Month: January 2010

Burkina Bags – The Drama Continues…

Had a bit of a mad one tonight!

Just after teatime I had a random phone call from a very excited bloke with a foreign accent. The phone call went something like this:

Dai: Hello

Bloke: I have lost luggage I am 60 miles away.

Dai: What?

Bloke: I bring your bags. I be there in 90 minutes. You at home?

Dai: Hang on a minute…are you saying that you have my lost bags?

Bloke: Yes! I come now.

Dai: What?! Are you in Burkina Faso or Britain?

Bloke: In Britain. I am in [couldn’t pronounce place name]. I be there in 90 minutes. That OK?

Dai: Alright, yeah, nice one bruv. See you in a bit…

And true to his word (well half an hour late) he turned up at my house and handed me my big black sports bag complete with 9 rucksacks, still stuffed with toys for our kids in BF201! Unfortunately, the bloke’s poor grasp of English meant that while he had promised me bags (plural), he was actually only in possession of a single bag. The bad news for James is that his bag (along with all his clothes and clobber, as well as the final 3 rucksacks) is still unaccounted for!

Tonight’s little episode, however, has certainly encouraged us that there is at least a glimmer of hope that we may yet be reunited with our final bag(s)! I guess the challenge now is how the dickens do we get these bags into the hands of our kids in BF201. We’ll probably be getting in touch with Royal Air Maroc and asking them to help us out, cos they are kind of responsible for all this craziness! We’ll keep you posted.

So for those of you who are reading this and want to know if your rucksack is one of those that has just come back, here’s a list of the ones that are now back in our possession:


Let’s keep praying for the remaining stuff to show up, and let’s keep trusting in the goodness and sovereignty of God.

It’s all a bit nuts really innit?!

Responding to Haiti

The horrifying scenes of devastation and subsequent lawlessness in Haiti that followed the recent earthquake have shocked the world. It is impossible to remain unmoved by the sheer scale of suffering that this catastrophy has unleashed on an already impoverished nation. It’s been amazing to see just how many are already giving sacrificially towards the massive relief that is already underway in Haiti.

The challenge always presents itself at times such as this, how should we respond? Perhaps more significantly, how should the church respond?

I have encouraged the Christians at Hill City Church to respond in three ways:

1. Prayer is of course the most obvious and most powerful tool that we have. We must pray urgently and earnestly for Haiti.

2. We should give financially towards the immediate relief effort in order to alleviate suffering and to provide those who have lost everything with much needed supplies. If you haven’t given already I would personally recommend Compassion as they are ethical, efficient and their ministry is already firmly established in Haiti. The fastest way is to donate online at:

3. As Christians we have a responsibility to stand alongside our suffering brothers and sisters in Haiti (Galatians 6v10). A great ministry to support in this work is Churches Helping Churches – an awesome Christian organisation that has been established as a direct response to what has just happened in Haiti. Their vision is to providing the Haitan church with practical aid, encouragement and support, whilst also assisting in the rebuilding and replanting of churches. They recently produced the video below to further raise awareness of the sheer scale of what horror faces the church and people of Haiti right now. You can donate to CHC online at

Prayer Week

Tomorrow we start a week of prayer at Hill City that will probably take me out the blogging loop for a while. All in a good cause though. If you fancy – you’re welcome to join us in praying for Trevethin, Wales and the world – to the glory of Jesus!

For your interest, below is our prayer timetable for the week.

Prayer for Trevolution and the youth of the estate
Venue: Trevethin Streets (Meeting at Pastor Dai’s house)
Time: 7:00pm

Prayer for the Church family
Venue: Pastor Dai’s house
Time: 7:30pm

Prayer for the Community and Ministries of the Church
Venue: Pastor James’ house
Time: 7:30pm

Prayer for the Nations (With special Compassion Burkina Faso presentation)
Venue: Jeff & Jen Taylor’s House

Time: 7:30pm

Special Prayer Event with Guest Speaker Carl Brettle (UCB)
Venue: Pastor Dai’s house
Time: 7:30pm

Day to focus on personal prayer

Reflecting On A Week That Has Changed Me Forever

It’s 21:46 on Tuesday 12th January 2010. I’m sat on my sofa, looking at the street light through my window and watching the snow getting blown about by bitter, blustery winds. It’s hard to get my head around the fact that just 3 days ago I was in the sweltering heat and cultural whirlwind of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. It already seems like I’ve been back in the UK for weeks! The harsh weather, the familiar faces, sights and sounds, the pace of life and of course the joy of being with my family again. It’s all back as it was. At least on the surface it is. Underneath, however, things have changed for ever…

This isn’t going to be a long post. As so many of you who follow this blog know, I posted a vast amount of words and pictures while I was away, and in many ways there’s no point in regurgitating what I’ve already written. If you haven’t read my previous posts then by all means do so. This post, however, is just a closing comment on what, for me, was a trip of a lifetime.

Having never been to Africa before, I didn’t really know what to expect and was going with a very open mind. I can say with all honesty that I was daunted by the prospect of encountering poverty on a level that I never had before. Aware that the language barrier could be a problem. Concerned that being as (comparatively) young as I am and looking as (apparently) thuggish as I do, people might have struggled to take me seriously as a Pastor. (We had been tipped off that tattoos could prove a stumbling block to believers out there – so I was in long sleeves all week!) I was also very conscious that I was way out of my depth. Hill City Church is a very young church in many ways, so to be establishing a gospel partnership with a church on another continent is a massive commitment and a faith venture into the unknown. Furthermore, I was also very nervous about meeting Karelle, the girl who we sponsor through Compassion. Joking aside, I have a proven track record in making young children cry – without even trying. I really didn’t want my visit to traumatise this precious little girl!

As I look back on the trip, I can see how God had His hand on all of these things! The scale of poverty in Burkina did hit me hard – I saw, smelt and experienced things that were completely new to me. However, I was not overwhelmed by it, but rather saw it as confirmation that this was the right nation to be partnering with. I remember when we had a church meeting to discuss where we should pursue a partnership with. Compassion had given us 2 choices – Ghana (English speaking, far less poverty and greater life expectancy) or Burkina Faso (French speaking, 3rd poorest country in the world, with an average life expectancy of 45). I remember being proud of my people when they all voted for Burkina Faso, citing the scale of the challenges as the reason why we should be involved there! God loves nations like this, and He loves it when His people step up to the plate. I saw in Burkina Faso the opportunity for Hill City to play its part in shining the light of the gospel in the face of great darkness. Furthermore, I have to say that it quickly became very apparent that while the people of this nation are materially very poor – they are also rich in many ways that we in the west are not – which explains why there are so many smiling faces in all my photos. There’s more to life and happiness than comfort of money and possessions.

The language barrier proved little problem so long as the trusty Ouena was in the loop. However, I have come back with the intention of learning French – purely for the sake of this partnership!

As far as the age/thug thing went – I don’t think that this was an issue at all. Certainly from the time that our guide, Vivianne, met us at the airport, through all of our meetings with the various leaders and facilitators at Compassion, we knew nothing but honour, respect and a very warm welcome. This was even more the case when we met Pastor Robert and the leaders at SIM Paspanga Church. These guys not only greeted as brothers, they gladly gave us multiple opportunities to teach the Bible and lead them in times of ministry. Both me and James found this immensely humbling, and regularly felt that it should be them teaching us as they had a joy in Christ and a commitment to the gospel that we were jealous for! On our final day with the church I thanked Pastor Robert for being gracious enough to welcome us in light of our young ages. He replied “It is not you who we welcome, but the One who sent you!” That says it all!

As for feeling out of my depth in establishing a formal link between SIM Paspanga and Hill City Church – I still do! But I’ve decided that it’s a good thing!! Having seen the scale of need/opportunity that faces our brothers and sisters there in Paspanga – it feels way too big for Hill City to truly help. However, there are three things that give me hope:

i) The heart of Hill City Church – Of all the ministries that we have launched since the inception of the church, none have captured the hearts, the imagination and the sacrificial commitment of the saints like this partnership! From the number of sponsorships, to the packing of rucksacks for the children, to the number of hits and comments on this blog while we were away – the passion for being part of God’s plans in Paspanga is staggering! The picture that I think best describes this came as me and James were leaving after church a week last Sunday. Seeing Helen and Fiona carrying a handle each of a huge bag of gifts for ‘our kids’ through an icy, snow-covered car park, along with many others coming out with bags, or even just to wave us off – that blessed me deeply and gave me such hope for this partnership! I just know that Hill City is up for this!!

ii) The heart of the guys out there – Pastor Robert keenly stressed that he felt that this partnership was absolutely God’s timing. Certainly the way that the church both received and responded to our approach as gospel partners suggested that this was the case. Also, the actual church itself – it’s theology, it’s passions, it’s vision and direction – it so dove-tails with Hill City that you couldn’t miss the evidence of God’s purposes and grace. One of the most striking images that we saw last week was on the wall of the church hall behind the pulpit. There was a watermark 6ft up the wall that reveals just how deep the devastating flood waters had been in Paspanga last September. What I loved though, was that there was a cross painted on the wall that rose above the water level. That, I believe, is a perfect picture of the gospel heart and intentions of SIM Paspanga Church. The heart behind the Compassion project also suggests that this partnership will work. While I’d love to see us be able to help out in Paspanga on a huge scale with big projects and significant, generous giving – it’s so encouraging to remember that Compassion exists to help change areas like this in the name of Jesus – one child at a time!

iii) The heart of Jesus – He came, died and rose for ones such as these! He boldly stated that “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18v27). He also promised that for those who we obediently step out onto the mission field – He will be with us the whole way! (Matt 28v20) So If Jesus is down with us – we’re sorted!!

(I will be blogging about some of the specific ways in which Hill City is going to be able to help support the work of Compassion in Paspanga in a week or so – I just think that it’s not appropriate to blog about these things before sharing them with the saints of Hill City – which I’ll be doing next week.)

Finally, as far as meeting Karelle went – my nerves were soon turned to joy as I met this beautiful young girl and her family. Compassion had really prepared the whole thing well, so there was little room for things to go wrong. It was great to hear from her parents about just how much she has developed since joining the Compassion project. It was also nice to see that the international greeting of ‘safe’ is alive and well in Burkina Faso! Seeing her in the project on the Thursday was also fantastic – to see her have so much fun, engage with the Bible teaching, eat good food and be quite happy to hang out with me – her weird Welsh sponsor – that was lush too. I honestly can’t speak highly enough about Compassion – they are just superb. I am now on a mission now to get as many new sponsors as I can for these kids. If you’re reading this and you’re a Christian and you want to sponsor a child in our project in Burkina Faso – post a comment below and I’ll get it sorted out! Serious!!

In conclusion then – I’ve changed! Seeing the gospel, the church and the purposes of God lived out loud in such an extreme missional context was always going to change me. It’s changed my heart, my attitude to wealth, my personal comfort and ultimately the future direction of Hill City – the church I love!

I want to thank everyone who prayed for me and who made the trip possible. I especially want to thank Jesus – the Saviour and King of the whole world – from Wales to Ouagadougou and back again! Thank You, LORD, for the privilege of being part of all this!

Burkina Faso – Final Day

As the sun sets on this stunning, life-changing trip, I have a few moments to quickly write some words before packing my bags and jumping on a plane back to the UK. Both James and I will be posting our final reflections once we’ve settled back home, so this is not a final round-up. Rather it’s our final post from Burkina Faso and a brief summary of what went down on our final day.

This morning we had the privilege of meeting with all the leaders of SIM Paspanga Church (about 20 of them) to worship, pray and teach the Bible. We taught on a sunject that we had decided on before we’d even come to Burkina – the need for our churches to be Biblically Faithful, Christ Centred, Spirit Filled, and Mission Focussed. Both me and James felt that it was a timely message for all of us and that, by His grace, God had spoken through us. The leaders certainly responded very positively to what we had to say – it’s so humbling to have been able to serve these people in the gospel – Hallelujah!!

After the teaching sessions we went on a prayer walk around Paspanga, seeking God to break through in power and believing in faith that He will! The difference between driving though an area and walking through it is huge. The immense scale of poverty and devastation of the recent floods was shocking. So shocking in fact that I went out later with a camera to get some photos.

The biggest blessing, however, came as I walked the streets with my new friend Joseph (possibly the most passionate evangelist I’ve met). We bumped into Karelle’s father who, even thoug Karelle was in school, invited us in for refreshments. He and his wife are so lush and it was awesome spending time with just them. Joseph invited Karelle’s dad to church and he said he’d come! Hallelujah!! He also said that he’d visited the church the previous evening to drop off a gift he had made for me and the family! When we got back to the centre, I was given some little baskets for spices and a decoration to hang from my rear-view car mirror! I was blown away – this man was so determined to bless my family that, despite his poverty, he had made something with his own hands. It was so humbling!

Back at the church we gave gifts to the church, and also books to some of the leaders who we have got to know and love so much this week. They presented James with a locally made folder for documents, but it was their gift to us, as Hill City Church, that literally reduced me to tears. It was a custom made picture that spoke of the new gospel partnership between Hill City and Sim Paspanga. Just unbelievable – check the picture out!

After this we ate a gorgeous traditional lunch together, then came the goodbyes. As you’d expect it was easier than saying goodbye to the kids yesterday, but still very emotional!! Pastor Robert, Elder Joseph and Compassion team leader Kaleb have been such an encouragement to us and we’ll miss them loads. I even gave Pastor Robert a hug (but don’t tell Keith or Jeff!) However, we are also missing our own families loads and ready to jump back on a plane and come home. So after our faithful driver Matthias and legendary interpreter Ouena took us on a final trip around the shops to buy a few gifts (by the way – shopping in Ouagadougou market is intense – I almost went nuts!!) we headed back to the Joly Hotel for a final meal before packing our bags and checking out.

This trip has been so incredibly transformational – you can expect us to bang on about it for a good while to come. However, in the meantime please just pray that the snow allows us to land in Heathrow, and that our bags make it home too.

Thanks so much for the prayers! Can’t wait to see you soon!

Burkina Faso – Day 4

Thanks to Mozza for his post yesterday. Got to say I’m a bit gutted cos it’s the first time I’ve ever let anyone else blog on the Sanctified Rant and not only did Mozza’s post get the most ever hits in one day, but also the most ever comments on a post! LOL!!! I’m not really bothered – just buzzin’ bout how many people back home are loving the adventure too!

OK, back to business. This blog entry comes with a public health warning – there are photos attached that are so unbelievably cute that if you look at them for too long you might not be able to stop crying!! I have uploaded loads of photos today as they paint pictures that my words can’t. Some will be small, but if you click on them they will be enlarged for you!

Now, everyone who knows me knows that I’m prone to exaggerate from time to time! However, there is no doubt that today has been one of the most special, emotional, memorable and precious days of my entire life! James would say exactly the same! Thursday is Centre day in Ouagadougou – the day when all the kids come to the centre, and the day that the Compassion team most look forward to! It’s a day of sanctified chaos, inspired ministry, overwhelming love and irresistible hope! We thought we’d seen it all when we arrived on Tuesday and the little crew of children welcomed us with their hats. But today was almost too much! As we turned the corner to drive towards the church our van stopped suddenly. As I looked out of the window to see what the problem was I was stunned! Over 120 children, all from the Compassion project, lining the street on both sides – singing, clapping and cheering! I was in tears!! We walked through the parade trying to compose ourselves and take it all in (though I still haven’t managed yet!)

We entered the church hall, followed by all the children who were excited to say the least – they clearly don’t get many visits from white people! After some crazy songs and an introduction I was asked to say a few words and it was my pleasure to greet them on behalf of Hill City Church, to thank them for their incredibly warm welcome and to tell them that our church loves them, prays for them and that our visit was a dream come true! I was then put on the spot and asked to teach them an English song!! I haven’t done a kids song for decades, so I went back to the old skool and busted a bit of classic “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty” complete with all the actions, and getting progressively faster. The kids loved it, so I guess I pulled it off!

After the introduction it was lesson time, so the children broke off into 3 different classes according to their age. We spent some time in each class amazed by both the quality of teaching and the responsiveness of the children. We were especially delighted to see how faithfully the Bible was being taught, and when you consider that most of these precious children are from Islamic, Animistic or Catholic backgrounds – this truly is a miracle! As the photos suggest the Compassion project makes the best use of very limited space and they desperately need to build an extension – not only to give more space to the existing kids, but to make room for more! (More about that when we come back!) After visiting each of the classes I went back to the one that Karelle (the girl that we sponsor) was in. They had been studying the story of Jonah and were colouring in fishes, so I asked if I could do one, not realising what chaos I was about to create! When the kids saw me getting involved they literally pounced on me, asking me to do some colouring for them! I did my best but there were just too many for me to get through before break-time…but the craziness didn’t stop during break – far from it!!!

Scores of children lovingly lynched-mobbed both me and James, holding our hands, grabbing our arms and hugging us – laughing and giggling the whole time. It would have been a child-protection nightmare in the UK, but was just completely appropriate in this cultural context! The Compassion workers found it hilarious!! They marched us to the small, dusty playground at the rear of the compound to join them in playing mad games. This is another beautiful part of what Compassion do – not only providing education, healthcare and spiritual input, but also just blessing the kids with good, clean fun. There is such joy at the Centre, as these pictures will hopefully help you to see!

Following the break we gathered all the children together and were able to present some gifts that we had bought for them all to play with – footballs, hoola-hoops, marbles, pens, building blocks and learning mats. I then prayed a special prayer of blessing over them, and was asked by one of the leaders to do a rap for the children, which I gladly did, much to their amusement! We then managed to gather all of the Hill City kids, told them how much our church loves them and prays for them. After a photo I was then privileged to pray for them and their families too!

Then it was back to class and we felt it would help the teachers if we left them to it so that the children wouldn’t be distracted! We opted therefore to sit outside in the shade and chat with Pastor Robert – a man of God for whom we have huge respect and with whom we have developed a great rapport! With the help of our fantastic translator, Winna, we chatted about all sorts of things. As we chatted one of the young girls who was clearly upset opted not to go back to class but to have a cuddle with Pastor Robert. As I watched, amazed by the tender, pastoral heart that this man has, a tiny little girl called Mimi came and sat next to me, then curled up and fell asleep on my lap. So cute!! She just stayed there without saying a word for the duration of our conversation. It was such a precious moment and made me realise just how loved and secure these children feel here at Compassion.

Next on the agenda was lunch – and what a lunch it was! Compassion is committed to making sure that the children eat well when they are at the centre, and if the rice, meat and veg that they were given today is anything to go by, then I’d say that they are doing a fantastic job! They asked me and Jim to help serve the food, but there are so many kids to feed that speed is the key and after 5 minutes it was clear that we weren’t cutting the mustard! So we were relieved of our duties and went to eat with the rest of the team while the kids polished off their plates!

After lunch the parents started to arrive to collect their kids so we started to say goodbye to this crowd of beautiful children who in a single day have made a deep and lasting impression on us. I don’t believe we will ever forget them! I was able to say a special goodbye to Karelle, who I had been able to spend time with at different points during the day. I can honestly say that this gorgeous, bubbly little girl has found her way into my heart and I count it such a privilege to be able to sponsor her, to write to her and to pray for her.

We then left the project to go and visit the homes of two of our Hill City kids – Aminata and Fortjune. Both of these precious girls live in homes that are surrounded by flood damage, and both have come from harrowing backgrounds.

Aminata was abandoned as a baby and rescued by the boss of her absent mother, who now raises her as one of her own. Due to the trauma that she has suffered and a hearing defect that she has had since birth she is a very shy girl and it took a while for her to open up. Her adoptive parents, however, were far more responsive and I was able to tell them how much respect I had for the way in which they literally Redeemed Ani’s life. Unfortunately Ani’s backpack was among those that are missing, but we were able to bless the family with a gift of cooking oil and soap (precious commodities in Burkina). By God’s grace her sponsor, Leigh, had given me a special gift for her that I had put in my hand luggage to keep safe and so I was able to give her this, which was a real blessing!

We then visited Fortjune who lives just a few blocks from the church. However, so many properties were destroyed by the floods in September that from her garden we could look across all the rubble and see the church gates! Fortjune’s father is dead and she was tragically abandoned by her mother when she was just 3. She is now looked after by her grandparents who are quite old and infirm, but very loving and caring. We also gave them oil and soap, and by the grace of God her gift pack had made it safely to Burkina and so we blessed her with that. I also read them a letter from her sponsors which Winna translated for them. Her grandfather was so overwhelmed he literally couldn’t speak at points! However, he was able to say how the Compassion project had made a huge difference in Fortjune’s life, and also how blessed the family had been by the aid that the church had provided after the floods. I was then asked to pray for the family before we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

At 6pm we welcomed a party of church leaders and the Compassion team to our hotel and blessed them with a meal as a means of thanking them for making this trip possible. It was a special time where we all acknowledged the goodness and the hand of God on this partnership, and our excitement for the future. After making arrangements for our final time of ministry at the church tomorrow, we said our farewells and were left to reflect on a very, very special day.

All I can say is “Thank you, Lord Jesus!”

Burkina Faso – Day 3

Another day of life-changing experiences in Burkina Faso! Again there’s just way too much to write about, and as I have spent a lot of time and lost a lot of sleep blogging over the last few nights, and in light of my friend Leigh’s request – I thought I’d let James (now known as Mozza) guest blog today’s entry.

Over to you Mozza…

What a day! Burkina Faso is an awesome country. We started the day by being picked up by our faithful guide Vivanne, our translator Ouena, and our legendary driver Matthias, and winged our way to the rural location we were visiting called BF353. As we gradually made the transition out of Ouagadougou things started getting a lot quieter until eventually we arrived at the centre of a remote village where the church is based.

We were greeted by the Pastor of the church who’s name is Pastor Niebe, his beautiful family (wife and 2 sons) and his faithful assistant Paul. I’m afraid I cannot begin to describe in words what the village was like but hopefully we can put some pictures up to give an idea. It was so quiet and peaceful. Small pockets of surrounding basic houses (huts) making up the village could be seen ranging from 1-2 km away. The starkness of a solitary tiny child on top of a play slide began to bring home the reality of where we actually were. It was a different world.

As we toured the centre camp I was overwhelmed at the number of buildings that had been built by the church themselves. We kept asking – ‘who built this, Compassion?’ And the answer came time and time again, ‘no the church did!’. It was inspiring to see the way that Compassion was helping them so much coupled with the fact that the church was themselves stepping up to the plate and working together. We learnt how there had been hardly any chance to share the Gospel with the villagers for 11 years – but the church kept plugging away, until in 2004 God started to bless them with converts. Some of the parents of children being sponsored by Compassion saw how their children were being loved by the church and consequently wanted to follow Jesus! Hallelujah!

One of the highlights of the visit was when we asked if they had enough Bibles for the church, and we learnt that only the Pastor has one. We said that we would greatly like to provide some Bibles for them and they all burst out praising the Lord! They so wanted to bless their congregation with the Word of God.

Another awesome part of the day was when we got to have dinner with Pastor Niebe and his team. One (of many) of the challenging times was when we asked if he had good relationships with other local Pastors, to which he humbly replied ‘yes I was in an all-night prayer meeting with 7 of them last night’.

I can honestly say that it was one of the most amazingly humbling experiences of my life. The joy and life of Jesus that shone through this man and his team in spite of their situation was amazing. ‘We don’t know what side our bread is buttered on do we Jim’, Dai said to me. ‘No we don’t’. Pastor Niebe shared his testimony, of how from the slavery of Animistic worship – Jesus Christ saved him! What a God! These men are literally modern day Apostle Paul’s by the grace of God. It was a day that will be etched into my memory until we meet again one day. Please pray for these people.

After this visit we had a little rest before going to see if our missing bags had turned up at the airport. They haven’t…yet. We managed to buy some gifts for the children of our partner church (BF201) so that we have something to give them when we spend time with them tomorrow, however we are still really faith-filled that God will bring us the bags tomorrow. He knows where they are!

After a quick bite to eat (my 3rd Cheeseburger Royale as I don’t know how to read the rest of the menu!) we set out to our partner church at BF201 Paspanga for a time of worship with the church. Oh my days, what a great time of worship. We started singing, but then people moved a table out of the way and the whole church started a massive chain, dancing round the building to African stylee tunage! Of course we joined in. It was immense! This propelled me and Dai into another time of tag team preaching focusing on the greatest commandment. What a privilege to serve these people by ministering the Word of God. God has been so gracious through the trip and we have really know the blessing of unity by the Holy Spirit. These people are so filled with joy in Jesus.

At the end of the service we had the opportunity to pray for two beautiful girls who have problems with their legs. Just the fact that the parents of these children wanted prayer is amazing – we really pray that God would be pleased to heal these girls and that ultimately that they will be dancing in heaven as redeemed blood bought children of God. As we were leaving we were informed a young man called Joshua spoke to us and said “Sorry I cannot join you tomorrow – I must evangelise!” He went on to explain how he had moved into a muslim neighbourhood to spread the love of Christ, and had recently led an Imam’s daughter to Jesus! The guy’s a legend!!

Since we have been here these couple of days, a love for this country and these people is exploding in our hearts. It’s a love given by God. May this trip and this partnership between Hill City and BF201 be the start of a great adventure with God. Today was a day when I got to see with my own eyes that God is redeeming a people for Himself from all over the world.

Thank you for your prayers. We look forward to many more great stories of God’s faithfulness tomorrow.

P.S – Naomi if you read this – I love you and miss you and Benjamin very much. Can’t wait to see you both.


Burkina Faso – Day 2

I honestly don’t know where to start writing about today! I guess the beginning would be good!! So I woke up at 6am and had a breakfast of bread, ham and cheese…OK that’s a bit boring, so fast forward to our first meeting of the day with the Compassion BF staff. We got dropped off at their offices and as we walked in were buzzin’ to hear the sound of proper African praise and worship! These people know how to celebrate Jesus!! I was privileged to lead the morning devotions for the staff and after that we had a tour of the offices and met with all the different departmental specialists. It was especially exciting to meet the ladies who handle the letters to and from our children. These are the ladies who ensure that we stay connected to our children. Praise God for them!

After this we went straight to the Paspanga region of Ouagadougou to visit our partner church and Compassion project BF201. Paspanga is regarded as one of the most deprived regions of the city, and the streets we drove down certainly support this theory. As we meandered through the dusty side streets past abandoned cars, random goats and the rubble of houses (that were destroyed by recent floods) we eventually arrived at the church. However, as we got out of our van we weren’t ready for what was waiting for us. These photos should say it all, but basically an army of tiny african children lined the entrance to the church wearing ‘welcome’ hats, while some had big white hands saying ‘Dear Hill City Church Pastors, Welcome at Paspanga Church, We are happy to meet you.’ There was also a huge welcome banner up over the entrance and Pastor Robert came to greet us with his wife and members of the Compassion committee. We went into a small room to greet each other, hear each others hearts and look at ways in which Hill City can serve the church and the Compassion project. It was an awesome meeting and hugely encouraging! It was so humbling to hear Pastor Robert – a seasoned, grace-filled and godly pastor expressing his excitement and sense of God’s timing in bringing us to Ouagadougou. There was an instant rapport and unity in the gospel that only the Holy Spirit can bring about. As we munched on peanuts and chatted as we toured the basic premises both me and Jim were blown away by the passion that these guys have to reach and rescue as many kids as possible. Their resources are very, very limited, but their hearts are huge. Basically we are more determined than ever to get children sponsored and help them with practical aid. What was especially poignant was seeing the watermarks on every wall caused by the devastating floods that came last September. The waterline was above my head, yet amazingly the tragedy gave the church unprecedented opportunity to serve the local community and gospel doors were flung wide open! God is so faithful – even in the midst of tragedy!!

After an incredibly tasty (and spicy) lunch at the church we set off to meet our sponsor children. I can’t remember being so nervous in a long, long time. However, as we pulled up in the street next to Karelle’s house she came running up to us to greet us all. What I REALLY LOVED was that she shook everyone’s hand respectfully, apart from Pastor Robert who she gave ‘safe’ to! I flippin’ love this pastor – he’s an inspiration!! We came to the street-side stall where Karelle’s mother sells beans and walked down a small alley into the grounds of their home – a very simple, yet cosy, single-story clay house. Both her parents were there to meet us, as were her brother, sister, cousin and numerous other curious kids. But the atmosphere was perfect and as we sat down to drink water outside the home, I was just overwhemed. I mean 12 months ago I didn’t even know Burkina Faso existed, and now I’m falling in love with the place! I’m leading a church that’s falling in love with place and I have the privilege to sponsor one of the most beautiful kids I’ve ever seen and now I’m being welcomed as an honoured guest to such gracious people?! It was just too much to take in! Karelle was overjoyed by her bag of presents (thanks Leigh!!) and she wouldn’t let go of her doll afterwards! I also bought her family a big sack of rice, some cooking oil and loads of soap, which was also gratefully received! As I chatted with Karelle’s parents it was great to hear their growing respect for the Compassion project. Her father confessed that when he first heard about it he thought it was a small, insignificant ministry. Now, however, he sees it in a completely different light and could not hide his delight! It’s clear that the way that Karelle has been blessed by the Compassion project at the church has made the family more open to the gospel. After our meeting Pastor Robert invited them to come to the church tomorrow night as me and James are preaching. Please pray that they come and that the gospel will take root in that family!!

I can honestly say that my respect for Compassion has also increased today! They are just an awesome organisation doing a fantastic job in places that so desperately need Jesus! I want to assure all my Hill City family that your sponsorship money is in good hands and is being invested well into the lives of precious kids. Your kids love you. On Thursday we get to hang out with them all day and I’m sure the stories and the photos from that day will more than confirm that!

Anyway, following this incredibly emotional visit we returned to the hotel for a short break before returning to Paspanga this evening to minister to an assembly of local children’s workers and Sunday School teachers. The evening started with a time of African worship – which I was loving!! However, as it was all in French I was just grateful for the gift of tongues!! I really do hope God lets the Africans lead worship in heaven! After the worship time James preached a great message on raising children to both love and fear God, and I followed up with a message on the importance of serving children in the Name of Jesus. After a time of questions and a final song we were dropped back to our hotel and trust me – we were ready for some rest!

What a day!

What a privilege to be involved with this church and these precious kids!!

Thank you Jesus!!!

Burkina Faso – Day 1

Right then, time to get cracking on the first blog entry from Burkina Faso. Unfortunately it seems that the internet connection here is too slow to be able to upload any video blogs that we would have liked to have done, so I’m afraid it’s going to have to be the old skool ‘words and pictures that don’t move’ approach to blogging while we’re here!

Anyway, we’ve arrived! I am typing this from a room in the Joly Hotel that’s situated in a relatively smart area of Ouagadougou – the capital city of Burkina Faso. It’s a really nice hotel and we’re being incredibly well looked after by the locals. It feels a bit mad to think that we have only been in the country for 17 hours as we’ve already done a whole load of stuff. The journey, however, was epic…

We left Trevethin at about 12:30 yesterday and arrived at Heathrow at about 3:30. There was a slight problem at check-in as one of our bags was 7kg too heavy and we were looking at having to pay a £140 charge in order to get all our gifts to the sponsored kids here. However, we were able to buy a bigger bag for £25 from the airport and after a bit of re-jigging we managed to spread the weight and it was all OK. The flight went well but was loooooooooooong! I had no idea how hard it was to get here – we flew from Heathrow to Casablanca where we changed planes and went on to Niamey (Niger) and eventually arrived in Ouagadugou at 4:30am this morning. As the picture above suggests – the airport is very, very basic and the unisex toilet I had to use would definitely give the one in Trainspotting a run for it’s money!! Upon arrival we were shattered, smelly, hungry and really not in the mood to be told that 2 of our bags had got lost in transit! Unfortunately James’ bag with ALL his clothes and 3 gift bags for our children had disappeared, as had my giant sports bag with 9 gift bags! We tried to find out what had happened but our lack of French didn’t help! However, praise God for our Compassion guide, Vivianne, who came to collect us and helped us to make ourselves understood. The upshot is that our bags could be in London, Casablanca, Marakesh, Niger, or still on the plane somewhere! We literally don’t know!! We have been told to check again on Wednesday as that’s when the plane returns. We are really hoping and praying that the bags show up as we are due to be visiting the project, meeting the children and distributing the gifts on Thursday. Please, please, please pray that the bags arrive. We genuinely don’t give a stuff about Jim’s stuff, but the children getting their gifts is what ultimately matters in all this.

My theology in circumstances like this is basically that God is always good and always in control!

Having done what we could to trace our bags Vivianne and her brother drove us to the Joly Hotel. It was very late, very dark and my eyes were very tired, but as I gazed out of the window it was clear why the UN has ranked Burkina Faso as the 3rd poorest nation on earth. The roads, the buildings, the vehicles, the people – the poverty was shockingly stark! We arrived at our hotel at 5:30, so stayed awake until breakfast was served at 6am, then crashed and burned until 1pm – and dinner. Straight after dinner we had a meeting with the leader of Compassion BF. His name is Palamanga, which means ‘Happy Heart’ and boy is it an appropriate name?! It was great to hear his gospel heart and his love for the children, and his joy and laughter was infectious! Also at the meeting were Ishmael and Kevin who are in charge of Compassion’s project oversight and healthcare respectively. Vivianne was also there. It was a fabulous meeting and we were able to really get the ball rolling on ways in which Hill City can practically help out in the areas of infrastructre and healthcare in the future. More on all that when we get back home. After the meeting Vivianne took us to town so that James could buy a few clothes – cos frankly – he needs them!!! Even though it was a public holiday there was about a billion mopeds (OK slight exaggeration) buzzing round the dusty streets as well as donkeys, carts, woman carrying huge bowls of fruit on their heads and men catching a cheeky life by hanging off lorries! Trust me it was more nuts than it sounds – I’ll be getting some photos don’t worry!!

The evening involved a lush meal (I had guinea fowl for the first time ever!) and then some time to chill, chat and blog, before hitting the sack. The cultural adjustment has already been massive and tomorrow is a big, busy day! We’re visiting the Compassion office and I’m going to be leading devotions for all the staff. Buzzin! Then we’re off to visit our sponsor children and their families. By God’s grace both of their gift bags were among the ones that made it safe, so we’ll be blessing them with those and I’m genuinely soooooo excited about meeting Karelle and her family! I think Jim is just as excited about meeting Franck. So grateful to the Lord for giving us this opportunity!! Me and Jim are going to sing “God is so good!” in devotions tomorrow morning – cos He is!

Right, better go cos me and Jim are going to spend some time in prayer before I get my head down and seek the Lord for a word for tomorrow morning. It’s a 6am brekkie, then a 7:15 start. Can’t wait. Please keep praying for us that we will serve Jesus, these awesome people and this beautiful nation well.

God bless you!

Off To Africa

Tomorrow I preach my first sermon of 2010 to my Hill City Church family, then me and my co-pilot Jim get to jump in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes (I’m not even kidding!) to whisk us off to Heathrow and the start of our African adventure in Burkina Faso.

At the time of writing my emotions are mixed! I’ve never been to Africa (didn’t have a passport for 8 years until last month!) and have never been personally exposed to the scale of poverty that I know awaits us. I’m expecting to cry a lot!! I’m also going to miss my family like crazy. The longest we’ve ever been apart is 2 days, so I’m going to find that tough and Josiah (my son) is currently really sick, so leaving him is going to be especially hard!!

However, I also see the hand of God all over this trip so I’m going to get on the plane with a heart full of faith and hope. I’ve been blown away by the way Hill City has risen to the challenge of sponsoring these precious kids, even in the midst of a recession! We were allocated 2o children and to date 17 have been sponsored!! When we planted Hill City we wanted the love of God, expressed through acts of mercy, to be right at the heart of what we’re about – so it’s beautiful to see that gospel heart beating strong!! I’m especially excited about a little stealth mission that we’ve got going on too. We’ve packed 20 little back-packs full of gifts for our Hill City kids and will get to give them out next week. Can’t wait. Me and Jim are also getting the privilege of meeting our sponsor children and their families in their homes – which is going to just blow me away. Again, I reckon I’m going to cry! A full break-down of our itinerary can be found here. Please use it to inform your prayers.

This trip would not have been possible had it not been for the tireless work and sacrifice of Jeff and Jen Taylor who have literally taken care of everything (even the Mercedes!) Their love for Jesus and their commitment to the work of Compassion is humbling, and we’re so grateful to them for making our Burkina Faso partnership possible. Also there’s a fantastic girl off the estate called Leigh who was saved and baptised last year. Her dedication to sorting out the rucksacks and getting them all packed up has also been a huge blessing and will give our precious kids something to smile about next week!!

We have no idea how connected we’ll be while we’re away. If there is a good (cheap) internet connection then we hope to be doing daily blog entries here at the sanctified rant, as well as Twitter updates too. If not – then radio silence is where it’s at!! Either way, please pray for us as we go, that we’ll used and changed by God for His glory. Please also pray for the Compassion staff, church leaders and kids that we’ll be serving, and also for our own families back home, and our church family at Hill City.

Thanks and God bless.