The Marabout’s youngest wife offered us cakes she had prepared on an open fire as our team sat with her husband and 30 young boys given into his care by their families. As is usual in the Senegalese culture they earned their keep by begging during the day, and in the mornings and evenings memorized the Koran. They were thanking us for the sleeping mats and mosquito nets we had been able to give them for the room they all occupied in an abandoned building.
Later we heard lots of laughter as we took pictures of the boys and then showed them. Like boys anywhere their main interest was to see what weird faces they could make and have us capture in a photograph. As we left, we glanced into the building in which they used to live. The bare cement walls and floors littered with rubble and rags made the stark room we had just helped to “furnish” look home-y. How glad we were that we could give them a little extra special love that day.
Several of the young men with whom we worked in Senegal were once street boys like these, but through the compassionate help of our partner agencies, they have been able to learn trades and acquire vital life skills. It was so encouraging for us to hear their stories of transformation!
Some of these young men now meet in a small group in one of the villages we visited. Young boys played the drums along with Pastor Joel’s guitar to lead the exuberant singing and dancing. Our team had worked with medical personnel from Barthimee Hospital for 2 days of medical clinics in their village. The people suffered from many diseases that could have been so easily prevented or cured if they had access to clean water and medication. We learned to sing songs in Wolof and we all gathered in a circle, holding hands in loving friendship.
On the first day at the clinic I recognized several ladies from a nearby village that we had visited the previous year. One older lady with cataracts was a courageous woman of peace who helped others in her village to let go of prejudice and to accept the compassionate help we were offering to them. Now there is a small group meeting there for developmental instruction, hoping for partners to help them build a meeting place and secure a grain mill that would lighten their heavy workloads. The ladies and I communicated without language how good it was to see each other again. Later, the next day, our team bounced our way to her village in 2 little horse-drawn carts. We wanted to show them that we cared about their needs, and, as workers and finances became available, we would help them.
At this time in Senegal there is an openness to cooperative initiatives that is sometimes met with suspicion in other countries of Northern Africa and seeds of peace are taking root there. The needs are great, and we are hopeful that more workers will join the effort. May we whose cups are overflowing with blessings of money, medication, education, technology and resources be willing to share these things when that involves us giving or going, praying or partnering. May we surrender our lives so that much can be accomplished through us for their sake.