We’re finally here in that place called Mbar Toubab, and beginning to discover the fruit of our labor over the last several years. For three days, Kindra and I donned our red-cross adorned T-shirts to assist the other real medical personnel in this adventure in the bush. The last day, over 200 people lined up in their Sunday best, two hours before starting time, to be the first to receive attention. For 10 hours, they stood, sat and squatted in whatever shade they could find. Probably only one in 20 had any treatable sickness, but they all got pills, the valued prize worth their wait. An unforgettable experience living among the color and chaos of West Africa, receiving hundreds of gestures of genuine appreciation, despite not speaking anything near their mother tongues and crucifying the French language with every attempt at communication.
Each night we evaluated the day, with the rest of the team, enjoying the cooler breezes and hearing more of the background of why we are here. Dr. Soh, our medical partner, explained to us that he and three others of the team were from the Fulani tribe, a people group of 40 million stretching from here to the far reaches of Sudan. The Fulanis are a traditionally nomadic people who were the first to take the zeal of Islam from Arabia and extended it’s domination across Northern Africa. Today, they are still awaiting the translation of the Old Testament into their language.
Even Dr. Soh called this area of Senegal a true frontier, explaining that most if not all of the villagers smiling and clasping our hands, have never heard the Name who gives us our strength and motivation to come. Yet we are here and now fast friends with sheepherders and elders whose weather-beaten faces peek through shiny tunics and swirling turbans. Today was our first day in the fields.The soil was just soft enough to plant, but we knew if rains didn´t come in the next two days, all the tender tree seedlings would die with few clouds in sight and a balmy 38ºC (100ºF). Our local guys taught us to say “Planting Together” in Fulani: “nden nden gawen” (we tried to fit it into our “Planting Together-gether, planting, oh yeah!” ditty but “nden nden gawen gawen nden nden” hasn´t caught on yet.
Tomorrow we will show the whole village the videos that Diego Servant and the Senegalese TV have filmed and try to explain just a little more of why people would fly from Spain, Hong Kong and wherever to come and serve them in their fields. Some amazing things: a women and her daughter from a nearby village observed our crazy camaraderie between the nations last year. Apparently the daughter devolped paralysis in both legs and went to a Christian hospital in Thiés, 250 kilometers to the south. The attending physician, a doctor from Australia,could do nothing more than pray, which they did, and the paralysis disappeared, miraculously. Many other stories are coming to the surface, encouraging us that we are planting more than just trees in this end-of-a-desert-track place called Mbar Toubab. By the way, it rained tonight! (submitted by Curtis Clewett, 17/8/2014)