Ministering in Benin since February 2017 has helped me to better understand what it means to live for Christ. Learning a new language and culture, eating new foods and seeing the life challenges of the people has been a truly “incarnational” experience for me. Though I came to help others, I feel that I have gained the most!
Throughout those 13 months, I have experienced many striking moments. From the smile of one child to the tears of another; from prayer with one adult to rejection from another; from playing and rolling on the ground with children to having to scold for bad behavior; from seeing the ceremonial tribal scars to seeing the hidden scars that life imposes on them. In every detail of the lives of these people, I am reminded of God’s love and how much He longs to hold them close.
In the neighborhood where I live, I have developed a weekly schedule of activities: games with children, a small Bible study group at my home, a Spanish club at a Christian college, and, of course, helping sick people. At church I do all I can. I help in children’s Sabbath School, lead and train leaders in the Pathfinder club. Also I teach guitar, children’s Bible classes and adult prophetic seminars. It is a wonderful job!
Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Boukombé, a little town about 30 miles away, to help the church group there set up a Pathfinder club. Boukombé is one of the cultural centers of the Otammari people. Their castle-like traditional houses, called tatas, feature mud-mound fetishes near the entrance representing the gods they worship, surrounded by smaller mounds representing their ancestors. Just getting to Boukombé was an adventure. Unable to find a taxi, I had to ride there on the back of a motorbike. The road is under construction, and the dusty air made tears stream down my face the entire trip.
In Boukombé, I stayed at the home of Hyacinthe, one of our local evangelists and the leader of the Boukombé group. Feeling their home was too humble for me, he and his wife first suggested I stay in a hostel, but I told them I was happy to sleep on their floor with a mattress and mosquito net. Hyacinthe’s wife smiled as I ate their pâte (cornmeal), sauce, and bouillie (porridge). She kindly made sauce for me without the usual hot pepper! I was touched by how Hyacinthe’s family is glorifying God in their home and community.
The Boukombé church has only 25 members, but it is lively and fervent. When I went to the church for the first Pathfinder meeting, I found about 20 children waiting for me. I started with a game to get to know them better, and then I told them the history of our church and how the first Pathfinder club got started. The kids were excited to learn, and everybody took notes. Each day, I taught another topic about Pathfinders. After the training, the young people were very excited to start a Pathfinder club and invite their friends and schoolmates.
After my first year in Benin, I can say that, although things do not always happen at the speed I want, I see God’s fingerprints everywhere. Making the most of every opportunity has become a priority in my life—sharing the gospel with care and love so that the Holy Spirit can bring forth a harvest of solid faith that will endure long after I leave.
How beautiful it would be if all young people could go through experiences like these, having their lives transformed, not by a single miracle, but by the many small miracles we experience when we follow the example of Christ’s life here on earth.
Que Dieu vous bénisse! May God bless you!