The moment we walked off the plane I felt like I had made it home. It had been 5 years since I lived here, 5 long years since I’d spoken Burkinabe French and 5 years too many since I’d seen some of the people who forever changed my life.
I was thrilled be back and even more so to bring my husband Nick with me. I knew the week ahead would be short and sweet but something we would savor for a very long time.
We hit the ground running the next morning, loading up trucks and trailers and planning our trek to the “Bush” to build a Church for a village that didn’t have one. The drive wasn’t nearly as long as I’d remembered but the beauty of this country I love was breathtaking.
The Church we built is essentially a large carport with no walls. The Burkinabe will gradually build mud blocks and enclose the building.
We spent just a few days out there, sleeping under the stars on cots placed sporadically in someone’s courtyard. We showered with buckets and peed in holes, we ate in the dark and danced all night with our African friends. It was the kind of African experience people dream about.
It was pitch black when I noticed her, how could you not? Her face was abnormally large and from a distance she stood out. It wasn’t until the next morning that I was able to see the extremity of her situation. This is Mariam. She has had this growth on her face for 19 years. About 5 years ago her family brought her to the city to seek treatment for her. After many tests they had depleted their money to discover that for about $500 she could have surgery. With no more money they returned her back to the village. The tumor has continued to grow.
The tumor has blinded her in one eye now and she can barely breathe. You can hear it when she speaks, the desperation for air in every word. We were able to give enough money to the family to get her back into town for another doctors appointment and promised them the remaining funds to cover any and all surgery needed.
If anyone feels moved to help Mariam then we have developed a link for helping her and her family. https://engageburkina.wufoo.com/forms/donate-to-mariam/
The family called us just before we left Burkina and had already been to see the initial doctors for evaluation, but since the growth is larger now she will require more testing and the surgery will require multiple surgeons. We are not sure of the cost of the surgery yet but we are thinking it could possibly be between $1,000 to $3,000.
When the city came back into view I knew the next day held my most anticipated moment. For 10 years I’ve been sponsoring 2 girls through Compassion International in Burkina Faso. Claudine and Suzanne were 5 years old and I was 15 when we fell into each others lives. During my time living out there I had multiple opportunities to spend time with each of them, getting to know the child on the other side of my letters and love. It had been 5 years since I last hugged these girls and I could hardly sleep the night before with the excitement growing in my heart!
The second Claudine saw me she came running, the biggest smile on her face and tears dripping down mine. She was more beautiful than I remembered and so much older than I recalled. We spoke broken french and shared stories of our lives over the last 5 years, laughed as we looked at photos, her recognizing every friend and family member on my phone! She was just as I remembered only older, wiser and more confident than before.
Suzanne came strutting up with her African swag, hiding a smile behind her hand and shaking mine. She hadn’t changed a bit either, still as timid and spunky as before.
We only spent a few hours together but it felt like just enough time to bridge the gap of all those years we’d been apart. As I looked at these girls, these beautiful “nearly women” I couldn’t help but be amazed at all we had been through together. We’d experienced traumatic loss together, grown up into the women we are together, celebrated marriage and life changes as a small unit and now here we were, me sitting across from my 10 years of love and being blown away by the grace of our God.
We left with tears and hopeful promises of seeing each other again.
The next day was our last one in Burkina and we spent it at a ministry for the handicapped. A local pastor decided years ago that he wouldn’t stand for the mistreatment of the crippled and started to care for them in every way he could. This dream of his had turned into a beautiful piece of land given by the Red Cross to provide work for the handicapped, the distribution of Tricycle’s so they can stop crawling, a restaurant where they can eat and serve other people in their village, and the promise of a better life.
It’s amazing that only $400 can give someone their dignity back. One of the trike receivers said the biggest impact to him was that “now I can speak face to face with you.” I had never thought of it that way. I saw the trikes as a way for them to travel, get around, move with ease but they see it so differently, it’s their dignity they are gaining not just a set of wheels.
This is Apo.
We wandered in the hot African sun for what felt like hours (though only minutes) weaving in and out of mud huts and dodging motos as we made our way to him.
My heart broke the instant we walked into his courtyard, he was sitting in a chicken coop/dog house slopping up his ground corn. He could not see us but he could hear how many guests were surrounding him and quickly said hello as he shoved another handful of food into his mouth. Apo’s handicaps go beyond our full knowledge but we know he has lived most of his life in this dog house.
When he was born his parents left him outside to die, because he was handicapped. His grandmother found him and took him in and cared for him until she was disabled herself.
The local pastor that runs the handicapped ministry in this village found Apo and has been brinhing him food everyday, to which his extended family are very angry about. They have tried to do many things, wishing and hoping Apo and his grandmother would die to relive their burden.
The pastor’s heart broke and he has decided to build Apo and his grandmother a small house on the new handicap animal farm this fall, once the farm is up and running. At the farm they will train the disabled men and women in animal care and then they will purchase chickens, pigs, and sheep to generate income. The disabled community will be able to raise and sell eggs and livestock to earn a living, and then they will also help care for Apo and his grandmother.
If Apo’s story touches your heart you can give at the link below to build him a true structure where he can live, be fed and cared for at the handicapped center.
While our time in Burkina was so short it made a lasting impact as it always does on how I view my everyday life. I find it so easy to forget that these stories are People, real people sharing “today” with all of us. I find such value in traveling and mission, not only do you get to impact a country in such a small way but that country, those people, our great God impacts you!