Lee Dillinger and her husband, Dr. Steve, were medical missionaries in the Ivory Coast for many, many years before retiring in Greenfield. On this recent mission trip to Burkina Faso, Lee was able to reconnect with the people and places that were part of her years of ministry in Africa.
As the plane touched down in Ouagadougou, it seemed like coming home. I was once more the minority race and language group. There was lots of noise, women carrying heavy loads on their heads, overloaded taxis and mopeds dashing hither and yon.
As I sat and watched and remembered--where did I fit in all of this today? The clinic brought back memories of other clinics and emergencies. Going further back, I saw Nema as a shy little girl peeking around her mother's skirt. She was an only child who was always dressed just so and always clean. I heard her clear voice singing praises to Jesus in Sunday School and then in youth group. She was protected from many of the temptations of village life. After high school she trained to be a nurse and then step by step, she prepared to be Felix' wife. What a joy it was to see her leading worship in celebration at the clinic.
As we traveled on to where it all started in Ferke, Ivory Coast, Sunday morning I sat in church and listened as Christians gave memories of treatments at the hospital--at times life saving treatments, but even more, I cried as they shared how words that were spoken, hugs that were given, cookies shared, helped them come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
For several days we drove from courtyard to courtyard to visit older people who had sent in word they wanted to "greet Mme. Etienne." Had our lives really touched that many? The young came at night to share what God was doing in their lives. Pastors who had churches shared how they had been helped on the way by financial aid, prayer, and study. They came not for help but to say thank you.
As we witnessed the great growth of the church in Northern Ivory Coast, our hearts swelled with gratitude to God who was growing a mighty movement with little help any longer from the West.
We saw how prayer had opened a new Bible School, a Christian elementary school with a library, and many churches that had been founded. A women's conference in days past drew perhaps 100 women. This year they had 850 women! There have been several more translations of the Bible, including one being dedicated this month, after more than 20 years of work.
Where is my place in this movement? I would love to say teaching or forming leaders, but as much fun as that would be, I now need to continue to support the efforts of my children in Africa as their "Mama" through prayer. And to say to new missionaries who are struggling, that God does bless and grow even the hardest of fields.