We hope that the Christmas and New Year holiday season was a joyful blessing to you and your family and that the coming year brings the blessings of the nearness of God and the bounty of His providence to you all.
Janet and I were given an amazing gift from God, an answer to much prayer and planning. The swiftness with which we were blessed reveals that God knew what we wanted (and needed) even before we brought our prayers before him.
Four days before the New Year we were visited by a friend whom we had not seen since we returned in October and who had not been to our home for more than two years. As we sat on our front porch talking over glasses of Coke, Blondine noticed the sewing machine I have been repairing sitting on our porch. Janet explained to her that we hoped to use the sewing machine as the seed to a program to teach widows and other marginalized women to sew and that we planned to do this in a community center in a location we have not yet discovered. Her face lit up as she shared that she knew of available land in our very neighborhood.
The next day the three of us drove to the land that was actually within walking distance. We drove down an uncharacteristically flat dirt road to a typical weathered cement block wall with a couple of rusty gates and a matching passage door. Blondine opened the gates and we all stepped in. The land was overgrown with waist-high weeds and brambles. Windblown litter fluttered among the weeds and the occasional lizard scrambled across the block wall. Janet and I paused in dropped-jaw silence for a few moments as we took in the view. As we walked among the weeds avoiding tripping on tangled vines and large stones we began remarking aloud, “Look! A mango tree! And there is a papaya tree! Then we saw what we had hoped to be able to plant ourselves—a small cluster of Moringa trees!
The land includes a typical Burkinabé concrete block house with two bedrooms, a living area, and a future bathroom. The home was filled with assorted lumber, furniture, construction materials, and the obligatory abundance of swirling red dust. It was small, but very well suited for use as a meeting room with two offices or an office and a dedicated-use room such as for training. Across the way from the house was a single room “magasin” suitable for much storage such as baby formula, rice and beans, sewing machines, and more. There was also a small outbuilding with a “squatty potty, a small shower stall, and a room for a lavabo or hand washing sink. The land has a water tap and hose bib (with running water) and electrical service.
We were not there long before we again saw the hand of God. The property was ideal for all that we had in mind to do as we had shared with the Sheltering Wings board, albeit smaller than our too-big eyes had imagined. The property was all that we had hoped for, and more. It is situated across the road from a large school, a short distance from a large evangelical Baptist church and a few houses up the street from a mosque making it an area especially well-suited to sharing the love of Christ, disseminating the Good News, and developing synergies and working with and supporting a local church and a nearby school.
We contacted a good friend, a former coworker from the SIL translation center where we had served until last October. Adama is a true Christian brother who has copious experience working with government agencies, NGOs, and hapless foreigners feeling their way through an unfamiliar social structure and a convoluted and often tortuous legal system to make the initial contact with the “proprietaire”—the landlord.
We had a visit from Adama yesterday evening after his meeting with the landlord. Adama sat in the sofa across from us, his usual poker face belied a nascent grin—he had good news. The landlord was not just amenable, but wholly supportive of having a social service entity occupy the property. Not only did the landlord reduce the rent by one third, but rebuffed an offer from a small group of men who arrived as he was bidding “adieu” to Adama and who offered to rent the property at the full asking rate.
Janet and I have prayed much before and since finding this property. There is no doubt in our minds that a God who knew what we wanted (and needed) even before we asked has tipped His hand. We began the process of planning improvements to present to the landlord.
…And My Mouth Shall Show Fourth Thy Praise
God again has made His hand visible in ways that make us fall silent and watch Him work.
We met with the landlord and Adama, our friend with SIL. The landlord is a Christian brother who appears to have a grand heart for Jesus and a deep love for improving the lives of the Burkinabé people. He is very supportive of the work to which God has put our hands. He is amenable to a long-term (five years or more) relationship as we work to raise up Burkinabé colleagues to whom we can entrust the project. We shared the rendering of how we would like to develop the land. He was pleased and encouraging.
Now the work begins. For the next few months we will be rehabbing the home to serve as an office, classroom, and a meeting room; installing water and electrical service; installing an exterior kitchen for demonstrating how to prepare food with Moringa leaves and to feed pregnant and nursing mothers; installing a covered, outside work area for teaching mothers how to safely prepare infant formula, to sew by hand and with a sewing machine, to make soap, and peanut butter; plant a Moringa grove; plant an organic demonstration garden irrigated with grey water; build a chicken coop and fenced enclosure to teach chicken raising and to reward women with laying chickens and the opportunity to have more food and to raise their own chickens; to teach women basic literacy and numeracy; and to do as we are led to share the love of Jesus Christ with His children and His creation. As always we pray that God’s providence will supply the resources needed to do the work to which He has put our hands.
We will be using some of our personal support funds to get the project started and we have set up a Sheltering Wings Community Center project account which can be found on our Sheltering Wings website page. We will share a more complete plan and budget as soon as it is finished.
While in Africa, we have learned to wait upon God, to listen for His voice, and to trust in His will. We are blessed beyond belief to watch Him work as we do what little we can. We are blessed to have mission partners like you who lift us up before the Father in prayer and share of His bounty to follow His leading.
May you all be blessed at least as much as you have and continue to bless us.
Que les bénédictions de Dieu tomber sur vous comme la pluie, (May God’s blessings fall on you (plural) like rain.)
In His hands
Don and Janet