Nestled between the sandy landscapes of the Sahara Desert and the deep forests of west Africa, the people of Burkina Faso have experienced great devastation in 2020. They’ve been one of the hardest-hit countries in Africa by the coronavirus. Violence from extremist groups like Boko Haram and Al Qaeda has displaced over a million people from their homes. Children are unable to safely attend school, and famine and poverty abound.
Against this backdrop of uncertainty, sickness, and violence, the gospel of Jesus Christ advances.
Acts 29 is a global family laboring together to plant church-planting churches that proclaim the name of Jesus in all places. Suffering and opposition are plentiful in Burkina Faso, but Jesus builds his church as we go and make disciples of all nations.
The scope of the Great Commission can be overwhelming. God tells us to take the gospel to everyone, everywhere. But in the face of the sheer size and difficulty of this task, Jesus gives us a promise: “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).
Acts 29 church planter, Marcel Yanogo, pastors Temple Philadelphie in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Marcel also leads a Bible school (Verse by Verse) in northern Burkina, equipping church planters for ministry. Marcel launched the school in 2006, recognizing the great need for the gospel to be proclaimed in his country. He sold his motorcycle, bought a piece of land with the proceeds, and began equipping pastors.
Against this backdrop of uncertainty, sickness, and violence in Burkina Faso, the gospel of Jesus Christ advances.
Today, over 100 pastors and aspiring planters participate in the training program. For a few days a week over several months, they learn how to read, understand, apply, and teach the Bible—book by book, verse by verse. With very little biblical literacy present in the country and scarce access to training resources, this type of foundational training is essential for the church in Burkina Faso to flourish.
Like most stories of the gospel advancing in difficult places, Marcel’s efforts have been strengthened by partners. Making disciples in places where Jesus is neither known nor worshiped is collaborative work, and God is raising up men and women all over the world to accomplish this task. And he invites more to become fellow workers (3 John 8).
Shortly after opening the school, Marcel met Loren Anderson, an Acts 29 church planter from Bend, Oregon, through a mutual acquaintance. Over the next few years, Loren and Marcel struck up a friendship, and The Fellowship at Bend Church began directing most of their missions fund to support pastor training in Burkina through Verse by Verse.
Loren and Marcel talk almost every week, praying for the Holy Spirit to move among the Burkina people. Loren is the first to say he’s not an expert on the various peoples or cultures of Burkina Faso. Still, believers in Oregon are overjoyed to partner with believers in tiny towns and brushlands in northern Burkina Faso to make more disciples. And as the gospel advances, enemies become brothers and sisters through the blood of Jesus, and churches are planted despite the devil’s relentless efforts to subdue them.
In the last 14 years, the men trained at Verse by Verse have planted more than 100 churches in areas of Burkina occupied by extremist groups hostile to Christianity. Despite constant persecution in the northern parts of the country, Burkina Faso believers are growing in their understanding of God’s Word. And as they apply and proclaim it, the Holy Spirit is cultivating bold believers whose confidence in Jesus is a compelling witness and invitation to “come and see.” Marcel says, “We want the persecution to end. But the gospel and witness in persecution is being used by God.”
As the gospel advances, enemies become brothers and sisters through the blood of Jesus, and churches are planted despite the devil’s relentless efforts to subdue them.
One day, a multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, will gather in heaven to praise the God of our salvation (Rev. 5:9-10, 7:9). Until then, God is redeeming and raising up faithful men and women across the world to boldly proclaim the good news of salvation to men and women who are desperate to hear it.
Jesus has given all believers a mandate to be part of his kingdom’s advancement. So we go and we send with hopeful confidence. And in this kingdom, the Holy Spirit works through bold proclamation, faithful sending, and gospel partnerships like we see taking place in Bend, Oregon, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Christ commissions us to take the gospel to all places, and he emboldens us with the promise of his presence. So let us go with courage and confidence. And let us go together as fellow workers.
Editor’s Note: The Acts 29 Emerging Regions Network exists to support and convene church-planting movements throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. To learn more about Verse by Verse, visit equipburkina.com.