Saturday, February 14, 2015

Months later . . . after a coup in Burkina Faso

Mim and her mother, Erica, admiring one her mother's quilts


The very final days of October, last year, I was stuck in a prison in Burkina Faso during a coup in that African country. I was visiting an MCC partner agency working in the prison, and I was finally left out when prison authorities determined it was safe for me to be on the streets.

There was the threat of violence in the community where I was staying with MCCers and all the border crossings out of the country were closed, but I was eventually able to leave the country a few days later. And I’m grateful to say that all the MCCers were also safe and 
that the country has established a degree of stability following the coup.

But for a few days there, I was not sure what would happen. And people back home weren’t either. The MCC office in North America was able to call my wife and assure her I was safe. On the Sunday morning following the coup, this is part of the corporate prayer offered at Eighth Street Mennonite Church, my home congregation in Goshen, Indiana:

O God –
We confess that Jesus sometimes makes us uncomfortable …
and that in our discomfort we discover that parts of us are afraid of you.
We give you our fear, God.
           These moments of dis-ease … of truth-telling … are hard for us –
YET – we believe that YOU LOVE US. Period. 
So then – these uncomfortable moments must not be for our destruction –
but for our growth.
Give us courage to stay in the uncomfortable spaces long enough
to see what you are offering through them. 
For your love is for us and our neighbor – no one is excluded by you.
We exclude ourselves and others from that JOY – but you never do.
          So today we pray for our world –
          For the people of Burkina Faso … for Ron … for Mim –
         who are waiting for justice with the same urgency as Christ.
         God – may your revolution of LOVE be set free there.

After I returned home and during the Advent season, Mim was asked to give one of our traditional hundred-word responses in church to the Advent theme, this year on casting out fear:

I was in Puerto Rico for a board meeting.
An email from Ron 
“A coup overtook the government in Burkina Faso. We are all okay.”

Alone
Far from home
Far from Ron
Waiting for more information.
Afraid

Then a text from Brenda (our pastor)
“I heard from Ron. Are you doing ok?”

Still waiting 
Still afraid
But not alone

A phone message
“I’m calling from MCC to let you know that Ron is ok.”
Colleagues asked – “have you heard from Ron?”

No, still waiting.
But a host of people, some near, some far, waited with me.
And that was more powerful than fear.

It is not always as obvious to me as it should be how what I am doing is affecting others. Looking back, I am grateful for a church community, and a family, who care for me, even when I am halfway around the world.

Thanks, God, for courage to stay in the uncomfortable places and for your love that extends to us and all of our neighbors, whether they are next door or far, far away.

Ron Byler is executive director of MCC U.S.