In 2008, I took my first short-term trip to Burkina Faso. I fell in love with the people (the Burkinabé) who are some of the most joyful, giving and beautiful people you will ever meet. I knew before I returned home that I would be back next year. In 2009, I returned for my second trip, and even though I didn’t feel called to move to Burkina at this time, I knew I wanted to return yet again the next year. Before this third trip, a family from my home church moved to Burkina to start working with Envision. I remember thinking, I would really enjoy doing something like that, but at that time, I still didn’t feel like God was calling me to Burkina or even to fulltime missions. When I returned to Burkina in 2010, we worked with the family from my church and while I was there, they asked me to consider doing a yearlong internship with them. I told them they were crazy, and that there was no way I could raise that kind of money. The rest of the trip, though, they kept bringing it up, and I finally agreed to pray about it. Back home, a few weeks later, I was driving back from work and feeling the impossibility of raising the money needed to return to Burkina for a year. The biggest obstacle wasn’t moving, or leaving the States, but asking people to support me. I felt God telling me in that moment not to limit Him or put Him in a box when it comes to His provision for my finances. If He wanted me to go, He would provide. It wasn’t my problem to worry about; I needed to give it to Him. That day, when I got home, I pulled the trigger and sent a few emails to start the process to move to Burkina for a yearlong internship. Six months after starting the process, I was moving to Burkina.
The Sunday before I left for my internship, I saw John and Betty Arnold at church. They had lived in Burkina for many years as Alliance missionaries and had just committed to return to Burkina with Envision, but weren’t returning for another 18 months. I knew by that time, I would be finished with my internship and told them how disappointed I was that we wouldn’t get to serve together. Betty looked at me and said, “I already talked to God and you are part of the deal.”
During my internship I found that I loved living in Burkina, and being part of the everyday ministry. I remember towards the end of hosting our first team, I started feeling discouraged because it was almost time to leave. Except, I wasn’t leaving this time. I lived here now! Part way through my internship, I already began talking about coming back for another couple years to continue working alongside the team in Burkina. Then, the unexpected happened. Halfway through my internship, my brother-in-law died. I returned to the States as fast as I could to be with my family. While in the U.S., I found out the family I had been working with would not be returning to Burkina after the end of my internship. It was a devastating time for me and I wondered what God was doing. Due to some team dynamics and my family needing me (at least that’s what I thought at the time), I felt God was leading me to return to the US after completing my internship. This was hugely difficult for me to accept. I loved the people and the ministry, and I had no idea where God was taking me next. As I returned to Burkina to finish off the year, I began to grieve the fact that I was now spending my last four months in Burkina.
Walking through the Open Door
As my time in Burkina was coming swiftly to an end, I received an email with a job offer to work alongside Envision and John and Betty Arnold. They said they didn’t know what God had planned for me or if I would consider it, but they would love if I would return to Burkina and serve alongside them as part of the Envision staff. I had already decided not to go back, as I assumed God had already closed this door... but I loved and respected the Arnolds, and began praying again to see if God wanted me to return to Burkina. After significant amounts of prayer and discussions with people I trust, I decided that after spending some time in the US with my family and raising support, I would return to Burkina to work alongside the Arnolds. It was much harder leaving family and returning to Burkina this time, as I was now going away for at least two years. However, I knew I was doing what God had called me to do.
I love the ministry Envision is doing in Burkina, I love the people (both Nationals and my team) and I love the work. I actually don’t even feel like this is a “job” because I love what I do so much. Returning to Burkina helped me realize, I had never been this happy in any other job and I began to realize that maybe God wanted me in Burkina longer term. It was several months into my 2- year residency when I started the long-term appointment process with the Alliance. After completing the process in October 2014, I became an Envision Associate. I continue to serve alongside the Arnolds and love the ministry, people and work even more now than I did before. I cannot imagine doing anything else.
While my “call to missions” might be different than most – a slow realization and watching the doors open in front of me…I know that I am where God wants me to be. I am excited and privileged to be a part of the work He is doing in Burkina Faso.
Joanna Gregg serves as the Envision Site Associate in Burkina Faso. She’s been in Burkina since 2011, but was born in the state of Colorado. She is passionate about supporting the national church and equipping them to make disciples. She enjoys playing games with friends, traveling, and snuggling any babies she comes across in her travels.