Thursday, December 16, 2010 was a special day in Saksida, a little suburb of Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso. In this neighborhood, not far from the noisy traffic of the town, time seemed to have stopped.
In the community Bonheur Ville (Town of Happiness), wonderful praise music rose from the Saksida Assemblies of God Church. The parents, children, and staff were jubilant.
The presence of children in church that Thursday was not something unique; they were accustomed to coming to the child development center on Thursdays. Yet their colorful uniforms, along with the attendance of parents and officials, indicated that something special was taking place. The center was celebrating Christmas for the very first time.
Saksida Assemblies of God Church began its partnership with Compassion in 2010. When Eglise Evangélique Baptiste de Toega Koudougou started 118 needy children were registered; among them are 32 sponsored children.
The 2010 Christmas celebration was special for at least two reasons. First, the child development center had begun just four months earlier. As a new center, Christmas was an opportunity to show parents how much we care for their children.
The second reason was that many Compassion-assisted children come from Muslim or animist families and did not know what Christmas was. Even for those who are Christians, the word “Christmas” has almost never been linked to such celebration.
After a few speeches started off the celebration, the floor was given to the children. They presented what they had been working on for the past month.
In front of the parents and guests, children showed their artistic talents with ballet dances and songs. Boys were in jean uniforms and girls wore colorful dresses and skirts. They honored the Savior with their voices and dances.
Then their representative, Ruth, stood in front of the audience and spoke. She thanked the audience for the nice celebration and blessed all of them.
Soon it was time to eat and drink. Plates were filled with macaroni and meat, a meal much appreciated by the children. Hands and forks raced from dishes to mouths.
While eating, the children’s minds focused on another part of the celebration: the time when the children would receive gifts from Santa Claus. They could wait no longer.
Finally, cookies, candies and popcorn were offered and each child received his share with satisfaction. Large smiles beamed from their faces. For many of the children, it was the very first Christmas gift they had ever received.
Parents were amazed. How can people living far away decide to support children they do not know and provide them with such gifts to celebrate Christmas? This was the kind of question rushing through the minds of parents as they witnessed the celebration.
One mother shared,
“I am very happy for the Christmas celebration today. My prayer is that next year, things will be better. May God help sponsors and donors to continue their support.”
Handshakes and hugs ended the celebration, with children looking with excitement to next Christmas when they can joyfully celebrate again.