We finally said goodbye to our friends in Ndjemane. It took a while to get everyone on the bus, but everything takes a while in Senegal. For example, we went to B’s compound at 1:30pm to have lunch before we left. We sat and lay on mats until 3:00 and we finally ate lunch at 3:30 (Fish, rice, and cabbage). We sat and lay on mats until 4:15. At last, we met in the middle of the compound and various people spoke about our love for each other, safe journeys, and other blessings. Finally, we climbed into the bus and waved goodbye.
Some of pastor B’s comments before we left expressed great appreciation to Christ and his church. Back in 2008, the chief of the village had said that the village was dying. However, since the Christian church has taken an interest in Ndjemane:
- They have a well that provides clean water
- They have better health (he mentioned that cholera has all but disappeared)
- They even have better harvests
- They have a church building
We drove for a while on the sandy roads before eventually driving on asphalt. We soon arrived at a city called Diourbell (sounds almost like “gerbil”). The hotel was not what we in the States would ever consider using, but for this grimy bunch it was paradise. It didn’t matter that the toilet was missing a seat. It had a TOILET. It didn’t matter that the “shower” was a hand spray that you might find in your kitchen – attached to the same water feed as the toilet. It was a shower and it was refreshing. I slept comfortably on a springy bed.
The next morning we were off to visit a different village. This was a new experience for me. There was already a history of church involvement with the village, but for many reasons it had not worked out. My group was meeting with village leaders in order to establish a sense of relationship. When we arrived, I could immediately feel a different attitude from the villagers toward our group. There was a certain coolness. The women of our group immediately started to spend time with the children and women of the compound. They seemed to like each other almost immediately. Meanwhile. the men of our group went to another area, sat on some mats, and waited. The experience that followed can only be described as a town meeting. Each participant was given time to speak. Some of the key points discussed were:
- The well has bad, salty water
- Because of the water, there are health issues
- The village is dying. The young adults have to leave the village during the dry season in order to survive – some don’t return
- Where did the church go?
What a contrast to the previous village! One village was growing and thriving, the other was struggling to survive. It seemed to me that the main difference was Christ. I do want to focus on the final bullet point. For me, it was the most challenging part of the meeting. You see, when they asked us why we had not been in contact, we could not explain every reason (some reasons involved politics on several levels). But they remembered the last time the church was visited years ago. They even had photographs of various villagers with their namesakes. Some of the Americans in the photos we knew, but some we did not. But there had essentially been little to no contact. From their perspective, the Americans came, took some photos, and soon forgot about the visit – but I assure you that the villagers had not. For them, it was a significant event. For us, it may have been little more than a photo opportunity. Never forget that your smallest actions can have a huge impact on others.
By the time we left, there had been some restoration of relationship. But the work is far from finished. I need to be sure to print and send the photographs I took to both of the villages I visited! It is a big deal. Perhaps you and your church may want to become involved and partner with this different village. You could be a part of what God is doing in Senegal.