Long Voyage pour une Courte Visite
I write this piece from Burkina Faso on Monday, October 31, after a meeting with a friend.
AFRICA Part One
In 2015, during a trip to Burkina Faso, I was part of a Story Development Team with a division of CRU called StoryRunners. As I had only recently left Vietnam to return to Canada, I was to be an apprentice on this trip: carry suitcases, fetch water, learn the system, and have a small part in building a dictionary for 40+ stories in the Dyula (Jula) language. It didn’t quite turn out that way. Before we knew it, a medical crisis removed two of the most experienced members from the team and this gathering of 36 Dyula speakers were left with one official StoryRunners trainer – and me.
There is a great deal more to this story, but the point for my present purpose is that it was there, in Banfora, that I first met Dieudonné Somé. Dieudonné was one of the Dyula translators, a teammate of ours without whom we could not begin to build a story set. He was a fluent Dyula speaker (his native language), proficient in French and English, and passably conversant in multiple tribal languages. He was also a pastor who had planted a church in the community where we were staying for our five weeks in country.
One evening, after a full day of work, we talked about the challenges of being a pastor, and the especially difficult task of training new believers and discipling more mature (or at least more experienced) believers for the long journey of following Jesus. It was then that I told him about Simple Truths for the New Believer. He asked if he could see a copy and told me that he would be very interested in reading it that evening.
When I saw him the next morning, he looked quite exhausted, but the weary posture did not disguise his enthusiasm. He “loved” the book. It was just what he and his church needed. “And,” he kept saying, “everyone who is a Christian needs this book.” When I asked him why he looked so tired, he told me that when he read the book, he asked another pastor (and translator) to come and read it right away. They were so excited about the book that they decided to stay up all night and translate it into French. And they did. That French translation was the core text for what eventually made it into print.
That was almost seven years ago. Now, through the work he has done with Nebie Badiou, our Clear and Simple Media representative in Burkina Faso, the petit livre (little book) is now in French, Mooré, Gourmanché, Pougouli, Dyula, Bwaba, Lobiri, Degare, and Dogose(Doghosie) and is in targeted distribution in print throughout Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana.
Our meeting today was brief, slightly under two hours. Dieudonne shared stories about how and where the books are being used. We discussed his plans for the book in the future. New languages. New printing projects. New places to send them. We prayed together. And our meeting was over. Dieudonné couldn’t stay longer. He had some places to go, and items to find. Many things are more readily available here in Ouagadougou than they are in his village. He had to hurry because he would be leaving early the next morning from the station, where he would take the nine hour bus trip back to Banfora. The same bus he had ridden for nine hours through the night to get to Ouagadougou this morning – for our two hour meeting.
I will share more stories about our conversation before I leave Africa. But for now, I simply say this. One of the great blessings of doing what we do is to have the friends in our lives that this work has given us. Both friends like Dieudonné Somé.
And friends like you.