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.