I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was a stranger…

Written by Joel Hayslip. Posted in Unreached People

I didn’t want to get involved. Honestly I didn’t.  I had outreaches planned through next fall, trainings on the schedule, important stuff.  Somehow when I heard that Tuareg were fleeing Mali into Burkina, I knew that we had to respond.  But there’s just a few of us, and we’re just… us.

There are over 20,000 refugees fleeing war in northern Mali.  I have heard only a few of their stories, but they all have the same basic theme: “I had a life, a home, our kids had school.  One day we saw someone get killed (a friend’s house get burned, I was held up at gunpoint, etc..), and we fled.  Now we have nothing, no home, no identity, no rights.”  Some of the refugees were herdsmen, but Ziniba was a university student, Agboubacar was a successful jeweler and Mohammed was in the Army.  Now they all live together in refugee camps – nothing to do, struggling to find meaning and purpose.  (Video of Tuareg Dance)

And many days they struggle to find food.

We discovered that around 800 of the refugees are in an empty school about 10 minutes from our house, and we knew we had to do something.  We visited them, bringing bananas, sardines and bread, simply asking how we could help.  They asked for food, for mats, for buckets and soap.  The next day we brought all those things and we began to bring breakfast every morning to all 800 refugees.

For 21 days we brought 300 loaves of bread, 50 pounds of powdered milk, 100 pounds of sugar, 600 servings of coffee and tea every morning.  i think what really touched their hearts was
that we came personally every morning to distribute the food and play with the kids.  It wasn’t just a big organization throwing food at them to keep them alive, we were fellow humans who cared and had compassion.  Every morning as we drove in, the camp looked empty. Everyone was hiding in their tents and rooms, sleeping their boredom and hopelessness away. But once we stepped out, the camp came alive!  Kids came streaming towards us, grabbing our hands, hugging us, calling out our names.  The moms would gather around, all smiles, as we split up the food to each group.

One day I found out that there were many sick so I asked Ziniba discreetly: “do you think i could go pray for the sick?” and I got a firm answer: “You pray differently.  We pray everyday, we don’t drink alcohol and we bow down.  If the old people see you praying in your way, they will refuse to even eat the food you bring, even if they are starving.”  I didn’t argue with her, but I knew 2 things that day – 1.  I want them to know that we come in the name of Jesus, not just religion and 2. We need to reach out to them through the children.

The 1st saturday we hosted a big soccer match at the camp.  Boys vs. boys and girls vs. girls.  We blasted Tuareg music through our speakers and we all danced together.  Everyone had an amazing time!!

The next Thursday we began our Bible club with the kids.
March 8th : God created all the world and animals.
March 15th: God created you and loves you.
March 22nd: The Good Samaritan (we were noticing a lot of violence)
March 29th (today): Adam and Eve and sin (introducing Easter next week)


Recently we hired 2 teachers to come 3 times a week to teach the unschooled (and very bored) children basic french and we outfitted a makeshift classroom at the camp with a blackboard.

On the 21st we stopped bringing breakfast.  Our team was worn out and we were running short on funds.  But then a miracle happened!  We sent 1 email out requesting help, and over $5,000 poured in!  About the same time, the Tuaregs had a crisis – they ran out of food.  Completely.  The bigger organizations were busy up north and our Tuaregs were forgotten.  One of the children in the camp died of anemia and several ladies fainted of hunger.  I was traveling at the time, but when we returned we reacted.

We had the privilege to feed all the refugees all their meals for 3 days as they waited for a big shipment.  We brought milk for nursing mothers and 300+ lbs of rice each day as well as money for oil, tomatoes, salt, etc..  The shipment from the big organization arrives tomorrow.

It’s true.  At first I didn’t have time to get involved.  And I didn’t want to.  The Tuareg are notorious for being a proud, stubborn and aggressive people.  They are nearly 100% muslim.  And I was busy.  I have put in over 100 hours of work and we’ve spent thousands of dollars on an accidental project.

But God reached down and got a hold of me.  One of either “Come, you who are blessed” or “Away with you, cursed ones” – the 2 statements of Jesus in Matt 25, will one day be spoken over me, largely determined by my response to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick, the neglected, the poor. I pray that we are honoring our Lord.

We love our Tuareg.  We hope to love them right to Jesus.



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Comments (4)

  • March 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm |

    That’s a tremendous testimony, Joel. It is very much anointed by the Holy Spirit and really touched me when I read it. It’s obvious that this ministry to the Tuareg is a “God thing” and we’ll be praying that you will see the fruit from the seeds that are being sown. hallelujah!

  • Rachael
    March 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm |

    Hey! The website looks great. Glad it’s up and running again! What a great thing the Lord is doing with the Tuareg through you. I have been reading Experiencing God and that is one of the principles they teach: God is at work all around us and invites us to join Him in His work. It looks like you responded by joining Him and I believe you will see the fruit in Heaven. Proud of you!

  • Jan
    March 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm |

    Our church is collecting loose offering the next 2 months to send for food, etc. Let us know if we should send what we have before the end of May.

  • Amy Nehlsen
    April 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm |

    Wow, I am so glad to read about this. Joel, I know you and Heidi are right where God has placed you and I am praying for you..May God increase your strength and pour out His Spirit and blessings on you everyday as you are living out your lives there. I love you guys..what a great job communicating what God is doing there. We are praying for you and looking forward to being there soon with you.

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Recent Comments

  • Veda Byers

    January 21, 2015 |

    Dear Joel an Heidi,
    Enjoyed the video and seeing the work that you are doing there in Burkino Faso. The children are so wonderful to see in their everyday life. Their smiles are infectious. Andrea is preparing to come and excited about the trip and the team from Newspring that she will be working with. Bless you both and your boys for being there and sharing the Love of God! We love you! Veda and the whole Byers Family 🙂

  • Chris Palermo

    January 14, 2015 |

    Was praying for your family and ministry this morning. Was moved by the video ..the responce of the children to the gifts and the love you are showing them. Your good looking boys have grown so much since I saw them last at Bethel San Jose. God continue to bless and use you.

  • Chuck Fanning

    February 8, 2013 |

    Reading about your work is very exciting, I thank God we can be a small part. May the God we serve do”exceedingly abuntantly” more than we ask or imagine according to His great power that works in us!!

  • Bob Hayslip

    September 12, 2012 |

    I “amen” what Tammy shared! When you chart it out you can see the way that the Lord took a small seed and caused it to grow. Only the Father knows what is in store as you keep sowing faithfully. That 1,000,000 child mark by 2020 may have been a little pessimistic! We’ll keep praying for you guys and for full-blown revival in Burkina. – Dad

  • Tammy Sheets

    September 10, 2012 |

    This is so exciting to see your faithfulness year after year to reach out in the name of Jesus to the children in Burkina Faso!

    It is truly the LORD at work to keep growing the seed planting opportunities and to partner up with OCC – this Saturday (Sept. 15th) in St. Joseph, MO there will be a local “Count Down Event” to share with area churches and groups with sharing this type of testimony – which will really encourage them to pack more shoeboxes – to touch more children to hear the gospel! please join me to pray for this special event!
    keep on blessing those around you – a little bit of love goes a long long way =D

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