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Femi AwodeleFriday, October 10, 2008
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MY TRIP TO OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO (W. AFRICA)

his is one trip I was not very sure of till very late, it was on and off again many times. I had met (through Patrice) the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Burkina, Pastor Pawentraore Ouedraogo, couple of years before and we had spoken about a countrywide AG marriage conference for their over 3,000 pastors, but things did not work out that year.


Dancing with the women choir on Sunday


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When I was contacted early this year (by Patrice Kabore) about this opportunity, my initial reaction was negative, I gave the excuse that it was too close to an already planned international trip and also that I don't have the money for another international trip. I did however commit to helping Patrice, in whatever way I can. While in church, about eight weeks before the trip, I felt God instructing me to go on the trip, I shared my feeling with Ola sitting next to me, and her words to me were, "so why are you telling me, you better go - if you know its God".

As some of you have read in my last article, my trip to Manchester, England the week before bummed, and I was in an emotional valley, when I boarded the aircraft in Omaha for Burkina Faso. Meeting with the other team member cheered me up a little. I was pleasantly surprised at the services of Air France from Paris - Ouagadougou, it was not a second rate aircraft or service as I'm used to with some airlines when they go to Africa, the Islands or places they don't consider important.

We arrived on Saturday, September 27th at about 7.45pm and a team was waiting for us at the airport. We were treated like VIPs as we went through immigration, without lining up. It felt good, but I'm not sure I like it; I would have preferred the normal process. Our lodging was at the guest/mission house of the Assembly of God in Ouagadougou (more like the mission house of the Catholics in Banjul, Gambia - but a little better). Dinner was great and we all went to bed. We woke up very early on Sunday, had breakfast and went to church, that was when the reality of being in Africa dawned on me, the service lasted four hours (8am - 12noon), then the whole church had lunch together afterwards. I understand that it was a joint service of four churches. Six different choirs sang (some of the songs were the French version of the hymns I sang growing up - the praise songs were also familiar from Eya we Kumama - Congo to Neba fa mi yeliya - More), there were two sermons. It was fun sitting down and guessing what was going on - there was no English interpretation, only from French to More. It really put a new meaning on the "love language" concept for me.

One of our team members knows the US Ambassador to Burkina and she had granted us audience, before we got to Burkina. Our visit was 8.00am on Monday, September 29th. The visit went very well, Ambassador Jeanine Jackson, is a very personable person and she told us what the embassy is doing in Burkina, which I find very interesting. I knew President Bush has spent a lot of money in Africa, but seeing the benefits first hand makes a huge difference. We went from the embassy to an orphanage. I must confess that I'm not an orphanage guy when on a mission trip, but this place was fascinating to me and for the first time (in many orphanages worldwide), I actually carried some of the children. The children ministry of a church (http://www.enwc.net) in Omaha donated $1300 to the home, plus another $300 from another ministry in Omaha. A lady whose husband work at the US embassy is helping to coordinate donations (from the US) for a school building within the orphanage facility. She also wants me to pass on that Children in the orphanage (and other orphanages in Burkina) are available for adoption, a new deal just signed between the American government and the Burkina Faso government.

Our trip is actually three events rolled into one. Assembly of God have 50 districts in Burkina, each district sent 3 children's leader for a three day Children Ministry training, making a total of 150 participants. The 150 will now go back to their districts and conduct the same training. Denny Hartford, is the president of Vital Sign Ministries, he took the morning sessions and concentrated on the theology of children ministry, while Pastor Kristen Gray, the children pastor of Eagles Nest Church, dealt more with the day to day activities in the children's church. The second event is a two-day, evangelistic tent revival by Pastor Teran Anderson specifically for the neighborhood of the conference which is a developing area of Ouagadougou. Teran is the senior pastor of Freedom Church (AG) in Omaha. The third event is the marriage seminar for all Ouagadougou AG churches (other denominations were invited as well).


Speaking at one of the churches

The team with Ambassador Jeanine Jackson


Children playing at the festival

The team with Col. Zerbo and his wives

The team was kind of tired on Tuesday, I believe it has to do with the heat and the new sleep pattern, everyone was a step slower. As we proceeded from the mission house to the event venue, we noticed that many stores were closed, we were told that, Tuesday September 30th is the end of Ramadan fast and the government had declared the day a holiday. Denny spoke in the morning sessions, while Pastor Kristen Gray spoke in the afternoon session (which was more animated and fun). On Wednesday, the pattern was repeated, Denny spoke in the morning and Pastor Kristen spoke in the afternoon session, we also spent time getting ready for the children's carnival on Thursday morning (elementary/primary kids have Thursdays off).

I started my marriage speaking on Wednesday, night. I spoke at the Church, where the General Superintendent calls home. They have a wedding during my general sessions on Saturday. My initial plan was to speak on Understanding love, but I changed the topic, during our conversation with the Ambassador on the importance of maintenance in Africa. The new topic was "Maintaining your Marriage". I defined maintenance using God's instruction to Joshua to dwell/meditate on the word day and night. We then went further to described how to maintain a marriage spiritually, how to maintain a marriage in our soul, through showing love and through romance which is doing loving things for each other the way and what the other person wants. The final maintenance was then in the body realm, which was looking physically attractive and recreational sex.

The topic that got the most attention as always was recreational sex. Most of the questions after my speaking were centered on, praying after sex and most people wanted to know more about lubricants, especially the older women. An elderly woman was even bold enough to come out and ask more specific questions. A nurse in the audience promised to make lubricants available, including estrogen cream.

The Children's festival was the next morning, so the team woke up 30 minutes earlier so we can go and arrange the location for the children. The festival was supposed to be from 8.00am - 12noon. We got their at 7.30am and there were kids waiting for us, Thursdays is a day off for elementary schools in Burkina Faso, and I also found out that school kids get a 3 hour lunch break every day! They break at Noon and return at 3.00pm - 5.00pm. Pastor Kristen and her team, put up a fantastic gospel message with many physical illustration for the children, and almost all of the 400 kids came forward to accept Christ, after the short service, the kids were released to the playground, where we had 20 stations of different games, from hot potato to filling a cup using a spoon of water to soccer dribble. We decided to bring the kids in at 11.00am because the temperature was really hot. Once inside we had face painting, more gospel skits and games. The festival was finally over at about 12.30pm.

After the festival we had a light lunch and went visiting. One of our team members had visited Burkina some years earlier to do a documentary film on the life of one of the former presidents, a Muslim who converted to Christianity while in prison. Col. Zerbo (was deposed by Capt. Thomas Sankara) must be in his 70s now, pastors a church and live with his two wives, kids and grandkids (http://www.vitalsignsministries.org/cometothelight.htm). After meeting the man, I was tempted to conclude that Burkinabes are people who take life real easy, they don't put themselves under undue pressure. I ask him, if he has reached out to other ex-leaders in Africa, so they can form an alliance and be a resource to the continent, he said no but that he is a resource to his country. We were later treated to lunch in the home of the AG general superintendent along with some his leadership team.

On Thursday night, Pastor Teran spoke at a crusade attended by a lot of people and I heard testimonies abound, a young man came out and confessed as a thief and ask for prayer to stop that habit. I was not at the crusade because we were starting a CCFI chapter in Ouagadougou. Paul and Germaine Ouedraogo have an interest in helping couples, and they saw this as an opportunity to have a formal setting. The meeting was attended by 6 couples, all married between 4 - 11 years. We spoke about five love languages, but the discussions kept going back to issues about African marriages. Praise God, CCFI now have functioning branches in three African countries (Gambia, Zambia and Burkina Faso) and marriages are being healed one home at a time.

We slept in on Friday morning and woke up to do some site seeing and to shop, for anyone that was interested. Our first visit was to the A/G radio/TV station both housed in the same building, we were giving a tour of the building. We proceeded to visit a school with about 2000 students from kindergarten to Secondary school. Our shopping trip took us to a mall designed for foreigners to buy local stuff. The Friday evening event was rained out, in everyone's opinion the rain was really needed and the team got to go to bed early. Pastor Teran had the opportunity to share at a youth gospel music festival on Saturday night (so he had the opportunity to share twice, in-spite of the rain on Friday).

The marriage conference on Saturday went well, we had three sessions at two hours each, the first session was African Marriages vs. Biblical Principles (book version would be out in 2009 - God willing), the second session was on Conflicts and Conflict resolution and the last session was on Differences in Men/Women and Sex. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of women who were bold enough to ask questions with the husbands sitting beside them (that is not common in most African setting). On Sunday, I preached two services at "Cissen Un" AG church, on the outskirts of Ouagadougou. The first service was in French translation, it was a lot of fun and the church was packed. The second service was in More translation and it was more "Africanish", lots of music and dance, the Holy Spirit surprised me as well, as the anointing of a preacher came on me, instead of a teacher. We had altar call and many church folks gave up church for a relationship with Christ. After the second service, the women's choir invited me to dance with them and I thoroughly enjoyed the few steps.

People and Culture in Burkina

There are a few interesting things of note in Ouagadougou. First everyone either has a bicycle or a moped; I believe the number was even more than what I saw in Vijayawada, India. What really blew me away was the share number of women on the bikes. Several of the team members have camera shots of women with 3 kids on a bicycle or a moped. However, only one in a thousand had a helmet on.

Ambassador Jackson's theory about the helmet is based on the peoples religious believes that with or without the helmet, they'll die anyway. Some of the natives confirmed that thinking but also added that the cost and inconvenience of a helmet play a crucial role as well. I see a big lesson with all the bikes and bicycle, I do not remember seeing any overweight person in Ouagadougou, every single person was fit as a tree. I think, from riding bicycle and bikes, many who have cars also have bikes.

The people are also generally laid back. Most of the Burkinabes I know in America are like that, but I saw it on a different level on this trip. I ask a friend (a Burkinabe) the reason for that, his theory was that the hot Sun have something to do with it, while I don't dismiss his reasoning; I just think it is more than that. I really wish life in America can slow down a little like the Burkinabe people.

Ouagadougou beats my expectations in terms of infrastructure, lights were regular with the exception of the thunderstorm on Friday and it was restored almost immediately. There was running water in most of the homes we visited, and the road network, maintenance, and neatness way surpassed my expectations (comparing to Lagos, Nigeria or Banjul, The Gambia).

I look forward to visiting Burkina Faso again, God willing.

Remain Blessed

If you live in Atlanta GA and environs, please join me for "TRANSFORMATION WEEKEND - A TWO-DAY MARRIAGE CONFERENCE FOR AFRICAN COUPLES IN THE DIASPORA" on Friday, October 24TH 7.00PM - 9.30PM and Saturday, October 25TH, 8.30AM - 4.00PM @ Jubilee Christian Church International, 1640 East Park Place Blvd, Stone Mountain GA 30087. COST IS $50/COUPLE - you can register at the venue on Friday.

William Femi Awodele is the Executive Director of Christian Couples Fellowship International, Inc., Omaha, NE, USA

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