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Love of words leads to love of the Word


Ali Traoré was a fighter with a love of words. Now he hosts a Christian radio show, pointing others to Christ's peace.

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July 7, 2006
-by Lynda Hollinger-Janzen

Orodara, Burkina Faso — Before Ali Traoré became a Christian, he stirred up the dust wherever he went in this country south of the Saharan desert.

“[My friends and I] would fight as if it were the only thing that mattered,” he said. “We would cause such trouble at weekly dances that the musicians would have to disperse.”

Yet, Traoré sought God fervently in the Muslim faith. He fasted and prayed with such intensity even his wife criticized his zeal. Traoré added African traditional religion to Islam, wanting to make sure he was protected from every kind of evil. He wore some amulets around his waist and arms. He carried others in his pockets.

One day, as he was working as a tailor, friends sent by foreign linguists working on a Samogho Bible translation called for his help because of his skill with words.

“I got up and left my sewing machine,” Traoré said. “I would be putting my own language into writing. Just that alone gave me much pleasure.”

As he worked with the biblical texts, Traoré learned that trusting in any power object other than God – whether a bronze idol or the tail of an animal – was something God hated.

“We need to simply place ourselves in God’s hands,” Traoré said. “I also understood from God’s word that I have done evil and God calls me to come to him and be made clean. I understood more and more about God until I washed my face [was baptized] into God’s road. Today, I have been transformed into a calm and peaceful person.”

Several years ago, Traoré began to suffer from severe headaches caused by a tumor. French Mennonites helped him pay for surgery in France. Though his life was saved through this intervention, he lost most of his eyesight.

In addition to continuing to help with Bible translation, Traoré hosts The Samogho Program, a weekly radio broadcast that combines the oral tradition of his people with biblical stories and music (see accompanying article, Radio promotes gospel, preserves culture).

Because he cannot see to read, all of Traore's speaking on the air is memorized or extemporaneous.

“Instead of being bitter that he is almost blind, he praises God continually that his life was spared and that he has become a child of God with a reason to live,” said Donna Entz (Fiske Mennonite Church, Sask.), a worker in Burkina Faso through Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness. “Truly, his life has been transformed."