Serving Him by Teaching and Encouraging

While taking a philosophy class in college, Bart Gibbs was assigned a book titled, Man’s Search for Meaning. After reading the book, he was drawn to continue seeking God’s leading to find true meaning in life. Through volunteer experiences, while visiting Burkina Faso in 1981, he “found meaning in life through serving the Lord in bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God to people in West Africa,” shares Bart. Bart and Jane Anne Gibbs met while in college at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville), at Calvary Baptist Church, and were married in 1983. They have 2 daughters and a son.

Jane Anne’s vision for her life’s work was to be a missionary. “I’m thankful God brought Bart and me together so that we could live out our missionary calling,” shares Jane Anne. She became a Christian at the age of 8, raised by parents who took their family to a Southern Baptist Church. The church was strongly committed to missions, so she learned at a young age how Baptists live out “Jesus’s directive to go and tell the good news.”

Bart became a Christian at the age of 12 when a neighbor invited him to church to see a movie about the end times. “When I saw that a day would come when 2 would be out in a field working and 1 would be taken and the other left behind, I decided right away that I did not want to be left behind,” says Bart.

The Gibbs family served in Burkina Faso from 1990 to 2002. “I was confident that we were exactly where God wanted us to be and felt very fulfilled in serving Him by teaching and encouraging young pastors of rural African churches to grow and develop in the Word and in their spiritual growth and leadership,” says Bart. In order to work in Burkina Faso, a former French colony, they had to spend a year in France learning French. From there, they moved to Burkina Faso, to learn the heart language of the people—the African language of Mooré. “It helped with our comprehension to have a solid foundation in the related language,” shares Bart.

In late 2002, the family had to return to the United States for medical reasons. “It was only after serving as a pastor in the US for 8 years, and then returning to West Africa in 2011, that I could see how God worked not only in me, but also in the lives of those African pastors and leaders during my absence,” shares Bart.

For Bart, there is no “typical” day on the missions field. “That is one of the things I like best about being a missionary. Some days we go into the office and work from there, other days are spent teaching. This is usually very rewarding because of the eager attitude of the African student pastors who are receiving the teaching,” says Bart. Jane Anne works with the Baptist women, oversees the guest house in Ouagadougou, and directs language study for new missionaries who are learning French and other African languages.

“The main task for evangelical workers in West Africa is to find ways and means to get the word of God into the hearts of the various peoples in West Africa,” says Bart. The influences of animism, mixed with traditions based in Catholicism and Islam, and an oppressive state of poverty, have led many to “embrace a version of Christianity focusing on signs and wonders, power encounters, and one-sided teaching that God wants to bless all believers with prosperity,” says Bart. To counter such influence, Bart believes that they must instill basic Bible teaching that gives a balanced picture of who God is and what is required of us. “Ongoing efforts include traditional literacy and Bible teaching, oral strategies to develop Bible stories to share in various languages, putting Bibles and/or stories on SD memory cards and getting them out among the peoples on their cell phones, and films and other media. All of this is basically an effort to lead others to come to know who God is by introducing them to His Word revealed in the Bible,” shares Bart.

Many Baptist churches in Burkina Faso have partnered with Compassion International, an organization which devotes itself to help children of all faiths, cultures, backgrounds, and race, through love, and open their buildings for children to come every Thursday of each week. There is a joint effort in the churches to create grammar schools to meet during the weekdays on church property. They want to minister to the children who live around them. “As we look to the future, we really need to do as much as we can to reach out to and minister to the children in West Africa,” says Bart.

When they first began teaching and preaching, they found an attitude of receptiveness, on the surface, but saw that the people were holding on tight to their ancestral traditions. “One of the cultural attitudes regarded the need to be honest. Basically, they felt compelled to be honest only in dealing with their proper family and near neighbors. They did not feel any need to be honest and transparent with outsiders, or with anyone from neighboring villages,” shares Bart. When they began teaching the New Testament, it took some time for the truth of the gospel’s demands on believers, in regards to honesty, to sink in. “We made many mistakes along the way in regard to trust, especially with money, but the people have come to understand, through time, that believers follow a higher calling than their cultural dictates when they decide to follow Jesus,” says Bart.

Join us in praying for the Gibbs family. Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, is expected to grow from 2 million to 10 million by the year 2050. Pray that the Baptist congregations in the city will meet the need to reach the lost in the city, as it continues to grow. Pray for the younger generation who need to be reached more effectively. Lastly, pray that the Baptist leaders will be able to discern, preach, and teach according to the whole counsel of God.

As we all struggle with insecurity and doubt, may we remember Matthew 5:3–6 (NIV1), “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” May we all find rest in the quiet assurance of Jesus.

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1. Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

by Tessa Harvill, Preschool Resource intern

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