Burkina:An adventure that is beginning

‘Go with all your strength’ (General Chapter 2011)

It is with this impetus that the breath of God impels us to live our sisterly life, a sign of our desire to encounter the other, to share and to exchange: this desire to live in community is part of us; to discover the other, as she is, like a gift from God, a free gift that makes us grow. It impels us to go beyond our own strength. Let us share at present what concerns more specifically our lived experience in community:

We are four Little Sisters who have arrived in Paris: Maria Teresa, Marcelline, Tuyên and Patience, who are preparing for the mission in Burkina Faso. At the beginning of March 2016, each of us had, at different times, a consultation with Marie Françoise who asked us if we would like to open the second community at Bobo. Each one with her reasons and her experiences; some had already lived over there, the others hadn’t, and so, without having lived there together, we were to be a presence close to the families. With joy and enthusiasm all of us said “yes” to go to encounter this people. After that, in our respective communities, each one prepared for this new mission. Each arrived from her own area and we met at Grenelle, Paris. 
 
On Friday, the 4th of November 2016, we were together at the Mother House. After the Eucharist in the chapel at Grenelle, we met in the meeting room at 9.15 with the General Council. They proposed an opening prayer, which they led. After the prayer, they began the day and invited us to take a first step; becoming acquainted with one another. They explained it by a process: Each one was to choose pictures, the photos from the newspapers on the table or to draw something, whatever we wished, so as to present ourselves, recall our journey, the path that God has followed with us until today, what it means to be a Little Sister. We were to share this together, and that enabled us to know one another and begin this adventure. 
 
We took a step further in broadening our outlook on the country to which we have been sent. A Burkinabé sister, Bernadette, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, accompanied us all day so as to concentrate us on Burkina, to go further, to know about the resources, the Church in Bobo, enculturation and an overall view of Bobo. They invited us to have a sense of observation, ‘to open our heart, our eyes, our ears and to have a small mouth’. Also, it is better to know the person than the village, that makes it possible to discover the Burkinabé culture. 
All week we were really plunged in the formation, helping one another to build the community, together, in a spirit of listening, of attention and of sharing. That experience was marked by availability, the atmosphere and the participation of each one, the joy that filled us as we said “yes” to this call and this need of the Congregation. Go with all your strength enabled us to explore more deeply our commitment, our option for the poor, our mission and our attachment to Christ, servant and saviour. We could sense the participation, the love and the freedom of this first stage. 
 
Arrival in Burkina-Faso 
 
On the 16th of November 2016, there was the departure of the community for Burkina Faso, accompanied by Sister Piedad Berrio, General Councillor. On the 17th of November we arrived in Bobo, welcomed by our sisters: Maria José Vallejo, Maria Lurdes Mendes and Marie-Claire Muhika. 
 
For more than three months now we have been discovering the culture, the neighbourhood and the people. We are greatly impressed by the way the people here welcome persons. They have generosity, simplicity and great respect. The notion of welcome, of greeting, strikes us: whether it be the first or the fourth time in the day, they take the time to do so. In this greeting you have a good-day, a welcome, a little word for the family members, some news, and it ends always with beautiful blessings. We see in all that a closeness, a politeness, a respect, a desire to relate, and faith in God. For them, all comes from God. 
 
Today we can describe the great welcome of this people, their values and their dignity. They are an organized and hardworking people … They make us discover the God who is present in the midst of our daily reality and in the heart of each person. 
For us, these attitudes are a challenge that leads us to conversion and, at the same time, a thanksgiving for the God who reveals Himself to the poor and the little ones. 
The different religions live together in peace; we find in the same family, a Moslem father, a Catholic mother and the children are Protestant, Catholic or Moslem. Respect for the freedom of religion is practiced. And in the Catholic Church you will meet Moslems and Protestants. 
 
At the market, we encounter honest people. If you make a mistake or drop something (a purse…), somebody will run to you with it. 
It is impressive, at Mass where, even if it lasts two hours, you do not hear any noise, nor children crying, and yet there are very many of them. It is like something of the culture or of nature that must be accepted. 
 
A community experience
 
‘‘Living in community is a time of learning together. Indeed, we seek first of all to welcome one another, to accept ourselves in our differences so as, then, to try to let ourselves be transformed mutually through our life together. The daily chores, our prayer, the simple sharing, and other things in community.’’ 
We recognise that we are fortunate to be living in an international congregation, something that shows our reality and our existence in the different countries, and which God offers us every day. The inter-cultural aspect is lived, is cultivated and is appreciated. “It is an enrichment, a mutual richness through the rhythms, the customs and other things.” 
 
For us it is an opportunity to live with and experience other cultures. We receive them and look on them as a part of our formation. We need one another in order to make progress. The Lord our God wishes us to be Women, Religious and Apostles; we are happy to have this experience at Bobo-Dioulasso, and so we are bearers of joy, of love and of peace there where we are with the people to whom we are sent. 
We are learning the Dioula language, which enables us to communicate with the people; and we also have various commitments: (vocations ministry and youth, health ministry, support with school work etc.) 
In a sisterly atmosphere, we are trying to build our community day by day. 
 
We give thanks to God and to the Congregation for this mission among the people who are welcoming us. Also, we express our thanks to the other community that is helping us to integrate and to become acquainted with the reality in which we are so that, together, we may walk towards the promised land which is the reign of God. 
 
 
Maria Teresa, Patience, Tuyên, Marcelline 
 
 
A big ‘thank you’ for the support and accompaniment of the whole Congregation during the time the community was settling in here. Three months of a rich and marvellous experience. 
 
The Esperance community, Bobo-Dioulasso 
 
25/04/2017
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