Est-ce que vous voulez?

Team Burkina 2016 was in Paris, France from November 23rd until December 2nd, and we loved it. We stayed the first week in a house boat on the Seine river by the Eiffel Tower, and we spent the second week debriefing at a retreat centre just outside of Paris in a small town named Ecouen. Three of our days within Paris were spent partnering with and learning from MB Missions. During our first day working with MB Missions our team separated into two tiny groups – one group taught english and played uno(because of Burkina, it is a new favourite card game to some of our team) with kids in the afternoon, while the the other group taught english and played games  in the evening with adults.

The next day our team joined the MB Missions folks at the North African markets where they led us in a three part market exploration. When we arrived at the market, MB Missions split us up again – but this time each tiny group was going to participate in all three activities, just at different times. One activity was a neighbourhood walk-around and pray time, one activity included exploring and observing the market in its abundance of life, and during one activity we handed out tracts – pamphlets used to spread the gospel. Before we started handing out the tracts I very apprehensive of the activity because the only thing I knew about it was the picture of people being ignored as they stood with their shelf of pamphlets beside a train station. I also thought I was going to feel uncomfortable due to the unfamiliarity of the situation, but we all jumped right into because on Outtatown it was normal to extend our leaps of faith and jump into the unknown(and it was super worth it). A blessing I received while handing out the pamphlets arrived through a little wonderful old lady. When I met this lady and handed her a “Dieu vous aime” pamphlet I accidentally addressed her using the informal tu instead of the formal vous, and ta da(!) she noticed I wasn’t a native french speaker. This started a long conversation about how she wanted to find somewhere for her grandchildren to learn english. I eventually talked on the phone to her daughter in both broken english and french, awhile later I gave up and introduced the lady to one of the partners in Paris who could answer here questions better than I could. Before this lady I and parted separate ways we had shared some laughs, I was reminded over and over again to use vous, and I was taught that even in a city such as Paris it is possible to find the friendliness that we encountered everywhere in Burkina Faso. And as I said goodbye she pulled some sweets out of her bag and gave them to each member of our team that was nearby, a little token to say thank you. It was cool.

— Sarah


Dancing the Night Away

During our final week in Burkina Faso, our home base was Ouagadougou. We did spend some time away from the city, though, one of those occasions being an overnight trip to a village called Tiebele. This is a voyage that the Burkina group goes on every year and it is always one of the highlights, so we were pretty excited going into it. Upon arrival, we took a tour of the village, weaving our way through the painted and decorated mud huts. We learned that parts of this little village dated back to the 5th century! It was very interesting to see their way of life and to realize that probably not much has changed over the years. The sense of community and spirit that we saw all across Burkina was very evident here and I found that heartwarming. At one point, we toured an elderly woman’s house and it was fantastic to see how proud she was of it. Clean and practical and with a beautiful view of the sunset, it was such a quaint spot!


A room with a view!

In the evening, some of the locals came by our accommodations to put on a concert for us. As they played and sang, children started to filter in. There was singing and dancing and joy all around. I had the unfortunate realization, however, that we are all so white and were AWFUL at dancing in comparison to the kids who were trying to teach us. We tried our best, though, and had a blast anyways. The African spirit was very much alive in that little courtyard that night. Despite a couple marriage proposals from some local men, we had so much fun.


Our group taking a quick break under the baobab!

After the festivities, we had the opportunity to sleep atop some of those decorative little huts. Laying under the stars and talking with my amazing friends on this trip is a memory that I will keep with me forever. Burkina Faso has such beauty in its people and so much to be proud of as a nation.


A rooftop selfie with some sleepy boys in the background


– Madison Zinger

One fish Two fish

Our week in Bobo-Dioulasso was full of adventures. We got the opportunity to spend some time with Paul Peters (our program manager for Outtatown Burkina Faso) and Jay Siemens an incredibly talented photographer from Altona Manitoba. As soon as we got to “Bobo” as we took to calling it, we were met with a familiar face in Paul who for all of us was very nice to have around as he brought a sense of home along with him and for myself that was very helpful having been a little home sick on and off throughout our time in Burkina. Throughout the week we got to experience some amazing things in and around Bobo such as going on a trip to an art museum and to see sacred fish. Before we knew it we were hiking through mountains and down into a valley in the middle of nowhere (we really couldn’t find it on a map). When we were on our way down there we found out that it was a common animist meeting space where many animists from the area would come down and give their ritualistic sacrifices (often chicken) to the gods and ask for anything that they need  like a job spouse, or fertility and feed certain parts of the chicken to the fish in the pond. Liam was also asked to remove his red shirt he was wearing because the fish did not like the colour red and will swim way if they see it luckily our amazing driver Silvere was there to lend him a temporary shirt. As we made our way through the feather covered grounds of the area we noticed how laid back everyone appeared to be, everyone was hanging out drinking the locally made type of beer and chatting with their friends. For myself personally I was expecting a bit of a more frightening time as I had never seen animism before and only heard of the sacrifices that they made. I can say that I was very surprised when we got down there and we were greeted with smiles and waves and invitations to join them in hanging out. As we walked (and jumped) across some questionably stable boulders we found ourselves staring into a pond of giant cat fish ranging from 2 feet to roughly 6 feet in length, needless to say we were all in shock of what we were looking at. In this small pond there must have been dozens of humongous cat fish at the surface of the water waiting for their food scraps.Maddy staring into Fog in the desert.jpgfish As we were in that area some of us felt a kind of heaviness on our hearts and we knew that it was because of what was going on there. We knew as Christians that God was hurting for these people, so as we left the valley area we took a moment and prayed for all that was happening and for the people making these sacrifices and that they may come to know God in the ways that we do and that they can know that they don’t need to make sacrifices to please him and that they can have a personal relationship with him without killing an animal. With all that being said our week in Bobo was an amazing experience and definitely one that none of us will ever forget.

The Perfect Day

“Beautiful things don’t ask for attention”-James Thurber

Outtatown Site 3 had the chance to visit the touristy side of Burkina Faso. This included swimming in waterfalls, climbing peaks and of course, lots of driving!

We loaded up the van and took off, the further we drove the more the scenery began to change. Driving past sugar farms and ponds was a beautiful change. Once we arrived in Banfora we picked up our guide and drove off to the falls. When we arrived we were shocked by the beauty and the lack of commercialization; everything was so natural and untouched by humans. After we enjoyed an ice cold pop and gobbled down some hamburgers we set out to explore the falls. The falls were a large series of small waterfalls which were perfect for frolicking in and were a sight for sore eyes as this was our first time swimming since the canoe trip. As we climbed higher up the river so did our excitement, in no time at all we were riding down rapids and flopping down falls, laughing and almost crying for some falls were a little precarious and ended up with some pretty gnarly bumps. At one point we even made a train of people and let the current carry us down the river which proved extremely fun and slightly painful as Liam landed on one of the not so soft rocks. It was quickly laughed away and we kept on swimming.IMG_4392.JPGNot long after, we began to make our way back as we still had a lot to see and do that day, and because our driver Silvère was not in prime health conditions. After making our way down to bottom we continued onward, sure that nothing could beat the falls. Little did we know that we were to visit the domes of Banfora, which once again were untouched and phenomenal. We climbed around taking beautiful pictures and enjoying God’s masterpiece.img_443799 As we continued to explore we were amazed by the beauty and how different tourism in Burkina Faso was compared to that of Canada and how untouched it was.  We really got to appreciate how truly beautiful things don’t scream for attention and are usually harder to find but worth the search. We continued onward to Sindou where we would be staying the night and traveling to the peaks of Sindou the following day.  After a long and incredible day, we fell asleep excited for what awaited us.

-Alex Boekestyn


Tin Time

Our team has spent the past two and a half weeks in a town called Orodara. It has been a time of learning, adventures and making friends. We have had countless walks through the village and market where we were not sure what to expect, and were often invited for tea on the side of the road with someone. I love how everyone here welcomes us and enjoys including us in whatever it is that they are doing.

Our first Sunday here, we were invited by a couple of missionaries in the nearby village, Tin, to come and visit with them for Thanksgiving dinner. We gladly drove the 15km in the back of a truck over bumpy, red, dusty roads to meet them. Upon our arrival, we were introduced to Norm Nicolson, one of the missionaries, and he walked us through the village to the home of Paul and Lois Thiessen. They welcomed us in the traditional Burkinabé style of serving us water and asking for our news. It was nice to have the chance to speak English with people outside of our group and the evening flew by as we had the chance to hear about the work that they were doing in Tin.

Both the Thiessens and Lillian, Norm’s wife, are working on translating the Bible into Siamou which is a tonal language. They have been in Tin for many years learning the language, working on getting an alphabet for the people and cooperating with the locals to begin to translate the Bible. That evening felt much too short and we had to return to Orodara before we felt ready.

A week later, Lillian happened to stop by the mission where we were staying, and I, as well as Owen and Sarah had the chance to go back with her to the town to spend the morning with their family. We met some of the youth of the village and were introduced more fully to some of the “rules” of Burkinabé society; making sure to greet the elders and adults in the courtyard right away and going through the conversation of “how are you?”, “how is your family?”, “how is your health?” etc. I enjoyed being able to experience life in the village that was not catering to the fact that we did not speak the language or understand the customs; we were still expected to do everything that would be considered polite whether we were from Burkina or not. We followed Lillian around as she introduced us and walked us through the greetings. For lunch, we ate tô, a traditional and common meal, with the courtyard family. Guys and girls ate separately and we ate with our hands. I found it very enjoyable to be able to live this part of village life, and even though I would not say that tô is my favourite food, in this context, it was good. When we left, we had to do the rounds again of all the elders of the village. Many blessings were given at this point and farewells were said.

Our time in Tin was much shorter than the time that we have spent in any other town or village thus far on our trip, but it is one that stands out the most to me. Being able to see how the Christian missionaries were able to live and work with the Muslim community was incredible. The respect and love between the Nicolsons and the families in the courtyard was very evident and they welcomed us warmly as well. I hope that one day I can go back to take part in that village life again and to continue to see how God blesses all that is taking place in Tin.

— Nicola Kish


walking between courtyards in Tin

Becoming Burkinabé

Transitioning into Burkina Faso this past week has been a wonderful experience, filled with many adventures regardless of just arriving. In every place we go we seemed to be welcomed with joy and respect that is carried by every local. Many of us have felt at home despite our short time in this country, which I suppose is easy to do in a genuinely ambient country. The Republic of Upper Volta changed its name in 1984 to Burkina Faso which literally translates to “land of the honourable people”; no Burkinabé has demonstrated any sort of desire or capability of disproving its significance or veracity. It is no surprise that we have been welcomed so hospitably, every non-Burkinabé that we met before arriving here has told us Burkina Faso is traditionally the most welcoming country in the world to visit.


Group selfie in the back of a truck as we toured Bobo

Despite several different people in our group being overcome by sickness in our first week due to their system’s shock (traveler’s diarrhea is not a myth) and one instance of an injury that has given a student Western African stitches, our spirits are soaring as the Burkinabé do everything in their power to make this a smooth and enjoyable transition. We were given a couple of days in the capital city of Ouagadougou to adjust to the time difference and intense heat, which does not uncommonly reach 38-40 degrees Celsius. After our first couple days, we began our journey to Orodara, further south. Our first day was a seven-hour drive to Bobo-Dioulasso, getting stopped more than once by military road stops where they checked our ID and Burkina visas. We stayed two nights in Bobo before finishing our voyage to Orodara where we will be staying for two and a half weeks. Orodara is a small city of about 50,000 people – all incredibly welcoming. Most recently, we experienced Orodara’s market and bought our traditional clothes, which are currently in the process of being tailored; we are eager to pick them up on Saturday.


This is me (Owen) drinking some bagged water during one of our long drives

In Burkina Faso – and I am confident many more countries in Africa could be included – they know how to worship our Lord. Our first Sunday in Orodara was an amazing and spiritually refreshing gift. We spent three hours crammed in a small building with 200 other followers of Christ to worship together. The church was electrified with energy, the music of an extremely talented band who played local instruments, voices of their choirs, and a gifted congregation, it was a time for us to just relax and worship God. I felt overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit during that short fragment of our day and could not have been happier. I have often found myself critically pondering the value of worship in many North American churches, in which it seems to be more of a performance than worship. Here we were able to just lift our hands to Christ.


On our way to church in Orodora!

All in all, I have never felt more welcomed into a country than Burkina Faso. I loved this country as soon as we stepped out of the airport and my love for it has done nothing but deepen since. Our excitement seems to be continuously growing for our upcoming weeks.

— Owen Wegner

Oh, the places we’ll go!

Week five, and the entirety of this program has gone by so fast. It feels like just yesterday we were all just getting to know each other in the Blaurock Café at CMU… but its already been 5 weeks with these amazing people on our team, as well as those who we’ve had the opportunity to meet along the way. Last week we finished up our time in Canada, we were in Montreal learning about poverty and the different forms it takes. Something that stood out to me about our time in Montreal was definitely the demographic of those visibly living in poverty. Comparably to Manitoba, it seemed that they were significantly younger and there were far less Aboriginal persons on the street. For me this made the most impact coming from Manitoba where a significant amount of the population all around us are Aboriginal. This also made me realize that the history of the racism against aboriginals still has an impact on the present citizens of Quebec and day to day life. On a happier note, this was our final week in Quebec before moving on to the most exciting location of all… Burkina Faso! The whole team could hardly sit still – full of anticipation and excitement for the adventure ahead and the new culture. For myself personally, I’ve never traveled to another continent, never mind half way across the globe! My initial thought was that this will be amazing, full of adventure, and fun. I will be able to grow in my relationship with God more and more every day I’m out there. On the other hand, I was absolutely terrified of being outside of my comfort zone and away from all that I find comforting back home in chilly Winnipeg, Manitoba. But I can go into this experience in a country I’ve never experienced and a continent I never would have thought I’d get to visit knowing that I can rely on God with my full being and I believe that He will provide all that I need and I can go to him to find comfort and peace.

— Connor Clow

ps. we are now in Burkina Faso and we’re having a blast!

Rainfall and Red leaves

On Monday, October 3rd, Team Burkina hopped on a train in Quebec City and hopped off in Montreal. From Montreal, we drove two hours north to Camp Peniel, which was our home for the week. We stayed in a large cabin with a spacious deck and a stream just below. There was even a perfect place on the deck for Alex’s hammock! Throughout the week at camp we played Gaga Ball, did service work, enjoyed nature, and went bungee jumping at Great Canadian Bungee!!! I even spent a couple nights sleeping outside in the hammock! On one of our last days at the camp, Cam (the super cool director of Outtatown!) led us in a silent day, which had a purpose of being present and experiencing God. It rained, or drizzled, or poured for most of the day – from the deck we had our own little nature show. Each of us (the students) spent our day a little differently –  some read in the hammock, one person paddled in a torrential downpour, a few went for walks, and a couple tried their hands at photographing the beautiful weather (there may also have been a couple naps taken). During my morning, I took pictures, adjusting settings for every photo in hopes of duplicating the exact colours my eyes saw; autumn in Quebec has some of the most beautiful and vibrant seasonal colours I have ever seen.


Evening on the lake at Camp Peniel.

When Cam was explaining our day he mentioned to us how important it was to still reply/talk to the camp staff even though we as a group were silent. Now the camp’s cook is named Denise, and at lunch Denise realized that our ‘mum’ (Alanna) was not present at camp. So Denise went around our table serving us vegetables while saying something like, “Just because your mum is not here does not mean you can go without vegetables. I will make sure you eat your vegetables”. And Denise just kept giving me more food (did I mention that desert was served with both lunch and dinner). It was a very entertaining and fun lunch, yet the student communication was successfully minimal and verbal communication was non-existent.


The beautiful red leaves from the maple trees.

After lunch while I was standing on the deck there was a moment of great serendipity. I was folding laundry and listening to Ben Howard’s album ‘Every Kingdom’. My view looking out from the cabin was multicoloured leaves and a peaceful stream. When I had started folding laundry there was no rain and the sun was out, and it was was beautiful. Some time later, the song Promise started to play through my headphones. If you have ever listened to this song, you might be familiar with the soft sounds of rain introducing Ben Howard’s singing. If you have not heard Ben Howard’s song Promise and like chill music, go into nature, listen the song, and appreciate God’s amazing world. The moment of serendipity occurred when the sounds of rainfall started to fill my headphones and the drizzle off of the deck became rain again. They were perfectly in time with one another. And as the song continued, the rain turned into a pour and sound filled the air, and it was beautiful.

Okay, I hope this mostly stuck to one subject and provided a glance into our time at Camp Peniel.

— Sarah Isaak


The beautiful log-cabin lodge where we spent the week.


Madi and Alanna heading for a paddle together.

In The Clouds

Our experience in Quebec City was certainly a whirlwind! I met my lovely homestay family on Sunday and immediately felt at home. I stayed with a young couple who had two kids: Olivia-Kim who is 5, and Zacharie who is 4. The kids were adorable and loved to play, apparently feeling comfortable with us strangers right from the moment we arrived. In observing the way that the family interacted throughout the week, I found myself very impressed with the way our homestay mom dealt with the kids when they weren’t behaving. The patience and grace she showed them was exemplary and reminded me of how we as Christians are taught to treat everyone in this same way. It’s funny how much you can learn in the most unexpected places!


A jubilant Liam attempts a heel click in celebration of arrival in Quebec.

                During the week, we were able to fit a whole lot of activity into a small amount of time! On Monday, we did a walking tour of Old Quebec City, which was absolutely gorgeous, full of history and culture. On Tuesday, we spent the morning with Father Jean-Luc Tremblay discussing Catholicism and Protestantism in Quebec and how the population’s attitude toward religion has changed over time. It was very interesting to hear the reasoning for so much change in what was formerly a large part of Quebecois culture. Following our meeting, we were able to explore the St. Anne Basilica, which was beautiful with its soaring mosaic ceilings, intricate woodwork, and elaborate pieces of art everywhere!


A quick and precarious group picture in front of Saint Anne’s Basilica

That afternoon, we hiked a nearby mountain (or “hill,” in BC resident Sarah’s opinion) called Mont. St. Anne.  This was quite the feat for some of us, but hey, you don’t need to be able to breathe or feel your legs to have fun! The view was worth it, however. Well, from halfway up at least…at the summit, we were immersed in a cloud! Once we were able to catch our breath up there, we sang some worship songs, sticking closely to the theme of God’s amazing creation and power. Judges 5:5 says that “the mountains quaked before the Lord.” Let me tell you, after you struggle your way up a mountain (or hill) this verse reaches a whole new meaning. God must be pretty awesome if this massive thing quakes before Him!


Literally into the clouds. 

On Saturday, we were able to plan ourselves a last-minute adventure day at Montmorency Falls. This entailed scaling the face of the rock wall beside the waterfall. We had a harness with two clips that we would use to clip on to various rungs and wires in the wall. The activity was exhilarating and the view was breathtaking (especially for those afraid of heights)!


While scaling the right side of the wall, we enjoyed a unique view of the waterfall


There was so much to do and so much to learn in Quebec City that I definitely could have stayed an extra week or two. However, with Burkina on the horizon, and more time to spend in the beautiful countryside of Quebec, the journey advances! On y va!

Written by: Madison


Nicola, Madison, Connor and Alex strolling through downtown Quebec City.

Life in Transition

“Transitions in life can offer opportunities for discovery, provided we are open to random encounters and serendipitous events.” – Robbie Shell

The most recent leg of our group’s journey took place in St. Boniface and central Winnipeg. For about ten days, our community lived in a five-plex, transitional housing unit for new Canadians; we lived alongside families from France, Burundi and the Congo, all of whom had been in Canada for less than a month! Our group recently arrived in Quebec City, but here is a snapshot into our time in Winnipeg:


Looking west towards dowtown Winnipeg and the Forks from St. Boniface

My first experience with the families in our five-plex was on the first Friday in St. Boniface. Our group had been outside on the back porch, when kids from next door came over to say hi! Here, I met Éduard from Uganda. At 15, he was going to start high school in the coming month, and wanted to know more about settling into Canada! He had a giddy excitement for life and school, and every time he mentioned starting “Level (Grade) Ten”, his eyes would just light up! Later that evening, more youth from neighbouring houses came over. Some came from a Congolese family who had arrived that same day, but all of the youth from that family that came over were excited to spend time with us. One of these youth, Dominique, was a guitar player, singer and songwriter back in Uganda; he shared a song which served as our only real glimpse into his family’s journey from the Congo to Canada. Its message was one of resilience and community:“Together we are stronger. Stay together: mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.”


Worship music and singing with our new community!

That Sunday, our site led a francophone church service at L’Église Communautaire de la Rivière Rouge. Our site chose worship songs and four of us led singing – all in French. I shared a testimony of our group’s time canoeing (see last week’s post on this), once again, entirely in French. It was incredible to be able to contribute to this service, but there were two other points that evening that stood out to me.

Firstly, our site invited the newest group of Canadians in our housing unit to join us for church, a family from the Congo. This turned out to be an incredible opportunity for the family, who had been looking for a church to attend in Winnipeg; when they arrived, the family was welcomed with open arms at the church, with nearly every church member meeting them after the service. On the way home, we asked the Congolese father how he had liked the church; he responded with complete confidence: “This is my church.”

The second point of the evening that stood out was the sermon. The topic of this sermon was Life in Transition, a topic that hit home with our Outtatown/Congolese group. The church talks about how God has a way of bringing people to the right place at the right time; here was our Outtatown site who will be experiencing a lot of transitions throughout our program and then there was this new family who was transitioning into life in Canada. The preacher’s message was the following: God has a plan. Through Jesus, there is a solution to every problem and a predetermined direction at every fork in the road. We as people may have doubts or be unsure of what the future is going to look like. But God has no doubts, His plans have success and victory in store – always and forever!


Outtatown Site 3 with a few of the neighbours

Liam Kachkar