Giving Thanks When There is no Water

There is nothing quite as discouraging on a well trip than packing up and leaving a village after drilling two dry holes, with a promise to be back next season to try again. After spending several days drilling in the heat, trying to give a village clean water all you want is to leave them with a well. When you end up with no well, it is discouraging, frustrating and leaves you with lots of questions.

I memorized the verse about giving thanks in all things many years ago, but sometimes it is hard to understand why we should give thanks in certain situations. What is there to be thankful for when you drill two dry holes and leave a village without clean water? Wouldn’t it be better for the village and bring God more glory if we hit water every time we drilled?

God opened my eyes to something on a recent well trip. The first village we went to was visited in January when a pervious team drilled two dry holes. When we showed up a couple weeks ago the local people started talking about us “white people”. They talked about how we (the previous team) showed up and prayed for God to bring water, but then also took time to pray and thank God even when we didn’t find water. Not only that, but now we were back. This people group is one of the strongest Muslim groups in Burkina and they were heard saying, “These people have a better way to Paradise” and they have also been asking the pastor in that area questions about this better way to Paradise.   It seems God is receiving more glory because two dry holes were drilled before we found water on the third attempt than He would have received if we hit water the first time we drilled.

The third village we drilled in had three previous dry holes. When the couple we were working with from our local church showed up, the village chief came and asked about sacrificing animals to the spirits so we could find water. They told him that we were not going to sacrifice any animals, to which he said was the reason no water was found the first three attempts. The couple proceeded to tell him again that we were not going to sacrifice animals and that if God wanted us to find water, we would. At this point, I must admit that as I prayed for water, I was also praying for God to help my unbelief. I know pretty much nothing about how to go about finding the best location to drill for water, but I trust the guys we work with and I knew from what they were saying that it was very unlikely we would find water in this area.   However, we prayed and asked God to give us water…and He did! Later that same day, we once again hit water. God made it very clear to us that He is the one who gave us that water. And, once again, I was shown that God received and will continue to receive more glory because it took 4 attempts to get water than if they had found water on the first try. I cannot wait to hear about what God does in this village because of this miracle well.

I tell you these two stories to say I now completely understand why I should give thanks for dry holes. It may be frustrating and not make any since at the time, but God has used and will continue to use dry holes to bring Himself glory.

Last week I went out to help drill in another village. When we arrived, I learned that there had already been two attempts at drilling a well. As I prayed we would find water, I also prayed that God would do whatever would bring Him the most glory, whatever would magnify Him the most, whatever would promote Him and make Him big. Initially, we found water, but it ended up not being enough for a well. We attempted a fourth hole in this village and again found no water. Though this is very frustrating and discouraging, I am trusting that God knows what He is doing and that He will ultimately use these dry holes to bring Him glory.

This has been a good reminder for me that even when we don’t understand what God is doing or why He chooses to do things the way He does, that I should always choose to give thanks. I may not understand what is going on, but God has reasons for why He chooses to do things the way He does and I need to trust Him.

God is still God and God is still good

This is what I know: God is still God and God is still good.

I don’t always understand why God chooses to do what He does or why things happen the way they do.   I felt this way when my brother-in-law passed away and I feel this way again today as a good friend and ministry partner was killed in the terrorist attacks here in Burkina. Mike loved the Burkinabé as much as any one person could. He was an amazing husband and an amazing father to not only his children, but to all the children at the orphanage he ran with his wife. AND more than anything, Mike loved God with all of his heart. He was doing amazing things in this country for widows, orphans & many others and I don’t understand why God would choose to take Him now. I can’t make any since of it, BUT I know that God is still God and that He is still good…if only I could convince my heart of this tonight.

This is what I know: God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of self-discipline.

With all that has happened in the last 24 hours I have started to battle with fear. I don’t want to allow fear to enter my heart. I know that God is in control and that He has our days numbered. I know that I could return to the States and though I may feel safer, it doesn’t mean that I would be protected from hard times or even death any more than I am protected here. I have to put my trust in God’s plans. I know all of this…now I just need to convince my heart to believe it as I face each new day.

This is what I know: We are told to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

After these attacks and the death of Mike, this is very difficult for me to accept. I know it is what I am supposed to do and somehow I have to convince my heart of this.

This is what I know: The Lord gives and takes away, but I should choose to say, “blessed be the name of the Lord”.

God really used this verse in my life when my brother-in-law passed away. I remember processing this and coming to terms with what it meant for me at that time. Today my heart is aching for Mike’s wife, 4 children and the rest of his family.  Mike was doing so much for this country and the Burkinabé.  He had so  many dreams of how God could use him to accomplish great things for the glory of God.  I think of this, of all the other people who lost lives, of their families and the Burkinabé and though I have so many unanswered questions, I can say once again with an aching heart, “The Lord gives and takes away, but I will choose to say, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord’”.

and if the world hates me …

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“But when believers live in the power of the Spirit, the evidence in their lives is supernatural.  The church cannot help but be different, and the world cannot help but notice.”  This is one of my favorite quotes from Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God. For years I have prayed that I would live my life in such a way that other people would notice something different. I do this not because I want to be noticed, but because I want people to see something different and desire the same thing in their own life. I want them to desire to know Christ and live their life for Him. I want to live a life so full of God’s love and power that other people cannot help but notice. In doing this I have worked to live a life of conviction, to be honest, to stand up for what I believe, to work hard, to serve others, to accept anyone God brings into my life and to love others no matter who they are, what they look like, what they believe or what they have done. I certainly haven’t done this perfectly and I’ve made many mistakes over the years, but I still try to live in such a way that others see Christ in my life…and my desire is that they will not only see something different, but will see something they want.

Over the last couple years I have realized that even if people do “notice” that my life is different, it doesn’t mean they will like what they see. It could mean they notice I am different and judge me for it, maybe even hate me because of the way I choose to live my life. This is hard for me to accept because I want people to feel loved, special and important because of the way I choose to live my life. However, I have been reminded that the Bible doesn’t say, “If you work hard, if you be honest, if you stand up for what you believe, if you love others, if you [fill in the blank], the world will love you or the world will understand God’s love”. The Bible says, “Does the world hate you? Remember that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you like one of its own. But you do not belong to the world. I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19) “My brothers and sisters, don’t be surprised if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13)

I still believe this quote from Chan’s book is true and my desire is still that others would see something different in my life, something they want. However, I now view this quote a little differently. Even though my desire is that people would notice something different and change because of it, I have to accept that instead, people may hate me because of it.

When 2 Worlds Collide

One of my favorite ministries here in Ouagadougou, is the handicap ministry. This is a ministry that was started by a local pastor to reach out to the handicap population. We consider this group of people an unreached people here in Burkina because they are basically discarded by society and most people want nothing to do with them. Over the last year, it has been so exciting to see how much God has been doing with this ministry. In addition to the many handicap bikes that have been given away, a restaurant was started so that the handicap people would have a place to go and eat (they are not allowed in restaurants).  Not only that, but this provides jobs for some of the people in the handicap association. Recently, this restaurant has really grown and others in the community have even become excited about what is going on and have contributed to helping it grow. The handicap association will also be starting a farm in Sector 30 in the next couple months, which will give even more people jobs.

Today we went to Sector 30, where the handicap ministry is, to distribute a couple of handicap bikes. There were many people from the handicap association and widow’s ministry there for a meeting in regards to the new farm. As exciting as all of this is I was even more exited when I realized that the grandmother of the Compassion child I sponsor is part of this group.

(here is a photo of one of the guys who received a bike at the distribution)

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While at the bike distribution, my Compassion child came up to me… Let me interrupt my story here and just say that it brings me joy whenever I happen to be at Sector 30 and I randomly get to see my Compassion child. How many people get to experience something like this?????  In this picture, Amed has a much different facial expression than the pics from the first time we met almost 7 years ago.

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OK, so as we were talking he told me his grandmother was there and I asked him to take me to her so I could greet her. There she was sitting with the group of widows waiting for the meeting. It brings me such joy to realize that she will have a job to help provide for her family.

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After greeting Amed’s grandmother I snuck over to the car with Amed to give him some snacks even though I tell every team member to not even think about handing anything out in Sector 30 (yes, I broke my own rule).  That is when he introduced me to his little brother, Samadou.  Of course, this meant I also shared some snacks with this adorable little guy.

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Amed was about this size when I first met him.  Just for fun, here is a picture of Amed back then …

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I just love how two ministries that I am involved with in one way or another collided on this day.  It brought me great joy!

Being Thankful When I Want to be Miserable

I remember writing a blog before I moved to Burkina about the things I would miss the most after leaving the U.S. You know, things like my family, friends, good food and Chick fil a. It wasn’t long after moving to Burkina that I realized it was things like electricity, running water and cooler weather that I would miss the most (besides family and friend of course). It is in the middle of hot season (March-May) that I miss these things the most.

May is a miserable month here in Burkina. Temperatures get up to 110-115 or hotter most days with it being over 100 degrees in my house pretty much every day. There are also frequent power cuts (I had one for 14 hours the other day) and water cuts. Typically I just want to get through hot season as fast as I can because it is so miserable. It was during a recent power cut when I was drenched in sweat and wanting to complain about how miserable I was that I was reminded of how much I have to be thankful for. I live in a country where most of the people never have electricity or running water.   Not only do I have both most of the time, but I have a backup water tower so that I basically never run out of water (this wasn’t the case my first year here) and I have a generator I can run when the power cuts get to be too long (or I just need power). I also have an air conditioner I can run at night to sleep or when I need a break from the heat. I am blessed with a nice house and never run out of good food.

Too often I am quick to complain about the things that make life uncomfortable and I am way to slow in giving God thanks for all He has blessed me with. This is something God has convicted me of before and has once again brought to my attention. In the middle of a miserable situation I need to learn to look for those things God has blessed me with and choose to be thankful regardless of the situations I find myself in.

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This is by far my favorite word in the bible.  To me there is an amazing amount of meaning wrapped up in this one word.  It is the Greek word Jesus used when He was dying on the cross and said, “It is finished”.  However, there is so much more meaning to this word when you know a little history behind it.  This word was used in New Testament days when someone paid off a debt.  Once the debt was paid in full this word was stamped across the record of the dept.  This word was also used when a servant had finished the work he was supposed to do or when a shepherd found the perfect lamb for passover.  I cannot completely grasp the significance of all that Jesus did for me.  He came to earth to fulfill a specific purpose, a specific job.  He came to become the perfect lamb, to become the ultimate sacrifice, to become sin & die on the cross to pay OUR debt…and He paid that debt in full.  There is nothing left for us to pay, our debt was completely paid off when Jesus died on the cross.  This is something that I try to consciously think about each day….each day I try to grasp this and thank God for my salvation that I have because Jesus paid my debt in full.  No matter how long I think about this or how long I try, I cannot truly and completely grasp this.

It is because of this amazing truth that Jesus should be what my life is all about.  I was recently reminded of this when I received some missionary friends’ newsletter.  They stated that, “Our first calling is not to the ‘work of the ministry.’  There will always be work to do and needs all around us everywhere we turn and it would be easy to burnout.  However, our ultimate call & purpose is to be with Jesus!  Jesus is our first calling.  Period!”  I was convicted when I read this because it can be so easy to get caught up in the ministry and what I am doing for Jesus.  I was reminded that I need to take time to just be with Jesus and that my first calling is to Him…that my life needs to be all about Him.

Choose Love

Recently I have been reflecting on all God is doing here in Burkina and I am blown away by how blessed I am to be part of so many amazing things God is doing through Envision Burkina.  As I have reflected on the ministry here, I see how God is using teams to reach the people of Burkina.  Because teams come out we are able to come alongside the Burkinabé and build church structures, drill wells, minister to the hurting, feed the hungry, provide handicap bikes to those who would otherwise be crawling on the ground and much more.  Recently, someone said something to our Envision team about how in all that we do, we share Christ and the Gospel message…THIS is what gives us the passion to do what we do.  Yes, it is awesome to be able to provide clean water for a village or to help someone who has been beaten and left for dead.  Yes, it is important to help meet the needs of others and to show love to everyone, in fact both are Biblical.  But, our ultimate goal is to see people give their lives to Christ.  Teams giving up their time to love on the people here through smiles, touch, time, gifts and meeting their physical needs opens up many opportunities for Burkinabé believers to share the message of Christ.  I could tell you story after story of people who have given their lives to Christ as a result of a team coming out and loving on the people in one way or another.

One of the missionaries we partner with tells groups they just need to love the people and leave the rest up to God.  Loving others looks different everywhere you go.  Loving others could mean taking time to play a game or teach someone English.  Loving others might mean drilling a well or distributing handicap bikes.  Loving others might be something as simple as holding a baby or taking time to smile and shake someone’s hand.  I have seen many teams come to Burkina and take time to love the people here and as a result I am seeing God do amazing things here in Burkina.

Here’s some of what’s going on:

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Handicap Bike Distributions.

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Wells providing clean water to villages in Burkina.

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Church structures teams are building in the bush.

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TOMS shoes distributions with Sheltering Wings (orphanage we partner with).

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Loving on babies (and kids) at orphanages.

May we never forget in the middle of busy weeks and endless reports and projects that God has called us to love people.

Lost in Christmas

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I love Christmas … I love the decorations, the music, the food, ugly Christmas sweaters (or at least making fun of them), time with family, Christmas Eve services and everything about it. With this being my first Christmas in the U.S. in the last few years, I have really been enjoying all the Christmasness all around me. However, I realized the other day as I was listening to some of my favorite Christmas music that I was getting lost in the middle of all this Christmas greatness.

I was listening to lyrics that say,

“Come, Thou long expected Jesus

Born to set Thy people free…

Born Thy people to deliver

Born a child and yet a king”

 

and

 

“I know You came to rescue me

This baby boy would grow to be

A man and one day die for me and you

My sins would drive the nails in You

That rugged cross was my cross too”

 

along with other similar lyrics, when I was convicted of how “lost” I had become in the middle of this Christmas season.

I have always known the true meaning of Christmas and I have never forgotten the true meaning of Christmas, but somehow it got pushed to the back of my mind. Hearing these lyrics helped bring it back into focus. Christmas is a time for us to celebrate the birth of Christ. But that isn’t the end of it. Christ came to bring us good news of great joy. He came to be our Savior, to die for us, rescue us and set us free. THIS is why we celebrate Christmas.

As I have listened to these songs over and over again, I keep reminding myself that in the midst of all the “Christmassness” not to lose sight of what is most important. I am not saying that all the lights, decorations, goodies, time with family and gifts are bad…these are all fun, but if I am not careful they will become the main focus instead of what really matters. And what really matters is Christ and my response to Him.

My favorite Christmas song is Little Drummer Boy. Part of that is because I have a weird obsession with drums, but it’s the message of this song that really makes it my favorite. It is about a little boy who is going to see a new baby king, but doesn’t have money to buy him a gift. So, he decides he will play his drum for the baby king and he plays his best for him.   This song is a reminder of what my response to Christ should be. It doesn’t matter what I have or what God has called me to do. What matters is that I give my all and do my best for my King.

Will We Trust God or Not

By now you most likely have heard more than you ever wanted to hear about Ebola and probably have your own opinions. I know I have several things I have wanted to share on more than one occasion, but I have kept my opinions to myself…unless you happened to ask me about it or were around when it came up in conversation. And, at this time I am still going to keep most of my opinions to myself.  However, one of the things that continually surfaces when I am discussing Ebola with my friends in Burkina is the need to trust God.

For those of you who don’t know, there are about 15 countries in West Africa. Only three of those countries currently have Ebola cases. There are no reported cases of Ebola in Burkina or any surrounding countries. Burkina is over 1500 kilometers from the closest Ebola affected country. However, there have been teams who have cancelled trips, employers who want their employees to stay out of the work place for 21 days after returning to the US from Burkina, people who think all flights from West Africa should be banned and other similar situations.

Having said all that, this isn’t going to be yet another blog about Ebola, but a blog about our need to trust God. Recently, I had a conversation with friends about trusting God and one of the things we talked about was how we didn’t move to Burkina because it was the safest or most comfortable choice, we moved here because God called us here. I think Scripture is clear that our life isn’t always going to be easy or comfortable (James 1:2-3). Scripture is also clear that God is in control and we have to trust Him (Proverbs 3:5).  If God has called us to something, we have to trust Him to handle the details.

I was reminded the hard way that we are not promised tomorrow and that no matter what happens, I have to make the choice to trust God. My sister woke up one morning and her husband was dead. His autopsy report revealed that he was perfectly healthy and provided no answers as to why he died. He was a young, healthy guy living in Texas with a safe job. He loved God and was serving Him where God had placed him and yet he still died.

The bottom line – we have to trust God. I always say that God gave us a brain to use so we need to make wise choices, but we also have to trust Him no matter what is going on all around us. In relation to that subject I said I wasn’t going to talk about – we need to remember that it is God who gives us life and health every day and it is God who can take it away at any moment, no matter where we are or what we are doing. He knows how many hairs are on our head (Matthew 10:30). He knows every time we get up or lay down (Psalm 139:2). He knows every time a bird falls from the sky (Matthew 10:29). And, He also already knows how many days I will be on this earth. So, I don’t need to worry about the unknown. I don’t need to have fear about something that will probably not happen. And if it does, I have to trust that God is in control and God has a plan for me.

I love this from a friend’s blog: “If we live in fear, we may never accomplish anything! This seems like what Satan would want, for Christians to live in fear and accomplish NOTHING. Irrational fear and worry that holds back progress in life is not from God. Limiting ourselves through fear limits God’s ability to work through our lives.”  (I highly recommend reading the entire post here: http://benandmollycollins.blogspot.com/2014/10/power-love-and-self-discipline.html?spref=fb)

Through These Eyes

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I have come to realize that everyone’s “normal” is going to be different. Even if you live in the same country, state or city what is normal to one person may not be normal to someone else. The thing about going to another country, especially a third world country, is that the “normal” is extremely different instead of just a little different. There are many things in Burkina that have become normal to me that I don’t even think twice about now. There are other things that have become normal to me, but at the same time are things I may never understand.

One of the things I love about when someone comes to Burkina for the first time is to see things through their eyes. I love to hear them say, “Oh, look at that!” or “oh my goodness, that is crazy!”.  Seeing Burkina through someone else’s eyes helps me to appreciate some of these unique things about Burkina…or maybe appreciate the US a little more:

  • In the US, our schedules and routines are very important to us. Here, it is all about relationships. Relationships are more important than getting your project done or being on time. This is something we Americans can learn from, but something that can be frustrating at times.
  • It isn’t weird for me to go up to random strangers in the bush or at church and take their babies from them to hold for a while…OK, so maybe even at the go-kart track I grab other people’s babies.

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  • I can give candy to the neighbor children or other random children and I’m not considered a “stranger” that the children should not take candy from.
  • Children, and I mean small children, play in the road or run across the street.  Yes, we see this as dangerous and yes, it can be dangerous.  But, I love to see the kids playing outside and having fun playing games with practically nothing instead of always on an electronic device or watching TV.
  • Every. Single. Day. I see donkeys pulling carts with a load of something someone is transporting.  People work so hard just to survive and make a living here. This guy had a small load … you would be surprised how much stuff one donkey can pull.

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  • It is normal to have people call after me every single day saying one of the following: “Nassarra”, “La blanche” or “tubabu” – 3 different languages to say the same thing – “white person”.
  • It is absolutely normal to see a semi-truck (or Burkina’s equivalent) with anywhere from 1-25 or so people riding on top.  Or something like this:

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  • It is also absolutely normal to see someone driving their moto down the road with 50 live chickens hanging on the handle bars or maybe a couple of live goats.

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or maybe carrying something like this:

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  • I see this every day because this is how women carry things around…they are such hard workers and servants, but they are always so full of joy and very giving.

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  • And, I am very blessed to get to do things like this, which I would never get to do if I lived in the US:

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These are just a few of the things I experience regularly.  They have become part of my “normal” and so sometimes I forget how unique God has made each of us who make up this world He created.  I forget to focus on the good and the unique things instead of focusing on the things that frustrate me.  I forget how blessed I am to be part of what God is doing here in Burkina.  And so, I love to see Burkina through the eyes of those who are seeing it for the first time.

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