Advent is a time of waiting. Waiting in a time of darkness, a time of longing. We see a picture of that in Burkina Faso.
Discipling Marketplace Leaders has two very strong leaders in Burkina Faso, a land-locked nation in West Africa, with a population of 21.5 million, one of the ten poorest countries in the world. This country has had a difficult year, to put it mildly. January saw a coup d’état with an army general taking over from the elected president due to slow-to-no progress fighting the continued terrorism by a jihadi insurgency which has caused the country to lose close to 40% of their land. This terrorist fight has been ongoing since 2015.
Unfortunately, this particular army general didn’t have much success either, and was overthrown in a second coup d’état in September, just three months ago, by another military leader. Both coups were relatively peaceful, which is quite something.
But this particular army leader has done something different, acknowledging that the army of Burkina Faso does not have the resources or manpower to be successful against the terrorists, and therefore called for volunteer army at the beginning of November. They were hoping to have 50,000 civilians join but received 90,000 civilians sign up to join the fight. I’m told they are young men and women, middle aged men and women, and older men and women, from age 18 to 77 years of age. They were to receive fourteen days of training and then sent out.
Just pause and think about that for a minute. What would it take for a civilian to respond to such a call for service? What level of frustration, anger, sadness, despair would cause 90,000 people to put their own lives at risk after just 14 days of training? It tells you that the frustration and pain run very deep.
Our DML prayer team has been praying in earnest for Burkina Faso in this last week. I keep imagining an 18-year-old young woman who signed up under protest from her parents. She went in with lots of passion and energy, and now may be wondering what she got herself into, especially as she sees people who signed up with her killed in the line of battle. She is out there in a strange place, so far out of her comfort zone, maybe wishing she had never signed up. But abandonment is not an option, and so she presses on, wiping tears from her eyes as she feels overwhelmed but what she is doing.
Oh Lord, how we need you as the Prince of Peace.
This week on of our leaders shared that his home village is being taken over by the terrorists and needs to be evacuated – all 35,000 people that live there. They were trying to move them as fast as possible to Ouagadougou, the capital. He was able to get his parents and family out, but then comes the additional challenge of housing and feeding. More than 1.7 million people have been internally displaced in Burkina Faso due to this ongoing terrorism.
While I wonder at times how to celebrate Christmas in the midst of so much pain, I’m reminded that we are in the season of Advent, a time of waiting. This waiting happens in the context of darkness, as the need for Jesus is recognized and longed for. The world wants us to think that Christmas is all about lights and food and gifts, but that was not the environment in which Christ entered. And at this time, it’s okay to sit in lament and ask, “How long, Lord? Will you forget [them] forever? How long will you hide your face…?” (Psalm 13)
Please join us in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso, that their voice of longing may be heard by the Prince of Peace and that 2023 may be a year where the citizens of Burkina Faso may return to a time of flourishing, able to do what God has given for them to do.