May God’s light Illumine us all in this New Year,
Many apologies for the long period without updates. This is partly due to our being very busy, partly due to a terrible internet connection where we now live that can’t send out the old format of Jula Journals with pictures and partly just my bad. I’ll catch you up on the last half of last year in a series of e-mails over the next couple of weeks.
-At 5:30 PM, during that golden hour before sunset, I am still frantically packing (amid a seemingly never-ending stream of visitors) for my trip to the village.
-At 6.15PM I finally roll out of Sindou on the mtorcycle. The sun sets at 6:40 when I discover that (thanks to a little accident a friend had on the motorcycle) the headlight is pointing straight up into the trees. This doesn’t illumine much of the road, but it does attract lots of bugs which in turn attract several bats who are daring each other to see who can grab the most bugs and careen away just before smashing into the visor of my helmet.
-At 7PM I arrive in Kangoura. The plan is to chat with the guys who work on the farm (especially Chek–our tentative Muslim Background Believer). We cook up some spaghetti and omelets. We eat and later sip tea while watching the stars come out over Africa. At first the moon is so bright, you can only see Venus. But soon you can see Orion. I learn that they see the 3 stars in his belt as a hunt across the sky–a monkey running from a hunter and his dog. Pleiades is a mother hen and her chicks. They try to point out to me the four stars that Imams use to mark the foundations for Mosques.
-At 10 PM Chek, Baboukari and Jakaridja head inside to go to bed. I pull my cot outside, wrap up in a Maasai blanket and listen to Acts chapter 1 a few times in French and Jula before putting “A Shortcut to Mushrooms” (a chapter from the Fellowship of the RIng) on the I-pod while I fall asleep gazing at the stars. Each time I wake up (often, thanks to the tea) the moon is dimmer and the stars are brighter. A sleepless night of worship.
-At 4:30 AM The roosters and turkeys lift up their rusty voices to call up the dawn and flies start buzzing around my head. The 30 minutes before sunrise are a stunning symphony of color. By 7:30, we have eaten breakfast and prayed for the start of work on the farm, reading Psalm 1 together. Chek and I have also found a little time apart to read through Acts 1 again. We plan to study Acts 2 next week. I take care of a little farm business for the Gordons and then roll into Kangoura town to visit with the chief.
-At 8:30 AM I find the Chief dressed-up all dapper-like to go to SIndou. We exchange blessings for the New Year and lament the fact that the network has kept us from calling each other and planning this meeting. I tell him I’d really like to see his orchard of Mango and Cashew trees today. Since he’ll be back by 2PM, I decide to continue directly on to Jɛliso and catch the chief and the orchards on the way back.
-At 9:30 AM I am exchanging New Years’ blessing with Babuna (my Imam/Marabout friend). He says, “you rode your motorcycle in this freezing wind? (70 degrees)” I remind him I was wearing a helmet (which keeps said freezing wind out of your nose and mouth.) He invites me in his living room, and as I sit down, a wave of emotion hits me as I see that this holy man of Islam has put my Christmas card up on his wall. On a field of green construction paper, a large yellow star bearing the words of Luke 2:13-14, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” beams over the rock formations of SIndou (which look a bit like people) that Tabitha traced and cut out of red construction paper. We then talk at length about his cashew trees and his agricultural plans for the coming year. (I’m trying to do an informal survey of the needs of these communities.)
-At 11:30 AM I’m at the far edge of Babuna’s field of Cashew trees, driving slowly along a 6 inch wide track he assures me is a short cut straight back to Kangoura.
-At 12PM my back wheel falls off a little ledge into some sand and me and the motorcycle take a little tumble. Not hurt in the least as I was only going about 15 miles an hour, but glad no one was around to see it, because that person would have wet his pants from laughing so hard at how I fell.
-At 12:30 I drive through a little market/camp for gold-miners in the middle of nowhere. It’s weird. I don’t stop.
-At 12:45 my suspicions about missing a turn are confirmed when I end up in Konandougou (almost back to Sindou).
-At 1:15PM I’m back in Kangoura resting under a Cashew tree listening to “The Old Forest” (Next chapter from FOTR) on the I-pod.
-At 2PM I’m in Kangoura eating “To” ( congealed corn mush) and okra sauce with the chief. He also has his Christmas card with Luke 2:13-14 hanging proudly on his wall. WIN. Santigiba and Adama join us and we ride double on the motorcycles on sandy tracks out to see his orchard. It’s huge. The first trees were planted 2 years before I was born. And we want to help them do a tree project? God’s sense of humor is grand. We will do tree projects with their invaluable help and learn a lot in the process.
-At 4PM We are back at the chief’s house and I’m stuffing my face with corn mush and spicy okra sauce. I step back and watch myself eating away with my hand in a common bowl with my friends…throwing down corn mush and okra sauce like its lasagna!!! I laugh as I lick my fingers clean. Mamadou (the chief) asks me if I’ve put straw around my avocado trees yet (I asked him about it at our last visit). I have to say no and then he shows me his trees. I ask him if he can teach me some proverbs that use trees as illustrations. When we sit down again with Santigiba and Adama, Mamadou looks at us seriously and says, “The elders used to say, ‘He who plants a tree, digs a well, or buys a mortar (for pounding grain), will have great reward in this life and the next.” It was a bit odd, because he made it so theatrical, but it’s truth, and it’s given me a lot to think about. I pray that our physical and spiritual ministry in these communities will have the same kind of enduring blessing for the community. How to produce disciples that are wells, trees and mortars blessing multiple generations in the community?
-At 4:30PM I can hardly keep my eyes open and I start to ask for the road. Mamadou asks, “What about our chats? (Bible Storying)” When are we starting that up again? Next Tuesday, we’ll start all over again. As I ride out of town, I thank God for their interest and beg him to sharpen me up for the task.
-At 5:30PM, during that golden hour before sunset, I ride into SIndou and my front gate listening to Claude Debussy’s Claire de Lune. I wonder what I’ve done to deserve such a blessed life as my wife and kids poor out the doors to welcome me home with their own symphony of sound…