Post Summary –
- Planting seeds = Faith
- The joy of visitors
- Braveheart in the Gambia
- A week in the life of Mike in the Gambia
- Visiting Samba Chargie (a journey to the North Bank)
January 27, 2009
11:17pm – under the shelter of my bug net
Every morning at 9am I have a meeting and breakfast with the work group for the agriculture team. It a chance to go over the day’s tasks and ensure everyone has eaten (as many would not afford breakfast on their own dime). Part of the session we spend praying, reading and sharing experiences.
This morning I was scheduled to share but had little to offer. Resorting to reading some random Psalm I headed out to meet the crew. While I sat on the dirt eating my chocolate paste filled Tappa-lappa looking at a bag of peanut seeds I had a sudden change of heart for topic. I needed to talk about faith.
You prepare the soil (in our case pick axe, shovel out, mix in cattle dung, mix in, burning chaff filling back in and watering) in faith it will make a difference to the results of the crop. When shoveling buckets of cow crap and digging hard dry ground or digging the extra 6 inchs of hard pack soil it becomes easy to doubt the effectiveness or question its importance. Planting seeds is an act of faith; you bury a packet of potential and hope it soon will poke a green leaf to the surface. In a position of dependency that period of waiting can be excoriating.
In the same way the last couple of days I have really been struggling with my impact in teaching, vision for the agriculture program and effectiveness of living in community. These actions are in faith; faith God has called me here; faith the misunderstandings, health issues, discomforts produce benefits worth living with the people I’m aiming to help; faith it is possible to build a profitable self sustaining agricultural program at house of wisdom. Faith what I start can be completed.
When the father of a sick son came to Jesus asking for healing, he ask the man if I believed. To which he replied “I believe. Give me faith to overcome my doubts”.
This conversation was burning with-in my own heart and so perhaps what I shared today was more for me than anyone else. Thoughts I wrestled with as I crawled across the ground poking holes and dropping seeds into a week of intensive soil preparation. On the road ahead I see the need to hold on the faith of what God has called me to and knowing he will see it through to completion.
It has been a joy to be part of Mike and Jon’s Gambian experience. Over the past week they have told stories, shared testimonies of their lives and spoken into the lives of many youth who face overwhelming odds and in an uphill battle. Not to mention Jon looked extremely sharp preaching in church today in his newly tailored African suit.
In the mornings Jon and Mike are out working along side the gardeners and taking on not only the immediate tasks but really approaching the situation in a holistic manner. Furthermore they are all stars with the kids. Coming home from school the kids rush through the compound gates in search of their giant Toubab friends. Juggling, drawing, taking pictures and just hanging out it has been a treat to see them engaged.
As this is the last week with Jon we are making plans to visit Ali Bah’s home village on the North bank (a more rual area of Gambia) and to see James Island an important fort during the time of British salve trade.
Thank you to all who have taken time to write me. It is encouraging to here from you and to here about life at home. I’m sorry for the many people I have not been able to respond.
As many people have been asking what an average week looks like I’ve mapped out some of the week’s highlights (and challenges below). I’m also hoping that as Jon returns he will have a chance to post some photos onto the internet of what we have been up to.
Sunday: Church service, Mike shared his testimony – I was experiencing digestive track problems so was unable to stay in the service – took a bunch of Imodium – Martin came by and we fit 16 people in a landrover and went to the beach to play soccer. Made Spaghetti for Martin, Jo and Musa. Vistied with Paul and Sandy.
Monday: Agricultural work in the morning – planted some seeds and dug some new lines for planting. Taught Math class – working with memorizing the multiplication table – Math is a challenging subject for most Gambia students - Taught a guitar class.
Tuesday: Agricultural work in the morning. Spent time with administration working in the afternoon. Heading to a celebration for Gambia is Good an NGO (non-government, organization) who’s goal is to supply the tourist industry with locally grown produce. Returned to the compound for toubab English class. Jon and Mike are taking the more advanced students and adults while I have been working with those who are just beginning to read.
Wednesday: Agriculture meeting in the morning. I met with a horticulturalist from Senegal about sourcing seeds and long term plans for the farm. Jon and Mike joined me in Fajara to meet with Toni and Rita. Toni has business which came up so we read books and I talked with Gee (a well educated man from Cameroon about broadcasting wireless computer to computer networking signals. We had dinner with the smile team (team of 12 university students from England who are teachers) who have Mariatu cooking for them and they also made us chocolate cake (wow!).
After we went out to hear the holy family band play at Karaba resort – this was a full day.
Thursday: Went and did some farming. After I spent time doing administrative work and then after lunch prepared for the evening English class and guitar lessons. Jon lead the compound bible study. We prayed for a man from the compound who recently returned to his home village in Guinea Conakry.
Friday: I got sick woke with a Fever – slept the morning and spent the rest of the day reading the bible and planning the farm’s development. Jon and Mike when to explore the Gambia for the afternoon. I when to the compound store and found they were watching Braveheart so I sat and explained to all the locals what was going on and why limbs and head were getting dismembered. I then slept some more to prepare for the chaos that was an all night youth event held on the compound. (being sick I retired early with a good set of earplugs) ***Discovered they have Ovaltine in the Gambia.
Saturday: I woke up and had a jam session with the Wuli Band. Spent time learning about the Kora (a traditional West African instrument that is a cross between a harp, guitar and a large kitchen mixing bowl) We then spent the afternoon at the Fatty’s eat Benichin (stirfried rice of the Gambia), drinking Atailya (green tea) and playing guitar to the large gathering of youth who came by to visit.
Sunday: Church, lunch, nap time and then off to the beach for some football. Today’s complication was when I got a fishbone caught in the back of my throat and needed to swallow oversized mouthfuls of rice and drink 2.5L of water while on the verge of vomiting to remove it. (I’ll be more careful with bones in the future) We finished the day with prep for our journey to the north bank and a game of Dutch Blitz with some of the youth and a lady who is illiterate and can’t count.
All in all a good week in the Gambia.
February 5, 2009
We left early Monday morning for the North bank. The plan was to visit Ali Bah’s mother and family who recently lost their father to lung cancer (yes, smoking kill in Africa too). For Jon and Mike this would be a truly rural Gambian experience – 1.5 km from highway there is no power, no running water and no toilets (just a 20” deep 4 foot wide hole you crap beside and push your business in with a stick).
We added a side trip a chance to see a famous slavery landmark. It was a bit of a shock to the system but not surprising to be thrusted into a tourist trap. First was the village development fee, then tour fee, then the boat fee, then the boat driver tip, then the tour guide tip. We managed to escape the restaurant, craft market and snack bar before heading back to town to buy supplies for our stay in the village.
Travel is typically a challenge and there can be many adventures and challenges.
- finding ways to keep your legs from going numb because there is a metal bar sticking into your right thigh (Ali Bah)
- learning eating your sandwich before the ride keeps it from falling through the floor (myself)
- discovering riding on top of the van is better than inside (Mike)
- knowing the right the time to ask the driver to pull over before filling your pants (Jon)
Traveling by horse cart as the sun set over the African horizon we arrived just in time to get our bearings and distribute our gifts of rice, meat and oil to the family. Through out the night village members came by to greet and with an adult population of ~100 people 3 foreign visitors is big news.
The village of Samba Chargie (named after the founding father) is itself quite beautiful. Its remote location from the road it feels like a time warp (until someone pulls out their lead acid battery to charger their cell phone) It is quite nice but life is rural Africa is not simple and the last year’s excess rain cracked and destroyed a handful of the mud brick and thatched roof buildings and excessive use and no maintenance the towns only hand well pump is working at 33% it’s normal efficiency.
The village is Islamic and so Modu Bah (a full time resident in the village) and Ali Bah (my neighbour in Sikuta) both received heavy criticism (and physical beatings) when they decided to follow Jesus. Not wanting to abandon the family and their home village they each have gone to great lengths to restore relationships and over the years have seen much progress. Part of our journey's goal was to show our support for the brothers and promote an understanding of peace and love between the two religions with-in the village.
Tuesday morning we spent touring around greeting, gifting and praying for village leaders, family members and friends. At each stop we were well received and saw a genuine hospitality and joy that we had come. As well it was a privilege to be accepted in to the Bah family. There is no doubt the lost of their father has drastically impacted present and future situation of the family (particularly for their mother). We all made our best efforts to be involved and present with the people by showing our love and support.
For me it was also a chance to bond with Ali Bah who will me my closest friend upon Mike and Jon departure. After snacks a meal of coucous and boiled tree leaves Jon and Mike retired. Ali and I then helped prepare the meat for the following day’s lunch, drank ataiya and sat in front of the house for a couple hours talking and sharing life.
The African people often use the phrase “we move together” and even from this brief exposure this phrase came alive. With so much of your time devoted to maintaining life (making bricks, replacing thatched roofs, cracking peanuts for seed, milking goats, cooking, eating) there is little time, finance or energy left for leisure activities instead work becomes the leisure and everyone can be seen “moving together”.
We left in the late afternoon again to the setting sun, we arrived home to hear that our visit had lead to the reinstatement of Modu Bah as head of the town census a position which had been revoked on his conversion – a huge step.
Thanks for all your prayers and support.