Life in Africa and a Return to Celebrate

Life in Africa and a Return to Celebrate

Exactly 40 years ago, Loren and Donna Entz arrived in Burkina Faso. Because of MCC's relief work during a drought, long-term Mennonite workers were invited. The Entz' accepted that invitation and remained for 30 years. Originally sent as community development workers with mission and cultural awareness training, the last 20 years were among a wholly Muslim Tribal group, the Dzuun. "My best memories were listening to Bible passages translated into the local language and discussing with the elders and older women in the village.  Absolutely fascinating."

Donna continues to describe her insights on Burkina life, "On arrival, we started language learning. and what a delight, because people were so excited to have us learning their language. World-wide, Burkina Faso at that time had one of the lowest GDP, one of the highest infant mortality rate for children under five, and one of the lowest literacy rate. There is today more cash, healthier children, and the literacy rate has also improved. Western countries had never been very interested in Burkina Faso because of few resources, and that gave the country more stability than other countries. But now more mining is happening including Canadian companies. But culturally and relationally, Burkina Faso is exceptional and though capitalism and individualism is gradually taking hold, the people are still more relational and collective than we in Canada. They continue to celebrate the richness of their cultural diversity, involving 72 distinct ethnic groups during Cultural weeks."

Donna was especially pleased to see her two best friends again. "One is Marte Thiera, mother of Josue Coulibaly, who was in IVEP in Calgary. They were just moving from Mali to BF when God brought us together. She was a newish Christian and did not growing up in the church. She took the Bible seriously and applied its principles to her life.  She showed me how the Bible is interpreted differently and much more easily from an African cultural perspective.  She was too poor to send her older children to school but taught them to read in their own language. Her children are mature and wise, because of her exceptional mothering skills. She is a spiritual giant to me."

Photo of Marte Thiera and her husband Phillippe Coulibaly (pictured right) on Donna's recent visit to their home. Marte struggles with pain in one leg. She always worked hard in the fields and at home during the pregnancies and childhood of her ten children. They were church planters originally from Mali. They were honoured as pioneers as was Loren and I were. They have three sons in ministry. Emmanuel who once almost died of Meningitis, is a pastor and composer/singer. Josue, once in IVEP in Calgary, functions as pastor in an exciting church plant. Another son Nicodeme is church administrator and leader of the Mennonite youth.

"The second is Muso Kura Ouattara, the woman who walked with me for twenty years in the small village of Saraba. She gave me an inside view into her world, explaining many things a westerner had never explored before. She is gifted as a midwife, mediator, nutritionist, storyteller and leader among her people. Though many would simply call her a non-literate person, she is an incredible human being, faithful in worshipping God as a Muslim, and contributing her gifts in her community."

Muso Kura Ouattara and her new granddaughter (pictured right) are in Saraba where Loren and Donna lived for 20 years. She was healthy and happy.  She stopped field work because of back troubles so has put on some weight which is a good thing for her. Muso Kura was Donna's cultural informant and helped much with language.  She is a gifted mediator and midwife.  The greatest excitement of Donna's recent trip was to see a new clinic and maternity ward in the village. People's quality of life just took a big step forward in Saraba. It was so impressive how the village worked to make this happen, even though they have almost no literate adults.  They found the right people to help them with the process.  

Along with the Warkentin family, Donna traveled to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Mennonite Church in Burkina Faso. She was in Burkina for two weeks and then spent three weeks in Mali visiting her son and family. "I look forward to seeing colleagues from the past as well as catching up with the church members," Donna expressed before her departure, "and simply enjoying life in Burkina. My one disappointment is that of the four of us who arrived in 1978, I am the only one attending. The church has also grown significantly in several language groups where Mennonite workers and national Christians have worked. There is more pastoral, discipleship and technical training available in the churches. Thus a good time to celebrate and thank God for these forty years!"

Continuing with her story, "Loren and I left Burkina Faso ten years ago. Since then, I have been back once to visit. Motorcycles are more common than when we left.  The use of cell phones, solar panels, and LED lights have both taken off very quickly in these years. The church has also grown significantly in several language groups where Mennonite workers and national Christians have worked. There is more pastoral, discipleship and technical training available in the churches."
Since the Entz' departure, a small church group built a church building in their former family courtyard. The members are not of the Muslim Samogho ethnic group. They are Turka who were not traditionally Muslim but Africa traditional worshippers, very bound by evil powers of many kinds. Many have testimonies of healing and deliverance. Praise God for that. It is so interesting how God works in the lives of people. In closing, Donna is  "reminded of the verses in John 1:10-12  where even Jesus' own people did not receive him. But some did came to faith."