Merry Christmas and many blessings for the New Year from Burkina Faso! We trust that you have had a meaningful and refreshing holiday season and are alive with the hope of new possibilities in the coming year. We find ourselves at the end of a very eventful year in which we made a major move from Brookline, MA to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. As we take some time to slow down and reflect on these past months of “settling-in,” we are thankful for your thoughts and prayers and God’s provision. Our house feels like home now, and we are happy to have developed somewhat of a routine: Jeremiah and Deborah in their school and extra-curricular activities and Bruce and Nancy in ministry engagements, especially with the FEMO (Foyer de l’Église Mennonite in Ouagadougou), the Mennonite Church’s student hostel and congregation here in Ouagadougou.
Our first Christmas in Ouagadougou was a combination of regular family traditions along with some new twists. The regular traditions included children’s stockings and a tree with lights and tinsel. We also had our usual Christmas treat: ice cream cake! This tradition dates back to the early years in Benin when we spent Christmas with our colleagues, Christine and Phil Lindell-Detweiler. They left us the recipe and we have eaten this dessert every year at Christmas time no matter where we happen to be!
This year we also spent the morning of Dec. 25th with FEMO. The children of the congregation shared a Christmas skit, Pastor Bananzaro’s sermon encouraged us to share the gift of Jesus with others, the students gave a report on their recent evangelistic visits in the surrounding neighborhoods, and we spent time in prayer and song. Afterwards we shared the noon meal together.
Partnership Council Meeting
In these past months we found ourselves increasingly involved in church activities. In November Bruce participated in the Burkina Faso Partnership Council (PC) meetings. The PC brings together the various Mennonite agencies that work in partnership with the Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso. There are a number of different agencies: AIMM (Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission), Mennonite church Canada Witness, Mennonite Mission Network (from Mennonite Church USA), the French Mennonite Mission committee, Evangelical Mennonite Church of Canada, and the Mennonite Brethren Mission. Once a year the PC meets to coordinate the various mission efforts in the country. During this year’s meeting church leaders shared their new three-year plan that includes church planting, evangelization efforts via existing congregations, an HIV/AIDS educational program, and leadership training. It is an ambitious and exciting vision of the church’s ministry in the next years!
From December 12 to 20 Bruce traveled to Nigeria to participate in the Mennonite Church Nigeria’s annual convention. It was an opportunity for him to reconnect with the church after our three-year hiatus in North America. He was encouraged by the progress there. The church completed a number of building projects at the national headquarters and at local congregation sites and new, energetic leaders have been integrated into the church structures. Mennonite Church Nigeria is a very charismatic church, so Bruce enjoyed four days and nights of energetic praise and worship with old friends and new acquaintances.
After settling into our house this fall, our next task was to work with FEMO and the National Church to develop a formal job description. This process was a first for the church and us and has taken some time. The conversation began at the end of the Partnership Council meeting where a preliminary job description was entrusted to FEMO for further editing. The church committee took some time to look at the different items on the list and then gave it back to Nancy and Bruce for final editing. The final draft is now being studied and will be presented for adoption at the next church committee meeting in early January.
The job description does not contain any surprises. It lays out the various ministries in which we will engage at the local and at the national level along with some accountability structures so that it is clear how we will work. Our local involvement will include oversight of FEMO and various initiatives with the students, as well as involvement in the ongoing congregational initiatives. On the national level, we will also be available as resources for theological and biblical education. The job description allows for similar involvements beyond Burkina Faso, particularly in Benin and Nigeria. As well, Bruce will work on finishing his dissertation and Nancy will do some teaching at the International School of Ouagadougou. She will begin in January by teaching an SAT English prep class. (Applicants to colleges in the USA are required to submit SAT scores; the SAT focuses mainly on English and Math skills.)
FEMO Land Purchase
In December FEMO purchased a property with a building that will serve as a student residence as well as provide a meeting space for the congregation. The building is large enough to house the 24 students who are currently residing in the rented facilities, but some work will need to be done before they can move in. The bathrooms and showers which are roughed in will need to be finished. This is an exciting step towards making FEMO a permanent ministry. We look forward to seeing the ministry develop in its new location in the coming year.
Join us in prayer about the following:
- Thank God for the new FEMO facilities. Having its own land will provide stability for this ministry and provide consistent, ongoing ministry opportunities among the students. Pray that the needed reparations to the building will be possible in a timely and economical manner.
- Thank God for Bruce’s safe travel to and from Nigeria and for the energetic and committed members of Mennonite Church Nigeria. The Nigerian context is one of economic and social inequality and periodic violence between ethnic and religious groups. Pray that the church can be a witness to Christ’s love in such a challenging environment.
- Pray for guidance and energy for Nancy as she takes on some teaching responsibilities at the Ouagadougou International School where Jeremiah and Deborah are enrolled.
- In this season during which we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, pray for peace in Africa. Recent violence in Nigeria, the Central Africa Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo reminds us that the gospel is especially relevant in our age. Pray also for our neighboring country, Mali, where rebels are still in control of the North of the country. The international community is considering military intervention, a proposition that, while it seems to make sense in the short-term, will add significantly to the amount of arms in the region and risks increasing violence for some time to come.