​Len Harms renews a friendship with Mathilde Atiogbe-Kpataclo, a Benin Bible Institute board member. Atiogbe-Kpataclo visited Harms’s congregation, Waterford Mennonite Church, several years ago. Here, she welcomes Harms to her country on the first day of a North American partnership visit to Benin. Photo provided. Click on image for high resolution version.

By Leonard Harms
Sunday, May 15, 2016

Dreaming big!! That is one of my impressions of Benin. Now that could mean, “How am I going to carry my sofa on my motorcycle, or my refrigerator, or my five pieces of 10-foot pipe.” Yes, I saw all of these things and more. Driving down the road was entertainment in and of itself. One day, a woman delivered three five-gallon containers of gasoline to the farm on her motorcycle with her child riding along, too. Now that I’m back where things are familiar, I find myself asking, “Did I really see that or am I making it up?”

 

 

With all that African ingenuity on display, shame on me for thinking, “That’s impossible!” when I hear the dreams for the future of our brothers and sisters at the Benin Bible Institute (BBI). For example, this dormitory for 40-50 people is the first stage of a project that will include space for 200 men and 200 women to work and study on the farm. We saw the plans. Or when I hear the idea that we could at some time in the future stay in a hospitality center owned by BBI in Cotonou. They have the land.

These things are a testimony to the faithfulness and perseverance of BBI leaders who dream of the possibilities and patiently pray, wait, and plan for them to come to fruition, trusting that the steps toward the goal will be revealed. BBI and its related agencies, such as Bethesda Hospital, the recycling program, the credit union, the farm, and now a school, all testify to God’s work among people of faith and courage. To be joyful and satisfied with the completion of one part of a project while you wait for the resources to move to the next step is a spiritual discipline that they have to offer. I believe it is called delayed gratification, which to me sometimes means can I wait to have ice cream until tomorrow or do I need it now. Of course I’m joking. We have our big dreams and projects, too, but we have a huge economy and a big banking system to back us. Somehow, seeing the future positively and joyfully when all around you is a lack of resources is a statement of deep faith that I am grateful to have seen in action. Of course, seeing a sofa being moved on a motorcycle is a statement of faith and perseverance that I saw in action as well.

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​Len Harms attends Waterford Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana. The church partners with Benin Bible Institute and Mennonite Mission Network.

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