A Salaam Aleikum!
Senegal, West Africa
Greetings from Senegal, West Africa.
I have always had a strong desire to experience how people in other places lived. I came to Senegal for the first time in 1991 as a tourist. Little did I know then that 12 years later I would return to Senegal with three of my children to learn more about the country of the man I married, its culture and its people. It is now 2010, and I am still learning about these complicated and endearing people.
A Salaam Aleikum, “peace be upon you,” is the traditional greeting in Senegal, a predominantly Muslim country in West Africa. Senegal is one of the few peaceful African countries. It is not rich in mineral resources, so there is very little to fight over. Also, the Senegalese love to talk. Discussion is an important part of the culture, and they believe in discussing matters to find solutions. Whatever the reason, Senegal is a peaceful haven where other Africans come to study, work and live.
Dakar, the capital, is large and polluted with over a million inhabitants. Villagers swarm to the city in search of jobs, and streets are full of people selling their wares. Women and children sit on sidewalks begging. Boys as young as six years old beg for money and food. They have been sent to marabouts (religious teachers) to learn the Koran, but instead spend their days begging to support their teacher.
Senegal is home to some very backward cultural traditions, such as female circumcision, child marriage and marriage between cousins. The practice of female circumcision is declining, but girls as young as 12 are still offered in marriage to older men. Marriage among cousins is encouraged, often with dire results. In this landscape, the Senegal Health Project seeks to bring God’s last message of mercy to the people here.
Senegal proudly claims that it is the country of teranga, or hospitality, and the Senegalese people are very hospitable. Visitors are welcomed at mealtimes, and even the poorest host will go out of the way to provide an abundant meal. The national dish is thieboudiene or rice and fish. Oil, jumbo (monosodium glutamate) and sugar are used abundantly, resulting in epidemic rates of non-communicable chronic health diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
We first came to live in Senegal in early 2003. I became very involved in the church here, serving as Health and Women’s
Ministry leader in the church. We left Senegal in late 2006, but I came away with an understanding of the need for a health ministry here. I began praying about the ministry and decided to get more training. I returned to school and became a Licensed Massage Therapist. After more prayer, I developed the Senegal Health Project. At the time, my family was living in New Mexico and attending Philathea Seventh-day Adventist Church, a small church of about 30 members. Philathea agreed to adopt the project, and I began talking and writing to friends, family and all who would listen about the project.
Evangelism in Senegal is not easy due to the influence of Islam. There are also very few Senegalese Adventists, about 200 out of approximately 600 Adventists on the church roll. The others are mostly students or workers from other African countries. Still, the health message opens doors. This was brought home to me when I came for a visit in 2008. I went to see an old student, and we began talking about my vegetarian diet. She was feeling congested, and after sharing a natural remedy for congestion with her, we began talking about health issues. This conversation turned to spiritual things when she asked me about prayer. Then she wanted to know what happened to people after death. I saw God’s blueprint in action. The medical missionary work is the right hand of the gospel!
In August 2009, I was a passenger in a car accident. The settlement from this accident allowed me to return to Senegal to start the project in February 2010. In March, the Lord opened the door for us to purchase a one-half acre plot of land at a good price, 35 miles outside of Dakar, where we have set up an outpost center in a small village named Mbirdiam, which means “in peace.” The project will train lay people as Medical Missionaries to work as Jesus did in healing and preaching and will include health and agricultural training so that these workers can go to other areas and set up their own outposts.
With God’s help, we are nearing completion of the main house and have plans to construct another building that will house a classroom and a treatment room. There is also room for two more small buildings to house students and visitors. The construction cost for the clinic and the other two buildings will be about $7,000 each, depending on the exchange rate and the fluctuating dollar.
We have two immediate and major needs—electricity and water. Like most other rural villagers, we have no electricity or running water. Throughout Senegal, utility cuts happen regularly and can last hours and even days. Power cuts wreak havoc on appliances and experience has convinced me that having independent sources of water and electricity is best.
We need a deep-water well. The property is on an elevation, and drinkable water is about 300 feet below the surface. We received an estimate of $16,000 for a well, which is beyond our budget. Deep-water wells are expensive because they must be dug with a machine, and there are not a lot of machines available. Currently we purchase water from the neighboring village.
For electricity, a solar energy system is the most practical option since Senegal has over 300 days of sunshine. Solar energy is reliable and cost effective. Aside from the up-front cost of purchasing the components, there would be few additional costs, only extra panels or batteries as new buildings are constructed. Systems can last several years, depending on the quality of the components and maintenance. A good-quality system that would operate the entire outpost will cost about $7,500.
Health is an issue for all Senegalese, including church members. The health message has not been widely taught and is rarely
practiced. There is also a real need for Spirit of Prophecy books here. We have photocopied Last Day Events and Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing in French and English and provided them at cost or free to church members. We promote healthy living in and out of the church through personal ministry and organized church activities like blood pressure screenings and health talks.
Our biggest activity, the first campmeeting ever in Senegal, was December 22-26, 2010. The theme was “Medical Missionary Work and the Three Angels’ Messages.” There were seminars, activities for children and community outreach. The community was invited to a concert on Sabbath afternoon and a community youth activity on Sunday morning. The concert included a short meditation in the local language on the soon coming of Jesus.
We are a small project operated by volunteers. Our staff includes Waluka, a Bible worker who also volunteers as our garden manager. Volunteers from our families and the church help out with the garden and in various activities as needed.
Please pray for our project and join us in our work for Senegal. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me. We would love to hear from you!
God bless you as we wait for the Lord’s soon coming.
By Deborah Ndione. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 011 221 77 694 30 28.
Picture 378- Deborah, Malcolm and Doudou, the builder, measuring for the house.
Picture 61- Deborah and Doudou measuring for the class/treatent room.
Picture 48- The outpost.
Picture 211- Manioc and bissap plants.