Monday, May 25, 2009

Hello from Africa

I just wanted to take a minute to say hello to everyone and give you an update on our travels in Africa. Greg and I arrived this morning in Nairobi, Kenya after flying overnight from Dakar, Senegal. We said goodbye to Daniel and Mary after spending one full week with them in Senegal. During that time we were able to get a good tour of Dakar and the surrounding areas in addition to spending 2 days in the town of Tivouane where Daniel lives and the village where he works (as a Peace Corps volunteer). Aside from shaky and at times sickly stomachs (to be expected), our time in Senegal went very well. Daniel has done a tremendous job learning Wolof and French and moves pretty easily between both languages. It was really neat to see him interact with the friends that he's made in the Peace Corps and among the people of Senegal. Daniel made it easy to enjoy our time and make the most of it in circumstances that would have been incredibly challenging without him.

This was the first time that I've been in a country that identifies itself overwhelmingly as a Muslim nation. Instead of churches everywhere you see mosques everywhere and almost every public taxi or bus has a picture of the driver's "meribou", or religious leader, posted prominently. This was a good experience for me. We had some good conversations with some of the muslims that we got to know and felt warmly received.

Our time in the village was one of the highlights of the trip. Daniel has been working with the women in the village to help them develop a fairly traded export market for the beautiful baskets that they make. He's done a great job and it was really wonderful to visit with them and watch them work together at this beautiful craft. I also enjoyed getting to see the amazing "Baobob" trees that grow to enormous thicknesses in the very dry climate. But is was sad to hear about the problems that Senegal is having with desertification and the rapid encroachment of the awesome Sahara Desert.

Along with the visit to the villages another major highlight was the trip that we made to Goree Island on Saturday. Goree was one of the major embarkation points for the West African slave trade. They estimate that more than 2 million human beings were horrifically shipped to the America's from this island. Many of them never even made it off the island as they were kept in miserable conditions without any medical care or necessary nuture. I am sure that many of them simply died of broken hearts. When they died or were very ill they were often dumped into the ocean. Visiting this place was certainly one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The most memorable part was looking out onto the waves crashing over the rocks through the "door of no return." This was the door that led from the prison where the slaves where kept right out onto the shoreline from which they were shipped. It was an unbelievable experience to look through that door and imagine. All I could think about at that moment as I looked down at the rocky shoreline was the scripture that talks about the "rocks will cry out........" It reminded me of when Maria and I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland and were able to look down the stairs where hundreds of thousands walked to their deaths in the gas chambers. Incredible......

We didn't get much sleep on the overnight plane flight from Dakar to Nairobi (about 4000 miles across continent). But we hit the ground running with my friend Richard's Aunt Phyliss visiting the orphanage (Ahadi) that we're helping to fund and the surrounding area. We got to meet some of the kids and witness the incredibly challenging circumstances in which they have to function. They've got a lot of love and support from Ahadi, but many or their stories are heartbreaking and the conditions they have to abide daily are very humbling. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed by the scope of many of the problems here. But I think that God is helping to mature and refine me in this process. And there is, of course, a tremendous amount of beauty, faith and inspiration in the people and places here. It is a great honor to be able to share in life here and learn so many things vital things.

Tomorrow we will begin a week exploring Nairobi visiting some of the Shantytowns, universities and various ministries and relief efforts here. I'm really missing my family and all of you back home. I hope this update helps yo uto share a little bit in our experience. Please keep praying for us as we pray for, keep going....



geoff and sherry said...

hey bill,
thanks for the update. we are praying for you all as you travel and look forward to hearing the stories and seeing the images you capture. grace to you,

maria said...

Thanks for sharing this with us all. I can't imagine how eye-opening the trip has already been, and there's so much more to come. Make sure to enjoy each & every minute of this amazing time!

salttheplanet said...

Thanks for the reflections on your trip so far. It is good to hear your voice come through your thoughts here. our prayers for you continue and we hope your journey forms and shapes you in wonderful ways.