Below is my translation of the “State of the Church” report which Pr. Siaka Traore gave in French during the Fortieth Anniversary celebration of Mennonite mission and ministry. Pr. Traore has served as pastor in Orodara and Bobo-Dioulasso, was President of the EEMBF, church planter, Mennonite Central Committee Peace Resource worker for French-speaking Africa, the founder and director of book and school supply stores and outlets in markets of the Haut-Bassins region of Burkina Faso, Executive Director for Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, has been a mentor to numerous other pastors and churches as well as to young men and women in business, and serves currently on the Deacons’ Commission of Mennonite World Conference.
PRESENTATION of the current SITUATION of the EEM BF, and prospects for the future.
“Not to us, Eternal One, not to us, but to thy name give glory, because of thy kindness, because of thy fidelity!” Psalm 115. 1.
The presentation we want to make is intended to give thanks to God for all that he has done for us and for us during these forty years. According to the spirit of the psalm quoted above, we want to exalt God through his work over the last forty years. We also do not want anyone to attribute to us any merit. To God alone be all glory! But long before we speak of these forty years, it will be necessary to give thanks to God for those whom he sent over a long period into this very region, namely the mission agency of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in 1937. It was this denomination which first broke ground and sowed the first seeds of the gospel. Unable to continue the work in the region, in 1976, the CMA invited Africa Inter Mennonite Mission to settle in the Kénédougou region. Thank God for these pioneers, for these workers of the first hours, and for their sacrifices.
The Mission and the church today.
- From 1978 to 2018 about fifty (50) missionaries have given of the years of their lives, of their time and talent to bring the Gospel of salvation to the people of Kénédougou. Through the translation of the Bible into linguistic groups, the Mission has reached the Tagba peoples, the Dzunn who have appropriated the Word of God as the first recipients. We want to show them our gratitude for obeying the order of the Lord by bringing his message of peace to our country. The church also by the Jula language has established several local congregations. Each method used that suits them has worked for the Kingdom of God to come among the various ethnic groups.
- From the very beginning, the Mission was committed to translating the word of God into the main languages of the province: SIAMOU, SICITE, DZUUNGOO, NANEREGUE. Nowadays we have the new Testament in the Sicité language (Senufo of the Kathane area). In addition to translating, we have made literacy materials in three of its languages.
- Nowadays we meet regularly in more than twenty places of worship with at least sixteen trained pastors, the baptized members in our local churches approach numerically a thousand people. The majority of Christians are from animist or Muslim families. Almost all Christians are first generation (from non-Christian families), even most of them young, which explains some of the situations of persecution we know of. We have many Christian women whose husbands are not believers.
- The training of leaders is a priority. Currently we have sixteen trained pastors, with twelve others in formation. Some of them have been trained in the local language, others in biblical institutes and theological faculties. One has begun work on a PhD. The basic Biblical Training Center opened in 2009, to respond immediately to the need for training servants of God who know how to read and write in the Jula language, so that no one is excluded from the grace of serving the Lord by the fact that they did not attend a formal Western-style school.
Today the church has reached a phase of self-expansion and self-administration. The last remaining kind of autonomy is that of finances, this step will be part of our future prospects. Our churches seem to work in the image of our States. We must distinguish ourselves from habits of endless dependency.
- At the risk of promoting or congratulating ourselves over much, the church has remained united during these forty years. The Prayer of the Lord in John 17 was effective and fulfilled in our midst. It does not say that we have not been tested in our communion, in our unity, but God has given us the grace to look at his interest more than at our own personal interests. This state of unity and Peace has earned us many times an invitation to make our contribution to crisis management in other churches or society. It should be recalled that from the earliest hours of the Reformation, the Anabaptists, who were later called the Mennonites, are recognized as the historic Church of peace in because of its positions against violence, in favor of non-violence.
- Entrepreneurship: For reasons of survival, entrepreneurial activities were launched among several members. This has been an asset for greater contact with the people of the province to show them our faith and to have easy access to communities for the establishment of new churches. In principle entrepreneurship should lead the church to achieve the third kind of autonomy: financial.
The majority of the population are young people, both at the national level and in the church. In our local churches, the population is young. They reassure the elders that we are valued and esteemed. It is up to us to trust them and give them confidence. They have their structure, we must accompany them in their future.
- Women, the [most] faithful of the faithful, who work in silence and in depth. They are the lungs of our local churches. When they are convinced by the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit, they are not afraid to commit themselves to God’s work. Until then, there are socio-cultural weights that prevent them from promoting their gifts and talents. We must revisit our culture in the light of the Word of God so that it is not a handicap for women to effectively serve the Lord as their mothers in the Bible.
- Micro-credit: What an act of love towards those who could not qualify for assistance and be entrusted to carry out this or that activity. Today, on the basis of trust founded in Jesus Christ, we accompany several people, in this case women, to carry out income-generating activities. Looking ahead, we aspire in the future to become an NGO so as to be more successful in development aid.
- At the social level, for more than a decade, EEM BF has invested in the fight against AIDS in partnership with the MCC. This program has allowed us to make known the Christian values and to share the love and grace of God with thousands of people.
Regarding The Mennonite World Conference (MWC):
Our church has contributed significantly to the MWC:
- Mission Commission
- Peace Commission
- Deacons’ Commission
Relations with Other Denominations :
Although small in number, the Mennonite Evangelical Church of Burkina Faso is not seen as lesser among her sisters. For that we give thanks to God for this humble attitude that animates the Federation of Churches and Church Missions of Burkina Faso.
After looking back and seeing all that the Lord has accomplished among us, we have cried that so far the Lord has helped us (1 Samuel 7.12). This does not imply that we have completed the task, done the work. Recognizing this, the Lord tells us: “Do you not say that there are still four months to the harvest? Behold, I say unto you, raise your eyes, and look at the fields which already whiten for the harvest. (Jn. 4.35).” In light of this question, we want to admit that there is more to be done than we had done.
We will put our perspectives in two major areas.
This is based on the commission entrusted to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. “Come, make all the Nations disciples… and teach them to observe everything I have prescribed for you (Matthew 28: 19-20).” Burkina Faso in general and the province of Kénédougou in particular remain very little affected by the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. After forty years this challenge yet remains. We still have many villages that claim their share of the good news after the example of the Macedonians (Acts 16.9). We must go, but to go we must teach all that has been prescribed to those who have already believed. The growth of the church will be done on the basis of good formation, to train and to send.
- A focus on the Muslim population: Love them and win them to Jesus Christ.
- A ministry directed to children.
- Environmentally oriented ministry.
- Financial Autonomy
It is possible, [but] in order to do so, we must create a basis of mutual trust based on clear transparency. If the church is well taught and well informed about the management of its resources, it will contribute immensely to the autonomy and sufficiency of its needs.
- Our culture: In our culture it is common to make oneself appear destitute, needy, even if we have sufficient resources. We tend to want others to extend themselves and their resources, especially Westerners. This attitude not to let others know that we have means and capabilities, leads us into a form of greed. We must not be afraid to give. We have people with economic skills and means who can help the church, but they do not know how.
- Fight the mentality of poverty. This is a general attitude among African populations. We have nothing, we can do nothing.
Celebrating the Fortieth Anniversary is not just about throwing a party, but stopping to see what God has done through each of us. But above all, to realize that there is more to be done than we have done.
At this celebration, I appeal to all those who have already contributed immensely not to lay down their arms in apologies nor to indulge in self-satisfaction.
To the future generation, we ask you not to see the predecessors as extraordinary people, nor to have any complex, by telling you that you will not be able to do what we have done. Besides, what have we done that was extraordinary? What we have done, we have done with you. We trust you that you can do more than what we have done, and besides it must be so, and you have no other choice. If we have given you the impression that you could not do as have we, it is a grievous error on our part, surely we have not worked to make you disciples. We apologize, and we tell you that we rely on you, and especially that God is counting on you because you can count on him.
The Fortieth Anniversary is a challenge that we present to you. Surely it is not we who are here who will organize the fiftieth that will arrive very soon. To the rising generation we want to pass the baton of the relay race, we must seize and do, bring Your part more beautiful than ours. In Dioula we say “Fen ka bo i la min ka fisa n’i ye” (That which is good for you is is greater than you.”) This is our wish for the future generation that we believe will do better than us.
Ala ka duba aw ye ! (May God bless you!)