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Against all odds: committed to Anabaptist study


Félix & Justin Dakuo

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November 28, 2008
- Dan Dyck

Orodara, Burkina Faso — An old engraving from the Mennonite Martyrs Mirror remains burned into the memory of Félix Dakuo: The image depicts Dirk Willems, a 16th century Anabaptist who escaped prison, fleeing across a frozen river. His pursuer falls through the ice, and Willems returns to save the man from certain death, only to be re-captured and later burned at the stake for his beliefs.

Dakuo, a school teacher and volunteer assistant to Pastor Coulibaly Abdias of the Orodara Mennonite Church, deeply wants to learn more about Mennonite theology. With the support of Mennonite Church Canada, Dakuo made plans in the spring of 2007 to bring his family to Canada where he would study at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU). But at the last minute, the Canadian government denied his visa. Mennonite Church Canada forfeited a significant sum of money which had already been invested in the acquisition of official documents and guarantees required by government.

Meanwhile, Dakuo made his own sacrifice: he had been advised to put his life in Burkina on hold when the prospect of official documents appeared imminent. He took a two year leave of absence from a coveted government job teaching in Burkina Faso’s public school system. Suddenly the young father of three found himself with no salary for two years – and no prospect for continuing education in Canada.

He began questioning his calling to ministry, and wondered what God had in store for him. “What do you want me to do? What answers should I give to the people, to my family, to myself?” he asked God.

Dakuo, already immersed in scripture study and theology books, said, “I came to the conclusion that I still have much to know about theology, about the Bible, and about God so I can serve more with an open mind.”

Mennonite Church Canada remained committed to the education project and income replacement for Dakuo and his family. Arrangements were made for him to study at LOGOS Bible school (Unité de Formation Biblique & Théologique) in the capital city of Ouagadougou – about a seven hour bus ride away from his home in Orodara, where his wife and three children remain.

Dakuo does not hold the Canadian government responsible for denying his visa. “I had to sign a commitment to come back after two years of study in Canada… but the Canadian embassy didn’t trust it because some people have made the same commitment but did not keep it. I will not blame the Canadian authorities,” he said.

He nonetheless offers a bit of advice to Canadian officials. “Maybe it would be good for them to make more inquires to be sure that those who are sincere will be rewarded and those who are not sincere would be punished.”

Dakuo remains grateful, despite the significant change in plans. “My wife and me have been praying and thanking God for the Mennonite Church in Canada and CMU and all these people who were looking forward to seeing us, who have paid, and maybe even refuse to eat because they wanted to contribute to this project. May God bless the people in Canada and at CMU… we don’t have enough words to thank you even if that project did not come true.”