Courage in Grief

By Esther Schaeffer, serving in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

The following is an adapted excerpt from the author’s recent prayer update.

A few days before our annual clothing distribution at Maranatha Bible Institute,* six-month-old Jonathan, the son of a student and his wife, succumbed to a high fever.

The day before little Jonathan died, his dad, Isaiah, traveled with me to the Bolon village where he’s served as the student pastor for several months. Although scheduled to return to Bobo with me, he kindly gave his seat to one of the women evangelists who had been in the village all week.

In Jesus’ Arms

When Isaiah arrived in Bobo on Sunday afternoon, Jonathan was so sick that the hospital’s heroic efforts were to no avail. He was suddenly ushered into the arms of Jesus that evening.

Someone once said to me, “Burkinabe women don’t seem to grieve over the death of a child like Western women, probably because they experience death so often.” Burkinabe may appear stoic in their response to death, but I’m convinced they feel the pain just as deeply.

Until he is three years old, a Burkinabe child is with his mother day in, day out—especially if, like Jonathan, he is the firstborn. During the day his mother carries him on her back as she works. At night he sleeps by her side.

Words Fail

When I visited Jonathan’s mom, Madeleine, the day after he died, she searched my face for answers. When she started to weep, words failed me. I just held her in my arms.

During the next week, we debated whether to hold the clothing distribution, but the director encouraged us to move ahead with our plans.

We hoped Isaiah and Madeleine would not attend. But there they were—Isaiah in the back with the men and Madeleine in the front with the other student wives, most of whom had babies tied to their backs.

A Song of Courage

Just then, Madeleine began to sing in her strong, clear voice, “All praise and thanks to You, O God, for all you have done for us.”

In the midst of her inexplicable loss, Madeleine demonstrated great courage.

We know true faith often brings sacrifice, yet many of life’s mysteries will never make sense to us this side of heaven. Perhaps you too are experiencing loss and pain. May the Lord enable you to trust Him and give you a song of courage in your time of difficulty.

*Maranatha Bible Institute was founded in 1976 to provide aspiring pastors and church leaders with a quality biblical and ministerial education to serve French-speaking Africa. Currently, the school offers a four-year pastoral studies program in French and a four-year pastors’ wives program in the Jula language.

What You Can Do


Join the Alliance family in praying for our team in Burkina Faso and worldwide, who serve in often-challenging circumstances that require courage, wisdom, and trust in the Almighty. Use the weekly Alliance Prayer Requests to assist you.


  • Give to the Great Commission Fund (GCF) and support Alliance global team members, who are pushing back the darkness as they introduce lost people to the light of Jesus.
  • Give now

Learn More

Watch “Remembering” (3:29), a video in which colleagues Peggy Drake and Jetty Stouten recall highlights from more than 30 years of Alliance medical ministries in Burkina Faso. Both are retiring in spring 2014.


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