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!

The Walls are UP!

When Deb returned from furlough, we evaluated our finances and decided that we should go ahead with the construction of the literacy center office/literature production/training facility. With prices constantly on the rise, we are looking at it costing more as time goes by, so we are moving ahead and trusting the Lord to complete it. We have the money in hand that we originally estimated that we would need, but the actual cost will certainly be different. Meanwhile, however, we are paying rent on a building that is going to fall down around our ears one of these days so we need to get out soon before we are forced to put money into repairs. (Our landlord doesn't have money to repair it. We have done all the repairs since moving in 15 years ago.)

The great news is that Ted Weinberg and his wife (ABWE projects manager) is going to be able to come for two months and bring 2 work teams to finish the building for us. Hurray!! If all goes according to plan, we should be able to be moved into the new building before I go on furlough at the end of March. Running the literacy program alone will be much easier for Deb when the office, nursery school and library are back together on the same compound.

Rice day

Well, this happened a while ago now, but I wanted to be sure to get it on the blog. Better late than never.

The day of the great rice distribution dawned hot and sunny. It would a long hot day in the sun, but at least the rice wouldn't get wet or the distribution postponed. The Village Development Committee showed up bright and early with some of their teenage boys to help with loading and unloading. We filled 3 vehicles with rice and set out with our lists. Each vehicle carried a missionary, a member of the VDC and some "muscle". Others stayed behind to help re-load vehicles as they finished their deliveries. We had to deliver over 300 bags of rice that day!! The pick-up and the Nissan only carried about 15 bags at a time, but the ambulance was a workhorse, carrying 25 bags at a time. Still that's a lot of trips for re-loading.

As we pulled up to a compound and honked the horn, people popped out everywhere to see if the rice was for them. With a village this big, we had to have lists of people who were supposed to receive the rice and upon delivery, they had to sign or in most cases, put their thumbprint on our paper to acknowledge receipt of the rice. Some danced and clapped as we unloaded their rice. Others were more restrained in our presence, but we heard later that they danced after we left :-)

Men were slinging bags over their shoulder. Women were teaming up to drag their bags into the compound. I watched 3 little pre-schoolers gather around a bag of rice tugging away (they were rescued by their father). People were overjoyed. Many people told us that until we arrived with the rice, they had no food in their compound. Others simply said, "You have no idea what you really did by giving out that rice at that time."

Our purpose in giving out the rice, besides feeding hungry people, was to demonstrate the compassion of Christ to our Muslim neighbors. By making sure that the distribution was done in a righteous manner and that there was a missionary present with every sack that was given out, we wanted to show people true Christianity. People in our area need food, but their greatest need is Christ. With every bag of rice, we gave a letter expressing our friendship with the people of Ndungu Kebbeh and a booklet developed by missionaries in Senegal that gives a brief overview of the gospel from creation to Christ. Deb and I put our phone numbers on the booklets so that anyone with a question could contact us. Many people used the phone numbers to thank us, but a few have mentioned the letter and the book. As the distribution went on, we saw people all over town looking at the books. Those who can't read, found someone to read it to them. God's Word went to every family in Ndungu Kebbeh that day.

Since that time, we have been able to purchase more rice and do distributions to all of our employees (we have almost 65 of them!) and to approximately 8 other villages. Most of the villages around us are much smaller than NK so the rice went a long ways with each family provider getting a half sack of rice. Booklets were given out in each of those villages as well. Only eternity will tell us what impact this project had on our area. Thanks to all of you who contributed and prayed for us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rice, anyone?

The rainy season is a very difficult time for people here in The Gambia. Food and money are scarce, mud brick houses fall in the rains, malaria is rampant and people are trying to work in the fields to grow the millet and peanut crops that will help feed their families for the coming year. We knew that this year would be harder than usual because for the past two years the crops have been very poor and prices for basic foods like rice continue to rise. We have seen the price of rice go from D550/100 lb. bag to D885/100 lb. bag in the last 6 months. That's a change from $27.50 to $44.25. An average size family will need 1 or 2 of these bags a month, but most people don't have enough income to afford to buy 2. They might be able to scrape together enough to buy one bag, but most people end up having to buy it from the local shops by the cup. This is more expensive in the long run, but it's easier to get D50 for 10 cups of rice for your lunch today, than it is to come up with D885.

It is not unusual for me to have someone at my door saying, "I don't have any money for lunch for our compound today." or "We didn't eat lunch yesterday and I don't have anything for lunch today." This year we are seeing that even people who normally have no trouble feeding their families are struggling and our ability to help is also reduced by the high prices and poor exchange rate.

A few months ago, we started praying that God would touch the hearts of people in Europe and America to help us with money to purchase rice to distribute to our village, our employees and as money permits, to some small villages that surround our village. God is answering our prayers. Since June, we have received a little more than $19,000. In the pictures below, you will see what was purchased with that money.

Early Tuesday morning I heard the distinctive low rumble of a heavily loaded truck creeping down the rutted, washed-out road that leads to our compound. "The rice is here!", I said to myself and sure enough, I look out the window and see the groaning truck pull into our compound. Now that's a load!

The local shopkeeper, (my Gambian "son") who made the purchase, brought along 6 men to unload the rice and put it in a house for safekeeping until we can distribute it. It had been raining almost constantly for several days so the ground is too soft for the truck to venture any farther inside the compound. The rice had to be carried quite a ways by hand (well, by head actually). So the men started the human conveyor.

Look, ma, no hands!

Inside an empty house, the men started stacking the rice while the shopkeeper and I kept track of how many bags had been brought. They put them in stacks of 12 so it was easy to count. I should have gotten a picture of the guys getting that top bag of rice on the stack, but I didn't.

Since the truck was so far from where the rice was being stored, one of the unloaders had a great idea. He went and brought his cow cart from home so that they could load the cart instead of carrying every single bag one at a time from the truck to the house.

When the cart was full it would pull up to the door and in no time there would be another stack in the room.
I couldn't really get a picture that showed all 450 bags of rice, but you get the idea.

Deb and I will be doing the distribution to Ndungu Kebbeh tomorrow. We will be using 3 vehicles and delivering a bag to every person in our village that is responsible for food provision. That will account for about 310 of these bags. In a little while, we will give each of our employees a bag (that will account for about 65 bags, we have a lot of employees). We are praying that money will continue to come in so that we can buy more rice and take some to other villages. If you want to participate, you can send to The Gambia Rice Project at ABWE.

We are doing more than handing out food though. Every bag of rice will be accompanied by a small booklet in Wolof which explains God's plan of salvation from creation to Christ. Our desire is to see people receive Jesus, the bread of life.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Victory in Death

Those of you who regularly read this blog may remember the name Ndey. She was one of the women who went to Dakar with me for the Wolof Consultation in March.

While I was on vacation I got the sad news that she had passed away. She had not been well for over a year and so when she contracted an illness, she was taken to the hospital and died the same day. Since I was on vacation not far from where the funeral would be held, I attended the funeral with Nola and Abby.

The rain was just starting as we got into the car to go to the funeral, but before we arrived at the church, it was raining so hard it was hard to see where we were going. We didn't know exactly where the church was, but we did know the general area. Unfortunately many of the streets were under water. As we pulled into the road that the church is on, we saw a river of water rushing down the road, so we pulled off the road and walked the rest of the way to the church. By the time we arrived, we were soaked through, but found that the rain had not prevented people from filling the large meeting room in order to pay their respects to this valiant Christian woman.

Ndey left Islam to follow Jesus years ago in the face of much adversity from her family, but she never looked back. She was a strong believer, married to a man from another west African country who was pastoring a WEC church. She was active with the Christian community in The Gambia and well-known for speaking her mind about what was right. At the time of her death, she was only 38 years old and leaves a husband and two sons under 11.

Although getting to the funeral was difficult and like most people, I hate funerals, I'm glad I didn't miss this one. As a whole roomful of African believers sang the song "In Christ Alone", I watched their faces. The joy of the Lord was in that room and even the bereaved husband couldn't help but lift his hands in praise to God as he sang about Christ dying and rising from the dead. Tears ran down my face as I witnessed this outpouring of praise by people who have been rescued from death and hell by the power of Jesus Christ. What a contrast to the funerals that I normally attend of people who have no confidence of heaven. My Muslim friends and neighbors even if they were the most faithful Muslims in the world know that their religion doesn't give them any promises of heaven. I can't begin to describe my joy at Ndey's life and testimony of her faith in Christ and my prayer that God will raise up many more like her in days to come.

Ndey's family and friends attended the funeral and clearly heard the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ as it was preached in both English and Wolof. I pray that Ndey's death will bring even greater victory by bringing her family to be followers of Jesus as well.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


The other day I was watching a young boy play with my old basketball. He was having a good time just rolling it around on the floor of my living room as his mother and I talked. As I watched, I started thinking about how old that basketball is and where I got it. When I was in sixth grade, my church was having its annual Vacation Bible School. My father was running it as he often did, so there was a contest for the children. You could earn points for attendance, bringing visitors and memorizing Scripture passages (not just little one verse sections, but ones 8-10 verses in length). At the end of the week the highest point earner would get first choice from a selection of prizes. Now I had gone with my father when he went shopping for prizes, so I knew what I had my eye on.

Since I had a prize in mind and generally being a competitive sort, I worked really hard during Bible school, memorizing and reciting 30-40 verses. At the end of the week, I came in second to the boy who lived next door to the church and could get all his friends from the neighborhood to at least come one time. I sat in agony while he went to choose his prize. To my relief, he didn't choose the prize that I wanted, so when my name was called I hurried to the front to claim my hard earned prize...a basketball. Everyone gasped as I claimed my prize. I am not the athletic type so no one ever dreamed that I would choose a basketball, but that was the prize that I had set my heart on when I saw my father purchasing it.

Now 30+ years later, that basketball is with me here in Africa, being used as part of my ministry to women and children. Who would have dreamed that a prize earned in that long ago Vacation Bible School would be enjoyed by African children (and sometimes even their mothers)!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Motorcycles- yippee!

I bought two motorcycles in May. No, I have no intention of riding either one of them!

In our literacy program with have two Gambian men who supervise the literacy classes, making regular visits and delivering pays and supplies to the teachers in the villages. The motorcycles they were using were getting to be almost 10 years old and breaking down ALL the time.
Since I supervise the literacy classes and handle the money, I was getting really tired of arranging to get motorcycles repaired. Praise the Lord, we had a sudden surge of gifts for motorcycle purchases so we were able to buy them and none too soon. The day before we were going to have the men go to town and pick them up, I had to send one man to a meeting. We didn't really trust the motorcycle, but someone had to attend the meeting. Sure enough, about 7 pm that evening, the man arrives at my house on foot because the motorcycle had broken down on the way home. We sent a driver with the pick-up truck to pick up the broken down bike and take the man home. He was thrilled to hear that he could go the very next day and pick up the new motorcycle. We were all cheering as the new motorcycles roared into the yard at the Literacy Center the next day.

Rainbows and Sunsets

We are in the midst of the rainy season here. The rains have been abundant this year and the farmers are hopeful that the crops will be good. The rainy season is a time of high humidity, but at least here in Ndungu Kebbeh it cools off with each rain storm. (It rains almost every day during August.) With the additional moisture in the air, this time of year also gives us gorgeous sunsets and even the occasional rainbow. I thought I'd show you some beautiful moments I managed to capture.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

No, I'm not lost

Just wanted to reassure you all that I'm not lost, sick, kidnapped or dead. It's worse than that...well, not really. Our internet/phone connections are AWFUL right now. Just trying to get to this page to post this brief blog, I was disconnected at least a dozen times. Sooo...don't give up on me, I'll be back to blogging as soon as I can. Keep checking in and I'll try to keep you informed.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Experiment

Quite a while ago I commented that I needed some new Gambian outfits, but I didn't want to go to the luma to buy material. I decided to conduct an experiment to see if I could ask a Gambian friend to go and choose material for me. The material was not expensive (about 50 cents a yard), so if she bought something that I absolutely hated, I would just give it away.

I decided to ask my housekeeper Jatou to buy my material. She washes my clothes by hand, folds them and irons them, so I figure if anyone knows my taste in clothes, she does. I gave her money enough for material for 3 outfits and the only thing I told her was, "Nothing red!". In Wolof, red can mean red, orange, pink or even a bright yellow, so I figured I was safe. So she went to market and I stayed home. That afternoon she brought me her purchases for inspection. I thought she did a great job! I was a little uncertain of the one with the green splotches, but it turned out okay.

Next, I called my tailor. Yes, he makes housecalls. He has been making my Gambian clothes since 1993 so he know what I like. Most of the time I don't even tell him what style I what. I might direct him toward the kind of trim, but mostly I give him the material and say, "Make me something nice, but not too fancy."

So here is the final product. The tailor happened to bring the outfit on an afternoon when Jatou was working, so I handed her the camera made her take the picture. Not bad for someone who has probably never even held a camera before!

One of the pieces of material I decided to have made into a tubaab dress (Western style) and so I chose a different tailor. I am still waiting for that to be finished. The tailor's teenage son was killed in the bush last Sunday when a tree fell on him, so the tailor hasn't been working this week.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Wolof Consultation 2

Just a few more comments about the Wolof Consultation. God truly worked out all of the details involved with attending. When I received the invitation, my first thought was, "I would really love to go, but I can't go if I'm the only missionary from the Gambia going." When none of my teammates could go, I thought that I would have to stay home too. With the chronic fatigue, I knew that I couldn't use public transport or drive myself, attend the meetings and than turn around and come home. I might have been able to do it, but I can't count on having the strength to do all of that. As I was mourning the fact that I couldn't go, I had an idea which was clearly from the Lord. What was the main hindrance to me going? Someone to drive the car. So why not hire a driver? After tossing the idea around with my teammates, we decided that we would try to do that.

I knew BC wanted to go, so that would put someone else in the car besides me and the driver, but I wanted some women along too. I knew there were two Wolof believers active in ministry in the Banjul area so I got in touch with them. They also wanted to attend, but one of them had been sick and wasn't sure her doctor would allow her to make the trip. Within days though, both had confirmed that they were coming with me. (Ndey, who is not well, was only able to attend because I was taking a car. Adama also told me that if I hadn't been going, she wasn't planning on it.) So I made our room reservations for the conference and made the arrangements with the driver.

Bright and early Tuesday morning, BC, TF and I head to the ferry terminal to pick up Ndey and Adama. We buy breakfast and turn north toward Senegal. The trip was going smoothly when all of sudden a policeman jumps out in front of the car. He says TF was speeding ( he probably was). Of course everyone in my car jumps out to beg for mercy, but there would be no mercy from this man. Even when I got out and greeted, he ignored me. The system in Senegal is that you pay your ticket on the spot. If you don't have the money, you have to leave your license until you pay the fine. The drivers of two other cars that were stopped after us, paid their fines and left. The police officer told us that we couldn't pay him because his receipt book was finished. He held TF's license and told us we had to pay the fine in Mbour, a large town farther up the road. I tried to ask the man how far it was to Mbour, but he wouldn't even look at me. He just shooed us away. So, what else could we do? We went to Mbour which turned out to be about 20 km (12-13 miles) up the road.

As we pulled into town, we stopped to ask a man for directions to the police station. He was friendly, but the directions were complicated. We did the Senegambian thing and asked if he could get in the car and go with us to the police station. He graciously agreed. On the way to the station, we told him the whole story. At the station, he went in with "the gang" to try to help them. (I stayed in the car since although many Senegalese don't like Gambians, if they see a tubaab - white person, they will immediately ask for more money or demand a bribe.) The police had obviously received a phone call from the officer who stopped us, because they too ignored us and said that their receipts were finished. We would have to go back and pay in the place where we were stopped. So back we go, I'm having visions of having to go back and forth between these two villages all afternoon, but God had already put us together with the man to help us. The man that we asked directions from went with us all the way back to where we were stopped. When we found the village, the police car was gone. He got out and asked around until he discovered where the police were having lunch. He and TF found the policemen at lunch and they were shocked to see him with TF. The man that helped us owns a trucking company, so he and his drivers drive that route all the time. The policeman that stopped us was a friend of his. So we were able to pay the fine, get TF's license back and continue on our way. Some might say that it was coincidence that led us to ask that man for directions, but I know that God led us to the person who could help us.

We arrive in Dakar around rush hour. (TF isn't used to traffic, so it took nerves of steel to let him drive. I now sympathize with parents letting their children drive in traffic the first time.) Finally we arrive at the conference center, a beautiful spot at the foot of a lighthouse with a cool ocean breezes.

That's when the next snafu hit. I had called and made reservations, but my name wasn't on the list. The watchman handling room placement had to call the boss and have him come back to handle the situation. I had reserved dormitory spaces for 3 women and 2 men, but they evidently hadn't written it down. When the boss came, he came and greeted me saying, "You're the one I talked to from The Gambia." So, he remembered talking to me, but hadn't reserved the rooms. He was able to fit the men into the men's dorm rooms, but he didn't have a women's dorm room for us. We ended up in a large apartment for 2 nights and in a dorm room for the last 2 nights. That was okay with us! We got an apartment for dormitory rates! (We paid approx. $4 person/night.)

These were my roommates. From left to right, Adama, Ndey and Blondin. Blondin is a Senegalese believer who ended up in with us when the reservation for her and her husband was messed up.
This was our dorm room. Think camping. The restroom was outside and down the building. The facilities were good though- flush toilets, showers. There was even a kitchen across the driveway that was left open until about midnight. As you can see, this is camping in the tropics, complete with mosquito nets. (We didn't use them.)
Saturday morning we head for home with TF driving much more slowly. We left BC in Dakar to participate in a music workshop, but we carry along a man who will go most of the way through Senegal with us. It was nice to have a Senegalese in the car in case of difficulties. If nothing else, he could help us with the money! (Using Wolof with Senegalese CFA is really a pain, so most people use French when dealing with money. I'm not comfortable with French numbers though so I have to do it the hard way. ) For example, the 5000 CFA bill (worth about 250 dalasi or $12), if you use French, you just say 5000 in French. In Wolof, however, you don't say 5000, you say 1000. You have to divide the number by 5 and that's what you say in Wolof. So in the restaurant, the meal was 800 CFA but I don't understand when they said that in French, so they have to tell me how much it is in Wolof 160. For me to know what money to give them, I have to multiply it by 5 and give them money totalling CFA 800. Fun, huh. Of course, we're all busy figuring how much it is costing in dalasi to make sure it's not too expensive. It's enough to tie your brain in knots. Next time, I really need to brush up on my French numbers before I go.

We traveled all the way home in a haze of harmattan dust. Praise the Lord for an air-conditioned car. The trip went smoothly and we arrived at the ferry terminal just in time for the ladies to get on a ferry and TF and I headed for Ndungu Kebbeh. Since only TF and I were in the car, I told him to watch for someone to pick up because I didn't want to arrive alone in the car with him and have people think that the two of us went to Dakar together. Within 2-3 minutes, we see a high school girl that I know, standing by the road. We were past all the people and I was getting nervous that we had missed our chance to find someone, but the Lord even provided someone to protect my reputation. By 3:30 pm we were home and although I was tired, I wasn't completely exhausted. Praise the Lord for answered prayer. (Of course, I arrived home to find that the harmattan dust was now completely covering the inside of my house!)

Wolof Consultation

Wow, it has been so long since I've blogged, I don't know where to start. In the past few
weeks I have been to Dakar and to Banjul, helped a high schooler get back into school after being suspended for the rest of the year, picked up my co-worker Deb from the airport and of course done my regular work on days when I was actually home. I guess I'll start with the Wolof Consultation.

It has been a few years since I had the opportunity to attend the Wolof Consultation in Dakar, Senegal. This annual conference is usually held in the spring and attended by missionaries working with the Wolof people as well as Senegalese and Gambian believers who are also seeking to reach the Wolof people for Christ. Getting to join together with Africans and fellow missionaries to worship and learn more about reaching the Wolof people is such an exciting opportunity. In this ministry, we need the reminders that we are not alone. As people develop tools in Wolof, they bring them to the consultation to share. We hear testimonies of Wolof Christians and what God is doing in their lives and in their families. Often there are a few Christians from the U.S. who are part of the Wolof Connection, churches who have made the Wolof people a main focus of prayer. Concentrated prayer is the most important tool in reaching the Wolof people.

The consultation is now entirely organized by Africans. These two men have been instrumental in moving the Senegalese church forward. On the left is Malick Fall, a Wolof who has been a faithful believer for over 20 years. He is the teacher on the radio broadcast Yoonu Njub (The Way of Righteousness). He recently saw his two older sons baptized, so we are beginning to see a second generation of Christians in Senegal. The man on the right works with the Senegalese mission called Inter-Senegal which is actively working to plan churches in Senegal using Senegalese believers.

Paul Bramsen is a Plymouth Brethren missionary who has worked in Senegal for many years. He established Yoonu Njub and discipled Malick Fall who has now taken over that ministry. Paul is based in the U.S. now, but makes regular trips back to Senegal. Other than a couple of musicians, Paul was the only non-African to lead any sessions. Now that's exciting to see.

For those of you who may be wondering, the conference was conducted entirely in French and Wolof. If the main speaker was more comfortable in Wolof, it was interpreted into French and vice versa. Sometimes I had to wave my hands and remind them that some of us don't speak French because at least one of the speakers kept forgetting to stop for his interpreter (or interrupter as my father would say).

The picture above shows one of the most exciting, moving times of the conference as the man in red gave his testimony of how he came to Christ as an adult with older children, was kicked out of the family compound, but now has 2 sons who are also believers. One of his sons is standing on the left, interpreting for his father. After his father finished his testimony, the son, in tears said, " I never had anyone that I considered a role model before, but now, my father is my role model." This man's wife is not yet a believer, but he thinks that she is starting to show some interest.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Face book

Sorry, everyone, I haven't posted in a long time. I have been exploring something new in the internet world-- Facebook. When I first signed up, I regretted it and thought that I would never use it because it is kind of, well, weird. I decided though that I needed to stick with it and see what it was really like before I gave up. Sooo... that is what I have been doing these last few weeks instead of blogging.

Now that I have some friends on Facebook and even found some relatives that I never hear from, I have decided that Facebook is worth my time. In these few weeks, I have been in contact with people that I haven't heard from in years. That alone makes it worth the time I spent getting it set up and finding friends. Now that I have it going, I am hoping that I will be able to use it, but not get consumed by it. If any of you also Facebook, get in touch. You can find me on The Gambia network (yes, believe it or not, The Gambia has a network).

One of my nephews now wants me to get signed up with gmail so I can chat with him. One thing leads to another... So I now have that account too. Look for ajisuun.

These things are great for someone like me who is far away from family and friends, but I can also see the danger of getting swallowed up in the virtual world and forgetting how to interact in the real one. Fortunately, I have the steady stream of people at my door to prevent that from happening.

I have some other things I want to blog about-- Easter, the clothes experiment and other miscellaneous topics, but I need to work on the photos first. I will be traveling to Dakar, Senegal on Tuesday and not returning until Saturday, so don't expect any new posts during that time.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Office Opportunities

Joanne’s Jottings

News from The Gambia, West Africa

March 2008

I never would have thought that a small, cluttered office would end up being a hub of personal ministry. From my office at the Literacy Center, where I work from Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM. until 2 PM, I direct the programs of the literacy center, handle the finances and talk to people who come to my door. The office, with my employees coming and going, provides a place where I can have serious conversations, even with men, and not risk gossip. With no missionary men in NK, this is vital.

In the past week, these are some of the conversations that I’ve had in my office:

  • A woman has been struggling with depression for several months since the death of her daughter. She comes to my office to get out of her house and have a safe place to cry. If I don’t see her at least once a week, I start getting concerned.
  • A young woman continues to struggle with her husband’s neglect of her and their children. He is actively seeking a second wife and is known to be involved with other women. I listen and encourage her to pray for him and not stoop to his level.
  • A man comes to receive his pay and starts talking about how the world is full of problems. We discuss how Adam and Eve’s sin brought trouble into the world and that we are still seeing the effects of their sin as well as our own.
  • Another man, a believer, comes with some questions about Scripture he is reading. I answer his questions and take the opportunity to challenge him regarding accountability with another male believer.
  • A woman who was widowed and remarried recently (to her late husband’s brother) comes to inform me that her husband is angry at her and the children so he is not providing food for them. He is trying to put the family compound in his name, but his brother’s sons should inherit the compound. He is threatening to knock down the cement houses that he built on the land. Today she returned to let me know that the husband has relented and is providing food again for her and the children. Peace returns, at least for now.
  • A man tells me that he wants me to send him to America. Of course, I tell him that I can’t do that. He responds that he will become a Christian and starts telling me that God just wants a clean heart. Hearing my opening, I jump and explain that our righteousness is like filthy rags and that the only way to have a clean heart is by trusting in Jesus Christ. He let me explain the gospel to him. Whatever his motivation, God’s Word is powerful.
  • A man has been reading a book on evangelism (he found it somewhere) and wanted me to explain the words wrath and redeemed. I explained them fully, probably more fully than he wanted as he also had ulterior motives.

God has a plan for The Gambia. Please pray with us for God’s plan to be fulfilled in God’s time. In the hard times and the easy times, our only responsibility is to be obedient. God alone is responsible for the results.

Serving by grace,


Friday, March 7, 2008


This post is specifically for Amanda, but the rest of you can read it too. (I'm getting used to that kind of thing since I got on Facebook.)

The SPTs have been pondering your situation with Brad's coming deployment and we feel that we have arrived at the perfect solution. We are hereby extending you an invitation to join the Sisters of Perpetual Togetherness here in Ndungu Kebbeh for the duration of Brad's deployment.

Now doesn't that sound more fun than staying home alone? Hey, you would at least be on the same continent as your husband (still 3000 miles apart, but hey...). You would have the support and entertainment provided by the sisters, the sisters would have your two too cute children to play with and you could work on writing the by-laws for the sisterhood. We have had requests for other chapters, but we've been too busy to write the by-laws.

We know some of the basics:
1. SPTs support each other through thick and thin, when one feels weak, the rest step in.
2. SPTs like to have a good time. Even meetings turn into fun.
3. SPTs function as a unit, aware of and accepting each others strengths and weaknesses.
4. SPTs pray together regularly.

That's all we have so far, although we have discussed the dues that all other members/chapters will be required to send to the founding chapter members. We haven't set an amount yet, but all fees may be paid in M&M's or their equivalent. :-)

So, what do you think? Sounds good, huh?

No matter what, find some SPTs to help you through Brad's deployment. The SPTs here in NK will be supporting you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I Have Decided Not to Run

Today my employees were talking about American politics. Of course, with the hotly contested Democrat race all over the news, they were discussing Hillary and Barack Obama. I happened to poke my head into the room, so they asked me who I would vote for if I was there. I answered that I didn't want either Hillary or Obama because I was a Republican. Then I commented that I didn't like the person that the Republicans had selected either, but he was better than Hillary or Obama. They wanted to know who I had wanted to win the Republican nomination, but I didn't figure they had probably heard of Fred Thompson, so I just said that I wasn't very happy with any of the people that ran.

They told me that I should run for president myself. So I am stating at this time that I have decided not to run. They did, however, say that since I have been in Africa so long, I might be too Fana-fana to run for president. Fana-fana is a Wolof redneck. A person from the rural areas that is not quite up on what life is like in the big city. They commented that my Wolof clothes, complete with head tie, might be seen as fana-fana. They were also sure that people in America would think that I was ill most of the time because even on days that are considered warm in America, I would have a cloth wrapped around me as I shivered (below 75-80 degrees is sweater weather in my book). They thought that my campaign should serve bennachin (Wolof rice), but people would find it unusual and probably unexceptable when I ate it with my right hand. I told that I didn't think I should run because when I go to America I find that when I am speaking English, I get stuck for the English word and use Wolof instead. Some things are just easier to say in Wolof!

So, although my employees suggested that I run for president of the United States, we all agreed in the end that I am just too Fana-fana. And that's just the way I want to be.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


For those of you who like to know, today's weather is hot and hazy with hot, dry breezes. The temperature in the shade at 5 pm was 104 degrees.

I often think that if I were to fall into a coma and awaken suddenly on a Saturday morning here in Ndungu Kebbeh I would know immediately that it was Saturday. Saturday is market day in NK so the road outside my living room window gets busy early. The horse and donkey carts trot by with their bells jingling while passengers call out greetings to those on other carts and in the doorways of compounds they pass. Carts are piled high with goods to be sold and people dressed in beautiful outfits. The day is a social event as much as it is about buying and selling. Mopeds, motorcycles and bicycles also join the parade. Ladies from nearby villages save themselves the fare and walk, often with a tub or bucket of goods on their heads. A Peace Corp volunteer living in a nearby village pedals by, but slows at the gate of our compound. The market is another kilometer, but he will park his bike here where our guards will keep an eye on it and continue on foot.

Of course, the sounds of Saturday are also different because the children in the government schools are off. On school days, the road is filled will children on their way to school. Saturdays are school days for the children enrolled in the Arabic school right next door to our compound. We can hear them reciting throughout the morning.

Children of all ages will head for the market if they can. Small children this far outside of town might not go, but it depends on how strict their parents are and if they have older siblings who are going. Small children wander quite freely here. It is not uncommon to see a 3-4 year-old wandering down the road alone. If someone gives him a dalasi (the basic unit of Gambian money- 1 equals about 5 cents), the child will go to the corner store by himself and buy some candy. Sometimes a mother will even send a small child on errands to nearby neighbors or shops.

The kids in this picture are just playing in the road as the carts go by. They probably haven't convinced their mother to let them go to the luma yet. Many kids, girls especially, hustle to the market early to see if someone will hire them to sell for the day. If they're hired, they will take a large metal plate, put some merchandise on it and wander around the market calling for people to buy. Often they are selling snacks- oranges, mangos, roasted cashew nuts or peanuts, bags of cold water, frozen juice in a bag, fried dough balls. I would show you pictures of the luma itself, but that would mean I have to go there. Sorry. Luma to me is like the mall at Christmas (only hot, dirty, crowded and smelly). Some people love the mall at Christmas; others hate it. Some missionaries love the luma (market); others hate it. I guess you can tell where I land. About once a year I end up having to go to luma. I'm thinking I should go soon, but I don't want to. I need to buy some material to have another outfit made, but I'm trying to decide who I can talk into going and buying the material for me. I know one of my Gambian friends would do it, but I need to ask someone who will buy something good. I'll let you know how that works out.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Ferry

Last Friday the SPTs (Sisters of Perpetual Togetherness) had to make a trip into "civilization" for meetings. Trips to the big city, the Greater Banjul area, have their benefits- restaurants, air-conditioning, satellite TV, grocery stores and other stores, but they also have one major drawback--the ferry crossing. While the city isn't far away, it sometimes requires a major time commitment to get there because of the wait at the ferry. A typical Banjul travel day begins early since we try to be on the road by 6AM. We drive about 17 miles to the weigh station where there may or may not be someone there to sell us our vehicle ticket. After getting our ticket, we go another couple of miles to the ferry terminal and pray that the line isn't too long yet. Last Friday, we found that the line was already formed outside the gate and around the corner, not a good sign at 7 AM. I didn't take pictures here, because we arrived at the terminal while it was still dark. Our wait that day wasn't bad. We didn't get on the first ferry, which left at 7am, but we were on the second which left around 8 am. Here's one of our lovely ferries passing the ferry that we were on.
We were parked right on the front of the ferry so I was able to take this picture across the river so you can see where we were going. Because of tides and currents, the ferry actually heads out to sea slightly instead of making a straight run across. This is the mouth of The Gambia River so the ocean currents do affect it. The crossing takes anywhere from 25 minutes to over an hour depending on the condition of the engines. It isn't unusual to go across backwards because one set of engines is better than the other.

We were on the biggest ferry. See how we are packed in. In an emergency, you would have to go out the car window.

I won't bore you with an account of all our shopping and meetings during the 5 days that we were in town. Suellen may have some accounts of the sisters' activities on her blog. Suffice it say, we went out to eat several times, enjoyed air-conditioning, TV and hot showers, purchased our supplies for the next 2 months and then had to tackle the ferry again from the other direction.

On the Banjul side, we have more things to look at we wait and we usually wait longer because we don't get up before dawn to go to the ferry. We pack the car, take care of any last minute purchases and go to get in line.

As we wait, sellers come by offering all kinds of things. Look carefully and you'll see that you really can buy almost anything while sitting in line at the ferry.
If you're really hungry and adventurous, you can even buy a meal at one of these "sidewalk cafes".

Of course the worst part of not crossing a sunrise is the long wait in the sun. On Wednesday, we got in line around 11 AM and got on the ferry around 2 pm. So for 3 hours we sat and waited in the hot midday sun. We block out the sun as much as possible while still trying to allow some air flow.

While we wait, we read, chat, sleep, eat and fend off the sellers. Some of the ladies selling clothes are very persistent because they have been selling there for years and some of the missionaries purchased from them regularly. Now they think that we all have an obligation to buy something from them.
One of the trickiest things about waiting a long time at the ferry is striking that fine balance between dehydration and having to use the bathroom. Trust me, dehydration is preferable. I usually hit this balance fairly well, but sometimes err too far into dehydration and get a headache. Even on my longest ferry wait (over 14 hours), I've never had to use the facilities at the terminal or on the ferry.
Finally we get on the ferry and head for the North Bank and home. Getting off the ferry is always a challenge as cars and foot passengers are all trying to use the ramp at the same time. Ferry workers are yelling at drivers to "Go, go, go!", while mothers with small babies on their backs and bundles on their heads are walking directly in front of the car.

Finally we clear the terminal and head for home. Just thought I would show you that we do have one paved road on our side of the river. It starts near the weigh station and continues up river for quite a ways. It runs directly past our village, so we have an easy trip. This picture is also a picture of the one that got away. I had just taken one picture and was zooming in for another when a monkey ran across the road and then another. Unfortunately, monkeys are fast and a bump in road made me take a picture of the sky instead of the monkey.

Ahhh, home, sweet home! We arrived at 3:30 PM after leaving the guesthouse at 10 AM. All in all a fairly typical trip. We don't consider a 3 hour wait all that unusual. It was extremely hot that day though. Too bad I didn't have my thermometer with me. Maybe I'll take it next time.