After a hot, long drive we arrived around 2:00PM in Ouagadougou. When we set out at 08:00AM we had the air conditioning on but in the nearly 40˚hot and dry weather, the engine soon started overheating and so the engine had to come first before the comfort of the passengers!
It is amazing how each people group has its own characteristics and therefore each project has its own flavor. In some communities the project struggles to involve the church fully.
Here in Puguli the church and the project are inseparable as one relies on the other to progress its’ ministry. Part of the reason is that the church here is still very young, first generation. Many of the Puguli villages are still unchurched and I dare say un-reached. Only approximately 10% of the Puli consider themselves as Christians. Because of this, it was no option for the project staff not also to become deeply involved in evangelization and church outreach.
As we arrived in Bonzam-Puguli a meeting of evangelical pastors and members of the project staff was already underway to pre-plan an upcoming outreach seminar to be launched in March. The location of new literacy classes often corresponds with where the three evangelical denominations are trying to reach in order to start a church plant. This strategy seems to work according to Thomas Zenge, the senior evangelists present in the meeting:
“The eyes of the people are opened since they understand some aspects of the Gospel better. People who attend the literacy classes have accepted Christ, others who have stepped away from the faith begin to come back to church.”
This collaboration among churches was not always the case, as one pastor commented:
“Before the (translation) project arrived, each denomination was in their own corner. Only because of the translation project did we, the Pentecostal, the Christian Missionary Alliance, and to some extend the Catholic church, came together. Through the revisions of the draft translations we realized that we all want to serve the same Lord.”
But the work of expanding God’s kingdom is not without hardship. Christians find themselves persecuted by their animist neighbors as the ancestral religion and fetishism (idol worship) runs very deep in this culture. People come to Christ not through words but often through power encounters that show them clearly who is God Almighty. Maybe this is also the reason that syncretism is not really an issue among the evangelical Christians, as project leader Jacques Malo explained.
“The Puguli don’t accept new things quickly. It takes a lot of time for them to decide on a new way of thinking or doing things. But once decided, they go for it full-heartedly.”
Because of the ensuring persecution, people make the decision for Christ only after fully counting the cost.
Despite the somewhat slow progress of the translation of the New Testament there have already been some big impacts. As the drafts are tested in the communities, often with unbelievers, many Puli are exposed for the first time to the Gospel message. And even the pastors appreciate their time spent on revision sessions. As one commented: “I read the Jula Bible and have been a pastor for a long time. But I only recently understood the word “grace” due to the translation process. In Puguli it means “God’s favour” and that makes more sense to me, as in our own culture we all try to have favour with our gods, through offerings and sacrifices.”
Please pray for the small Puguli Christian community, their pastors and evangelists as they try to brings God’s liberating message to this people group in South-West Burkina Faso.