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Profile: Anne Kompaore: Twenty-six years in Burkina Faso
November 28, 2008
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso — In 1982, two single, white North American women showed up in Kotoura, a remote village in southwestern Burkina Faso. They brought with them a few suitcases, a passion for languages – and their Christian faith.
Twenty-six years later one of those women, Anne Kompaore – a Mennonite Church Canada Witness/Mennonite Mission Network worker now married to a Burkinabe native and pastor Daniel Kompaore – reflects on the early days of her work and the formation of the Mennonite Church in Burkina. “There was no church and no Christians of any kind in Kotoura, nor did people know anything about who Christians were,” she recalls.
With fondness, she shares the story of Cheba, the son of the Chief in Kotoura who was assigned to help Kompaore and her colleague, Gail Wiebe, settle into village life. Though the women had planned to gradually share their faith as friendships grew, it seemed that God had other plans. Cheba was eager to know more about who these two North Americans were. The two women were equally eager to learn the local languages. Within the first week, their primitive conversations had turned to matters of faith, and Wiebe shared with Cheba the story of the prodigal son.
“For about 11 months he peppered us with questions every day about who our God was and how we believed in him,” said Kompaore. After many conversations and shared stories with the two women and visiting missionary colleagues, Cheba became the first Christian in Kotoura. He shared his new faith with several friends, and about two weeks later they also became Christians. “In this way the [Mennonite] church was begun in Kotoura,” said Kompaore.
From these modest beginnings, another young convert grew into a pastor. At about 16 years old, Pastor Maadu of Kotoura became a Christian shortly after Cheba. Initially, Maadu’s father disowned him for about two years, cutting all family ties – but Maadu was later re-integrated into family life. Eventually he left the village to study at a Bible school – and then returned to become the village’s first pastor. Recently Pastor Maadu moved to the neigbouring village of Ndorola where Mennonites have worked among the Nanerige people for years with little result. Within just a few weeks of Maadu’s arrival, a villager embraced Christianity, and a few weeks after that, worship services began with about 20 people attending. On November 16, the church held its first baptism: eight were baptized – seven of them Nanerige.
These early successes energized Kompaore. She would need the inspiration as she vigorously worked in Kotoura for the next ten years on a linguistic analysis of the Sicite language, teaching local people to read and write the formerly oral only language, training the first students to teach others, and then finally training people to translate portions of the Bible into their own language. The patient and compassionate Kompaore thrived on what others might perceive as a long and tedious project. “I have always liked languages and have always had a strong sense of wanting to do what God wants in my life,” she says.
Since then Kompaore moved to the capital city of Ouagadougou to work as a linguistic consultant with Wycliffe Bible Translators and the new National Bible Translation Association – organizations that work mostly in minority languages. Here she helped colleagues to develop a writing system and describe grammar rules for about 20 different languages. In 2005 she began service with the Burkina Bible Society where she became their first resident Bible Translation Consultant. In her current work with the Burkina Bible Society (BBS) – an ecumenical collaboration – she works primarily with majority languages.
Dramine Yankine is the Director of BBS. Previously he had to solicit the services of a Translation Consultant in Ivory Coast. “I want to say to the Mennonite Church in North America that Anne’s work is a blessing to us,” he said. “We thank God for this cooperation with the Mennonite Church.”
Kompaore’s daily translation work provides inspiration. “As I work in scripture translation every day I realize how rich scriptures are. Most people have to do other things to earn their bread but I get to read my Bible every day. This is very enriching. I have a really strong sense that I am in God’s will.”
While her work provides a deep well of spiritual strength, so do the Burkinabe people. She recalls Jean Pierre Tapsoba, now a translator for the Mòoré language), an orphan who became a Christian at age13. At that time, the only Christian in his village, he became actively ostracized and was pressured to abandon his faith. He was even threatened with death. Fearing for his life, Jean Pierre prayed for the courage to leave his life in God’s hands. Later, he survived an attempt to poison him.
“When I see people becoming Christians and having such a strong faith that God will intervene where their needs are, sometimes I sense that their faith is stronger than mine. God answers prayers in miraculous ways time and time again. It reconfirms every time that God cares about each on of us and is present in each of our lives,” she said.
In addition to her life giving translation work at BBS, Kompaore has also begun teaching Hebrew and Greek at the LOGOS Unité de Formation Biblique & Théologique in Ouagadougou. Teaching translators how to work from the root text is critical to achieving quality translations.
Kompaore also preaches in her husband’s church from time to time, and models her faith in her large adopted family, offering joy, comfort, and grace as the occasion requires.
Committed to her work over the long term means that there are now well trained and capable Sicite literacy teachers and translators whom she says “know Greek better than I do.” But with 60 language groups in a country of over 14 million people, much work remains to be done.
As time and technology allow, Kompaore stays in touch with her home congregation, Listowel Mennonite Church in Southern Ontario and other supporting congregations, through email updates and newsletters.
“I am so thankful that I have the support [of the church]. This gratitude grows over the years. I absolutely love what I am doing. I feel God has led me to it and it empowers me to continue doing what I do.”
School first to offer biblical languages training
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso — The LOGOS Bible school (Unité de Formation Biblique & Théologique) is the first theological school in the country to offer biblically based training in Hebrew by a resident teacher, says Josiah Sanogo, Executive Director. Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker Anne Kompaore is helping make it a reality.
LOGOS is an interdenominational effort that is giving access to lay people demanding biblical training. Denominationally run schools traditionally give priority to adherents. All available spots are frequently filled.
LOGOS courses are structured to meet the needs of working people. Every three months, the school offers a two week intensive training module with three to four subjects. Students then spend the next three months studying, researching, and completing assignments, before returning for the next two week module. Currently there are about 25-30 students per module. Each student must commit to completing a minimum of two modules per year.
Sanogo says, “The ecumenical partnership in this school makes the experience very rich. We can draw on teachers from each denomination. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. We need each other to complete the work.”
Sanogo is deeply concerned about sound theological teaching. “The cry and challenge we have for Africa is not to have all the souls saved but how to keep all the saved souls in good doctrine… so to all those who can teach and invest in the teachings, come to LOGOS.”
Sanogo says that Kompaore’s teaching is a miracle. “From the beginning of this school we have dreamed of having a languages teacher. Until now they have come from abroad, for short terms. Now we are able to offer Hebrew throughout the year… We can’t talk about theology without biblical languages,” he said.