From beginning to present day, the history of the work among the Dagara is one of a great God doing great things through remarkably ordinary people! The first wave of the Dagara team formed during their time at Abilene Christian University. They were a group of families dedicated to following God’s call to serve somewhere in French-speaking West Africa. While they had different ideas at the outset, the Holy Spirit brought all of those together in the choice to serve the Dagara living in Burkina Faso.
Three families – the Burks, the Chankins, and the Johnsons – headed off to Lyon, France, for their time of language learning before moving together to Burkina Faso in September of 2002 (the Carters, always a part of the initial team, followed one and a half years later). Finally arrived in country, these families set about learning the Dagara language and culture, making friends, and settling into their homes.
In the spring of 2004, after two and half years of language and culture learning, the team was at last ready to begin evangelism in villages. Their new Dagara friends introduced them to the leaders of their home villages, from whom they asked (and usually received) permission to teach. These village leaders then did the advertising for the team, telling their people when and where to meet these quirky westerners who spoke their heart language. The team would slowly walk through several Old Testament stories, beginning with creation and leading up to the birth of the Christ. When possible, they tried to incorporate Dagara stories and proverbs to their teaching. They would then walk through the life of Jesus over a couple of months and end with the birth of the church, at which time those who believed were baptized into Christ and began new lives as the body of Christ among the Dagara.
By the grace of God, the work expanded quickly. A missionary would plant Church A; Church A would help him plant Church B just up the road, eventually taking over all the teaching; Church A would then help Church B plant the next church up the road, and the missionary would head off to start the next line of churches. Those were heady, fun days, as God’s children responded quickly to hearing the good news about Jesus proclaimed in their village for the first time. Over the next years, the number of both Christians and churches doubled roughly every 18 months.
Once the evangelism ball was rolling, the mission team transitioned out of evangelism for the most part. The Dagara Christians continued the church planting work, running faster and farther and better than the missionaries ever could have. At this time, the team both began to diversify their ministry focus and to change their make up. As the first wave of team members staggered their departure, first the Richters and then the Sands came alongside the Dagara work. A children’s Bible and a leadership training curriculum were translated (and used!); an orphan care project was initiated; a well rehabilitation partnership with Living Water International was established; scholarships were given to students in need; a few fledgling steps were taken in both literacy and orality. Through all these things (and many, many others!), God has honored himself among the Dagara in bringing his lost children into a growing relationship with him.