BURKINA FASO, West Africa (BP)–After a long day of traveling, just the promise of refreshing water from the old, green wheel-crank well was worth the effort.
Latisha Reeves, of Mount Olive Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., turned the wheel and smiled as cool, clean water from more than 100 feet below the surface came flowing out onto the ground.
International Mission Board missionary Phillip Lyons crouched at the faucet and began to drink and wash his face. One by one, other members of the group from Tennessee followed his lead.
This was one of more than 100 wells, almost all of them still in use, dug by Tennessee Baptists in a partnership that started 25 years ago with IMB missionaries to provide water to the people of Sanwabo, Burkina Faso in Africa. During those years they also built three “barrages,” or dams.
Because of the partnership, more than 70 churches have been built in the area surrounding Sanwabo. This area now has the highest population of Baptists in all of Burkina Faso.
“I am encouraged by the progress made in previous ministry efforts,” said Rhonda Mayo of First Baptist Church in Greenbrier, Tenn. “I am challenged by what still remains to be done.”
“The goal … in digging wells is that God would plant a church on every site where a well was dug,” said Willie McLaurin, leadership specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. “Our assignment for Sanwabo was to revisit the mission field to let our brothers in Africa know that we are still supporting them through prayer.
“We also had a goal of providing encouragement to the pastors, churches and association of Sanwabo and surrounding areas.”
Reeves, who is the missions coordinator for her church, said she is looking to engage the congregation to work globally in missions.
“I now have an understanding and heartfelt need to make disciples of all nations,” Reeves said. “I saw the fruit of that from 25 years ago. I saw the challenge of today and the hope for work in the future for tomorrow.”
More than 15 pastors from the Sanwabo area’s Baptist association met with the group to discuss the work they are continuing to do to reach their people for Christ.
The pastors also shared the many challenges they face, but they continue to labor to reach their people and have even sent out a missionary to start a church with another people group.
“This trip gave the local pastors of [the] Sanwabo area the opportunity to hear that Tennessee Baptists had not forgotten them; that these Burkinabé Baptists were still in their prayers; and that Tennessee Baptists would continue to remember them and pray for them,” Lyons said.
Reeves is determined to return.
“We were there for a reason and we all walked away knowing that God desires to use the experience,” Reeves said. “We are sharing and praying with our churches now.”