It was early Sabbath morning, and Toussaint and I were getting ready to travel to Boukombé, a church group about 50 kilometers from Natitingou. All bundled up to protect ourselves against the cool of the morning and the ever-present dust, we climbed onto our motorbike for the one-hour trip. Neither one of us likes to travel, and this road is especially bad. Also, there are frequent bandit attacks. As we jolted over yet another deep pothole and my spine made an alarming sound, I made a mental note: Thank the evangelists for being willing to drive this road every single Monday to come to our weekly leadership training.
When we finally arrived in Boukombé and had peeled off our dusty jackets, I took in the sight. It had been over a year since our last visit. To my right I saw the not-quite-finished church building that the members are building with their own hands and funds. Our evangelist Hyacinthe had told us how the ladies had worked hard in their little roadside shops to be able to donate a window or a door. In front of the church, the children’s Sabbath School was in session. To my left was the old church building.
While adults’ Sabbath School was happening inside the old church, our pastor was meeting outside with the people who were preparing to be baptized that day. This was what we had come for. We wanted to witness the baptism of the first fruits of the four new church plants around Boukombé. For the past two years, our evangelists had faithfully worked in those very resistant animistic villages, telling Bible stories week after week, building trust relationships and living with the people. And now the time had finally come to see the results. Fourteen precious people had decided to give their lives to Jesus.
When Sabbath School was over, we all went to the baptismal site. It was the middle of dry season, and the first spot we went to didn’t have enough water. We walked a little further and found a spot where the water was deep enough. Church members, friends and family gathered around to watch one person after another disappear under the muddy water and come back out. Some were visibly scared of the water, some were solemn, and others were just happy. Two cows came to drink and stood nearby mooing and complaining since we had blocked their water hole. After the baptism, the pastor asked if there were people present who wanted to be baptized in the near future. There were several people who had been preparing to be part of this baptism, but their families were giving them a hard time, and they were not quite ready to take their stand. We had a special prayer for them before returning to the church.
After the sermon came another highlight—the wedding of our evangelist Jean and his fiancée Constance. It was a simple ceremony, and our pastor pronounced beautiful words of blessing over them. This was a witness to all the young people present that one doesn’t need to have a lot of money or organize a huge wedding to have God’s blessing. Many people here can’t afford big weddings, so they just live together and don’t get married.
After the blessing ceremony we all shared a simple but delicious meal of seasoned rice, fish and tofu. It was a joyful time, and we were happy to get to know some new people and reconnect with old friends. When the meal was over, we said goodbye and drove home. After many more potholes, we arrived home safely, praising God for His protection on the road and for all the blessings we had received that day.
May God help these infants in Christ to grow and become strong, and may many more join them in these four church groups. May God also bless the new couple. Constance will join her husband Jean in the village of Katayinga, becoming a living witness of what a Christian wife can be.