I found Mariama on her normal spot, sitting on her dirt veranda outside their house, with Mamanjan wrapped tightly to her back, squatting down mashing onions and spices for the afternoon meal. Upon my arrival she smiled and greeted me. She quickly dismissed my anxieties and again stated everyone knows he hates the Fulani and that she thought maybe he’d listen to me. She told me to forget about it, no one would think poorly of me because of this incident and everyone will know I was trying to help her. I was appreciative of her forgiveness or understanding or whatever had taken place, but wondered a little if she really understood why I was upset, or if she would tell me even if she was upset with me. But what could be done? I had done my best to explain and apologize, now the rest was up to God.
~ * ~ * ~Later that afternoon I made my routine trip to Tanu’s store to buy some bread for dinner. I looked around and didn’t see Fatimata, Tanu’s wife and my dear friend, and wondered what she, as the calm, collected, eldest Fula woman in the village, must think of this morning’s spectacle. I began again to worry about the damage this may have created to my witness there in Catel. Just then Fatimata called me inside. That alone was nerve wracking because this is a culture that socializes outside. Inside is generally for sleeping or being sick. “Lord, how did I screw this up so bad?” I whined inside my thoughts, anxious about what was about to happen and worried I had screwed up months of relationship building with my Fula friends. As I entered she greeted me with a wide smile and told me to sit. She thanked me for helping Mariama take care of her son and told me I shouldn’t be upset by what had happened earlier. Then she said she had something for me. She pulled out an ice cold Mango Maaza and placed it into my hands.
The can immediately began to sweat from the intensely hot afternoon sun, and I found myself stunned. What just happened here? Fatimata had bought for me my favorite juice and had taken it upon herself to chill it in her water “puti” (clay water pot) with a piece of purchased ice since this morning’s ruckus at the immunization clinic. I opened it and offered her a sip. She laughed and politely declined. She said it was a gift for all I do for them, and because I am their friend. I took a sip and I couldn’t contain my sheer joy. Studying my face, she beamed at my delight, and for the first time in Catel, I knew my heart was understood. “They know that I love them,” I thought, “despite all the initial language issues and cultural faux pas I’d committed, they get it Lord, they know that I love them!” And I savored every drop, knowing full well it was potentially the most delicious juice I’d ever drink.
For me, this simple gift that my friend offered me that afternoon will forever symbolize a turning point in my perspective as a missionary and in my relationship with the people of Catel. And that is what’s so magical about Mango Maaza J
** As stated above, this is and “old” story which took place at the end of April. I decided to publish it at this time to depict social aspects of West African culture that might otherwise be difficult to describe, because it’s a story particularly near to my heart, and most of all because, in hindsight, it was just 1 piece of a continuing revelation God is showing me that missions are so NOT so much about what WE do or don’t do, and is MORE about loving people as Christ loved us. What a huge relief! **