La Familia!

Hello friends,

I know I’ve been a little silent out here for a while…! I’m about to post a whole bunch of stories form my last outreach in Papua New Guinea, so you might get a few notifications if you’re following my blog…

But before I start writing I want you guys to know that I have the best family in the world and had an amazing time at home with them for the last 6 weeks!

Here’s a picture of them, but feel free to look at more on Facebook ;)

La Familia!

The Day I Met Fatou

We were out of registration paper for the lab, so we went to the local photocopy store. I stayed outside, I don’t like small stuffy buildings. I talked to people on the street. This women came up to me, she didn’t speak French, I couldn’t understand what she needed, but I shook her hand and felt something wrong. It didn’t feel right. I subtly looked down at her hand and right away I knew the problem. Knowing me, I bet my non-verbals gave it away! I must have had eyes wide open like a scared child. Most of her fingers were worn down, chopped off, looking like they were eaten away or rotten. This lady had leprosy.

I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to know if she knew! If she was being treated! If she needed medical attention before she lost any more of her fingers or toes!

Outside of the photocopy shop was a “fast food” joint. I thought I’d give that a go! Excuse me m’am.. could you help me translate? Fatou helped me talk to the lady and I found out that the elderly woman was known at the Leper’s house and had completed her treatment a while back. I was happy to let her go. She asked for money, I didn’t have any, but I offered to pray for her.

Once the elderly woman left, Fatou asked me for a gift in exchange for her translation services. I explained that I was a missionary and didn’t have any money. Then she asked for my earrings, I told her they were memories, she asked about my watch, I told her I needed it for work… She asked about my hair, I told her I had just cut it, it was already short, then she must have been joking, she asked for my teeth! I rhetorically asked who was going to pay me for the medical advice I provided, Fatou laughed and agreed to let me go.

My friends weren’t done printing yet, so I stayed with Fatou and chatted a bit. When I was about ready to go, Fatou called me back and ask if I could pray for her business like I had prayed for the elderly woman with Leprosy! I thought it was so sweet! That she would see the value of prayer and ask for me to bless her shop. So I did and also prayed for blessings over her family and all the students from the school that were having a quick bite in her shop. They all shouted, agreed and laughed.

I’ve seen Fatou every other day after that and she’d always make sure I’d have a seat in her shop to spend time with her and chat about life. I love that woman.

From One Place to the Next

I  do realized that most people would be a bit confused with all the different names of locations I’ve used in my newsletter and other posts, if that’s you; read this post and I’ll try my best to explain! And feel free to have a look at this map :)

political-map-of-Senegal

We left Gorom (YWAM Centre in Sangalkam, close to Rufisque on the map, just East of Dakar) to go on outreach in Kolda in the Casamance region (green section).

Sandra was afraid that we’d miss the bus as everything stops for prayer (muslim nation), but we were in luck and finally left and caught the bus to Dakar (capital from where we’d take the ferry to Ziginchor).

It was a slow but beautiful ride. Every now and again someone would jump on the bus and pay their fare to the lady in the cash box. The bus was packed by the time we got to the city! It was the express bus, it only took 90 minutes to get to the city. At other times, this ride can easily take 4 hours! We hopped off the bus at the taxi station and cabbed our way to the port! We found a cabbie that would take the 5 of us… Sketchy! They’d legally only be allowed to take four. Only after we were on our way did we realise that our driver wasn’t afraid to get caught by the police because it was prayer time and all the cops would be at the mosque!

We got to the port. our “cruise ship” ferry was waiting. It was massive like the MV PNG but reminding me of the shape of the link! A good mix between my two favourite ships! I slept most of the way but woke up in the early hours of the morning, I blame jet lag for getting me up despite all the medication I took (hey! One can never be too cautious to avoid seasickness! But the sail was really calm!)

When I woke up I went back on the upper deck and spent some time looking out to the horizon! It was so PNG! Unbelievable… I was so nostalgic! Then I saw a little girl, she was so PNG, I wanted to take her picture..! She came next to me, I started talking to her, her name was Mama :) We chatted for a while, I showed her pictures of PNG, she loved it, she must have scrolled through all my pictures, then she took selfies and we took photos together! I was amazed! How can a girl from the village even know what a phone is and take selfies!!!

We finally arrived in Ziginchor (large port in Casamance, on the map, the biggest city south of The Gambia) after 16 hours on the sea! We got off the boat and into the waiting bay to collect our luggage… Oh boy! The luggage collection was chaos! They placed all the suitcases into a garage then opened the door for all to roam through them and find our own bags! It was hot!!! Dripping sweat Ange!! We found everything and headed outside to catch our 7seater! Man… It was old! We piled the microscope bags in the trunk and everything else outside on the top roof!

I loved the road! Everything was so gorgeous! I commented on the quality of the road, and I got laughed at! Let’s just say I wasn’t expecting Senegal to be this developed. I kept comparing with PNG and thought it was amazing, while the guys from Gorom compared with Dakar their capital and were unimpressed.

We crossed many small villages… On the road we’d keep seeing road checks. At one point we had to get out of the car and walk through the check with our passports! It was mentioned that the military was there because “we’re in the land of the Rebels!” But eh! It felt safe… I think it’s called faith!

At one of the check points, the driver stopped the car, the soldier looked in, straight at me, I said hello and smiled. The soldier looked perplexed! Then he smiled back and said passport! I asked “Me? My passport!?” He said of course you! With a big smile! I pulled out my passport gave it to him, he looked at it, others handed identity cards, he didn’t look at them, handed everything back, asked Mustafa why he was laughing so much and some other questions in language and we were free to go!

I was then told I shouldn’t talk to the military! Oops! I’m glad I made him smile! Life would be boring all day doing road surveillance!

I must have slept the rest of the way… we finally arrived in Kolda. We’d be going in the villages 1 hr inland from Kolda on a daily basis.

Can We Come in Your village?

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!

Village Leaders