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25 November 2011

Experiencing Burkina Faso

Experiencing Burkina Faso

Pastor Bernard Karembini lives in the small village of Afliche, in the north of Burkina Faso. He has six children and has adopted six others. His house is leaking and he doesn't have enough money to repair the roof. On top of this he is in charge of three churches. He was a small man dressed in dark coloured clothing with hints of grey in his beard. He discussed the challenge faced by the church in an area that relies on subsistence farming, is very poor and predominantly Muslim. He said that while there is resistance to the Christian faith, Christian schooling was welcomed.

Dr Ouedraogo's father is 90 years old, a subsistence farmer and chief of the village of Tangaye. We sat on benches in his yard dominated by a grain store where we were treated as honoured guests. He was very lively and inquiring and keen to show us his measure for grain and his grain store. He has very little money but still chooses to tithe his harvested grain. He said that God had never failed to bestow great blessing upon him, even when times were hard.

These are just two of the amazing people I met when in August 2011 I was part of a Tearfund Transcend team working in Burkina Faso - a small landlocked country in West Africa situated north of Ghana and, according to UN development statistics, the third poorest country in the world.

The team worked with the Association Evangelique D'Appui Au Development (AEAD) for two weeks in the capital Ouagadougou. The association was founded by Phippe Ouedraogo and his wife Josephine in 1992 to improve the lives of the people of Burkina Faso through the love of God. AEAD runs health, education and training programmes and as well as supporting evangelism it promotes socio-economic activities. Their most recent venture is the Stafford centre, an orphanage built on government land. The Transcend team consisted of nine Christians from all around the UK, planted trees and worked with children at the school in the grounds of the medical centre. Dr Ouedraogo is the current president of AEAD and senior pastor of the church of Boulmiougou. Aged 57 he is a Burkinabe who studied theology in Burkina Faso and at the Mattersey Hall Bible College near Doncaster in the United Kingdom. He is currently a Ph.D. research student with the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (University of Wales), reading girl's education.

We visited the College Evangelique Bethel, which was begun in 2006 and has 646 students and is situated in the town of Gourcy. It educates students to the equivalent of 'O' level. It also runs an important adult literacy programme for 1500 women and 400 men after harvest (August) through till May.

During our trip we also had the opportunity of meeting Pierre Kiendrebeogo, a head teacher who has established a school on government land just outside of his home town, Sounre, about ten kilometres outside of Ouagadougou. When we arrived we found an unfinished complex of buildings and classrooms built out of mud - all he can afford until more funding is secured. He told us that it cost about £40 per year for each student and that he has accommodation for 180 students. The project had been running for three to four years and he said that he needed £8-10,000 to sponsor all the students. While he is not directly associated with AEAD he shares their vision that the people of Burkina Faso can be released from their poverty through education.

by Alex Morrison