April in Burkina Faso brings some of the hottest weather of the year, and with it, water and power cuts. When I am tempted to complain, I remember one such day many years ago when a visit to one of our church members completely changed my way of thinking. I was hot and sweaty and couldn’t run my washing machine or even think straight to do anything else. When my husband came home, I started complaining, expecting sympathy, and maybe a pat on the back for facing such trials. Instead he replied, “Why don’t you just get out and do something? Go do some ministry.” I pedaled off in a huff on my bike to my friend Eveline’s house. A visit with her always encouraged me.
At the time, Eveline lived in a one-room mud brick home with a simple HOT tin roof overhead. She had no running water, no electricity and a small bare yard. She welcomed me and began to praise the Lord, as I felt lower and lower.
Evé came to our church and got saved shortly after her husband came, accepted Christ, and invited her. One of the first times I saw her, she showed up for a church work day sporting a tight top that read, “Sexy 70” on the front. I totally and completely misjudged her based on her outward appearance that day. Along with the help of someone who spoke her tribal tongue, I did explain why such apparel isn’t appropriate on the church property. I didn’t even realize at the time that she didn’t even KNOW what her shirt said! (THAT word is used in both English and French, but she was not very strong in the French language at the time, preferring her tribal tongue.)
It is amazing that God, who knows the heart, never writes someone off as unusable! Evé faithfully came to church and grew spiritually. When trials came her way this young Christian handled them like a mature believer in Christ. I was in the hospital just after having my fourth healthy baby, and we got an early morning call informing us that Eveline’s second child, a six-month old daughter, had suddenly died. We never even knew what was wrong.
I was ashamed to show up at church with my newborn because I didn’t want to make her feel worse. Would you know that she was the first one who wanted to hold him during Sunday services when I was occupied with other things? He was on her back (as is the custom here) so often that I had to learn to wear him on my back to get him to sleep sometimes. She accepted the death of her child as God’s will and never questioned or complained.
Months after her baby’s death, Evé was walking home from a cleaning day at church, and a car hit her. I called her hospital room, unsure of the extent of the damage. Joyously, she told me that she was fine. I got to the hospital later and found her lying in the bed wearing a neck brace. When someone called, her husband lifted the phone to her ear, and she struggled to turn her head to talk into it. Her left side was completely paralyzed and we didn’t know if she would ever walk again. Evé always loved to sing. She said, “Even if the Lord doesn’t heal me, he left me my voice. I will keep singing his praises no matter what.”
By God’s grace, he did heal Eveline. It was a slow, painful process, and there are still slight indicators of the accident. The day she walked down the church aisle unassisted to sing before our congregation was an amazing day, not only because she COULD walk again, but because she had decided to keep singing, even when she didn’t know if that that day would come.
I went to visit Evé on that one particular day because I knew I needed to get over myself! She began to tell me how God took care of her during her lowest moments, sending a neighbor who brought water and hand-washed the family’s clothes for her when she couldn’t . “Now,” she said, “I can wash my own clothes.” Many of us complain about our wash, and we have a machine! I was discouraged about my power cut that day. Evé never had power, EVER. She had to go get her water from a pump or have it brought in, and she had to use it very sparingly if she wanted to have enough. Her first little daughter constantly begged to play in the water because it was so hot, but it wasn’t always possible.
God has since done amazing things in Evé’s life. Many years and many prayers later, he blessed her with a baby boy. She and her husband were able to legalize their marriage, a big step that many couples here who are simply living together won’t take. When we teach God’s Word some say, “That’s not our custom. We won’t change. ” Eveline is one of the first to say, “It’s the Word of God. I will do it.”
Eveline now helps in a children’s class and is in charge of the children’s choir at our church. She serves anywhere she is needed, cleaning the church, preparing meals for special fellowships, making needed visits throughout the week, even when no one tells her that a certain person needs to be visited.
I told the church ladies that we need to encourage the unmarried girls in the church, especially those who come without their parents. These girls need spiritual “mamas.” Eveline took that seriously. She took two young ladies into her home, even though it didn’t seem like she could afford to do so. One of them is married to a pastor today. We teach our people to disciple others. We sometimes look to the most educated to do that. Evé can only read a little, but with her LIFE she discipled those girls! They saw her attitude through trials, how she respected her husband, took care of her children, and loved God and his Word, reading it and teaching it to her children as best as she could. Those ladies are no longer in her home, but I constantly see her loving on other young ladies of our church. They go to her house to have their hair fixed so they won’t have to pay somewhere else. They go by and practice singing songs in the tribal tongue with her. I am amazed at her relationship with them. She loves on all the children at church as well, even playing second Mama to one of mine who seems to need extra affection all the time.
God’s ability to work through a person doesn’t depend on the person’s strength, talents, abilities, education, or resources, but a willing heart. Eveline has shown me that it’s all about letting Him work through us just as we are even when trials come our way. I came to the mission field thinking I was the teacher. I had the answers these people needed. Little did I know how much God would use people like Eveline to teach and humble me. I am honored to work with and know them.