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Stories & News > Alumnus of the Year > 2014 Peter McCarthy ( Class of 1997)

2014 Peter McCarthy ( Class of 1997)

Peter and his wife Kathryn have been serving God in Burkia Faso since 2009
Peter at a Cattle Market in Burkina Faso
Peter at a Cattle Market in Burkina Faso

Peter McCarthy completed his studies at William Clarke College in 1997. He discovered Jesus after attending Rage, a precursor to GLO, with a group of friends in Year 8 or 9.

During Year 12 Peter served as a House Captain of Andrews House and also as a Prefect. Peter studied German throughout his Secondary schooling, which was a good basis for his study of Greek and Latin at Bible College and for learning French when he was appointed to Burkina Faso.

In 2001 Peter married Kathryn and by 2009 they knew God was calling them to serve in Burkina Faso. After studying the native language in France, they spent three years in Burkina, returning to Australia for the birth of their first child – Layla. 

Their first term in Burkina Faso with Serving in Mission (SIM) was devoted to getting to know the Fulani people of Burkina Faso, as well as their language and culture. They are a traditionally nomadic people group who were once wealthy cattle herders. However, they are now amongst the poorest of Burkina and are rapidly being forced to change their lifestyle due to climate and social change. They are proudly Islamic, playing a key role in spreading Islam throughout West Africa. 

In order to get to know the Fulani people, Peter and Kathryn have spent much time with them in villages, drinking cups of tea and sharing life experiences. Initially, the couple lived in a town in the north (population approx. 10,000) and anticipated spending their whole language learning time there. However, unrest in neighbouring Mali, forced them to move to the east in 2013. 

Despite their proudly Islamic culture, a small Fulani church has been established in Burkina Faso to support the 200 or so Christians among a population of approximately 1.5million Fulani. Peter and Kathryn's role is to strengthen and encourage this young church, particularly through continuing theological education among the church leaders. Peter is taking on a role of co-ordinating theological education among the Fulani by mentoring the teachers of the small Fulani Bible School, experimenting with new methods of Bible teaching, theological education by extension (TEE), short term discipleship courses, one on one discipleship and more.


Peter aims to develop a way of training godly mission leaders to assist the people of Burkina Faso. For this reason, he has been undertaking research including field observation and experiments to assist him in developing a good understanding of the community context of his work.

Few Fulani are literate and none of the current Fulani church leaders have been born into Christian homes. The Fulani church in many cases is a copy of other cultural groups and how they worship – often based on missionary models from 50 years ago. Peter hopes his research will allow the development of new teaching methods that are more effective in this specific context and allow the church to flourish.

During the dry season, the Fulani community (Christians and non-Christians) gather together as part of a discipleship school. They spend up to 10 weeks reading the New Testament, memorising verses, sharing small messages, praying together and discussing various aspects of life as Fulani Christians. In past years, there has been an adult literacy stream where non-readers could learn literacy skills in order to be able to read the New Testament. Unfortunately, this is a very expensive exercise. However, for a nominal fee, attendees are provided with some books, a food allowance, travel and housing for up to 10 weeks.

‘Christ our Wisdom’, William Clarke College’s motto, drives Peter and Kathryn to prayer. So much of life in Burkina Faso is hard work or complicated. Prayer helps them seek Christ’s wisdom in each situation, rather than going it alone. They also strive to promote Jesus in their teaching and discipleship, that people might lean on Him and find wisdom in Him.

For Peter and Kathryn, living and working in Burkina Faso is their way of serving Christ.  “The word of Christ shapes our aims for the Fulani church and the trained leaders,” said Peter. This, “in turn, determines how we plan to go about teaching and training them.”

For Peter, he has a personal dream of purchasing land for future training and discipleship projects, much of which is still in the beginning stages. “A large 10Ha block of bush land has been offered in a mixed Fulani and Gourma region,” stated Peter. “My dream is to buy this land before it becomes too expensive and use it one day as a vocational training centre or centre for teaching improved agriculture and animal husbandry, education, literacy, or health alongside discipleship. Where Christian living and Biblical wisdom transform and redeem every part of life, including work and interactions with the environment.” 

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