Monday, May 24, 2021

Crazy for Cassava, Manic for Manioc, and Yums for Yuca!

Cassava, manioc, and yuca are different names for the same starchy tuber that grows in different parts of the world.  The French call it "manioc" (in Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire) and the English call it "cassava" (Liberia).  

But no matter what it is called, I love the way it is prepared in a very special community called Ira, Cote d'Ivoire.  We had such a treat this past week, following our conference, to drive about three hours west of Abidjan to an area very rich in rubber trees, palm oil plantations, and cassava farms.  We drove deep into a community where hundreds of women work twelve hours a day, seven hours a week (that's right - you heard day off...ever) to process cassava.

Most women spend their days doing what the woman in the video below is doing - peeling cassava.  I had to peel potatoes once a day growing up - for about fifteen minutes.  I can't imagine doing this twelve hours a day, every day.  From there, the cassava is soaked, washed, then ground up and dried.  Some of it goes into what is called "attieke" which is almost like couscous, and other is made into a flour for "gari" which is like a cream of wheat.  

The good news is that they have more demand than they can currently meet, both locally and for nearby countries.  The bad news is that they have only one machine that grinds up the cassava, and therefore that machine is being worked 24 hours, seven days a week.  We have been asked to help with a loan for some additional machines to provide for some more efficiency (and maybe a day off for the women!).

But it is fascinating to drive into this community, off the main road, where they have developed their own economy with churches, schools, shops, to support the work of processing cassava.  These women are super hard working and I admire them!

Thirty members of this community were sent to Abidjan to attend our workshop, including some of the owners of these businesses and three pastors of three local churches.  All of them are saying "Yes" and "Amen" to the message that work can be done as an act of worship, and that we are to be the church every day of the week in all that we do.  They said they will start teaching that this Sunday!  We are excited to partner with them, to take them through the business training, and then see how these businesses can increase their productivity to help even more people flourish!

Please enjoy the pictures and the very brief video of the women peeling cassava below, although this media can't capture the amazing work!

Pressing the moisture out of the cassava.

The tireless machine which grinds the cassava, and the women who wait for hours to use it.

For those who don't wait, the sifting is done by hand.

I am now in Liberia where we are working with the Harvest Intercontinental Ministries and will be leaving for home at the end of this week.  God has been good and we are thankful!

Monday, May 17, 2021

Burkina Faso, Business, and Church

Thursday, May 13, was the last day of Ramadan, Eid-el-Fitr, which means "the festival of breaking the fast."  This is the last day of a thirty day fast, and is a big holiday in the Muslim calendar. About 63% of the population of Burkina Faso is Muslim, 22% Christian, and so one would expect to see about 63% of the shops closed and 63% less traffic on the streets.

However, in driving through Ouagadougou (the capital of Burkina Faso) for our workshop, almost 100% of the businesses were closed.  

We had been told since we started working in Burkina Faso that Christians do not do business, but it became very obvious that day.  Christians view business as secular.  Business is worldly.  During our workshop, pastors told us that members are afraid of becoming rich because they believe they won't get into heaven.  They reminded us that Jesus whipped those selling in the temple, therefore business must be evil (this story is MUCH more complex than that!).  

While poverty has decreased in total percentages globally, mostly because of business development in China and India, it has actually increased in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The per capita income in Burkina Faso is $600 USD.  Believing that business is evil doesn't help move a country toward poverty alleviation.

Discipling Marketplace Leaders is working with the Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso.  They have 6000 churches and over a million members.  They are divided into 72 regions throughout the country, and each region sent three representatives to our training.  We had more than 300 pastors and church leaders present and they all said "yes" to this ministry by the end of our training.  

DML is also working with the Christian Missionary Alliance in Burkina Faso.  They have 1000 churches throughout the country, and they called together a workshop with several other denominational leaders present as well.  This is so important!  For a denomination to recognize that we need to work together to reclaim the redeemed marketplace for Christ is critical.  Workplace discipleship needs to be across many churches if we are going to see transformation!  As a result, the Apostolic Church with 250 churches and 100,000 members has said yes to the DML ministry and said they are going to get started this Sunday!  

We are so excited to have three denominations say yes to having workplace discipleship ministries in their churches in Burkina Faso!

But our teams here are not stopping within their borders!

The DML team in the Christian Missionary Alliance has also been teaching pastors in Gabon, and is training them to be trainers!

The DML team with the Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso has arranged for many denominational leaders to gather in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire and we are having a workshop with them on Monday and Tuesday.

So from the Ghana DML team came the link to Burkina Faso.  From Burkina Faso, to Cote d'Ivoire and Gabon.  And so it goes.  We thank God for open doors and for people recognizing that this is a forgotten Biblical truth!  

And we trust that He will continue to call and equip His people to have His will done on earth as it is in heaven! Thank you for your continued prayers!  (And yes, I did receive my bags so thank you for those prayers as well!)

One more thing - on of our DML team members in Burkina Faso, Ismael Illa, married his beautiful bride Tabitha on Saturday and we were privileged to attend!  It is so beautiful to see weddings in other cultures - there were many things that they did which I would love to see picked up in US weddings.  Enjoy a couple of pictures and a very brief video of the "joining of the families" dance, where both families join together to bless the couple and their future children.

Ismael putting the ring on Tabitha's finger, for all to see.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Back to Africa!

I am back in Africa!  I have not stepped foot on the continent for almost fourteen months, having made it back one day before things shut down, the longest stretch since I started going in 2004.  While the last fourteen months have brought some amazing, unexpected, and exciting growth for Discipling Marketplace Leaders, it did feel good to get the dust off the suitcases and head out again.

The trip is centered on West Africa, starting in Burkina Faso.  The leaders of the Assemblies of God Burkina Faso have been waiting since early last year for a training for all of their denominational leaders.  We postponed several times and are happy to be going to be with them now.  There are about 6000 AG churches in Burkina Faso and we will be speaking to the leadership.

We will then be meeting with the leadership of the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination, which started implementing DML about two years ago.  It will be good to spend time with them and help them go to a new level.

We will then be going to Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), courtesy of our partner in Burkina Faso who has organized several denominational leaders there to hear the message of DML.  

From there, we will go to Liberia to meet with the leaders of Harvest Intercontinental Ministries, formerly known as Bethel World Outreach.  They are implementing DML in all 80 of their churches in Liberia, with 55,000 members, but we have now learned that they are flying in their bishops from all around the world to attend the conference during the third week of May.  We are very excited about what this means for the continued call of the integration of faith and work taking place in and through our churches!

Please pray for us on this trip, especially with the COVID issues that will need to be negotiated from border to border.  But mostly pray that hearts and minds will be open, for all of us, for what God is doing in and through His church.

This past week I attended the BAM (Business as Mission) Global Congress (thanks to those of you who prayed for this event - more on that later!) and heard this lovely song which they are now calling the BAM Anthem, set to the tune of the old hymn, Abide with Me.  It is truly lovely.  Please enjoy!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Ardie Burger: An Usher for God (1932-2021)

Ardie, Did You Know?

A 17-year-old young woman
Away from family, friends, and country,
Walks into the sanctuary of a church.
The sanctuary is dark, somewhat dingy,
In an area that feels oppressed and depressed.
Not unlike her soul.
Also Dark. Dingy.  Depressed.
Ardie, did you know?
Ardie, an African American man,
The age of this young white woman’s father,
At a time when their relationship was broken.
Greets her with a genuine smile,
A hug, and with his deep voice,
“Hello, Sweetheart.”
Acceptance.  Affirmation.  A balm.
Ardie, did you know?
She comes back again,
Despite the worship feeling foreign,
The people foreign,
The community foreign,
Because there is one accepting, welcoming face.
And over time her faith is stoked.
Her life is changed.
She finds her place.
Truth.  Transformation.  Trust.
Ardie, did you know?
Ardie, did you know?
Another white, privileged, Calvin student,
Entering a community plagued by poverty and racism,
Yet seen by you as a broken person,
in need of the hug and love of a Father.
Did you know she was in pain?
What were your thoughts? 
You never let on.
“Welcome, sweetheart.”  “Welcome, Baby.”  “Welcome, Daughter.”
Ardie, did you know?
I hope you can see what your gift produced in this young woman over the next 35 years.
A love for Madison Square Church,
A love for the Madison Square community,
A love for mission,
A love for the Church,
A love for God.
Would it had been the same if she had attended another church?
Would life had been different if not for that hug? That welcome?
Ardie, did you know?
I think you knew.
And you did it for hundreds of people. Maybe thousands.
And you never stopped.
I hope that when I too leave this world,
And come to the gates of heaven,
That along with the welcome of Jesus,
That you will be there,
Saying, “Welcome, daughter.”
Rest in peace, dear Ardie.
Brother, Elder, Father, and Friend.
An Usher for God.