Tany Warkentin and her family served as Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers in Burkina Faso for six years, until 2011. Warkentin brings that experience to her role as liaison to ministry in Africa for MC Canada.
In this interview, Warkentin shares about the relationships between MC Canada congregations and the church in Burkina Faso, and ways congregations can learn more and become involved in International Witness ministry in Africa.
Tell us about yourself.
I live in Pincher Creek, Alta. with my two boys, while my oldest daughter attends Canadian Mennonite University. I enjoy the variety of several part-time roles, including one as pastoral leader in my home congregation, Springridge Mennonite Church.
Briefly describe the ministry work you are witnessing in Burkina Faso.
Our Mennonite Church Canada churches have been long-time partners with the Mennonite churches in Burkina Faso since 1978. Our relationship is nurtured under the umbrella of Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (AIMM), together with partners from the United States and France. We walk with the Burkinabé church as they send young leaders for theological and pastoral training, support local Bible translators, and provide relief in times of crisis (like COVID-19).
What is your role in this work?
I am the liaison to ministry in Africa for Mennonite Church Canada. I facilitate relationships between our Canadian churches and our brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso. I also represent our Canadian churches in the AIMM International Central Council.
Is there a short story you can share that’s come out of this? Why is it compelling to you?
After hearing of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso, donors from our Canadian churches wanted to offer financial support. Mennonite Church Canada asked Burkinabé church leaders the best way to move forward.
Their response was to send Josué Traoré, a young electrician and business owner well respected for his faith and Christ-like witness, to the nearby village of Mahon, where there were some believers but not a church. The funds from Canadian donors will stock a new hardware store in Mahon that will provide income for Josué while his family is a Christian witness in the community.
I am very excited about this project because it fits into a wider church-planting vision that the Burkina Faso church has been working toward for years. It shows how God works when churches share ideas and resources. The Burkina Faso church has many gifted, eager, young church leaders. There is already another young pastor in training who will join Josué to plant a church for the emerging believers in Mahon and surrounding villages.
What is most challenging in this work?
Our challenge as Canadian churches is to embrace the gifts that our international partners have to share with us. The Burkinabé church is rich in modeling hospitality, sacrificial community-building and living out Christ’s example of peace amidst divisions. It is tempting to think that these churches need our help, but we also need to learn from them. We need to nurture mutually beneficial relationships. Money and advice are quick and relatively painless gifts to give, but learning deeply across the distance of oceans and cultures is more challenging. It requires in us a posture of trust to see others as gifted equals, and an openness to being transformed through relationship. The Burkinabé proverb “Little by little, the bird builds its nest” gives us an image of the gradual transformation possible in us when we engage in long-term relationships with our international sisters and brothers.
What has been most rewarding?
Over the past 40 years, the Burkinabé church has grown and self-propagated, even reaching out to witness in neighbouring countries. After requesting the support of Witness workers in past years, the Burkinabé church tells us it now has enough experience and emerging leaders in their churches to fill former Witness worker roles. I rejoice and thank God for this growth and maturity in the Burkina Faso church. Yet the need and desire for partnership continues as we walk together in mutual accompaniment and encouragement, discerning God’s leading in joint ministries and being part of God’s diverse family together.
What would you like our nationwide faith family to know about this ministry?
In 2020, Mennonite Church Canada budgeted $17,000 to support our joint AIMM projects in Burkina Faso. These include:
- sending young church leaders for biblical/theological training;
- supporting long-term Bible translation programs, previously led by our Witness workers and now directed by Burkinabé Bible translators;
- funding special projects like church construction and COVID-19 relief, and a new business/church-planting endeavour.
How can congregations establish a partnership with the Burkina Church?