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The Trip that Changed My Life

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I’ve lived in Africa for almost 12 years, but I have not gone on very many bush trips. Last fall I went on a trip with my youth group (W.I.R.E.D.) to a small village in southeastern Burkina Faso. Fifteen youth and five adults made up our bush missions team. Though it lasted just five days, I believe it was the most memorable and life-changing trip I have yet taken.

The car ride from Ouagadougou, Burkina’s capital, lasted about six and a half hours. When we arrived in Navielgane, the village where we would be staying, it was already getting dark. We took a quick tour of the house and outdoor bathroom, a roofless room about the size of a walk-in closet with a hole in the ground. Most of us wanted to sleep outside, so we pitched our tents, ate supper, had a Bible lesson and headed for bed. Sunday morning most of us awakened—much earlier than we would have liked—to the sound of a sadly braying donkey and a very loud crowing rooster.

The church had a Sunday school class of about 70 to 90 children, and the leaders had two rows of kids stand up and give us their benches. It was difficult for some of us to sit down because they were giving up their seats for us. The Sunday school children sang several songs and asked us if we had one for them. We presented “Pharaoh-Pharaoh.” The children loved it and were very eager to learn the motions. We also performed a skit of the Good Samaritan. Then we left for the adult service.

As we approached the church building, we saw several piles of peanuts on the ground. Our translator informed us that those were the tithes and offerings of the members. I was amazed that the people there lived off of food they had grown and had practically nothing else to give.

Monday morning we left for a nearby village called Bapla-Birifor. When we arrived, the first thing I saw was two children. I have seen many hungry, sad, sick, poor and unloved children in my life, but these were heart-wrenching. The brother looked like he was about one and a half years old and the sister, two or three. She was holding him on her back.

I wanted to relieve her of her burden, but when I got close to the boy, he began to cry in fear. I looked at his eyes and could tell that he was sick. He cried whenever anyone came close, and if his sister looked away for more than a minute, he would begin to weep.

His stomach was bloated from malnourishment, and his arms and legs were thin and weak. His eyes were an off-white color. His face always seemed scrunched up in pain, and his sister was constantly trying to sing him to sleep. But whenever sleep came, it was for just a few minutes, and then he would cry again.

The hardest thing for me to do that day was to leave. A small part of me wanted to believe that someone would help him, but the rest of me knew that this little boy wasn’t going to make it. I continued to think about him the rest of the trip, and when I got home, tears filled my eyes as I told my parents the story of this little baby boy.

I know that this trip changed part of my life; I whisper prayers of thanks constantly for the fact that I have running water and electricity, that my toilet flushes and that I have food on the table every day. And I know that little boy changed something in my heart. I had always wanted to come back to Africa after college and help the people here, but this little boy confirmed my longing to help. He broke my heart in a way that can never be fixed.

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