North United Methodist Church pastor Matthew Stultz is joining a group representing Indiana churches on a mission trip to Burkina Faso, Africa, where they will help with the building of wells to bring clean water to the residents. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
North United Methodist Church pastor Matthew Stultz is joining a group representing Indiana churches on a mission trip to Burkina Faso, Africa, where they will help with the building of wells to bring clean water to the residents. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Later this month, 15 representatives from Indiana churches will travel to Burkina Faso, a country in northwestern Africa, to learn about its culture, meet the locals and build wells.

Matthew Stultz, senior pastor at Madison United Methodist Church, learned about the trip from Herb Buwalda, lead pastor of Clay Church in South Bend. Buwalda has done work in the area before with a group called Engage Burkina, a faith-based organization dedicated to offering relief to the sub-Saharan country.

According to Engage Burkina's website, "Burkina is listed as one of the world's poorest countries and has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world. One in three children die before the age of 10 primarily from malnutrition and waterborne illness, but also struggle to deal with AIDS, Malaria, and other treatable diseases."

The group is leaving for Africa on Feb. 19. At first, the trip to Burkina Faso was supposed to be a fact-finding outing, Stultz said. But it quickly grew from that.

"We were just going to go over to learn more information about the mission, it was going to be a vision tour," Stultz said. "Then we started thinking, what if we could raise some money and actually put some wells in."

Stultz said that 30 churches from Indiana have raised over $65,000. That should be enough to build 11 wells that will serve 37 villages.

Depending on where they will be able to build, Stultz estimated that the wells could affect between 18,500 and 55,500 people.

"It wasn't started as a mission to put in the wells, just a trip to learn more about them and come back and tell people about it in our communities. It just kind of snowballed," he said.

Stultz said that his church spent half of the offering from its Christmas Eve service toward the trip and donated enough money to pay for one well. He hopes the church can raise enough money next year to do the same.

Beyond the wells, Stultz said he is excited to be doing some ministering as well.

"There's a thirst over there for the spiritual and the water."

However, he tries to be careful about how that work is done and is sensitive to the fact that the wells come first.

"I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't even talk to someone about faith and converting and that stuff while they're dying of thirst. I think that's just immoral," he said. "That's why the church, for centuries, has gone in to alleviate poverty, to alleviate suffering and done so in the name of Christ. And in doing that, it's opened more people up to the exchange."

Stultz has tried to deliver that message to his congregation each week. When the church is engaging in mission, it puts life into perspective he said.

"Here at Madison, this congregation is really prayerfully approaching that new sense of the old-school church, and that is that the church that is missioning is the authentic church. The church that is engaged, the church that is generous, the church that is serving is what it's supposed to be."

Stultz says he plans on regularly updating his blog during his trip to Burkina Faso. You can follow his updates at matthewstultz.wordpress.com.