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Every Child, Every Nation, Every Day

Sheep, Goats and God’s Heart for Children

It was a chilly (80 degrees) morning when a Burkinabe friend arrived at my house. When it’s hot, I know how to be a good hostess, offering water as the cultural way of expressing welcome, but since my friend arrived wearing a stocking hat, I hesitated. Should I offer her water? The last time I’d done this on a “cold” day, my guest had reacted like I’d offered him poison. Since then I’d noticed a pattern: people actually believed drinking water in the morning or on a cold day could harm them.

This time, however, my friend accepted the water and sat with me on the porch to talk. A few minutes later, she noticed my roommate’s pet tortoise and informed me with delight that tortoises were her ancestors. She told me how each clan has a different animal as ancestor. These ancestral animals are to be greatly respected: clans cannot eat the meat of their particular ancestral animal, and they bury these ancestral animals the same way they do humans, with elaborate funerals.

The culture has many stories about the ancestors and stories to explain why life is the way it is. For example, you may know that if you’re driving along and see a goat in the road, it is likely that it will run off the road, but if you see a sheep, this is most definitely NOT the case. However, you may not have known that long ago a goat and a sheep took a bus trip. At the destination, the driver asked for their fares. The goat paid only half and ran away; now every time he sees a car, he runs for fear that it’s the driver looking for the other half. The sheep, however, paid with a large bill. Instead of giving him his change, the driver sped off, so now the sheep stubbornly waits in front of every car, hoping to make the driver pay up.

For most people here, even Christians, these stories and ideas are more than just amusing—they think they are true. Sadly, mixed in among all these false ideas is the idea that children can’t be saved. A good study of the Bible is all it takes to prove that this isn’t true, but sadly many churches hear of the work that Child Evangelism Fellowship is doing and dismiss it because of an idea that you must be a certain age to be saved.

Now the members of the CEF committee and I are meeting personally with pastors and Sunday school teachers, sharing with them about God’s heart for children and asking them to partner with us to reach the children in the neighborhoods all around Burkina Faso. It is my prayer that children all over will hear God’s Word so that water doesn’t make them think of poison but rather of the living water they can drink and never thirst again. It is my prayer that sheep in the road won’t make them think of overpaid bus fares, but of Jesus’ promise to take care of us like a shepherd cares for his sheep.

– Chelsey Horkman, Burkina Faso