Peace Sunday in Ouagadougou

If you were in a Mennonite Church anywhere in the world last Sunday the chances are that the theme was peace.  The Mennonite World Conference Peace Committee decided in 2006 that the Sunday closest to the UN declared International Day of Peace (Sept. 21) would be Peace Sunday in Mennonite churches around the world.  So it was in Ouagadougou.  Our focus was on peace and on being peacemakers or, as the expression goes in French, being crafters of peace (“artisans de la paix”).

Pastor Bananzaro told us that Peace Sunday is not the only day of the year we should be concerned about peace.  Rather it is a day when we remember again to align ourselves with God’s purposes in the world.  He talked about some of the sources of conflict in Burkina Faso and in Ouagadougou.  From the personal conflicts that arise in traffic accidents to domestic violence to unequal distribution of resources he evoked situations where violence has become prevalent.  He referred to the land grabs by agri-business interests which displace local farmers who have no recourse because the justice system is dysfunctional and so frustrated people take the law into their own hands.  In all of these situations, the church should be an instrument for peace. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness  and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

He explained that God’s peace concerns all areas of life:  the social, political, economic and spiritual aspects of life. Peace is not something that just happens; it must be cultivated or it will disappear.  As peacemakers, we should spread peace wherever we go.  Pastor Bananzaro ended his sermon by inviting us to be crafters of peace on a daily basis; it is on the basis of the peace we sow around us that we will show we are children of God (Mt. 5:9.)

Advertisements

Settling In

We have now been living in Ouagadougou for six weeks and have been living in “our” house since the beginning of September.  Even so, we still seem to find ourselves spending a lot of time on “settling-in” activities related to getting our living space in order and learning to know our way around. Such mundane tasks seem to take longer here than they did back in Massachusetts!

As you might imagine, our first task upon arrival was to find a house to live in.  We finally moved into our rented accommodations twenty-four days after our arrival on August 8.  The various steps in getting into the house – which was empty and ready for a new occupant – took that long.  By Friday August 10 all four of us had agreed upon the same house (right price, right location, right amount of space …), but  before we could move in a number of things needed to happen.  We had to open a bank account to which we could transfer funds from the United States for the security deposit and the first three months rent.  Now this might sound simple enough except that to set up a bank account you have to have proof of residency (a utilities bill, for example), and we could not supply anything like that until we had money to rent a house!  Sounds like a vicious circle!  Fortunately, the bank was able to adapt to circumstances. Pastor Bananzaro has a good relationship with the bank and was able to facilitate the opening of our account. We asked for a money wire to be sent that evening, and Pastor Bananzaro negotiated with the rental agent to not rent the house to someone else until the funds arrived. Once we had paid the first month’s rent and security deposit there were a host of other tasks necessary before we could move. These included changing the locks, fitting screens and screen doors in the windows and doors to keep malaria carrying mosquitos out, getting electricity reconnected (it had been disconnected and the meter removed), among other things. Take a look at our blog post below for a blow-by-blow account of getting into our new place.

More recent settling-in activities have included such tasks as getting a local carpenter to make furniture and starting the process of getting a phone/internet connection installed. The carpenter brought the desks we ordered for Jeremiah and Deborah last night. Homework gets done much more efficiently with separate spaces in which to work! The same carpenter has promised that this Saturday he will bring the dining table we ordered. We hope to order another desk in the next week or two since we want the adults in the household to get their work done too! Last week we made the necessary deposit at the phone company to have a phone and internet connection installed. We’ve been told to expect a three-week wait. In the meantime we have been using cyber cafés or restaurants with Wi-Fi to connect, often without much success.

For those who are active social media users, we have also set up a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Frey-Yoders-in-Ouagadougou/255052374597337. Visit and “like” us! We hope to update regularly, but for the moment posts will be irregular until we have a more reliable internet connection at our house.

The Mennonite Church’s Hostel for University Students

The local congregation with which we collaborate has a hostel for university students as its main ministry. The twenty-four students who live there are a significant part of the activities of worship, Bible study, prayer meetings, etc. As the students are recently back from summer break, we have been participating in these activities, learning people’s names and becoming familiar with the weekly rhythms of worship and study. They are a talented and energetic group and actively engaged in the ministries of the church. We feel privileged to be walking alongside such a gifted and committed group of future Christian leaders!

We covet your prayers. Join us in thanking God for:

  • Finding a house that we all like and that doesn’t leak, as many do, during this time of heavy rains.
  • Finding a very competent computer expert to help us get our computer working.  (It didn’t like the jostling it got on the trip here.)
  • The talented and committed group of young Christians whom we are getting to know through the Mennonite Student Hostel.

Pray for:

  • Our ongoing integration into the spiritual life of the Mennonite Student Hostel.
  • Wisdom and resilience for the university students who live in the Hostel as they balance academic requirements with employment and other responsibilities.
  • Successful completion of the more mundane tasks of setting up house and settling into the rhythms of life in Ouagadougou.

Internet Withdrall

As we do not yet have an internet connection at our new house, cyberspace updates on this blog and at the “Frey Yoders in Ouagadougou” page on Facebook will not be as timely as we would like. As we find alternatives for connecting we will continue to post intermittently until getting a connection set up at your new place.

A Place to Live

The first days in Burkina Faso, finding a place to live

Our first task upon arrival to Ouagadougou was to find a place to live.  We were fortunate to find accommodation in a guesthouse owned by Christian Missionary Alliance until we could move into more permanent quarters.  The day after arriving Pastor Bananzaro, of the local Mennonite congregation, introduced us to a rental agent who was able to show us a number of available places during our first 2 days in country. We quickly settled on one that is affordable and not too far from Jeremiah and Deborah’s school.

Image

Deborah and Jeremiah found places to do their homework at our temporary guesthouse digs.

Choosing a house was easy, getting to the point of moving took more time and energy. As it turned out, the agent with whom we first worked did not represent the owner of the house, so we visited the house again on the 3rd day and met with a new agent. She was anxious to get renters and agreed to have the plants around the house trimmed and some plumbing issues resolved before we moved in. We paid the first rental agent his fee, half a month’s rent!

The first step to reserve the house was to pay 5 months rent. For that we needed a bank account to which to have money transferred. On our 4th day we visited the bank to see what was needed to open an account and on the 5th day we actually opened the account. Now this might sound simple enough except that to set up a bank account you have to have proof of residency (a utilities bill, for example) and we could not supply anything like that until we had rented a house!  Sounds like a vicious circle!  Fortunately, the bank was able to adapt to circumstances. Pastor Bananzaro has a good relationship with the bank and was able to supply a utilities bill (for another person, mind you) so that we could set up our account. We asked for a money wire to be sent that evening, and Pastor Bananzaro negotiated with the rental agent to not rent the house to someone else for a week.

Image The rent money arrived on our 10th day in country, and we made the necessary payment. At the same time the rental agent showed us the contract and we agreed to its terms. She promised to have the contract signed by the owner then called us on the 14th day to say that it was ready. On day 15 we signed the contract and took it to the government tax office to be registered. The same day we went to the electric utility office and paid to have the electricity hooked up. After paying we asked when the installation could happen. Alas, it turned out all the electric company vehicles were at the garage being repaired. They could not say when they would be able to get the house hooked up to the electric grid. But, they added, if we were to show up very early in the morning some day with our own transportation to give the technician a lift, they might be able to get us connected. Hmmm…

On the 16th day we picked up the now registered contract at the tax office and upon delivering the owner’s copy to the rental agent received the keys to the house. As it turned out we were missing the key to the front door which we obtained on day 17. That was also the day we contracted with a carpenter to construct our beds, to change the locks on the doors, and to cover the windows with mosquito netting to keep those malaria-carrying pests at bay.

On the 19th day the carpenter changed the locks on the doors and Bruce went to the electric company with a taxi to see about getting a technician to connect the electricity. After waiting an hour for the person in charge to arrive (he never did show up) it was apparent that people who were waiting for installations were lining up at one nondescript desk to get help. Sure enough, after standing in that line Bruce found someone who said he could help. An hour later a technician walked out with a new electric meter under his arm that he installed at our house. Bruce gave him a ride to and fro in the taxi he had hired for the morning. Unfortunately there was still no electricity in the house, even though there was clearly juice at the meter box. On day 20 we were able to get an electrician to fix the problem and finally could turn on the lights!

Image

Jeremiah found his new bed a good place to catch up on some GameBoy time.

While the carpenter was at work, Bruce and Nancy began to clean (days 19 to 23).  The house had been empty for several weeks and probably not cleaned much before the last people moved out.  So there was a lot of dust – and the dust here is red dirt that turns to mud when it gets wet!  We moved systematically through the house cleaning room after room.  Bruce also painted the shelves of the bedroom closets. On the 22nd day, after the kitchen was clean, we made some major purchases: a fridge, stove, washing machine, mattresses and a water filter to clean our drinking water.

On day 23 the carpenter finished putting mosquito netting on the widows and installing screen doors. That day we also brought our first taxi-load of suitcases over from the guesthouse where we had been staying.

Image

Our living room won’t look so bare once we get some furniture to take up some of the space!

On the 24th day after arriving in Burkina Faso we finally moved to our new place with the help of some missionary colleagues. The carpenter delivered our beds at 7:30 PM that evening, so we didn’t have to sleep on the floor! We still have to find many of the necessary furnishings and have solicited phone service from the phone company. Within the next couple months we hope that will happen too!