INTO AFRICA: Grace Church of La Verne Members Headed to Burkina Faso

May 24, 2011
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Based in Burkina Faso, Michael Jeter, via Skype, talks to members of the Grace Church of La Verne.

Based in Burkina Faso, Michael Jeter, via Skype, talks to members of the Grace Church of La Verne.

If you need to speak or meet with Camille Albin or Kendall Albin, Samantha Bowser, Chelsea Diefenbach, Alice Eddy or Nancy Eddy, Lucy Guerra or Rebekah Guerra, Kim Jeter, Toni Krone, Sue Longstreet, Kassandra Vana or Wendy Woodall, you better make arrangements in the next couple of weeks, because after that this group of 13 women is going to be hard to find unless you know your geography really well.

From June 19 to July 1, they’ll be ministering, teaching and building relationships with school age girls in Ouagadougou. Don’t where that is?

Ouagadougou is in Burkina Faso. Don’t where that is?

Burkina Faso, also known by its short name Burkina, is a land-locked country in west Africa that was formerly called the Republic of Upper Volta until it was renamed in 1984.  The name in Moore, the country’s national language, means “the land of the upright people.”

While all of the women, who are members of Grace Church in La Verne, are excited about their mission to Burkina, the trip will be extra special for Kim Jeter, a teacher at Grace Miller, because she will be reuniting with her son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Tiffany Jeter, who run The Village Opportunity Vocational School in Ouagadougou.

The school, which just opened last September under the auspices of the Christian World Outreach (CWO), offers two-year vocational training to girls who because they did not pass the nation’s standard education testing requirements (two tries and you’re out) are no longer offered public education. The first class accepted nine girls, and this September the school has expanded to accommodate 15 more girls from about 100 applicants.

Discussion and planning were free-flowing.

Discussion and planning were free-flowing.

The school, of course, needs everything, from chalkboard erasers to hand sanitizers, so each of the 13 Grace Church women will each be packing an extra suitcase stuffed with not only those much-need supplies, but also items for crafts, games and beauty treatments.”

“A lot of these girls have never had any attention like that,” Jeter said, referring to the spa treatments. “We’ve been joking that they’re going to receive the most expensive pedicure they’ve ever had.”

Over the last several months, the La Verne women have been meeting once a week to discuss the various activities, including Bible study and musical, drama and crafts programs, they have planned for the Burkina students. The La Verne women will also accompany the girls on field excursions to the village market, the zoo, a crocodile farm and other outings as well.

Fortunately, the La Verne outreach group has Michael, 27, a Bonita High School graduate, and Tiffany to acclimate and guide them during their 10-day stay. From the Grace La Verne Church office on San Dimas Canyon on Saturday, many of the church members, via Skype, asked Michael about what to expect when they arrive in Burkina.

“We have showers,” Michael said, responding to one question, “but the water is cold, so I don’t how many of you will want to shower in the morning.”

Michael also warned the ladies not to get too kissy/huggy when bonding with their new friends. “The culture is based around shaking hands,” Michael said, his real-time image from Africa beaming surprisingly clear on the laptop’s monitor in La Verne. The time difference between La Verne and Burkina is seven hours.

The La Verne women also will interact with other church members in Burkina, venturing out to villages to help the inhabitants cultivate their crops and sandbag their homes in time for the rainy season.

A Burkina native, who attends Azusa Pacific University and recently spoke to the women, told them that “no one ever visits Burkina.” Because of Burkina’s remoteness, air fare alone runs about $2,000 a person. A few months ago, there was some political unrest in the country. Undaunted, the women prayed about their mission, Kim said, and learned only last week from the American embassy that the turmoil had subsided, their prayers answered.  

To raise money for the trip, the Grace Church members, which include students, grandmothers and mother-daughter duos, have been hosting garage sales, blood drives and other fundraising activities. This Sunday, May 29, after services, they will host a bake sale at Lutheran High School, which is the current place of worship for the Church.

The effort and sacrifice, including missing Little League games and summer outings to the beach, is well worth it, according to Chelsea Diefenbach, a Montclair High School teacher who will be making the journey. “I just feel like it’s my mission in life to serve other people,” Diefenbach said. “I think I was one of the first people who walked up and said what are we doing, when do I go, how do I do this?”

Lutheran High School is located at 3960 Fruit St. in La Verne. To learn more about Grace Church of La Verne or the upcoming mission to Burkina Faso and how you can show your support, visit

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