Simply living in Africa can be a challenge: having clean water to drink and enough water to flush the toilet; enduring long, hot, bumpy journeys to reach your house; fending off mosquitoes and buzzing, stinging insects.
Building relationships and sharing the Gospel in Africa is an even greater challenge: communicating in a second language (in Ana’s case, two second languages - French and Dagara); learning how to behave in a different culture; coping with disappointments when relationships break down or people let you down; discovering that the message of the Gospel has been misunderstood and wondering what you can do to correct it.
The list of challenges is endless but there is also joy in serving Jesus and Ana shared with me some of her recent joy moments.
When she returned from a recent trip, a group of girls came to ask, ‘Ana, when are you starting the Girls’ club again?’ And instantly joy rose in Ana’s heart. The Girls’ Club meets on the mission compound in Ana’s Study Room. She runs three groups each week - one for girls over 12 years of age, one for those who are over 16 years and a new group for women. Ana does a short teaching session followed by a question time and then the girls engage in craft activities. During a recent session, they created a wall hanging, an activity they very much enjoyed. However, Ana wasn’t really sure just how enthusiastic they were about the club so it gave her great delight to hear the girls ask, without any prompting, when it would start up again.
Another joy moment happened after a service in Legmoin Church. Some young people came to Ana’s house to visit and since Ana had missed the sermon because she was teaching Sunday School, she asked what Elder Joel had said in the sermon. As she listened, she began to realise that there was something very familiar about the teaching. Suddenly it dawned on her that Joel had been using the Dagara booklets she had produced in his sermon! Her joy sprang from the fact that those little booklets were serving a much deeper purpose than that originally intended.
A previous Pastor in the Church had encouraged the women to attend literacy classes to learn to read and write in the Dagara language but Ana realised that many of them were losing their skills because they didn’t have much opportunity to use them. So, as she became more proficient in Dagara, she began to produce booklets or primers containing simple text and pictures as visual aids. Her aim was to have them printed and available for sale but of course they needed to be checked for mistakes first. So she had given a few copies for checking to some of the men, including Joel. What a surprise it was to hear that he had used them in his sermon! Somehow it made all those hours working at the computer worthwhile. So often we find that God takes what we do for Him and multiplies it.
The last joy moment was born out of difficulty and frustration. A young woman from another West African country had manipulated Ana and the Pastor’s wife into allowing her to join one of the women’s camps. On the journey there, Ana became aware that she now considered herself to be part of the leadership and once at the camp, attached herself to Ana, trying to encourage her to eat apart from the others, trying to point out that she was ‘Ana’s friend’. Ana increasingly found her to be arrogant and difficult.
After Ana spoke to the Pastor’s wife about the situation and they realised that the young woman had been playing one off against the other, Ana began to notice something unusual. Each time the girls from the church saw this woman with Ana, one or two of them would move over to stand with Ana so that for the rest of the camp, she was never left alone with the troublemaker. The fact that the girls were mature enough to understand what was happening and were prepared to show their love and loyalty to Ana in this way brought great joy to her heart.
Joy moments may well be just that - fleeting moments of time but behind each moment lie years of patiently building relationships, spending hours in willing service and living a life that speaks of Jesus.