The day we landed here in Dakar, Senegal was hot and humid. I will never forget the sights, sounds, and smells of my first trip to the open-air market. The friends who picked John and me up from the airport needed to go into the city, to do some shopping.
The combination of smells on the air was the worst of it for me. Iím sure most of the aroma in the air would have been fine, in and of itself, but it was overridden by the odor of dried fish, and animal manure from the goats and pigs that roamed freely through the streets.
I couldnít delight in the sight of women and men taking cover in the shade as they spun yarn and wove bright colored cloth into blankets and clothing, and the array of vegetables and fruit they were selling barely caught my glance. I was too busy trying not to take too deep a breath. I couldnít eat very much for three days after that experience. It was appalling, not only to have to hold my nose, but watch where I was stepping.
Iím in my sixties, what did I think I was doing here, in this place? Did God really call me to come to Africa as a missionary? I was so excited the day the mission board told my husband and me that we were unanimously approved. John would be helping the established missionaries with repairs on their cars, their homes, and with other work. I would be teaching the University students English, and helping conduct Bible lessons at the Academy.
After leaving the open-air market, we went to a coupleís home for breakfast. She was Dutch and he was German, so we felt right at home. It was nice to have that camaraderie in a strange land, with strange people and strange customs. I can almost imagine how the slaves mustíve felt when they were forced to live in our country Ė having to adapt to the land, people, and customs. I chose to leave my country and my home for one year to come to this land of Africa. They were forced to leave theirs. I wondered what it was like for them to leave all that was familiar, and be treated as less than human by those who shipped them to the United States and England, and many times by their masters as well.
I am in a minority here, but I have freedom of choice and I can easily adapt to my surroundings, having chosen to come here, but they Ė they were stripped of everything they once knew.
While I can adapt, one thing I cannot get used to is the pounding of the drums on many different occasions. The celebration of Tobascin is one such ocassion Ė a celebration the Muslimís have once a year. Everyone gets new clothes and goes to be with their own families. Muslim men have two or three wives and they buy a sheep for each wife.
We stood in a grove of trees across from one of the missionaryís houseís watching this ceremony take place. About 2,000 men and boys were gathered together to pray. The youngest was no more than about two years old, and the oldest, very old. Women arenít allowed on the praying grounds, because they might contaminate Holy Ground. Two or three prayers are said while they stand, sit, and stoop over. After the prayers they bury a sheepís head in the sand and kill it and as many as possible then put blood on their foreheads.
My heart broke and I began to weep as I watched this celebration, knowing that many of these people would go to hell if they did not hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Right then, I prayed that God would use me in this land He had called me to.
What a thrill it was for me when we had our first session with the children at the Academy. Forty-one children from the four lower grades were in attendance. I am teaching them the Wordless Book. The children were attentive and just a great group of kids. The Lord gave the victory in helping me and the translator present the story. When we asked if any children would like to accept Jesus, many children raised their hands. How I pray that they will be able to go home to their families and that many more will come to Christ through their witness.
Authorís note: This story is based on my grandmaís journal and on research done online.
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