Burkina Faso church experiences ‘explosion of baptisms’

Elkhart, Indiana, USA / Burkina Faso – Recent baptisms have swelled the membership of Eglise Evangélique Mennonite du Burkina Faso (Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso) by 34 percent, according to recent reports by Mennonite Mission Network and Siaka Traoré, national president of the Burkina Faso church.

“I cannot explain [this wave of interest, other than to say] that I believe God wants to grow the church,” Traoré said.

In July 2013, the church reported a membership of 420. By the end of April 2014, the total membership was 563. Of the new members, 44 were baptized in the weeks around Christmas. And in the three Sundays surrounding Easter, 63 were baptized in five different congregations.

“I’m blown away by this explosion of baptisms,” said Rod Hollinger-Janzen, executive coordinator of Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, which works with the Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso through a multi-member partnership council. “I feel great joy because these baptisms testify to the faithfulness of Mennonites in Burkina Faso, who, day after day, act with kindness toward their neighbors and bear witness in a compelling way, so that people say, ‘I want what they have.’”

According to Burkina Faso’s most recent government census (2006), more than 60 percent of the population practices Islam. Only four percent belong to a Protestant denomination.

In a context where Muslims make up the majority of the population, the decision to be baptized is not to be taken lightly, as it may result in derision and even persecution. Traoré said that he rejoices when people count the cost and still want to be baptized into the Mennonite Church.

Preparation for baptism usually takes place over a three-month period and includes basic Bible knowledge; an understanding of church life; and instruction in evangelism, ethics, practical aspects of Christian living, and Mennonite history. The church is in the process of standardizing a curriculum for baptismal candidates.

Adapted from a news release by Mennonite Mission Network, with additional reporting by Siaka Traoré