Saturday, April 26, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 19

Our village home in Burkina Faso was an old concrete block, tin-roofed house built over 50 years ago by the first Assemblies of God missionary in the area. Sure, it needed some work to be liveable again, but it was still standing and structurally sound. Out of historical curiosity, I tried for months to try to find out the name of the American missionary who built it. All I got was “Monsieur Bootlay”. I knew this was probably an English name spoken with a French pronunciation, but couldn’t for the life of me figure out what name the people were actually trying to say.

One day, an Assemblies of God administrator from Ouaga came to see the pastor that lived near our house. I happened to be there and was surprised to discover that he spoke English. He mentioned that his father had known the missionary that built our house. When I asked if he remembered the missionary’s name, he said, “Of course. It was Mr. Herbert Butler.” Of course! In French, an “u” is pronounced “oo”, and “er” is pronounced “ay”!

When we got back to Canada, I began a search for Mr. Butler on the Internet. I wasn’t sure whether he was still alive or not, but I was curious to find out what had happened to him. I finally discovered a lady called Butler that worked for the Assemblies of God in the USA. So I e-mailed her. It turned out that she was Mr. Butler’s daughter! She said that her father was indeed still alive! And she would pass my message on to him.

Within a few days, I received a message from Mr. Butler himself. He was living in Illinois, now a retired anthropology professor. We corresponded back and forth for months, with him telling me stories of his time there and me telling him how things were now. We talked about people, places, and events. I learned a lot from him, not just facts but cultural insights too.

Some time later, we went on a trip through the States and had the privilege of actually meeting Mr. Butler at his home. We stayed there again last night and spent a wonderful day together with him and his wife today. He’s in his 80s now, but is still actively involved in serving God and people. If I can do half of what he’s doing when I’m in my 80s, I’ll consider myself a blessed man indeed!

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