As Canadians we tend not to think about where our next meal is going to come from. Spiritually, we think much the same. Our fridges are full of food and we have a number of Bibles in our homes. We can get spiritual encouragement in a variety of forms by going to church, listening to Christian programs on our televisions, through the internet or by downloading them onto our smart phones.
For 3 days we visited different areas of the city of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and met with people who live in desperate conditions. No septic system, no electricity, no real roads. This is life for half of the more than 6 million inhabitants in this city.
Yet, in the midst of all this misery, there is hope. It is a hope not found in earthly things but in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I would like to tell you that we were able to meet their needs, but that would not be true. We were merely able to help some of the women with a few days’ supply of food.
But Gideons International in Canada has been impacting West Africa with something far greater than earthly food during the last 2 years. In partnership with them, we have been able to give those in need spiritual food as well. For many of these women they have found hope in Jesus through the ministry of Project Hannah.
There is a world of difference between a woman who has heard about and received Jesus and one who has not. You can see it in their faces, in the way they stand, in the joy they have in all they do.
The sad part in West Africa is that most of these women don’t have a copy of any portion of the Scriptures. During our visit we began to change that. As we gave the women food, we also gave them a copy of the Bible.
Each time we heard a testimony of how God has done a miracle in the lives of each woman, it brought tears to our eyes. God is not just changing them as individuals, but He is also changing the community. God is speaking into the hearts of the men as well, and while we did not see many men, we did hear numerous stories of reconciliation.
It all begins with a radio program where we share about the love of Jesus. After hearing our programs, people call the office of TWR and start asking questions. Next is a personal visit where we assess their needs both physically and spiritually. Our partnership with Gideons International in Canada means we are able to give them a Bible of their own, which is shared by the community just like the radio. Our coordinators in these areas were given a media player so that people can hear the New Testament and follow along in their Bibles.
I am now in Bamako, Mali with more Gideon-supplied Bibles for the rural areas of the country. Rural pastors are coming to the city just to pick up 20 Bibles for their community. Can you imagine having no Bibles in Canada? Such was the case in Mali before TWR Canada and The Gideons International in Canada partnered together. Today I had the privilege of giving a leader of a Bible school 20 Bibles for his 50 students.
**All photos provided courtesy of Shelley Ripley-Bulckaert
Read more from Colleen and Shelley about the 2014 West Africa trip.