A day in the life
I live in Djibo, a small town in Burkina Faso on the edge of the Sahara desert. Most of the year it is simply too hot to sleep inside the house, so my wife Charlie and I sleep under a mosquito net hanging from a tree in our back yard. We wake up to an early-morning soundtrack of donkeys, cockerels and cows.
Greeting is important in African societies, so I first go round saying hello to our neighbours: Jam waali (Did you pass the night in peace?), Noy koreeji maa (How is your family?), we sing the long greeting sequence back and forth. The answer to these questions is invariably Jam tan (Peace only). When they answer Jam tan, my neighbours are putting a brave face on things: in reality this region is one of the poorest in the world.
My work here as a missionary includes humanitarian relief: grain handouts, yes, but also working with individuals to find creative ways out of poverty. A donkey and cart for Bukari, a sheep for Mariama, school fees for Adama – the slow, intangible work of development.
A missionary is also a storyteller and I love sharing the stories of Jesus with people – ancient stories which still have incredible power to inspire and transform the human heart.
In the afternoon, I write. I bash away on my laptop with sweat dripping off my elbows. I have written three adventure books for young adults, three for children and two picture books beautifully illustrated by Christopher Corr. I also do occasional travel writing for the Guardian Weekly, the Sunday Times and Africa Geographic.
I’m so grateful to my friends and neighbours here for sharing their lives with me – it is their truth which inspires my fiction.