The Lobi project was incorporated into the West-Central Africa Division of Seventh-day Adventists in November 1999.
Ministering to the Lobi people since January 1993.
The night sounds outside our home in Gaoua kept us on edge those first few weeks after we moved to Poni Province in Burkina Faso, West Africa in 1993. We could hear dry leaves crunching as someone or something circled our home. Our door handle rattled loosely as the menacing presence persisted night after night, looking for a way inside. Footsteps clomped clumsily up and down our dark hallway. We never saw anything, but the sounds were unmistakable. We were under satanic attack. All we could do was to commit our lives into God’s hands and pray for deliverance.
I asked one of our trusted African helpers, “What kind of invisible presence could be making footstep sounds inside our house at night?” A broad smile flashed across his face as he replied, “Those are bats. They come into your house at night looking for insects to eat.” Our own investigations revealed that the crunching leaves outside and the rattling door handles were the work of lizards hunting insects. From then on, the sounds became friendly reminders that God’s creatures were busy decreasing the malarial mosquito population.
Imaginary fears also plagued our family during our AFM application and fund-raising process. We strained our minds trying to prepare ourselves for life in the bush. “What will we eat? Where will we sleep? What supplies should we bring with us? How will we survive? When will we be able to come home?” We had to face many gut-wrenching moments as we sold off our possessions, gave away our beloved dog to our neighbors, and said goodbye to our family and friends. “Is God really leading us? Are we making a huge mistake? Will our children resent this later?” In spite of all these fears, we kept plodding forward as if moved by an unseen hand.
We spent our first year in Gaoua learning the language and culture of the Lobi people. Massive physical, psychological, and emotional adaptations took place in us at warp speed as we immersed ourselves in the lives of the local people.
During the remaining six years of our mission project, we lived in the village of Loropeni. We transformed a stark, cavernous cement-block structure into a comfortable home with solar electricity and gravity-flow running water. A gas refrigerator and 12-volt blender were all we needed to produce delicious mango smoothies—our reward at the end of hot, exhausting days.
From 9 a.m. till sundown, we were busy treating the sick with simple remedies, starting up boot-strap businesses and agricultural projects, giving Bible studies and encouraging our emerging indigenous churches.
Toward the end of our fourth year, we held the first Lobi Adventist camp meeting in the shade of a large mango grove in Loropeni. Working closely with the leaders of the Burkina Faso Adventist Mission, more than 40 baptized members in four villages were officially organized into church groups. Our last three years in Loropeni, we devoted ourselves to training local leaders and preparing materials adapted for local evangelism and church organization.
It wasn’t all work and no play. We enjoyed socializing with our many African friends. There were excursions to game parks, beaches in neighboring Ivory Coast, and the sand dunes of the Sahara. Every other month, our trip to the city for supplies afforded us luxuries like hot showers, a swim in a pool, and going out for pizza, salad and ice cream.
As the years ticked by and our three children got older, one-by-one they returned to the States to finish high school. Our seventh year, 2000, became the year of the empty nest and also the year we finished the Lobi Project and returned permanently to the States.
Leaving our home in Loropeni and saying goodbye to all our church members and friends was the most heartbreaking thing we have ever done. Following our return to the States, I made five follow-up visits to continue educating and mentoring Lobi church leaders. What joyful reunions those were!
In 2007, a generous gift from family and friends enabled me to return to the Lobi Project yet again to help with Poni Province, an AFM video documenting the continuing growth of the Lobi church. When we left our project in 2000, there were about 100 Adventist Lobi members in four churches. In years since, those churches have planted seven more churches, and the number of baptized members has multiplied to more than 500. Praise God!
I am currently pastoring the Molokai Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hawaii. However, as you read this, I will be back among my Lobi friends for an eighth visit, thanks to some airline miles I’ve been saving. Once you get the church-planting missionary bug, there seems to be no cure this side of heaven.
— Kurt Unglaub
Editor’s Note: Shortly after he wrote this article in 2010, Kurt Unglaub died of cancer.
Kurt and Margaret Unglaub
Rhoda Steffen (93), Allyson Emery (93), Leonie Bunker (94), Kari Rice (94), Mindi Lefever (95), Caroline Nicola (96), Sarah Fontaine (97), Robert Vieira (96-99), Erwin Zimmerman (97), Juha Mikkonen (97-98), Ted Evert (97), Tyson Chung (99)