Burkina Faso Partnership Council members include the following (photo taken at 2012 meeting)
Standing from left to right: Pastor Abdias Coulibaly, Vice President, Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso (EEMBF); Pastor Siaka Traore, President, EEMBF; Rod Hollinger-Janzen, AIMM Executive Coordinator; Claire Traore, President, EEMBF Women's organization; Sonia Carminati, French Mennonite Mission Committee; Martine Solomiac, WYCLIF worker who attends Ouagadougou Mennonite Church; Fabéadama Traore, Secretary EEMBF; Pastor Calixte Bananzaro, EEMBF; Paul Thiessen, Evangelical Mennonite Conference; Bala Sourabie, Treasurer, EEMBF.
Crouching: Pastor Daouda Traore, Assistant Secretary, EEMBF; Kari Traore, Assistant Treasurer, EEMBF; Bruce Yoder, Mennonite Mission Network; Hippolyto Tshimanga, Mennonite Church Canada.
AIMM ministry began in southwest Burkina Faso in 1978. The strategy was to combine the translation of the Bible into the languages of various ethnic groups in the region, with evangelism and church planting. Language groups which have received such a ministry include the Senoufo, Samogho, Siamou, and northern Senoufo. Work on biblical translation continues in each of these groups, and the church has begun in each group as well.
The Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso affirms these efforts, while focusing its evangelism in urban centers as well as among these more rural based groups. Currently the church has 15 congregations.
On Easter Sunday, with light streaming into a spacious, freshly painted room, the Mennonite Church of Ouagadougou choir sang in four-part harmony, "I am following you, Jesus, through the torn curtain." For seven years, worship had taken place in a cramped, dark corner of a rental property, but on March 31, this congregation met for the first time in their own building.
"We were celebrating, first, the resurrection of Jesus, and second, our new church home," said Nancy Frey of Mennonite Mission Network, who has served with her family in Burkina Faso since August 2012.
The purchase of the new land and building, situated within walking distance of the national university, was made possible through partnership grants from Mennonite Church Canada and Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission.
Frey and her husband, Bruce Yoder, help to build community at the Mennonite university student hostel, and work alongside the church leaders in Ouagadougou.
The Ouagadougou congregation formed around a nucleus of Mennonite university students who came to the capital city to continue their education.
"With no Mennonite congregation in Ouagadougou, we were losing our educated young people to other denominations," said Siaka Traoré, national president of Eglise Evangelique Mennonite du Burkina Faso (Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso). "That is why we started the hostel for Mennonite university students in 2006. As they worshiped together, others joined them and the Mennonite Church of Ouagadougou started growing."
On Easter Sunday, some first-time attenders increased the group of worshipers that usually numbers about 55.
"We were pleased to see some of the builders join us for the service: The mason with his wife and the painter had been specially invited to celebrate the first service in the new building that they had worked hard to get ready in time for Easter," Frey said.
Calixte Bananzaro, pastor of the Ouagadougou congregation, preached on the last hours of Jesus' life and the story of his resurrection.
"He encouraged us to share this good news with the people we know who are anxious, discouraged and suffering. We have peace because we know that nothing is impossible for God," Frey said.
The service ended with 10-year-old Samuel Dakio, one of the Sunday school children, praying for Bananzaro, a fitting end to a service filled with youthful exuberance, Frey said.
People from the neighborhood around the new church joined the Mennonites in an Easter feast.
"The ministry of the Mennonite hostel has developed in ways its founders had not foreseen," said Bananzaro. "The congregation that has sprung from the initiative provides its residents with a kind of ‘training ground' for spiritual leadership."
Bananzaro explained that those who have a university education are called upon to provide leadership, even if they have no theological or ministry training. The Ouagadougou congregation has been a place where hostel residents can hone leadership skills through leading worship, preaching, teaching Sunday school, and other congregational responsibilities.
"Perhaps the next seven years will result in even more unanticipated ministries," Bananzaro said.
Contributed by Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
Bobo Dioulasso Mennonite Church
The planting of a Mennonite Church in Burkina Faso's second city began in 2007 with the arrival of Siaka and Claire Traore from Ouagadougou. They rented a house and began holding worship services on the premises in what had been used as a garage. Eventually they built a shaded verandah to accommodate increased attendance. Currently, land has been purchased and plans are underway to build a meeting place for the church.
This young church has also begun a ministry in the Colma area of the city. Evangelist Samuel Sanou continues to minister in that neighborhood, where the church would someday like to build and operate a Christian primary school.
Reaching Out Beyond Borders
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches (formerly the Evangelical Mennonite Church), one of two churches responsible for founding Congo Inland Mission/AIMM 100 years ago, has begun a new ministry in Africa, sharing the Good News of Jesus with the Yalunka people of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Mali. What's more, they have invited one of AIMM's partner churches, the Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso (EEMBF), to collaborate with them in this mission. Burkina Faso church President Siaka Traore reports as follows:
"Toward the end of January 2012 a young EEMBF man, Josue Coulibaly, along with myself, traveled to Mali to accompany a Fellowship of Evangelical Churches' team to the Yalunka. From Kedougou, Senegal we traveled toward Mamoudouya, where the political representative of the commune lodged us. The village chief was favorable to our coming and the hospitality was warm. In the evening after the meal we gathered in the familial compound of the chief. He explained to us how the Yalunka came to Mamoudouya. We also explained to him why God is sending us to them, in order to be reconciled with them and to have a personal relationship with them. The chief and his entourage encouraged us to come and bring God's message to the Yalunka people.
From Mamoudouya we went to Falea, a larger village. We were received by the village chief and lodged in his compound. In this village, there are already several persons who are ready to receive Christian teaching. A man approached us and asked us to pray for him, because he had experienced difficulties during the last year. After prayer, he thanked us by giving us money. We told him that we have received freely, and that we give freely. The village chief strongly requested us to come with Christian teaching, above all to their children so that they could grow up with a Christian ethics and morality.
Our visit among the Yalunka and with them helped us to understand their thirst to better know the true and living God whom they worship already through a religion: Islam.
Currently, FEC missionaries based in Senegal and relating to the Yalunka people are Troy and Gerri Masters and children. There is openness to EEMBF providing Burkinabe missionaries for this work.
The Future of the Church
The great evangelical mission efforts of the 19th and 20th centuries could not have happened without the millions of faithful believers who ran farms and businesses, worked professionally or as laborers, and then contributed significant portions of their disposable income for the mission effort.
Because of this kind of sustained investment, the center of the worldwide Christian movement is now in the southern half of the world, where formerly North America and Europe had been the heartland of Christianity. Africa has seen the largest growth of any continent during the 20th century, and Africa is sending increasing numbers of missionaries. The vision is there, but one of the major handicaps is lack of financial resources. Unemployment and underemployment is a huge challenge facing many African countries. In this situation, how can African mission vision be released?
In Burkina Faso, an initial seminar to guide participants and give them some basic knowledge and skills in starting a business, took place in December 2012. The seminar was set up to accommodate 25 participants-55 showed up! From that small beginning, many have been encouraged to begin or expand their activities. Currently a microloans project is taking shape which will allow the church to help some of its budding entrepreneurs. The project is supported by the Evangelical Mennonite Conference.