Saturday, October 2, 2010

One of those days

Some days just don't go the way you planned. You know those kind of days. Everybody has them, but some are more interesting than others. Take my day yesterday. It was Friday, so we only work until 12:30 pm so that our Muslim employees can get to 2:00pm prayers. As I was getting ready for work, I thought to myself, "Ahh, Friday...I should be able to be home by 1 PM and taking a nap by 2 pm. It had been a busy week and I was tired.

When I got to work, my co-worker reminded me that one of our temporary employees was naming his child today. If I wanted to go, we could go together right after work. OK, so my timetable adjusted a little. We could go briefly, pray for the baby, give our gifts and still be home by 2pm.

After work we get in the car to go to the naming ceremony. I knew that the family's houses had all fallen in the rains so they were renting somewhere else, but I didn't know that they were renting in the area where my co-worker got stuck with the car a few weeks ago. I found out on the way and had an immediate dread of what might be coming. My co-worker assured me that we would be fine if we used the other road. Famous last words. The road was bad, but with the car in 4-wheel low, we got through with no problem. As we pulled up to the compound all of a sudden the car fell sideways and we were in up to the bottom of the car on one side. Yikes.

All the men from the naming ceremony came out to see if they could help. They pushed. They dug. They jacked. They pushed some more and dug some more. My side of the car was leaning toward the ground so I couldn't open my door, but all the Gambians thought that I needed to get out of the car. I decided that my life was not in danger; I wasn't going anywhere! Picture trying to scramble over a gearshift, going uphill, wearing a long straight skirt in a car that has 30 men and boys surrounding it! NO WAY! They offered to pull me out, but Deb and I assured them that I would be fine in the car. Of course at that time we didn't know how long this adventure was going to last. Deb was able to get in and out of the car, so I sent her to go take pictures.

From my ringside seat in the car I got to listen in as the men discussed their options. They tried every plan they could think of, but no success. I was also watching the children playing behind the car. They were jumping on the ground which was undulating like a waterbed mattress, but not falling through. Where they punctured the ground with a stick, they could insert their arms
up the the elbow or deeper. No wonder we fell in! (No, I'm not covering my eyes in despair! More likely the sun was in my eyes.)

The man who was naming his child that day went to the man who owns a tractor (he had pulled out my colleague a few weeks before). Unfortunately he was sick, but he would send his younger brother. He came and went home to discuss their options. Ultimately, they decided that they couldn't risk bringing in the tractor for fear of it getting stuck too!

We had called Keith as well (the only male missionary working with us in NK) and told him what was going on. He had been having his own adventures that day, but we didn't know that. After a while, the men decided that we needed some metal truck ramps and a winch. So Keith went and brought the equipment in the pick-up. By this time we have been in the hole about 3 hours.

They attach the winch around a big tree about 75 yards away and attach the wire to the front of the car. Then the slow process of hand winching us out begins. Inch by inch the wire tightens. It takes a while before it's taut enough to move the car at all. The metal ramps are positioned under the front wheels and the process begins. Meanwhile Keith decides that this is slow. Maybe the truck could get close enough to pull us out. The only road to us is the road where Deb got stuck before. We could still see the hole that she had left. Keith saw it too, but thought he could get past it. As Deb saw the truck moving, she said, "I hope Keith doesn't get the truck stuck too." Just then we see the front end of the truck drop. Whoops, 2 missionary cars stuck.
So the men who had been helping us all day went to help Keith. He had to do some digging and then they could push him out. Whew!

Finally the winch did its job and got us out! The ground was so soft though that when we thought we were out, the men saw that we were sinking again. They all yelled and grabbed the car to help it forward a little ways where fortunately the ground was firm enough to hold. So we were out of the hole, but now how do we get the car out to a better road?!

We can't turn around and go out the way we came. The other road was where Keith had gotten stuck. We were fairly close to the main road, but there were 2 soft places we would have to get through. Bring on the ramps! We drove a few feet at a time as the crowd of men around us grabbed the pieces of metal from behind us and put them in front. Finally, as it is getting dark, we pulled out onto the paved road! We were in that mud hole for 6 hours! (A few hours into the process we turned on the car and enjoyed some air-conditioning! The things we'll do for air-conditioning!) Not the way I planned to spend the day, but it was fun watching the problem solving process going on around us (often at full volume!). Praise God for the Gambian way of helping out anyone in trouble.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Expecting the unexpected

When you live in Africa you have to be ready for anything! Sometimes that means being ready for the snake that's curled up on your front steps, or the waterbed springing a leak, but other times it means a party that breaks out when you least expect it! All three of these things have happened to me in the last week. Fortunately the snake was scared of me too, so he slithered away so quickly he seemed to barely touch the ground. I woke up this morning when I rolled into the puddle of water made by my leaking waterbed. Ahh...refreshing...well, not really. The best part of the week though was the party that broke out when I went to visit one of our literacy classes.

The literacy class season is winding down, so Amadou, Gibril and I were visiting classes this week helping them with the dying part of the tie and dye they've been learning. One class was very excited about their projects and ladies were breaking out in dance when they saw their finished products. That was fun, but as the work was wrapping up they got serious about their celebrating. The empy jugs and bowls were brought out and the drumming began. They sang many songs and praised Amadou, Gibril and I in the songs. All the women were clapping along and a few at a time would jump into the middle of the circle of clapping women to dance. As some stepped out and others stepped in. Some carried their tie and dye material and waved it around as they danced. After a while of dancing, they called me to come and dance...I refused telling them that I can't dance (which is not a lie--you have to see their dancing to understand!). So they continued singing and clapping and dancing until they decided that it was time for their guests to eat lunch. We were led into a small room where they had two kinds of rice dishes for us and juice to drink after we ate. They had fed us breakfast when we got there, served attaya and milk while the dying was going on and now they were giving us lunch. This group of ladies really knows how to show African hospitality! This is not the first time this has happened and probably won't be the last. Africans are very hospitable and LOVE to party. Days like this are just one reason why I love living in Africa.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Home again

Volcanoes and floods and ferries, oh my! I am back in The Gambia again! I had to change my flight because of the volcano in Iceland and then the day before my re-scheduled flight was due to leave Nashville, Nashville got hit with the biggest flood it had ever seen. Was someone trying to tell me something??? After safely arriving (on almost empty planes--yippee, lots of room to stretch out), the driver bringing the car across the river on the ferry to get me had to wait in a horribly long line. I was glad that the line going the other way was much shorter.

I am working on re-tiling my sister Ruth's old apartment which I will be moving into. The men are digging out the old tile now and the tile guy will arrive next week. I will try to put some pictures up soon.

The word is out in the village that I am back. Today I had a houseful of people. Over a dozen kids of all sizes and at least 10 women were in my house this afternoon. I am so glad to be back in The Gambia. I didn't realize how much I missed everyone until I saw them again.

Now that I'm back and have a decent internet connection I will try to post more regularly. If I don't, you have my permission to bug me. Talk to you later.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I wrote a wonderful, insightful post a few minutes ago, but the internet gremlins snatched it away before I could add the pictures. I refuse to recreate it, so you'll have to take my word for the fact that it was wonderful. Just kidding. ;-)
I just wanted to take the time to wish you all a good Thanksgiving and if you don't live in a place that sets aside a day to thank God for all that He does for you, then take some time today to be grateful. A little gratitude and thanksgiving every day is good for the soul. God loves me and you with a perfect and everlasting love. Even the bad or painful things in our lives are ultimately for our good, so I choose to be thankful for them (or at least I try!).

For those of you who missed the fall colors this year, I am posting some pictures so that you can enjoy some of the color that I enjoyed this year.

Iwill try to get back to posting more regularly even before I return to The Gambia. Thanks for your patience.

The spammers have found my blog, so I had to close the door on anonymous comments. Sorry for the inconvenience. I do enjoy hearing your feedback, so please jump through the necessary hoops to comment.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tribute to Mom

On Friday, January 1, 2009 I received word that my mother had been taken to the hospital after a severe stroke and was not expected to live. Receiving this kind of news is never easy, but when you are sitting in a remote African village with a limited number of flights available every week, it's devastating. After calling the family, we decided that I would try to get a seat on the next flight out which would leave on Sunday and arrive on Monday evening. The Lord intervened and helped me get the last seat available on both my flights and I arrived at the hospital around 10:30 pm Monday. Mom was still alive, much to everyone's surprise, and the family was planning to bring her home the following morning on hospice care.

After greeting Mom, (she was not able to respond) I was chatting with my family when my sister, Ruth, noticed that Mom's breathing had changed. Within 30 minutes of my arrival at her bedside, my mom went to be with the Lord. The following is a tribute written by my dad and published in our local paper.

The Expositor


February 2009 page 7

She had wanted to be a missionary, but it never happened - or did it?

Submitted by Glenn Tompkins

Helen Tompkins (1926-2009) was a housewife with a quiet disposition and a sweet smile. She taught Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and Bible studies, as well as being a partner with her hus­band in his ministry as a pastor, teacher and evangelist. She taught people to read as a volunteer with the Literacy Volun­teers and spent time helping women with a variety of needs. She had a tender heart, always willing to help others. She also spent time playing the violin, keyboard and psaltery and praying for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She raised five children. This was her m;uor ministry.

The oldest, Richard, went to serve his

country and was killed in a motorcycle accident in Thailand at the age of 21.

Nancy, her oldest daughter, works in the field of social work with children and families. In addition, she is a Sunday School teacher, wife and mother, volunteer at a local domestic violence shelter and well respected by everyone.

Bob has worked as a repairman for mobile homes and recreational vehicles, but his main work is a ministry in Mexico, Serve and Build Hope Ministry (www. He and his wife go into Mexico spreading the gospel through teaching the good news of Jesus Christ, helping with physical needs of the people and teaching English. Most recently their work has expanded to build­ing a school where vocational skills will

be taught in addition to English and Bible lessons.

Ruth is a Nurse Practitioner who spent 20 years in The Gambia, West Africa, with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE), using medical mis­sions to reach the Wo!of people for the Lord. She was one of the fi rst career missionary with ABWE in The Gambia, pioneering this new work using medicine to meet people's physical needs so that they will have the relationship and oppor­tunity to tell the people of God's love for them and the great gift of salvation that He has provided. Currently, she works as a medical consultant to missionaries around the world from the mission's home office in Harrisburg, Pa.

Joanne, her youngest, is also a mission-

ary with ABWE, working as a literacy specialist in The Gambia, West Africa. Her work is to teach the Wolof people to read and write in their own language. She also writes literature to teach the Bible and truths of God's Word to the Wolof people. The physical needs of the people are great due to poverty and drought. Recently, she helped to raise funds to buy 100 pounds of rice for each home in the village where she lives and works (http://gambiathoughts.

In addition to her five children, she has nine grandchildren and 10 great-­grandchildren.

Helen Tompkins has had a rich, full life touching people throughout the country and around the world.

Was she a missionary?

Back on line

I'm sure many of you have been wondering where I've been and why I haven't been posting on the blog. Well, my internet connection in The Gambia got really bad and I could hardly send simple emails much less uploading pictures etc.

I am back in the U.S. now on furlough for the next year and I'm enjoying my sister's wireless connection. I'm going to get spoiled!!!

I will try to catch up with some posts about what has been happening during the last few months. It has been crazy!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Attack of the banana trees

Sometimes when we travel to Banjul as a group, we have strange experiences. With 4 people making purchases to bring back to Ndungu Kebbeh with us, you never know what might be in the car on the way home. Here's an example.

Here I am riding along in the shade of a banana tree.

Deb, attacked by her own tree!

Suellen at the oasis.Teresa chillin' with the shades.
I have heard reports that the trees are doing well. Maybe we'll even get some banana out of the deal!