By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Take a second before reading further and think about how many moments a day you look at your watch, or phone, or the wall, and check the time.
For McNary High School senior Jon Platt, adjusting his perception of time, and its passing, is one of the biggest challenges of his mission trip in Burkina Faso, Africa.
“Growing up in a country where ‘time is money,’ it was extremely difficult to grasp. I slowly adjusted to taking each day as it came,” wrote Platt in an interview via e-mail. “In this country, and I’m sure in many other African countries, time is not a huge deal. The sun rises, the sun sets. It’s not that clocks are non-existent. It’s just that they aren’t nearly as important.”
As a member of Salem Alliance Church, Platt knew of missionary efforts in Burkina Faso, but didn’t feel the pull to travel there himself until two years ago.
“It was a late night in August two summers ago that I felt a direct calling from God to pursue Burkina. In the next year, I had considered a few other places and programs, but He continually brought me back to this place,” Platt said.
He applied for an internship through Envision, a branch of the Christian Missionary Alliance and was accepted, but he still had to arrange his school schedule to allow him to go.
He organized his classes to earn him the credits he needed to graduate a semester early and was on a plane to Africa four days later. He touched ground in Burkina Faso Jan. 28 and will return May 27 to receive his diploma with the rest of his class in June.
It may have been a challenge to reset his internal clock, but he’s found more than enough ways to fill the time working with children at Les Ailes De Refuge orphanage in the town of Yako.
“My main duty is to simply love on the children here,” Platt said. “The little toddlers without a parent to call their own; a pre-teen who just wants a role-model figure to play soccer with; a kid my age that speaks minimal English, but tries conversations with me to improve it; this is my calling and my job here. It is so simple, yet so rewarding.”
He’s also had the opportunity to go out on well-drilling trips with Friends in Action, an international ministry that seeks to bring clean water to African nations.
“It is a crazy amazing feeling to see an entire village benefit from a couple of days of hard work,” Platt said.
Spreading the word about his faith to another town was a highlight as well.
“Picture a small pick-up truck filled with sound equipment, supplies, and bibles; practically taking up the entire bed of the truck. Then picture nine grown Burkinabe pastors and one Caucasian teenager crammed into the available spaces the equipment left behind,” he said. “Though the ride was terrifying, the experience of it all was so adventurous. To take the gospel to where it hasn’t gone before, I would do anything.”
Language barriers have provided a number of hurdles, but Platt managed to pick up some of the native French dialect and communicates well enough through gestures and pointing.
“It must have some effect, because I have formed some pretty solid relationships despite the extra effort it takes to seek them; I know also that God has had a huge hand in this,” Platt said.
In addition to working with the people of Burkina Faso, a mini-vacation to the town of Banfora led to an encounter with wild hippos.
“We took a ride out to a lake chock full of lily pads resting on crystal clear water. After taking an old, rickety canoe out in the lake, we were able to spot a group of them, but from a distance,” he said.
He spent the next day crawling around large rock formations known as “The Domes,” and hoping not to fall to his death.
On his return, Platt intends to start college work at Chemeketa Community College under the Scholars Program that provides free tuition to students who achieve a better-than-3.5 grade point average through high school. He’s not yet sure how the Burkina Faso trip factors into his future, but he’s focused on the work while he is there.
“I believe with all my heart that God has called me here. He said go, and I came; it’s as simple as that. Everything I am doing and will ever do is to bring glory to his name. My end all goal here is to love and serve the people He has put in my life in this desert land,” he said.
Platt is the son of David and Mary Anne Platt of Keizer. He recently began blogging about his time in Burkina Faso. You can follow his journey at jonplatt.blogspot.com.