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Visit from Baptists a ‘tremendous asset’ in reaching W. Africans

BURKINA FASO, West Africa (BP)–Willie McLaurin and others from the Tennessee Baptist Convention expected their trip to Burkina Faso to have an impact on the Wala people they were praying for. But they weren’t prepared for how it would change them.

“I felt as though God brought me 5,000 miles away from home not to do missions, but for Him to show me what the Father is already up to and then join Him in the work,” said McLaurin, leadership specialist for the TBC.

Latisha Reeves, missions coordinator at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., said she saw a change in the way she views missions.

“I know it is important to make sure the Gospel is taken to the ends of the earth and I knew that before; however, there is now a sense of urgency,” Reeves said.

More than 160,000 Wala people have not heard about Jesus Christ.

Missionary Phillip Lyons of the International Mission Board, along with his wife, Teresa, and their six children, moved to southern Burkina Faso in January to bring the Gospel to the Wala.

“Our task was to join God through prayer in what He is doing among the Wala, while seeking how God may be inviting churches to be a strategic part of this work,” McLaurin said.

Rhonda Mayo of First Baptist Church in Greenbrier, Tenn., said she was challenged by what still remains to be done in the West African nation.

“I am convinced God is moving in and through the Lyonses and has a place for us to come alongside and join them,” she said.

Lyons said the group gave him an “opportunity to prepare the ground for the seeds of the Gospel.” He was able to build goodwill with the chiefs by fulfilling his promise to bring a group of Americans to visit their villages.

“Their presence was a tremendous asset and encouragement to our work with the Wala,” Lyons said. “The elders of the villages didn’t have words to express their gratitude for the fact that these American believers had left their homes and traveled such a great distance to meet and visit them.”

The elders had reason to be grateful since just getting there was a challenge for several in the Tennessee group.

Mayo had major surgery three weeks before the trip. Her doctor told her it was not ideal for her to go to Africa, but he could not stop her.

“I told my husband, ‘When has anything been ideal for us?’” Mayo said.

Just days before the trip, Jane Baldwin, the wife of trip participant Fred Baldwin, pastor of First Baptist Greenbrier, fell down a flight of stairs, crushing one of her shoulders and losing all feeling and movement in her hand.

After praying together and talking with members of their church, Jane urged her husband to continue with his plans to go to Burkina Faso.

The group also experienced daily power outages and temperatures around 110 degrees. But through all their trials the group remained focused on their purpose, which was to pray for the Wala people and for future work to bring the Gospel to the people.

Bill Holt of First Baptist Greenbrier continually prayed aloud for people as he walked past them in the villages.

McLaurin noted that he felt a difference between praying for people groups while in the United States and praying for them as he was walking through their village.

“The concept of ‘praying on site with insight’ has now been made more real in my life,” he said. “So many times we talk about needs and we have conversation about various issues, but until [someone] is actually on site on the mission field and is able to have an encounter with people in their environment, one will never know how real people are, how sensitive they are and how lost they are.”

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  • Jesse Lyautey