pray for the new leaders in the different villages who will teach the Bible though the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. —an Alliance international worker (Photos courtesy of an Alliance international worker couple)

2 responses to A Season of Harvest

  1. I met Michelle Warner at LEI. Sorry for the confusion. Mistaken identity on who was writing the above article. But you are welcome to use our respite also!

  2. I met you at LEI in Oklahoma in 2010. I enjoyed hearing what you are doing now. I wanted to let you know that my husband and I are opening a guest house respite for workers in full time Christain ministry free of charge in the Gettysburg, PA area. I would like to send you an invitation with all the details. If you are interested, let me know where I can send it. Hope we can meet again sometime. Cindy

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