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.