As Yefunde [Yeh-FOON-deh] bent over her shovel, turning the soil around each mound of yams, she thought about her three daughters who were walking to school with their friends. If only it wasn’t such a long walk into town, but what else could they do? There was no school bus to pick them up. The farming community where they lived was at the edge of Parakou, in the central part of Benin, and there simply wasn’t another school that was closer.
Jibade [Jee-BAH-deh] was sharpening a farm tool when he heard the wail of an ambulance pass by. “Dear God,” he prayed, “please let my children be OK. The youngest one is so little! Please, God, please help all five of them get to school safely.” All of the parents worried whenever they heard sirens, knowing that heavy traffic made the road very dangerous.
The road into Parakou was in good condition, but it was always crowded and busy. Cross-country trucks roared by, scarcely leaving room for motorbikes, cars, and pedestrians. Those who didn’t have transportation had to share the highway with all of the traffic. This is the route the children had to use to walk to school. They had to be alert at all times, taking great care to squeeze over to the very edge of the road as they walked to school. At the end of the day their mothers and fathers would watch for their children to return down the path from the busy road, sighing with relief when each child was accounted for.
All of the adults worked in the fields every day. Mothers often toiled with babies tied to their backs. After school, the older brothers and sisters would give them a break by carrying the babies on their backs or tending the younger children as they did their chores.
The village chief and the members of the tribal council discussed the school situation many times over the years. Then the chief had an idea which he shared with the councilmen. He owned quite a bit of land. What if he were to donate some of the land to an organization that would build a new school on the property? Their children would have a chance to get a good education close to home. They wouldn’t have to walk so far to school. With a school close by, there would be a greater chance that they would finish their education and have better job opportunities in the future. But where could they find someone to build a school? Whom could they trust? They didn’t know that God was already at work.
Currently there is not even one Seventh-day Adventist school in the entire country of Benin. As church administrators were looking for just the right place to build the first Adventist elementary school in this small country, they felt impressed to look at the area around Parakou. And guess where God led them? To the beautiful, lush property that the village chief had donated!
The chief and the council members, along with all of the people in the village, are thrilled that a new school will be built on this land. They know that this will be a Christian school, and they look forward to welcoming Adventist teachers who will help their children get a good education. They desperately want this school to have electricity so that it can be, as they said, “a light in the darkness” in their community.
A well has already been dug on the property. Work has begun on the first six classrooms, with another six to follow as soon as possible. Future plans call for a clinic on this choice piece of land. The chief, his council members, and the villagers are eager for the school to be completed.
This quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help to fund the new school in Parakou. Thank you for helping to build the first Seventh-day Adventist school in the country of Benin. It is a blessing and a privilege to share in this historic project. ⎭
Pastor Simon Djossou is the pastor of the Adventist church in Parakou. He has been working with the village chief and councilmen as plans develop for the new school.