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!”