We arrived in Kolda on Saturday evening. We had been travelling for a day and a half, we were exhausted. We had a quick chat with our contact over dinner and decided that a small group of us would go to the village the next day to discuss our plans with the village elders.
I was very familiar with the process as we do this in Papua New Guinea all the time. We would meet with the village elders and chief to explain our mission and ask for permission to help in their village. In PNG it’s usually quite straight forward… most people have heard of YWAM, when the elders see us they invite us in, if we bring any medical services they’re twice as keen! In our introduction we usually mention our ship and our motto “Mi Laik Stap Laif” (I want to live) from John 10:10 and people love that about us!
In Senegal it was a fair bit different… We waited on a group of ~12 people prior to starting our protocol. “Ataya” or sweet Senegalese tea was poured out and the discussion started. It had to be translated in four different languages for everyone to understand!!! My YWAM family is so diverse, I love that we had people from 7 nations working together! Our contact spoke Wolof, the villagers spoke Jola or Guinea Creole, Sandra, the school leader spoke Portuguese, and I French! There was a lot of back and forth! I must say when two normal people meet on the street there’s no such thing as a quick “How’s it goin’!?” It’s more like: “Oh hi! How are you? Good? Good! I’m good, yes good! Oh it’s so good that you’re good! Oh good, we’re good! Well have a good day! Yes good day! Thank you :) Yes a good day!” So you can easily imagine how this “quick exchange” becomes much longer when it becomes official and protocol for welcoming guests is introduced in it…! Haha!
The first difference I noticed about this introduction in the village was that we didn’t mention Jesus. We mentioned “Allah” or God, peace, joy, life, and health, as this is a highly muslim nation.
Our contact, a Senegalese man, introduced us as Sandra from Brazil, Angelica a Canadian from Australia and Robert from Mauritania. He went on to say that the reason that we were all there in his village was because we believed that Allah wanted to help fight Malaria in his village.
The chief of the village, a very devout Muslim man, expressed his gratitude for our coming and our concern for his people. He acknowledged the fact that God had brought us from far away lands like Australia! He then went on to say that since God was behind our project, bringing strangers in, he had no choice but to help; he would gather as many people as possible and help fight Malaria! At that moment I realized that my willingness to travel could I would have opened a door in this man’s heart. Prior to that day I had never thought that my presence alone, or the distance I had travelled could mean so much! In PNG people shout or clap when you come from afar but they never bring it up as something significant.
This man sure kept his word! Were we ever busy! We had enough work to stay in the village all week! We saw everyone from the village, then the school, and then I’m convinced from neighbouring villages too! Good on him for wanting to ensure people get access to life saving education, diagnosis and medication!