More than a Roof

A church gains a renewed sense of servanthood


In the remote village of Loonyuu (pronounced lone-you), Burkina Faso, there is no electricity, running water or toilets, many of the modern amenities we tend to take for granted. The women of Loonyuu perform much of the work: they do laundry by hand, draw water from wells, cook over open fires and carry heavy loads on their heads. The villagers live in single-room mud-brick homes roofed with corrugated metal sheeting or straw. These huts are used for sleeping and dressing, and all other daily activities are done outdoors.

In January 2006, I joined nine men from the Little Falls [Minn.] Alliance Church, under the direction of senior pastor Phil Ronzheimer, on a two-week journey to Burkina Faso. We spent most of our time in Loonyuu, deep in the bush, where the only means of outside contact is by unreliable cell phones.

Getting Started

On a Saturday evening, we arrived in Ouagadougou, where we stayed in the guesthouse of one of the Alliance missionaries. It was much nicer than we had expected, but we had to keep reminding each other not to get used to it. We knew we were headed for the bush!

The following morning, our team split into two groups and attended separate church services in Ouagadougou. This was our first real interaction with the people of Burkina Faso. We were amazed at the amount of energy and emotion that filled the air during these services. The love for the Lord was as evident as the thumping of the bongos keeping the beat to the music.

On Tuesday, we departed for the bush. It was nine hours of the most difficult road conditions I have ever experienced. And, what would a road trip in the 110-degree heat of West Africa be without a vehicular mishap or two? A tire shredded on one vehicle and the battery went dead on the other, all in one location—the middle of nowhere! Not a problem, however; Alliance missionaries can always figure a way out of a jam.

Fitting Right In

In Loonyuu, we were warmly greeted by many of the villagers, especially the children. We were then formally introduced to the village elders and the pastor of the church. Protocol and showing respect are highly valued in this culture. As visitors, we paid close attention to proper etiquette to ensure we did not unintentionally disrespect anyone.

Our tasks were to measure, cut, raise and secure approximately 6,000 square feet of corrugated metal sheeting onto a large, hexagonal church. For all of us, it was about more than a roof on a church. The work site was always buzzing with activity. It was wonderful to see some of the villagers working alongside us. They were always willing to jump in and help, and the honor of being part of this project shown brightly in their eyes and their smiles.

The average daily temperature was 100 to 110 degrees. However, the reflection of the sun off the metal roof panels made the heat much more intense. After the long hot days, we looked forward to getting cleaned up. Our showers were five-gallon buckets with sprinkler heads attached underneath. The water was always cold but refreshing and appreciated. Privacy was almost nonexistent. For example, the toilets consisted of a hole in the ground surrounded by a four-foot high wall. Everyone around knew where you were and what you were doing.

After five days and approximately 65 hours of labor, our project was finally complete. The final hours of work went well into the night. Many villagers watched as the last bolt was secured. The Burkinabé in the village of Loonyuu, after five years of waiting, finally had a roof on their new church!

Not That Different

Our last Sunday in the village was especially emotional. During the worship service, we participated in a foot-washing ceremony, a first for many of us. I was humbled by the experience as I felt a sense of joy and understanding. This is how to define true servanthood, I thought. It is about getting out and making a difference in other people’s lives.

As we washed the feet of our African Christian brothers and sisters, I couldn’t help but envision Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. And so, as followers of Christ, we were showing the same kind of love for these wonderful people we did not know and with whom we could hardly communicate. We are worlds apart in so many ways, yet our eternal destinies are the same.

As I reflect upon this journey, I can still see the faces of the people in the village. Their deep brown eyes, contagious smiles and contentment with life are truly inspiring. They are beautiful people who have very little in the way of material possessions. Yet, they would joyfully give you their last grain of rice if you were in need of something to eat.

We praise God for the completion of this project. The Lord was present in each of our successes and failures, especially during times when it seemed like Satan was working to prevent the completion of this project. We can only hope that in some small way, we have made a loving and everlasting impression on the village of Loonyuu. We know that we will never be the same! God has touched each of our hearts with a new appreciation for serving those in need.

As a result of this trip, our church has a renewed understanding of what it means to have a servant’s heart. A fire has been lit, and the wheels of spiritual outreach for this church are in motion.

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