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Broadcast ministry hopeful in Burkina Faso
November 28, 2008
Orodara, Burkina Faso — It is Women’s Day at the Mennonite Church in Orodara. The children’s choir has already sung, and now a parade of women enter the back of the sanctuary, singing and swaying in time to the balifone and drum music. In their hands, each one clutches a field hoe. The women swipe at imaginary weeds in time to the music. The hoe is a symbol of work and working together in this culture. The presentation is a call to all Christians to gather together to work for the Kingdom of God.
Pastor Coulibaly Abdias sits in the front row of the crowded sanctuary, watching attentively as the women proceed to the front and move into a drama depicting how to resolve a family conflict.
It is a tradition here for the women to be entirely responsible for one worship service each year. The children, who have had to clear out to make room at the front, peer in through glassless windows, standing on tip toes.
Worship here is a highly oral experience. There are no bulletins, no overhead projector. Songbooks are a rarity. Those who can read may have brought a Bible or their own personal song book if they have one in their language. But most sit and listen attentively.
Pastor Abdias, with training in communications in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, dreams of expanding a radio broadcast ministry in this oral culture. In rural areas especially, few Burkinabe people read or write; indeed, having their own language in written form is a recent development. Tradition places a high value on oral communication, says Abdias. Mennonite Church Canada Witness has assigned Norm Nicolson of Alberta to work in the recording studio as a Vernacular Media Technician and Instructor. Nicolson is currently studying language in preparation for his duties, and reports that the studio is nearly ready for service.
Radio broadcasting is relatively inexpensive – and most people, even in rural areas, have a radio receiver. “Only a few batteries, and you can communicate with the world,” says Abdias through a translator. Abdias is also the Chair of the Burkina Partnership Council, one of several such partnerships facilitated by Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (AIMM). Mennonite Church Canada Witness is one of the partners in AIMM.
Abdias is eager to advance the collaborative broadcast project, but he is also cautious about whom he collaborates with. “We have inherited some bad things from western countries and churches,” he said.
“Sometimes each church is working according to where the finances and help come from, and that is not helping because churches [here] have their vision of life, and it’s not always the same from one church to another.”
He adds that the Mennonite Church brings the work of peacemaking to the whole evangelical community in Burkina Faso. “The Mennonite Church has placed an emphasis on that domain, and this has helped others consider this virtue to work and promote peace,” he said.
Abdias has dreams for his congregation, too. “We want projects to help people be self sufficient so they have enough means to live and also help the church with projects like evangelization. Our country is landlocked and therefore somewhat poor, and because of that poverty the members of the church don’t have enough means to help the church.”
In a country with over 60 languages, a broadcast ministry can be a complex endeavour. He hopes to first start broadcasting in Jula, the language of commerce, and then Samogho, a local indigenous language.
Abdias highlights several prayer needs: the holistic development of the church, its material and spiritual growth, and political and social stability in Burkina Faso surrounding region. “This whole region is very acquainted with civil wars and political turmoil,” he says, adding, “Pray for the churches to grow strong.”
Then he shares a final request that mirrors the concerns of many Mennonites in Canada. “I pray that God will help the new generation to have a strong faith and keep the ways of communion and communication with God so that they can know a better life in the future.”