Small communities are like families: everyone knows the rules – although sometimes they have to be spelled out – and problems are ironed out as they arise by face to face encounters. When communities grow, however, it becomes important to change from an informal to a formal structure with written understandings and a set procedure for dealing with issues when they arise. It is no longer possible to settle problems face to face or to make every decision by group discussion. The community delegates authority and entrusts smaller decisions to that authority. Only major decisions are settled in a group-wide meeting.
The Mennonite Church of Ouagadougou is moving into the phase of a more structured community life. In December the church council met to begin writing by-laws for the congregation. The by-laws stipulate who can be a member, the procedure for electing the council members and the length of term, and so forth. When the by-laws are written and approved by the council, the congregation will hold an assembly to study and adopt the by-laws.
Along with the church by-laws, the student hostel (FEMO) is also beginning the process of creating written guidelines. When the hostel began, there were less than ten students in residence. As preparations are being made to move into permanent housing that can hold up to thirty students, it is necessary to provide some continuity and structure to that living environment as well. Sometime the students remember the purpose that the hostel serves, but inthe bustle of university life it is easy to loose sight of the original vision. One of the roles of a written document is to ensure that the students understand and stay engaged with the vision of FEMO.
It has been a good experience to work on these projects with other members of the congregation. In particular, it has been exciting to see students who have studied law serve the church with their gifts. Once again, we marvel at the wealth of talent in the young adults who makeup the congregation.
The property that the congregation purchased to house the student hostel and the church meeting-place is under construction. Since January, much has changed. The bricklayer is building a large meeting room and an additional bedroom. The next task will be to build some additional bathrooms. We hope that the students will be able to move into their new location in March.
Please pray with us:
- Thank God for good food to eat. Many people wonder whether we miss certain foods from home. In our case, most of our daily foods are available here. Furthermore, there are many delights which we enjoy, such as fresh strawberries in February! A vendor comes to our door with fresh fruits and vegetables (including broccoli whichwas not ava ilable in Cotonou). A woman down the street bakes us fresh whole-wheat bread each week. We have found a Widow’s Co-op that makes great peanut butter (the 100% p eanuts kind!). We are grateful for our daily bread.
- Thank God for health. Nancy caught a nasty bout of something just after finishing the 1 for 50 training and has spent a week feeling rundown. With the right medicines, however, she is beginning to get back on her feet. Deborah was also ill with a bad cold/sore throat and then pink eye. She too is now better. Continue to pray for good health for all of us.
- Pray for the FEMO students and their studies. One of the biggest challenges they face is the lack of adequate infrastructure. They are often taught in large classrooms holding over 1000 students; the small number of professors cannot possibly know their students by name. Often the students are left to muddle through on their own. When an injustice occurs, the students have almost no recourse. Pray that the students can succeed in this unfriendly environment. Pray too for reform at all levels of education in Burkina Faso. An uneducated population is ill-equipped to help the nation develop and progress.
- Pray for the school where Jeremiah and Deborah attend, the International School of Ouagadougou. As is often the case with international schools, there will be a high turnover of staff as many are leaving at the end of this academic year. Pray for the hiring process which is going on right now. Pray for teachers (both here and in North America) who care about their students and who can make a positive difference in the lives of their students.