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Pushing back the darkness in Burkina Faso

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Pushing back the darkness is what the C&MA is about. As field director in Burkina Faso, I recently had the opportunity to do just that in a dark region where the light is beginning to shine and where Christ is changing lives. There’s no greater joy than to see the effect of the gospel on the surrounding area. Its impact is worth the story I’m about to tell.

Signs and Wonders

Kenedougou is a region of Burkina Faso that has been neglected not only by the government but also by Christian witness. Five years ago, this began to change. Two Alliance international worker couples took up the challenge to partner with the national C&MA church in order to push back the enemy’s hold on this region. As the gospel began to go forth, it found ready “soil” in which to take root. Villages began to open up as people gave their lives to Christ. Pastors were assigned to shepherd these fledgling churches.

This work is accompanied by signs and wonders, so reports are often like a chapter in the Book of Acts. Often, a positive response to the gospel is followed by intense persecution, as the enemy tries to plant fear in the hearts of new believers. A woman from one village indicated that her husband and his family persecuted her regularly with insults and beatings to try to dissuade her from going to church. She said she had been filled with demons and Jesus had set her free, so she would never go back to the old way of life. She is just one example among many. It has been nothing short of marvelous to watch the light begin to shine in this dark region.

Since the international workers in this area are on home assignment, all Alliance personnel here share the burden for evangelization in Kenedougou. I agreed to host a dental team in the village of N’Dorola.

I’d seen the ugly face of persecution before, and now I was to see it again. I was also about to experience the full impact of the loving action of a dental team and a caring church and how that can change the lives of those who oppose the gospel. Love is the greatest weapon the Christian has to combat this horrible enemy.

The Right Place

We arrived on Saturday in N’Dorola with a team comprising three people from CAMA’s Hope Clinic in Guinea and three from the U.S. Northwest. Little did I realize the eternal impact this trip would have on the region. Timing is everything, and being in the right place at the right time is what God is about.

The first Sunday in N’Dorola, I was asked to preach in the neighboring village of Dingasso. The N’Dorola pastor accompanied me, and I met some of the most incredible brothers and sisters in the Lord. Their worship was full of joy as they danced and sang like nothing else mattered. Their little mud brick church was transformed into a jubilant place of worship. I couldn’t withhold my emotion at being in that place on that day. I soon discovered that all hell—whippings, beatings, mocking, insults and death threats—had been unleashed on these people in the previous weeks. One of the young girls had been dragged out of the church and beaten by her brother, who vowed to continue until “she would vomit Jesus.” The pastor and the other believers had intervened in every way possible. Yet this same girl was there worshiping again with the confidence that, well, nothing else matters.

During the week, Dr. Pam McDavid, from Canby, Oregon, led a Bible study with the women of the church. This same young girl was there, along with many of the other persecuted saints. She asked for prayer that her faith would grow and that her family would come to Christ. Pam asked each of the women to share a request, which she wrote down in her notebook and promised to pray for over the coming year. The women generally asked for two things—that their faith would keep growing and that their families would come to know the salvation of Christ. Through my tears and with a lump in my throat, I did my best to translate for Pam. I was once again touched to be in the midst of these special people.

From Curses to Blessings

During the week, we treated 262 patients from all around the area, working from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a 20-minute lunch break. The heat was intense, as the normal hot season had arrived a month early.

We were even able to treat a number of the persecutors! In fact, they were begging us to fit them in because we had more patients than time slots available. What an experience to bless those who had cursed our brothers and sisters. And the result was that God began to soften some of those hearts. After the week of providing dental care and showing them the love of Jesus, fathers who had been beating their daughters and husbands who had abused their wives because of opposition to the gospel began to permit them to go to church. Those who regularly spat insults at the Christians had their mouths shut like the lions in Daniel’s den.

This isn’t to say that the battle is over. Far from it. We can be assured that the enemy will continue to throw himself around, “roaring” as only he can do. But we operate from a position of victory in Jesus. Even if someone dies, it is victory for the Kingdom.

It is customary for the town leaders to give blessings as they say good-bye. “May God grant you success in all that you do.” “May God raise your name up.” And so on and so forth. As we prepared to leave, one of the assistant mayors, who is not a Christian, said to me, “May God cause your ‘community’ to grow in the region.” She was telling me that she wanted the community of believers to grow—she wants the light to keep shining! Perhaps she herself is beginning to see it.

I was quick to add, “Amen.”

 

A Free Country

Another medical trip is being planned for the Kenedougou region in the fall. Our hope is to keep pushing back the darkness through the proclamation of the gospel and the demonstration of love and good deeds. The national church is fully engaged in the Kenedougou region, seeking to appoint more pastors to help follow up with the believers and to provide vital scriptural teaching. The pastor of the Dingasso church was able to get an audience with the mayor and report the persecution. The mayor, though not a believer, brought in some of the parents of those who have been persecuted. He has communicated to them that Burkina is a free country and that they must allow their family members to follow whatever faith they choose. This has contributed to a recent decrease in some of the abuse. Will you join us in praying that the Kenedougou region will become free indeed, through an explosion in the number of people who follow Jesus? The Obergs and Hulls will return this month to spend another term, in partnership with the national church, lighting the darkness with the gospel of Christ. Now is the time to harvest. —Steve Nehlsen

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