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Pecan Pie, the Flintstones, and Healthier Children

Excerpted from “Dagara Diaries,” mission report of Andy and Melissa Johnson, Dano, Burkina Faso

By Andy Johnson

March 22, 2005

Excerpted from “Dagara Diaries,” mission report of Andy and Melissa Johnson, Dano, Burkina Faso

While on furlough, we were frequently asked how Christians in America might best help the Dagara people in a tangible fashion.
In one ladies’ Bible class, they latched upon the idea of sending children’s vitamins to Dano. At the 10th and Broad church of Christ’s (Wichita Falls, Texas) next fellowship meal, women stood guard over the homemade pecan pie, selling off the pieces for the bargain price of one donated bottle of children’s vitamins (a sad side note: having been out of town the previous Sunday, we were unaware of the price of admission and consequently didn’t get any pie!).
The project snowballed as vitamins continued to pour in for weeks both from members and from another church in Ohio that read about the project on 10th and Broad‚s website. In the end, just under 100 pounds of vitamins were shipped off to Burkina Faso.
Then came the hard part: how to get the vitamins to the Dagara people. On the one hand, we wanted to comply with the wishes of the ladies‚ class, that is, to give the vitamins to Dagara Christians with children. On the other hand, we did not want to become known in Dano as the people who pass out vitamins if you get baptized.
We sought the counsel of our teammates as well as some Dagara leaders in the church at Mebar. The plan we finally decided upon was not to pass the vitamins out ourselves, but rather to ask visitors to pass them out on behalf of the Christians in the States. Arlin and Pamela Hendrix, longtime missionaries in Lyon, France, and close mentors of ours, were already coming to see us, so the timing seemed to work out perfectly.
We headed out to Mebar Saturday afternoon, having announced earlier that we would be coming with visitors who have gifts for the children in the church. We held our usual Saturday meeting: we prayed, sang, listened to a lesson from a church leader (this week: Noah), and ended with more prayer.
Following the end of the meeting, I explained about the vitamins. I told them that Christians in the United States are very concerned about the children in Mebar and want to do all they can to help them. In addition to prayers, they have sent these vitamins via the Hendrix to help their children. We took a count of how many children each family had, and Arlin headed off to the truck to bring back the bottles of vitamins.
In the meantime, it began to dawn on Melissa how much really needed to be explained. First off, children’s vitamins taste good, but they are not candy — taking too many of them can harm a child. But where can the Christians keep them out of reach of children? Dagara homes have no medicine cabinets, tall bookshelves, or parents‚ bedroom with a locking door. Most people said they would keep them “in the roof” — on one of the posts they use to hold up their roofs.
All kinds of other factors contributed to make this a tough teaching experience. Most of these people had never opened a child-proof lid or been told to throw away the little moisture packet inside a bottle. It was simply a bizarre moment, standing under a tree in a village showing people how to snap little purple Fred Flintstones in half to give to their two- and three-year-olds.
Arlin eventually returned with the vitamins and passed them out to those with children. We re-explained everything as best we could and asked various people to demonstrate opening the bottles and breaking poor Fred in the middle of his chest. The day ended with Arlin grouping all the children in the middle of our circle (well, all the children that can be near a white guy and not burst into frightened tears) and praying over them that Jesus would protect them physically as well spiritually, that they might be strong in body and in the Lord.
The day was a success. Vitamins were given in the name of Jesus to those who previously had none.
However, the day was not perfect. A few latecomers became angry when we explained that we were only giving out vitamins to the children of those who attended the meeting. One young unmarried church member in particular was angry when he tried to take a bottle from someone to give to his little brother, and I had to tell him that the vitamins were for the children of church members, not their siblings.
One of the toughest parts of the day was leaving several children who come often without their parents empty-handed because there was no adult present to whom we could give the vitamins.
We’ll be doing this again. We have enough vitamins to make the rounds to all four villages where we have baptized some of God’s children. We have a list of things we’ll do better next time: we forgot to pray before we left the house, Andy raised his voice instead of lowering it when arguments broke out, and we did not reflect well enough beforehand on what needed to be said.
However, despite our shortcomings, we know that God was glorified by his American children helping out his Dagara children, and that is good news.
Andy and Melissa
Andy and Melissa Johnson are part of a missionary team in Dano, Burkina Faso, a French-speaking country in western Africa. The 10th and Broad church, Wichita Falls, Texas, sponsors the couple. For more information, visit the team’s Web site, www.dagara.org.

Filed under: International Staff Reports

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