A Good Result for a Long Day
AFRICA Part Five
When one plans a trip, there are always expectations. Those expectations should be reasonable and consider the realities of cross-cultural work. I went to Burkina Faso with what I knew were high hopes. I should know better by now. This trip is not my first. I knew that things change. Plans hit snags. Priorities fluctuate. And while promises sound the same when made, across cultures, they reside on a sliding scale that varies from a solid ‘I will die to make that happen’ to a ‘pencil that in as a maybe.’
Those who read the earlier news will know that I needed answers to multiple questions, which I could only get if I could connect with the right people. While this would be a seven-day venture, I would only be in the country for five days, and one of those, being a Sunday, would cut down on time to do business to three. These tight timelines were necessary because my primary contact in Burkina, Nebié Badiou, had only a short window in which he would be in Ouagadougou. He would arrive there the day before I came from a trip to Uganda and depart the day after I was to leave for a trip to Kenya. Call it a calculated risk. I was also going into a country just two weeks after its second military coup in the past eight months, from whom most evangelical mission organizations have removed their rural personnel.
I had texted, Zoomed, and chatted on WhatsApp with Nebié for several months before the trip. He knew the objectives. He understood the time constraints. But his consistent response was always, “Yes. This is possible.” So, on the morning of November 2, we set out to find our answers.
Our first stop was to meet Pasteur (Pastor) Bananzaro Thioro Calixte. Pastor Bananzaro is the President of the Evangelical Mennonite Church in Burkina Faso. Until recently, he was the director of ABTNA. This organization was created more than two decades ago to provide a collaborative environment for translation work in Burkina Faso and, by extension, neighboring countries in West Africa. ABTNA comprises several agencies that attend to translation, literacy, and publishing of Bibles and Christian materials in Burkina Faso. Though we arrived unannounced, Pastor Bananzaro spent a generous amount of time with us. We asked his advice about the project in general and the specifics of how to a. Pastor Bananzaro is fluent in multiple languages, a competent translator, and has taught English at a university level for many years. His wisdom and insightful questions were beneficial. One of Pastor Bananzaro’s current ministries has him mentoring young people who aspire to do translation work in the future. As he considered our project, he thought that recruiting some of these students to assist in the field testing might help us and help them as well. We agreed.
ABTNA owns a building just a few miles from the SIM Guest House where I was. It is there that most of the work they do takes place. We arrived there, climbed three flights of stairs, and found ourselves (unintentionally) in the middle of a translation team meeting. When the workers saw that their friend Nebié had come for a visit, they took a break from their work (which they said they needed) to talk to us. We walked to the office of Kadio Corneille. Kadio works for Wycliffe Bible translators and is the Nuni Bible Translation Project Leader. With him came Pasteur Philippe Batian. Pastor Batian is a highly trained and capable translator. He is also with SIL/Wycliffe and serves as the Old Testament Translation Team Leader with his hands in several OT projects. Again, we discussed our project, their opinion of its value, and their insights on how to get a project like ours from start to finish and ensure that the resulting website will be of good quality, user-friendly, and valuable to the church. Although none of these men has space on their calendar to give full attention to our project, all three men we met that morning promised support and assistance in proofreading and critiquing the work when the project enters that phase.
When we left the ABTNA compound, I was encouraged. Our conversations had answered many of my translation-oriented questions. But building and maintaining a website is another matter altogether. While we can do much of the design work on our side of the ocean, there will need competent people in the country to manage, troubleshoot, and see that the inquiries are capably addressed and get to the right people. That takes a different skill set than translating the material from one language into another.
But we had one more stop to make.