Dakar is just a stopping place on the way to the interior of Senegal. This is a city of enormous contrasts – beautiful beaches, good roads, and luxury homes. But mixed in with the cars, trucks and busses on the busy streets are scenes characteristic of much of Africa. Next to tall apartment buildings, a man is loading propane bottles on a horse-drawn cart. A woman walks by carrying her groceries by the time-honored method that belies the need of a grocery cart. Goats scavenge through the garbage next to upscale homes.
The missionary guesthouse appears completely out of place as we pass by a tire repair shop to enter the well-maintained quarters that will be our home for the night.
On Sunday, volunteers are again insulated from the world outside. The International Baptist Church is not your typical African church. Here Pastor Kwashie Amenudzie preaches in English instead of in Senegal’s official language of French.
This church has two well-attended services each Sunday morning; both are conducted in English. But most important, this church is reaching out to the people of Senegal with the love of Jesus. On this Sunday, they will commission a team of volunteers who will be making the 14-hour road trip to (KAY-de-goo) Kedougou. They plan to spend a week working among the Bassari and other people groups of the area. Many from this church have been there before. They want to share the Good News in this far off place.
Early in the morning the road trip begins and will traverse most of the central part of Senegal. The road is paved but maintenance is poor in places and the large and numerous potholes make driving difficult at times. The dry season that extends from November to June has left the landscape harsh and uninviting, but we need to look around and through the trees to find cattle – a horse drawn cart – yes, signs of life in this multi-tiered society.
These kids perhaps represent the bottom level of this society. Basically, they are the property of the politically and economically powerful (MARE-a-boo) Marabout. These children, with their coffee can in hand, beg for money. At the end of the day, their owners give them a small morsel of food in exchange for what they have collected.
The town of Kaffrerine is only about four hours out of Dakar. By now, we have grown accustomed to the horse-carts mixed with auto and truck traffic. It seems that except for the highway thru town the streets are unpaved and dusty. Houses, apartments, and office buildings are of masonry construction. It is only the middle of March but it is hot and dry and a cool shade provides a place for rest in the middle of the day.
The last portion of our journey goes thru a large game preserve. Baboons, monkeys, wart hogs and other large animals can be observed from the roadside. This is an important tourist attraction for many Europeans.
Finally, seeing the Gambia River, we know that it is less than an hour to our destination of (KAY-de-goo) Kedougou. Women do the laundry as they always have. The fish caught in the river provide an important food source. Mosques appear in almost every town, with their stately towers supporting loudspeakers to call the faithful to prayer. Occasionally we see a schoolhouse with well-disciplined students who appear eager to learn in spite of their primitive accommodations. Teachers from the Catholic Church staff most of these elementary schools.
(KAY-de-goo) Kedougou, a town of 10,000, has all of the accommodations that are needed --- but the style is a bit different than we are accustomed to. The bus station is always busy and is located next to one of the three gas stations in town. Ample supplies of firewood for cooking are available from the nearby forest and along the river’s edge. The laundermat is easy to find at the south edge of town. It is usually crowded but there is no charge for using the facilities. The women beat the clothes clean without the use of soap.
Retail outlets are small but well stocked with locally prepared merchandise as well as imported goods. The market appears confusing and disorganized at first but an efficient network interconnects the system. We found that if a given vendor did not have a requested item he would send a runner to another place to get it for us. Bicycles are everywhere and are clearly the dominant form of transportation.
Some manufacturing is interspersed among the vendors. Both furniture and clothing production were prominent. These production facilities were small but you could count on quality custom made products.
This simple looking machine is used to clean the dirt from peanuts. Hundreds of the cleaners thoughout the country help provide a major economic input to Senegal. The harvest is complete now and the cleaned nuts have been trucked to a collecting point near Dakar. A waiting processing and shipment to other countries are these huge mountains of peanuts.
The recycling process for trash pick up and disposal is very efficient. Some of the crew seem to be taking a break under this large truck. Sheep, goats, cattle and burro’s roam the town spending much of their time seeking small bits of forage in the streets, yards and trash piles. By the middle of March, the green forage has dried into an unpalatable stand of straw.
Most of the places in which one can room for the night are like this hotel consisting of four round grass-roofed huts. Each hut will accommodate three people. A shower is available in the room however; the shared toilet is outside at the edge of the compound. One feels reasonably secure and the staff is very polite. The restaurant provides basic meals but you should order well ahead of time. Telephones and copy machines are available nearby in one of these telecenters.
Typical of West Africa, the Mosque dominates the skyline and is located on the eastern edge of town just a block away from the market place. The Assembly of God Church is located on the southern edge of the market place. The Catholic Church is in the central part of town.
The newest church, less than six months old, is on the southern edge of town. This Baptist church has a concrete floor and will accommodate over 75 people. We plan to worship with the congregation here Sunday morning.
Many different people groups live here including the (Ma-LIN-kay) Malinke, (Pool) Peul, (Ja-HAN-kay) Diahanke, (Ba-SAR-ee) Bassari, and (Ja-LOON-kay) Dialounke. Most of these people have their own individual languages; fortunately, many can also communicate in French.
Taxi service is available but most people walk to where they are going. These young people are going to a soccer game. Some of the evangelistic team used this event as an opportunity to meet and witness to the people. A tall white person attracts much attention and a large group quickly gathers around. Others share the Good News of Jesus by using visual aids to tell the story. People here are eager to accept a copy of the New Testament printed in French. Hopefully, these children and adults will read the book and share with others.
The kids are out of school in the hot afternoon and it is a good time to meet at the basketball court. Basketball is a very important sport for the area and the kids eagerly work with the North American visitors.
On Sunday morning it is a joy to worship in this new church. Pastor Marcel is an ethnic Bassari and is committed to working among his people living in (KAY-de-goo) Kedougou as well as the surrounding villages. The bilingual preaching and worship service is conducted in Bassari and French. The congregation is small but here God is worshipped and loved.
The small congregation completes the worship service by witnessing the baptism of three new believers. This concluding service is held at the Gambia River located within walking distance of the church. The baptisms also serve as a witness to those who come regularly to the river to bathe and do their laundry.
CALL TO ACTION:
There are only about 15,000 Bassari but they are more open to Christianly than the other people groups in the area. They need your prayers. The Bassari need YOU to walk among them.
There are only about 200 Bassari Christians. At present, only one known missionary couple is living among the Bassari. It will be several years until the Bible will be translated to their heart language. In the meantime they NEED someone to TELL, to SHOW, and to TEACH them about Jesus. Are YOU willing to be God’s messenger to these people? Are YOU willing to GO for a week, a month, a year, or more? When God calls, will your answer be “YES, I will go to (KAY-de-goo) Kedougou”?
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