Baptisms have swelled the Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso by more than 12 percent.
Siaka Traoré, president of the Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso, was surprised and pleased by the large number of baptisms.
“I cannot explain [this wave of interest, other than to say] that I believe God wants to grow the church,” Traoré said.
In the three Sundays surrounding Easter, 63 new Mennonites joined five congregations. The national church had a membership of about 500 at the beginning of 2014, with 44 of these members baptized in the weeks around Christmas.
Due to a shortage of pastors, baptisms are often scheduled to coincide with special events, such as holidays or ordinations, that bring church leaders from more densely populated areas to village churches.
Baptism by immersion has special significance during the Easter season as believers act out their desire to follow Jesus’ example of dying to the world’s standards and rising to new life.
“I wanted to identify with Jesus in his death and resurrection as I abandoned my old life and begin to live a new life,” Lydie Yougbaré said after her Easter baptism in Bobo Dioulasso. “When I came out of the water, I felt light, like all my burdens had slipped off.”
According to Burkina Faso’s 2006 census, more than 60 percent of the population is Muslim and 4 percent is Protestant.
A decision to be baptized is not taken lightly, as it may result in derision and even persecution.
Traoré rejoices when people count the cost and still want to be baptized. Those who choose baptism are “fully conscious of what they want,” he said.
Preparation for baptism includes instruction in basic Bible knowledge, church life, evangelism, ethics, Christian living and Mennonite history.
Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, Evangelical Mennonite Conference, Mennonite Mission Network, Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Church Canada Witness and the French Mennonite Mission Committee work with the Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso through a partnership council.
Rod Hollinger-Janzen, executive coordinator of Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, said the 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.’ ”