Monday, April 07, 2008

The last post. Definitely.

Check out our new blog

To find out what is happening among the Loron people: click here

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Last Post?

It has been a busy three months…

- in January we had a retreat and seminar for Loron Bible teachers here in Burkina Faso;
- In February Marina and I travelled to Banfora, Burkina Faso and Marina trained a group of literate Komono folks how to teach Komono people how to read and write;
- also in February we had a Bible conference with 300 Loron believers in Gogo, Ivory Coast;
- during February and March we visited all 9 locations where 160 students are learning how to read and write in Loron;
- over the past couple of weeks we distributed little solar-powered radios which are fixed-tuned to the local Christian radio station to around 300 Loron families in 9 villages in Burkina.
- and in between all that, we made numerous weekend trips into Ivory Coast to visit most of the Loron churches

We want to say a huge thank you to all who have prayed, given and helped in so many ways so that we could continue the ministry among the Loron people from Burkina Faso.

We are so grateful to the Lord for all that has been accomplished over the past two years or so among the Loron: for more printed Scriptures; for the new literacy schools; for the evangelism opportunities among the Loron in Burkina; and for the growth in numbers and maturity of the Loron believers in Ivory Coast.

This may be our last post from Burkina Faso. We have closed up our house in Gaoua, and we have returned to Northern Ireland for the rest of the year.

In January 2009, we are hoping to be able to go back to Ivory Coast to continue the work among the Loron people in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso from there.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Meningitis Epidemic in Ivory Coast and Burkina

During 2007 around 1,500 people died from meningitis in Burkina Faso.

So far this year, 441 people have died out of 4,061 cases reported.

The meningitis outbreak this year is centred along the Ivory Coast/Burkina Faso border where the majority of the Loron people live. Of 16 affected districts in Burkina Faso, the outbreak had reached epidemic proportions in seven of them. Across the border in Ivory Coast, local health authorities said that there is an epidemic in the Zanzan border region.

Both Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso are on the sub-Saharan "meningitis belt" that stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, and outbreaks of meningitis occur annually during the dry season between November and April.

In an encouraging (and, I think, unprecedented) display of coordination and cooperation between the Ivorian and Burkinabé health authorities, a joint strategy has been developed and is being effectively implemented to deal with the outbreak.

We witnessed the vaccination campaign first-hand as it was being unrolled in the Gogo area of Ivory Coast about two weeks ago. In fact we got a meningitis booster along with all the other villagers.

We were impressed with the efficiency and dedication of the health professionals as they worked long hours and travelled to some almost inaccessible locations. The Freewill Baptist hospital in Doropo had overall responsibility for the operation in the Gogo region.

A number of the Loron believers who help run the Gogo health clinic accompanied and worked along with the folks from the Baptist hospital as they visited each village in the area. Together with a couple of Ivorian medical employees, they administered around 6,000 vaccinations in the region.

We are hoping that the vaccination campaign will help to stem the tide of the epidemic in Burkina and Ivory Coast.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Loron Bible Conference

Last Friday night, under the brightness of a full moon, around 300 Loron Christians from at least ten different villages gathered for a 3-day believers’ conference.

The organizers did an excellent job in preparing an appropriate location for the meetings and hosting the many visitors who came. The believers had a feast of good Bible teaching and also great fellowship with other Loron Christians. About two dozen folks walked from a village 25 miles away to attend the conference.

Pastor Matthew (left) from Burkina Faso teaching on the origins, purpose, problems and blessings of marriage. Joel translated from French into Loron.

Yours truly with Hovare

The church was too small to hold all those who attended the conference, so the believers erected a large grass shelter specifically for the occasion. This is the ladies section.

Pastor Roger (right) from Ivory Coast teaching on giving. He spoke for two solid hours on the subject! An excellent Bible teacher.

Portions of Scripture and other Bible teaching material sold like hotcakes!

It was a thrill to see so many booklets being sold. This was the first opportunity for some of the believers to purchase the book of Acts and other materials we have recently printed.

Some of the Loron Bible teachers who attended the conference

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Komono Literacy Teachers

The Banfora region is one of the main tourist areas in Burkina Faso. It has some unique rock formations and a number of small waterfalls.A couple of weeks ago Marina and I travelled to Banfora where Marina spent five days training nine men and women from the Komono tribe how to teach literacy in their villages in Ivory Coast. The NTM missionaries working with these folks had arranged for the Komono folks to come up to Banfora for the course.
A number of the students who took the training have the makings of good literacy teachers. The missionaries are hoping to get literacy schools started in one of the main Komono villages in Ivory Coast over the next few weeks.
Last weekend, Marina and I visited a couple more Loron villages in Ivory Coast to see how the literacy schools there were going. Over the next few weeks we are hoping to be able to visit all ten locations where adult literacy classes are being held in the Loron language. It is a thrill to see so many Loron young people and adults learning how to read and write.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Go, Elephants!

Ivory Coast supporter

The Ivory Coast football (soccer) team, Les Elephants, did well to get to the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations. They easily won their group, and the quarter final, but they couldn't match the pace and skill of Egypt. Egypt won last night's game 4-1 to progress to the final. Ivory Coast will play Ghana to decide third and fourth places.

Despite the tensions in recent years between the people of Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, it was encouraging to see people in Burkina strongly supporting the Ivory Coast team in the competition. There were many Ivory Coast flags flying in Burkina, which was really good to see.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Turn your radio on!

We received great news this week concerning the radio ministry that we have been involved in here in Burkina. For over a year now Southwest Gospel Radio has been broadcasting Bible lessons and health programmes each week in the Loron language.

Galcom International, a North American organization which provides technical equipment for the communication of the Gospel worldwide, has donated 1,000 solar-powered, fixed-frequency radios for use among the Loron people here in Burkina. The radios have cleared customs and are now sitting in our kitchen, ready to be distributed among the Loron!

The radios are robust little things with a good quality speaker, rechargeable batteries and a solar panel. They are fixed to receive just one station, FM 99.7, the frequency of the local Christian radio, Southwest Gospel Radio (RESO), so the radios cannot be abused.

We will probably not be able to use all the radios among the Loron here in Burkina - there are maybe only 400 or so Loron homesteads - so 500 radios have been given to the folks at the Christian radio for them to use in their work among the other tribal groups in the area.

What started out as a small missionary project among the children at the Sunday school of our home church in Northern Ireland, has mushroomed into something that could have a huge impact on bringing the gospel to many thousands of people from different tribes living in isolated villages and homesteads all over southwest Burkina.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Factoids: fact or fiction?

Winston Churchill once said that the British and American peoples were ‘separated by a common language’. North Americans and people who live on the British Isles speak English, but many times we use different words for specific actions or items, or use the same word with different meanings.

In 1983 Marina and I went to the United States to complete our missionary training. A few weeks after we arrived we bought a car from a local farmer for $125. It was a huge, 1967 Pontiac Catalina with a 400 inch/????cc engine. Gas-guzzler/petrol drinker, I think, is the right term! As we were returning to the missionary training centre/center, a State trooper patrol car came up behind us with flashing lights and instructed us to pull in to the side of the road.

The reason the patrol car had pulled us over was because the inspection ticket on the windscreen/windshield was out of date. But I thought he had pulled us over because the car was making so much noise.

As a trooper got out of his car and made his way along the driver’s side of our car I opened my window, and as he came level I started to hastily explain to him, in a thick Northern Irish brogue, ‘I’ve just bought the car, and the exhaust fell off and I put it in the boot.’

With a mystified look the trooper glanced at Marina, and then into the back seat, where Peter and Laura were sitting, and then looked back at me and said, ‘Are you French?’

I should, of course, have said, in American English, ‘the muffler fell off and I put it in the trunk.’

Today I discovered another word that illustrates how North Americans and Brits are still separated by a common language - it was the word ‘factoid’. To a North American it means: a brief or trivial item of information, but for someone from the United Kingdom it means: an item of unreliable information that is repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact, (Oxford English Dictionary).

I came across the word in a World Bank report that I had downloaded from the internet. There was a link to a web page entitled, ‘50 Factoids on Africa’. I immediately thought that it was a list of 50 myths or fabrications about Africa, but, as it turned out, it was actually a list of statistics and generally reliable information, so the author definitely had to be a North American.

It was a good reminder that when writing, or translating, it is paramount to be always thinking about your audience and what people are going to understand from what they are reading. We cannot just assume that because we know what a particular word or phrase means that everyone else is going to take the same meaning from it.

Anyway, I have listed a few interesting ‘factoids’ (accurate, just in case you are confused) for your perusal. Dozens more here.

* Crude oil comprises more than half of total Africa’s exports.

* Niger has the highest proportion of men in its labor force (95.1%); Namibia has the lowest (62.7%).

* In Swaziland more than one in every three 15-49 year olds has contracted HIV (33.4%); the rate is six in every thousand in Mauritania.

* Mauritius has the highest life expectancy (73 years); Botswana has the lowest (35 years).

* The Seychelles have the highest adult literacy rate (92%); Mali and Burkina Faso have the lowest (24%).

* In Sierra Leone two women die for every 100 live births; in Mauritius 24 die per 100,000 live births.

* In Niger 2 persons in 1,000 are Internet users.

* Liberia has three phone lines per 1,000 people; the Seychelles has 93 per 100 people.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A matter of perspective

Every year or so a UN agency produces a report which details progress, or otherwise, in 177 countries around the world. The Human Development Index (HDI) ranks countries in terms of health, education and standard of living.

The 2007/2008 report has some good news, but also some bad news concerning Burkina Faso. Although Burkina continues to develop in many areas, and generally things are somewhat improved from previous years, it appears that other countries are improving at a faster rate, and Burkina is now classified as the second least developed country in the world, down from fourth last year.

The bottom 24 countries on the HDI are in Africa.

The key problem in Burkina, and which helped to bring the country down to its lower position, is the very poor adult literacy rate. Secondary and tertiary education is also a very weak area in the country’s infrastructure.

Burkina, however is gradually getting better. Even in the two years that we have lived here we have noticed a lot of progress.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New Loron Literacy Teachers

Eight more Loron men and women have completed the literacy teacher training course. We spent six days in Ivory Coast with a group of Loron folks from five different villages going through some basic adult-literacy teaching principles.

While Marina was teaching the literacy course, I taught two of last year's graduates some basic computer skills. We concentrated mainly on word processing with Word. We also covered some fundamental Bible translation principles such as accuracy, clarity and naturalness in translation.

We didn’t have quite as many attend the courses as we had anticipated, but those who did attend worked very hard and learned a lot of new skills.

All being well, literacy teaching centres will be established in 4 new villages over the coming months.