chapter: Senegal - part 4 (@ dhara)

So now it's been 2 weeks-ish since the Senegal mission trip. And the section section to be covered begins with its problems. The day to be discussed is Wednesday. By this time, the team is a pro at the Seree greetings from two previous clinics in Seree villages. So Wednesday's scheduled activity was to stay in Theis where we were sleeping and do clinic for street kids essentially. This is where the two problems come in. I didn't take any pictures of the place or the kids out of a fear/respect for the men running it. What I'm trying to say is that I didn't want to be seen as inappropriate and ruin the Christian witness to these Muslim religious leaders who we were serving and the witness from many others. The second issue is I don't know how to spell the place where we were serving ... which doesn't work so well for a written blog. So for a likely incorrect spelling I'll just go with "dhara". There are multiple dhara in each major city and even the smaller towns. In its pure form, dhara is school - an Arabic teaching Koran school for small kids. Parents send their boys (I think its only boys, but I very well could be wrong) so that they can grow up as good religious men. If you are wealthy you can afford to send your son to a decent dhara. If poor, well ... not so good.

The team that we joined from Pennsylvania had done clinic in two different dharas before. The first one, we were told, was on the "not good" side. The boys stay there, beg on the streets for money (to teach humility), and study the Koran in Arabic. I really don't know much about the whole process, especially as an outsider looking in on one particular instance.

The dhara we were in for clinic was not beyond imagination bad. The boys looked in pretty good condition. We were all kind of on edge and prayed up, not knowing what to expect. It was a large concrete structure with a second floor half the footprint of the ground floor. There was no solid floors, just dirt. We gave each child a vitamin, a dose of de-worming meds (as in intestinal parasite stuff ... it happens when you run around bare-foot), and tanga (means candy) - just like the lollipop after the dentist. After all the nursing station stuff, they went into the medical consultation area for specific stuff. I don't anything that happened in their; I was giving every kid one chewable children's vitamin. After we saw all the kids, some other kids not belonging to the dhara came in.

That's what we did. We played with with them; encouraged them to dance with us; mostly they just laughed at us; we tried to comfort them; we tried to give them motherly touches; show them love and care; be Christ for them. And that's what the day was all about. And it was good.


chapter: Senegal - part 3

Let's see. Where'd we leave off last? Ah, yes. Time for the medical part of the mission trip.
Day 4: We began each morning with scripture and prayer and some breakfast. Monday was not any different even though we woke up to donkeys and the sound of early morning work done by the women. It made me feel more than a bit lazy. The women that live out in the villages work so very hard. Many of them just look so tired. Up before dawn, carrying water from the well, doing the cooking and cleaning, and still working as the sun sets. And yet they are so gracious and hospitable.
Sorry, back to Monday morning. We gathered in the church in Diohne, which is where we were set up clinic. We gathered every one together for prayer. A few minutes in, I felt my legs go weak. I didn't want to sit down because everybody was standing. But that didn't matter - down I went to my knees. I suppose God knows that sometimes I'm a better visual learner.
I don't remember if I began in the pharmacy or the nursing area doing vitals. No matter. We saw and (hopefully) assisted more than 100 people in each of the 3 off-site clinics - Monday: Diohne (a Seree village); Tuesday: Langomack (another Seree village); and Thursday: Ndakhar (a Wolof village). We gave vitamins to as many people as we could - but especially kids. We treated for malaria, intestinal parasites, arthritis, headaches, infections, colds, and whatever else ... I just do what I'm told with all that medical stuff.
Langomac on Tuesday went very similarly to Diohne. We met at a church plant, and set up clinic around the building. I was at the nursing area outside (near the outhouses) most of the day either assisting taking temperatures, writing the info on people's chart (half a sheet of preprinted paper) or helping at check-in, trying to make sure everyone was seen in some semblance of first-come-first-served. We'd pack up everything late afternoon so that we could be back on the road by sunset. We gathered together for dinner either at our hotel or a missionary's home. Most of the evenings, a few of Linda & my friends (those that were in Theis) would come over to hang out and chat. We knew these guys from their training and stay in San Antonio with DLI (Defense Language Institute - or something like that). It was good to catch up with them again. Other members of our team also enjoyed getting to know these fine Senegalese gentleman.

More later. I'm tired. Next for your viewing pleasures: Wednesday clinic at a dhara (or dara or darah) in Theis.


chapter: Senegal - part 2

Sunday, Jan. 10 was the beginning of an amazing time. As a team, we decided to stay in one of the villages where we would serve over night. That morning after breakfast and a devotional we headed out of town for a 2 hour ride. Destination: Diohne (roughly pronounced Joe-heen).
There is a running joke/commentary from Westerners who live or visit almost all of the African countries. We called it Senegal Time. Essentially, there is no such thing as "late" because the important thing is that you arrived and the relationships you have while trying to arrive is more important than getting to a place on a schedule. Anyway, so we arrived at this church plant in Diohne on Senegal time. But no matter, the congregation was waiting for us by doing other things. We worshipped with them for a couple hours - they sang, we sang, we all danced, sermon message translated.
This type of worship is such a treat for me. Praise sung out to our God in whatever language; me not understanding the words, but knowing the heart, the content.
After the service and everyone greeted each other (I'm pretty sure I met everyone there), they all disbanded for siesta. Businesses and schools take siesta because typically it's just too hot outside during early afternoon. Several from our team sat under this huge tree and chatted and chilled and worked on our Seree (local language) phrases. Slowly people started reappearing again. Kids came out to play. We pulled out the futbols; we had card games going; we even pulled our sleeping mats together and taught some girls how to tumble. There was this one little girl that had her aunt's Bible in Seree. She would flip through it, point, and I would do my best to read it. Her aunt then sat next to me opened up to the end of Matthew and she would read a few words and I would follow her lead. Then I read the same passage in my English Bible.
Late afternoon, Robin (one of the team members) and I decided to go for a walk. We met up with Jerome who lived in a nearby community. (Diohne is a large village made up of several smaller communities.) Through his little bit of English plus charades, he told us about the history of the village. His family, a long time ago, actually started Diohne, and his dad is the oldest man living there. As we walked we kept bumping into his cousins or uncles or 3rd cousins twice removed (family trees get complicated). He told us how they make and store their millet (a staple food like grain). He invited us into his home and other people's homes. Each family group (all of the extended family) has wall around their homes with the individual families within the wall. When you marry, you essentially build your room(s) in your parent's backyard. That way family sticks together and everybody is there to assist.
After 9pm that night, there started a dance. The row of drummers on djembes came up with their own rhythms while a few people in a ring around the center would pop out, move their to the beat crazy fast for a few seconds, then sit back down in the ring of people. I managed to hide in the darkness while others of my team where pulled in to dance. But twas the time for our naming ritual. We were all pulled into the center and one by one our namesakes (people from the village selected us to give us their name) danced with us individually. So her name is now my name. My Seree name is Ndew Seine.
After that long day, 6 of us slept in a tent, 2 in the church, and the men somewhere else. The stars were brilliant that night.
Thus ends day 3. Day 4: clinic in Diohne.


chapter: Senegal - part 1 of whenever I end

We have made it home safely ... with a bit of drama, but all is well. I have to continue with malaria pills, and I have napped often on the plane, in the airport, on the plane, and throughout today. But all this is the end of the chapter instead of the beginning, which is where I'd like to begin.

My friend and I got to Austin airport several hours before departure. Our flight out was slightly delayed. Meaning our layover in Dulles to Senegal shortened to about an hour. But no biggie - we just had to jog to our departure gate since they were already boarding. Onward to Senegal!

Day 1, Jan 8: We landed in Dakar as the sun was rising. First thing I notice was the scent of salt water and fish. I greatly dislike the smell of fish. Most people on the South African flight don't get off at Dakar (their destination is Johannesburg), so it's not a mad rush to get off the plane. Did customs without a hitch. Baggage claim, almost without a hitch. My friend Linda's personal bag was not here. All the meds made it which was fantastic. We speculated what adventure her bag was going to have. Maybe it didn't make the quick transfer at Dulles. Maybe it wanted a South African adventure. No matter, it arrived a few days later with the help of a Senegalese friend. In any case, we were the last people to leave. Nobody was even at security to check our bags.

We immediately left Dakar and stopped at a discipleship training facility just outside the city called Haven for Hope for breakfast and a nap. Most of us (including me) did not sleep well on the 8 hour flight over the Atlantic, so the nap was a God-send. Theis, another major city in Senegal was to be our base camp for the next 9 days.

I honestly don't remember much about this day. And I confuse the details I do know with the events of Day 2, Saturday. Yea for a digital camera with a date stamp. We ate some good food. Went to an Artisan Market. Had cultural orientation (which I don't remember). Visited Barthimee Hospital (Christian hospital in Theis run by missionary doc - Dr. Ted). Met with and had laughs with several Senegalese friends that I met in San Antonio. Sorted and packed medicine bags. Slept sometime in there.

Until next time: Day 3, Sunday, Jan 10. Village life at Diohine and a sleep over.



The day has arrived. In 10ish minutes I will be heading to the airport on the journey toward Senegal to arrive at 7am (their time) or about 2am CST tomorrow morning.

My role is still a bit fuzzy to me. I have been told I will be a nurse taking vitals and such for the clinics that we are holding in the villages surrounding Theis (a major city).

If the opportunity presents itself I will try to post some stories and/or pics during the time ... but if not, definitely after the fact.

See ya on the flip side.