I balanced on the edge of a thin tin roof, in the middle of a small village in West Africa. The only thing keeping me from losing my balance was the weight of a heavy solar panel in my hands.This panel would soon be attached to the roof — leaving me with a bit of hope and quick feet to keep from falling.
Just another day in Burkina Faso.
And a glimpse into my life, working as an intern for Serving In Mission (SIM).
I came to Burkina Faso almost ten months ago to work with SIM. I knew, after graduating from Trinity in 2016, I didn’t want to stay in Canada — I had to shake things up a bit.
So I applied to at least a dozen different programs around the world — from working at an aquarium in Australia, to studying big cats in South Africa, to a PhD in Antarctica.
The day SIM offered me their internship, I was still planning on taking a different opportunity. But the timing of it and God working through other people made me rethink it last minute. And I ended up on a plane to Mahadaga — the bush of Burkina Faso!
Working A Day In The Bush
SIM is an international, non-denominational missions organization whose goal is go where Jesus is not known and help with the spiritual and physical needs of the people, like training people through medical, technical, agricultural, and evangelical ministries.
My day-to-day life looks incredibly different depending on the season, but I am mostly working with Open Door Development (ODD), which is run by a SIM missionary. We do all kinds of projects like water systems and solar panel installations (and trying to balance on roofs), to full-day road repairs and planting in the fields.
I work on creating curriculum and teaching at the ODD Agriculture School on how to use the land and resources they have. I’m even in charge of the intern program where I mentor six Burkinabe interns, helping them learn how to run scientific experiments and start their own agribusinesses.
Ironically, I had no idea what I wanted to do post-TWU because of my environmental degree. It can be really hard to believe that measuring plants for your thesis and spending hours taxonomizing moss is big-picture important when your friends are studying to become nurses, doctors, and neurosurgeons.
It all came full circle, though. My education has been a huge help to me in Burkina Faso. Having learned how to run an experiment, teach a class, write a lab report, and work under the pressure of scientific rigors served as good training for the work I now do.
Finding Faith Away From The Easy Life
The first week I was here I met a lot of missionaries from all over the country and got to hear the stories of their lives (I also heard about the Elliots, a missionary couple that was kidnapped in the North of Burkina during the January 2016 terrorist attacks). Hearing about their faith and those still in the country was amazing.
I guess hearing all of it made it click in my brain that faith isn’t just sayingyou trust God; it’s believing it to the point that you’re willing to follow through no matter what the circumstances or unknowns. I started to think about how I live out my faith, especially in North America. No matter how much I said I relied on Christ, I have always had all my provisions at my fingertips.
When I first got here, I didn’t even know I had doubts about my faith…But as time progressed here in BF, I knew I was missing something. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to trust that God knew what He was doing — I couldn’t understand why He sent me to the sticks.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was missing Jesus — the reason the whole living by faith thing wasn’t working was because I didn’t understand why I needed to. It took being out here for God to show me where my help comes from. I’m starting to think it’s a realization I’ll, hopefully, have to go through more than once.
It’s all about the people
The most rewarding, though, has been seeing God work in my life, the lives of the other missionaries, and the lives of the villagers.
Like my one-hour ride in the back of a tricycle singing praises with 12 teenagers that completely changed my heart. Working with long-term missionaries dramatically changed a fellow coworkers entire understanding of prayer. Seeing one white girl (that’s me) fail to attempt to keep to the rhythm of the drums encouraged others to join in praising God through dance. The examples are endless.
God showed me some amazing things.
He has taught me that my work here isn’t measured by the number of soil blocks I make, the number of plants I grow, or the number of bags of dirt I fill, but it is measured by relationships — with the villagers and with Him.
I’m sure (and I really hope) in a few years time I’ll look back at this experience and see how much farther I have come.