“Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now”
-Saint Teresa of Avila.
We made it to our next village, excited and anxious to see where Sheltering Wings all began. The growth and development of the orphanage is truly God’s handiwork. What started off as a simple house where Ruth and the orphans lived, has grown into a massive compound. The total amount of land with which God has graced Sheltering Wings is 13-14 acres! There are male and female dormitories, infant/toddler sleeping quarters and play area; a playing field, a kitchen and dining hall; a guest house; a main office, medical clinic and office; storage rooms, and gardens. They also have the women’s center which includes a classroom, offices, a little boutique, the women’s living quarters, gardens, and their working area. They are raising rabbits and chickens as well as growing plants and raising fish through their aquaponics system. The national workers in the compound speak French, Moore, and English! You easily feel as if you are living in your own little community. Off the compound, Sheltering Wings has a private elementary and secondary school. I think we just need to take a moment and give Him praise for this! With the Lord’s blessing, Sheltering Wings will continue to grow and build offering more opportunities for the lost, rejected and afflicted.
How does the orphanage work exactly?
Social action, an equivalent to the states’ DSF, requests children to stay at the orphanage if room is available. There are also multiple situations in which women or children will come to the orphanage for help. All the children who live at the orphanage go to school which is supported by the sponsorship program. The tantis (hired national house mothers) take care of the infants and toddlers. A child stays in the orphanage until he/she graduates from school or drops out. We have an orphanage manager who takes care of the children’s needs; such as, accounting for food, toothbrushes/toothpaste, school materials, feminine/personal needs, etc.
The older students take turns making dinners with the other house mothers. They also oversee caring for the gardens. We have a grounds keeper and guards policing inside and outside of the compound. We have a national director of our widow’s distributions, children distributions and Tom’s distributions. We also are transitioning a female national to become the fulltime director of the women’s center.
There are lots of activities throughout the week. On Tuesday nights, the children lead their own prayer meeting, on Saturday mornings we have bible club, on Thursday they have a women’s bible study, and on Friday evenings they have a boys’ bible study. We also have Saturday film nights, about 1-2 times a month. The older children can join us for bible clubs in other villages as well.
The village itself:
It is not city life, and yet not village life, so we will call it “the suburbs” of Africa. They have markets and boutiques which are in walking distance, they have restos and “cafés”, a couple gas stations, a bus station, a patisserie, and a boulangerie. We also have electricity, which means fans and cold water! There are multiple churches, one in every sector; praise God.
Besides the living means being different, one of the biggest differences we have noticed is less staring. You can tell this village has had more white visitors than our home base. We are surrounded by people who know French, in addition to their tribal language, as well as English. Like our home village this place is its own unique and special village.
A glimpse of the Church:
The church we attend is a 5-minute walk away and packed every Sunday. Church is about 2-3 hours long depending on who is praying or preaching. We love it.
There is a band with different chorus groups who sing depending on the Sunday (women’s chorus, children, young adults, solos, quartet, etc.), We sing and praise for about an hour with lots of dancing. During this time, the offering is collected. Offering is done differently at this church. There are two boxes at the front of the building, one labeled “tithe” and one labeled “offering.” The “tithing box” is for your weekly 10% tithe to the Lord and the “offering box” is for money given beyond your typical tithe. We still do not truly understand the reason for the two boxes, but this has been the best explanation given. During the offering/tithing time, the women first walk up in a line and give their tithe/offering, and then the men walk up and give their tithe/ offering.
We have announcements, introduction of new guests, and prayer time. After all this the Pastor gives his sermon. After the sermon, we may sing another song, pray, and finish by reciting Lord’s prayer together.
The church is a one room building with benches and a pulpit in front. The walls are decorated with scripture verses in Moore and French as well as left over Christmas decorations.
Decorations do not come down unless they fall down or are falling apart.
The lead pastor is Pastor Valentin. Pastor V partners alongside sheltering wings and is the spiritual director of the school. He has been preaching on David, a man after God’s own heart. What does it mean and what does it look like in one’s life to have a heart for Jesus? Pastor Valentin used David’s story as an example of how to treat and/or not treat others, how to persevere through difficulties, and how to humbly ask for forgiveness when one sins. Having a heart for Jesus means to act justly and walk righteously.
Pastor Valentin is the Pastor who was with Mike at Cappuccino’s when the attacked happened. Pastor Valentine is joy-filled, kind and gentle. He just beams with love for the Lord. Not to mention, he speaks French, Moore and English. The lord is using him and his family in a powerful way!
Isaiah 61: 1” The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
We are helping in the guest house by preparing meals and bedrooms for visitors. We have been organizing the supply closet, which is full of materials for the children. We plan special activities for the children and help with Bible club every sat morning, and Thursday evening (or whenever they need it). We have been able to take part in the widows’ and children distributions; end of the year graduations and ceremonies, and Tom’s distribution. We have had the opportunity to learn how the women at the center make their sweet and spicy popcorn as well as their enriched/fortified cereal, which is given to malnourished infants and toddlers. They serve it as a breakfast for all the kiddos at the orphanage. It is great to know how to make this cereal because one can find all the ingredients or at least a substitute ingredient. Since we now know how to make both the popcorn and fortified cereal, when we return to our village we will teach the women how to make it. We hope to have Dorcas, the pastor’s wife, help us teach the women in our village. There are so many kiddos who would GREATLY benefit from eating this cereal, AND we can make it for our preschoolers!
Tom’s Shoe distribution:
The distribution takes place at the church and it happens multiple times a year. We have already had two distributions since we arrived. At our first distribution, we gave away over 100 pairs of shoes.
How it functions:
You have sizers, fitters and runners. Sizers take the child’s foot measurement before he/she enters the church building. Each child is given a piece of paper with his/her proper shoe size. There are multiple shoe fitters lined up in the church. All the shoes are lined up along the wall according to size. The child enters and finds a fitter. The fitter sends a runner to grab the correct shoe size. The fitter checks to see if the size works or if the child needs a different size. Sometimes the shoes are too small or too big. Kids try all sorts of things to get a pair of shoes. If we do not have his/her size, kids have tried to enter back in the church going through a different line and some kiddos have even tried to curl their toes. We have lots of help from the kids at the orphanage. They like to come and work as the shoe runners. Afterwards we might hang out at the church, listen to music, drink tea/coffee and just chat. They really have an effective and efficient system set into place. It’s so much fun.
Widows distributions –
The widow’s distribution is done a little differently here from the widow’s distribution in our village. We drive to the widows’ homes and personally deliver their supplies to them. We also pray for them. The first time we went with the crew was quite a comical sight.
Just picture, three white chicks and three small Burkinabe men driving a white Ford truck with American flag air freshener hanging in the rear-view mirror. Not to mention they were blasting English Christian music. Lol – Good times.
We had two elementary and secondary graduation ceremonies. The top 5 students received a special gift and the overall top student received a bike.
We also had a graduation for the women living at the women’s’ center. The women who come to the center stay for a year and learn a trade. They learn to weave, sew, cook, make soap, and how to read/write in French and Moore; specifically, in math and literacy.
When the women complete their year at the center they have a graduation ceremony. The women receive a certificate, there is dancing, picture taking and lunch served. This year was Sheltering Wings third graduating class!
We attend a bible club Thursday evenings at a nearby church. It is so simple and basic yet powerful. The youth mentor (youth leader) focuses on one memory verse and then preaches on it. One of the verses we studied was 1 John 4:19. “We love because He first loved us. The youth leader discussed why we love and how we show the same love Jesus’ gives to us. He asks the kids what they can do to show others love. The kids must repeat and memorize the scripture verse as well as say what they are thankful to God for. They sing songs and pray together. At the very end, we play a couple of games and close with prayer.
What touches our hearts more than anything and proves their love for the Lord and His love for them is the kids will come even after they have been working out in the fields all day.
They could stay home and just rest, but they are faithful to come and worship our Lord.
The prayer meeting held on Tuesday evenings are completely led by the children! They sing, pray, read scripture and give a mini message.
“Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol Him, all you peoples. For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever” (Psalm 117).
Our hearts cannot even begin to give Him the praise and glory He deserves.
A main concern for our safety here has been our lack of ability to leave immediately. We do not have a car or moto so we have been completely reliable on other missionaries. However, when the Lord commissions He is faithful to equip, in all WAYS. We have been blessed with a vehicle!!! An automatic! A missionary friend, who like us, is not proficient driving a manual, bought an automatic car from a missionary couple who was leaving the country. Our missionary friend just returned home for furlough, so she offered us her vehicle to use!! We now have the flexibility to explore and attend different ministries going on in the city. We are learning to drive in the city which is insane, absolutely insane. Cars, buses, bikes, motos, donkey carts, people riding bareback on donkeys, pedestrians and animals all making their way down the road. Sometimes the road seems to “disappear.” Its intimidating, but we are learning quickly.
The Lord continues to provide finically for us and we witness His spiritual and physical protection every day!
He continues to sweetly break our hearts for new ministry opportunities to explore. Our time in the city will allow us to visit two ministries who care for girls who have been sex trafficked, as well as meet and interview, at least one, working prostitute.
We had been praying where we would stay and what we would do over the summer months, as most of our missionary friends have returned home. The Lord, of course, already had his plan in motion. Not only has he provided the place, but He has given us a specific role to do there as well. We are directing a 3 day VBS overnight camp in a nearby village, starting a women’s bible study, and having one-on one time with a handful of orphans.
The Lord continues to amaze us as we learn to depend on Him. The Holy Spirit exposes deep seeded sin and then beautifully redeems and heals. He is always refining us, and it is not easy! But we praise Him in the midst of tears and amid challenges because we know our God is good. Our tears are not wasted and our struggles are not meant to tease or punish us.
“He has etched the very letters of our name of who we are, right into Him. He hasn’t forgotten us or this chapter or this story, and if He hasn’t forgotten us, we’re not about to go forgetting that His stories always work out in the end-and if things aren’t working out quite yet, it means we’re not quite yet to the ed. We’ll practice our faith- we’ll practice saying Thanks God in the middle. Faith thanks God in the middle of the mess, of the night, of the story. Because [faith] believes in the relentless goodness of Him who will not stop writing til there’s good at the end of the story”
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (PSALM 143:8).
It is hard to believe we have been in Africa for 4 months! It is safe to say we are falling in love with this country and falling in love with Jesus all over again! As we have said in the past we have heard Him say “Love my Children.” We pray we are obedient to this call and have the wisdom to discern who it is and how to do it. We ask that He define our mission as He continues to shed light on so much need. We also pray for this country. We pray that “the gospel is more than the personal salvation of individuals, but rather a social revolution” (Richard Stearns).
“May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you”