Several years ago I made a project of trying to learn the names and location of all the countries of Africa. I did not do well. But I know exactly where Burkina Faso is because that’s where Marina lives.
Marina is a 13-year-old girl, the latest addition to my Compassion family. I found her more than a year ago because I went to the Compassion website looking for some information for an article I was writing. There she was on the home page in a blue dress looking directly at me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen. The icons on her picture noted that she lives in a high risk area for human trafficking and HIV Aids and had been waiting for a sponsor for 272 days. I had no intentions of “adopting” another Compassion child, but I could not leave the website until Marina had a sponsor – me.
Burkina Faso has been in the news this weekend. A popular revolt against a president (who has ruled for 27 years president and was attempting to amend the constitution to continue his rule) was widely cheered on Saturday. Now that celebration of the people’s call for an election and new leadership has turned into concern. It appears that the popular ouster of the president has turned into a military coup, as army chiefs are backing a military officer for interim president.
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country of some 17 million people, 45% of whom are under the age of 15. Life expectancy is 54 years. It is primarily Muslim. Drought is a serious problem and food supplies have been devastated. Child trafficking is a huge threat. Malaria and meningitis and HIV Aids are serious health concerns. Compassion’s work in Burkina Faso began in the summer of 2004. Currently more than 42,000 children participate in more than 172 child development centers. They receive nutritious meals and health monitoring along with a holistic, age-appropriate curriculum which focuses on the children’s spiritual, intellectual, socio-emotional and physical development.
Where is Burkina Faso? And why should you care? Because Marina lives there. Marina loves school, especially math. She has many friends at school and at home. Her mother is a weaver; her father sells meat. She sends greetings from them in every letter. Her family goes to church every Sunday; she mentions in every letter that her family prays for my family.
Can you imagine how Marina and millions of other Burkina Faso children feel as the military trucks roll through their country today and fires burn in government buildings? As if hunger and illness and fear and gut-wrenching poverty were not enough, now politics is rearing its ugly head. How will these politics affect her school? Her Compassion center? Her parents’ livelihood? As you look at this map, be aware that the tan-shaded countries are Algeria, Libya, and Egypt. What happens in Burkina Faso is important to the politics of the region; the region is crucial to the politics of the Middle East. What affects the Middle East affects everyone! We are all inter-connected, whether we like it or not.
We are also all inter-connected because Marina and Yair and Aibie and Pablo and Manisha (my other sponsored children) and children all over the world are the children Jesus mentions in Matt.18: 5: “Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”
I looked at Marina’s first picture again this morning. Her newest picture is nothing like it. In this one she is wearing a colorful new dress and her hair is fastened with bright pink beads. There is a faint smile on her face. She has been sponsored more days now than she had waited for a sponsor – and it shows. I just pray that she and her family and the country of Burkina Faso survive this latest blow to their security and happiness.