Children at the Christian Mission Alliance Child Development Center perform a liturgical dance. The church has a livelier and more child-focused evangelism program thanks to Compassion sponsor assistance.
DAG-NOËŽ, Burkina Faso It's midmorning and the blazing sun has already made it hot in the courtyard of the Christian Mission Alliance complex just south of Ouagadougu. But the 60 or so children holding hands in a circle don't seem to care. They giggle and scream with glee as they play a Burkinabe version of "duck, duck, goose," except this edition has something to do with a lion and a crocodile. Kicking up dust and squealing in delight, the children are foot loose and fancy free. Standing in front of the mammoth church doors Pastor Yacouba Sanon breaks out in a grin. Ah, the joy of youth the joy of children in the church.
Closed Off to Children
It wasn't too long ago that Pastor Yacouba's church was silent to the sounds of children. It wasn't that his church didn't have a mission for children it did. It's just that, well, children just weren't around.
"Before Compassion came, many families were wary of our church compound, they wouldn't even come in here," Yacouba says. "Many of the families in this area are Muslim, and they just kept their children inside their houses. Everyone thought our church was just for the Christians, that it was closed off to them and their children."
To be fair, Yacouba says his church did have a heart for children but also didn't have many resources to help them. Child advocates at the church, like Alphonse Nkusi, struggled to evangelize children who came to them listless from hunger and suffering from malnutrition, crushed by the effects of poverty.
"Children would come to me saying, 'I'm interested in what you are saying, but I am hungry.' & I didn't have any food or anything to give them," says Alphonse. "I was missing something."
A New Beginning
In 2004 when Compassion began partnering with churches in Burkina Faso, Yacouba Sanon and his church saw the answer to their prayers. It wasn't long before the church established the Christian Mission Alliance Child Development Center (BF-450) and quickly registered children. Church staff received training on child development, creating age-appropriate Bible curriculum, and education about helping children.
It wasn't too long before Yacouba was mobbed every day by the smiling, screaming, giggling children who not only attended the center each week but many of them attended Sunday services as well.
"Children laugh with each other now, even with me," Yacouba says smiling, joy evident in his eyes. "Our relationship with Compassion is truly special. We work together to bring children health care, education and most importantly freedom this kind of spiritual freedom that wasn't present before."
The game of the lion and the crocodile is over, and most of the children have gone back to wash their hands for an upcoming lunch of macaroni in tomato sauce. But a handful veer left and run straight into the long arms of Yacouba. They are smiling and content. And, according to workers at the center, free.
"They blossom when they're here," Yacouba says. "When you compare them to other children not in the project it's a big difference. This program gives them hope and hope for their families."
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