Field Notes

Spiritual Songs in Burkina Faso

by: Meredith Maines
November 26, 2013

"I got saved, and it makes Satan sick // Gather up, throw away, and come running // Gather up the idols, throw them away and come // It's Jesus who is our savior // It's Jesus who will do all things well for us." Ever expect to hear something like this sung from your sanctuary on a Sunday morning? Rebecca would, except her sanctuary looks more like a shade tree, and her worship songs might sound more like a spiritual-warfare how-to manual.

Rebecca is a living repertoire of Dagara Christian music. When our church-planting partners began ministering in Burkina Faso in 2002, there were no Christian songs in the Dagara language. Some Dagara speak French, so missionaries had to decide if they would teach Christian songs in this second language. No, they decided, and they told people that the Holy Spirit might give them a song in their own words.

This advice proved prophetic, and not just for one single song! Rebecca, a new Dagara believer, was blessed with a whole collection of lyrics. The praise she now leads relates to Dagara life in a way no missionary could—songs about Jesus freeing people from witchcraft, curses, idols, and offering new life.

Traditional Dagara culture is animistic—for them, it means worshipping idols and ancestors and living in anticipation of reincarnation and in fear of demon possession. Idols mean purpose and protection.

So it was a big deal when our ministry partners had the privilege of witnessing a new church leader choose to remove his family's traditional effigies. After following Jesus for a year or two, he decided he could no longer be divided between two paths—choosing between loyalty to Christ or empty tradition.

While his whole church family circled around in support, this brother in Christ excavated and piled up his household idols in the village center. These things made of clay, gourds, animal skins and skulls he'd trusted in for protection, he then smashed and lit on fire in the light of new life in Christ.

And the tune his church sang while the flames flickered? Words from new believers and songwriters like Rebecca: “Hey demons, go home! No one wants you around here anymore.”

The anthems rose until the fire died and dust settled. And they ignited something in us—hope and excitement that the living water of Jesus Christ is truly flowing freely in Burkina Faso, making their faith their own. We're just a witness to the amazing work of God's hand. Thanks for being part of our chorus!