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Phone In

By Ben Cohen | 20 Feb 2019

Radio shows are often used as a means to save souls. A group of Christians in Burkina Faso are using their show to save an entire village from an unfolding disaster.

Local radio phone-in competitions are usually pretty trivial affairs. Guess a piece of music or a famous celebrity’s voice and you could win a CD you don’t really want...

Today’s phone in, in Koumbri, Burkina Faso has prizes on offer and they’re clearly good enough to get the switchboard buzzing with calls. But this isn’t pop trivia – the answers to these quiz questions could save the whole village.

The RED revolution
This is Radio Evangile Development (RED). It was set up as an evangelistic tool by the international organisation Youth For Christ. As they put it 'The radio reaches everywhere... The testimonies that reach us are moving.'

However RED, supported by Tearfund, has been persuaded to broaden the scope of its work. This isn’t just straightforward evangelism. Koumbri has a major environmental crisis and the residents need to act fast.             

Koumbri has lost large numbers of trees because of excessive logging and mining in the area. Also, the climate has changed and the rains are no longer regular.

Mobile phone billboard and radio mast in Burkina Faso
‘The radio reaches everywhere... The testimonies that reach us are moving.’
Member of RED team.

Plant and animal life are disappearing. As the tree cover disappears, the soil is rapidly being degraded – the village faces creeping desertification.    


This has already had a serious impact on the village, which relies on agriculture and livestock for its livelihoods. Food production and breeding are both in steep decline in Koumbri. It’s a serious worry. 

        

Crash course             

Koumbri hasn’t been tutored in environmental protection. They need to learn it fast. That’s the purpose of today’s phone-in. Locals call in and answer relevant practical questions about tending for the land around them. In exchange they can win gadgets.  

             

RED describes this as ‘sensitisation’ for the village. It’s clearly working: today has been declared the day of the environment. People have come together from all over the village to plant trees. 

            

There’s lots more happening on other days of the year. Key members of the village are being instructed in what’s called ‘nuclei training’ – the idea is to make sure the message isn’t quickly forgotten. Tearfund has helped supply wheelbarrows, shovels and rakes to keep people planting.        

Young people are returning to a village with a future, thanks to the local church, RED and Tearfund.

It’s been transformative for the village, but also for the local church. Christians are learning that they aren’t just in the business of saving souls – this is a gospel that’s also concerned about trees, plants, and animals, not to mention the future of their village.                

While environment day unfolds, young people sit in fashionable coffee shops and chat. They’re coming back to Koumbri from large cities like nearby Ouhigouya ready to make a living. They’re returning to a village with a future, thanks to the local church, RED and Tearfund.                

PLEASE PRAY              

Loving Lord God, We ask that you assist groups like Radio Evangile Development as they broaden their work of sharing the gospel to include lifesaving work like this. And we pray for all those around the world who are using the medium of radio to bring vital insights like this to those living in poverty.

Amen


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Photo of Ben Cohen

Written by Ben Cohen