“But I know nothing about drilling wells, and I hate Africa” – my reaction when Mark tried to talk me into going to Burkina Faso on a volunteer team 7 years ago. That didn’t discourage him, and so in November 2011, I found myself for the first time in Burkina, drilling wells with Friends In Action (FIA). I found it to be a fantastic experience – so much so that I ended up going out for a second team just a couple of months later. September 2012 saw me taking a 6-month career break from my job in Allstate to work for a season with FIA, and in August 2013 I resigned from my job to go into fulltime work with FIA. It’s hard to believe that I’ve now finished my fifth season as a ‘fulltime missionary’ (I still struggle with that term) – the time has flown in, and I’ve been blessed to be part of such a great ministry.
So, what do we do? We don’t preach, teach, evangelise, disciple believers, or plant churches. Instead, we come alongside other missions and try to help them proclaim the Gospel. In a country such as Burkina, the value of water – and especially clean water – is immense. Something that we take so much for granted, and waste so readily because we have a seemingly endless supply of it, is precious to the people. We know of villages where people walked up to 7km just to collect water, and that would be done 2 or 3 times a day. We’ve been in villages where you can smell the dirty water source before you see it, and yet the people have to use that water because there are no other options. So, we go to these villages to drill a well and, hopefully, provide a source of clean safe water for the people. This is marvellous, but the primary purpose is to help open a door for the partner mission to start sharing the Gospel in that village, providing the local church with new opportunities to preach the Gospel. Questions will be asked – “Who are these white people who have come to drill?”, “How do they know about us and our need?”, “Why have they come?”, “Why are they doing this for free?”. Each question is an opportunity for the great news of the Love of God to be proclaimed. The Love that compels us to travel to Burkina and seek to help the people there. The Love that can change lives if they accept Christ. Each well is also a demonstration of the power of God. Often, we are told that we won’t get water if we don’t offer sacrifices to the spirits. When we are blessed with water, without having offered a sacrifice, the people see that God is stronger than the spirits, and this helps in the sharing of the Gospel.
After 5 years and many wells, the thrill of seeing water coming out of the ground hasn’t diminished. It still feels like a privilege to give water to the people – physical water that will change their lives for this life; and to help them hear about Jesus, the Living Water, who can change their lives for eternity.