Warning: so this post is pretty long, but since I haven’t been able to upload any photos I decided to narrate a walk from the mission/church to my residence so that you might have a small glimpse of what life is like in the village of Catel.
As I leave the mission I click the gate shut behind me. I take a step or two and then a large step down off the concrete and into the dusty path. As I begin on the path from the mission house & church over to our residence I am immediately approaching our neighbor’s veranda. Our neighbor sits perched on one of the wooden mushroom shaped stools, like the ones we just got made for the clinic. She’s balancing her small child on her lap and she nurses her while shelling peanuts. Run-on sentence The path cuts between her home and her cooking area. Around the fire sit her husband with 4 or 5 other men speaking Balanta and laughing loudly. “Bu tardi,” I greet them, “Bu tardi, kuma?” they respond politely, though probably laughing at my attempts at the language. I look more closely and see that they’re roasting something which resembles a 10 pound rat on a make-shift spit over the fire. My stomach turns and I continue walking down the path.
My thoughts shift to the beautiful sun which is setting and the pink-orange sky is gorgeous behind the silhouettes of the palms blowing in the dusty sky. Soon I reach a crossing of two paths. A woman who I just saw get off public transport was coming down the path approaching the intersection I was now crossing. She greeted me, “Bu tardi, kumu di corpu?” I slow my stride. “Sta bang, abo?” “Sta bang, nde ku na bai?” She wonders where I am going, I tell her and she wishes me well and we continue on our way.
Less than 50 yards later some kids announce my presence yelling “t-anne, t-anne.” I smile and wave “bu tardi.” They wave back and run to shake my hand before I continue on my way. To my left I see a neighbor stirring her rice in a large pot over the fire. Two large wild pigs and 5 piglets snort and run across the path in front of me. They don’t look like the pigs at home, and as Sean said, look seemingly less tasty. Ahead I see the poor mama goat who’s pregnant with twins and has looked like she’s ready to pop for the last 2 weeks. She’s grazing and barely takes notice of me as I pass by. A few paces later the small white and brown kid rests in the middle of the path. He’s always lying there alone and I wonder what happens to his mother and if he’s old enough to be weaned and to know how to fend for himself. He doesn’t move as I approach and I have to step over him before he gets up. It causes me to reflect upon people who, like this cute little kid, have for one reason or another, slipped through the cracks and are merely gawked at and stepped over by the rest of society.
A thin strip of trees now line the right side of the path, a field on the left. A child screams as another grabs a stick out of his hands. The both pause to greet me “bu tardi, bu tardi!” A full grown man stands on the veranda next to them bathing – some things you never get used to when you’re raised in the US. Another 20 paces and the shortcut path to the clinic that Sean macheted is on my right. There are two goats and several kids resting on the shade in the veranda. Ten paces later I arrive at the tin gate with the small pieces of fabric the hangs off the top to tie it shut at night. The sun is low in the sky and the giant baobab trees tower above the orange orchard. The enormity of God’s beautiful creation is breathtaking. Our friend Kinta comes out of the house and approaches me. She greets me, then updates me that she just heard that Augusto, the 16mo boy who was struggling to breathe 10 days ago, is now doing very well. I breathe a sigh of relief and thank God for His faithfulness and His love. I begin to wonder what divine appointment God has planned for tomorrow. It’s starting to feel like home.
Thank you Lord for the people of Catel, for this opportunity you’ve provided for me to be here with EMM, and for my amazing team. Lord, thank you for all your faithful servants who gave generously so that we might be here to serve you. Lord, I thank you that you are here with us each step of every day, stretching us but also supporting us every step of the way. Father God, You are good, and we praise You!