We’re happy to report that unrest in Bamako has ended and things have returned to normal. However, there was a tragedy in Mali yesterday in Timbuktu. Yesterday was a national holiday marking the birth of the Prophet Muhammad – kind of like the Muslim equivalent of Christmas. Muslims traditionally visit the mosque as part of the celebration. In Timbuktu, thousands of people march around the mosque 3 times as part of the festival of Mouloud. Because construction was blocking the main road to the mosque, people were packed into smaller streets that couldn’t accommodate the crowds. Tragically, 24 people died and 55 were injured at a stampede at Timbuktu’s Djingareyber mosque. Over half of the dead are reported to be children.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Things have become a little unsettled around Mali lately. Last week, the country of Niger on the eastern border of Mali experienced a military coup and the president was overthrown. Also last week, the president of Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), our neighbor to the south, shut down the government of his country in a disagreement over presidential elections which have been delayed for over 5 years. Technically, Ivory Coast has been divided by civil war since 2002. There has been rioting and several people have been killed in the past few days.
Uncomfortably closer to home, yesterday Mali experienced a couple of incidents of its own. There is an al-Qaeda cell operating out of the Sahara Desert in northern Mali. Due to several kidnappings over the past year, it is no longer safe for us to travel to Timbuktu or the regions in the north of Mali. Al-Qaeda is currently holding a French hostage in Mali who was kidnapped from his hotel in the north last November. Yesterday, the Malian government released four terrorists who were imprisoned in Mali in exchange for the French hostage.
Also yesterday, a policeman shot and killed a minibus driver in Bamako. As a result, all public transportation including busses and taxis have gone on strike bringing Bamako to a grinding halt. There has also been rioting in many parts of the city. In addition, the police have abandoned all of their posts and police stations. We’re just laying low and avoiding going out on the street until things calm down. We are not worried about our safety, but we’re taking appropriate precautions. Please don’t fear for us, however keep these situations in prayer.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
“Winter” ended in Mali a couple of weeks ago. Gone are high temps topping out in the 90s and the overnight lows in the 70s. We’ve since shut off our hot water heater and are now looking forward to cold showers again in the mornings. We’re still about a month away from hot season when every day is downright miserable. Until then, we need to get through dusty season. This time of year we see the Harmattan winds blow in from the Sahara Desert bringing in dust and haze far greater than the smog Los Angeles is famous for. From satellite pictures, it looks like Mali is covered in brown clouds. Together with the pollution in Bamako, at times visibility can be limited to a couple of hundred feet. Some days, we can’t even see across the Niger River. It is also very difficult on the sinuses and people with allergies. This hasn’t been a problem in the past, however both Cole and John are struggling with terrible allergic reactions this year.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Yesterday was Julie’s birthday. John went to the post office to pick up a package of birthday presents from the States. Unfortunately, only one box arrived of the two we were expecting, so we’ll try the post office again next week. That helps keep with the theme of celebrating our family holidays for a week.
Last night, we went to dinner at a new restaurant in Bamako called the Steak House. It’s supposed to be a Texas themed BBQ restaurant, however it missed the mark. The dining room was decorated with pictures of New York City…not quite Texas, but at least they got the country right. The food was very good, including Steak Cordon Bleu and Steak Roquefort, however it was prepared French style so it wasn’t quite the savory BBQ taste we were expecting.
In addition to a ceiling fan in the kitchen, one of the birthday gifts John got for Julie was a terracotta water pot – he even found one with a message written in English. The water pot is a symbol of Malian hospitality. They are placed outside the gate of a family compound to allow people passing by a place to stop for a cool cup of water. The terracotta has a natural cooling ability which chills the water despite the hot outdoor temperature. Because we live on a soccer field, Julie has been wanting a water pot to help refresh the soccer players. Our Malian friends and neighbors were very surprised and excited when we placed Julie’s water pot outside to show our hospitality.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Last night John launched the Alpha for ESOL Course. 10 people showed up for the first meeting. That number seems ideal as this is our first Alpha Course and we’ve got a lot to learn on running it. In true African style, even though the meeting was scheduled to begin at 6:30 pm, people showed up throughout the meeting including one person who arrived at 8:45 pm just as we were wrapping up. Hopefully people will arrive closer to the starting time next week now that they know where the meetings are being held. Maybe our meal at the beginning of each meeting will be a motivator.
People responded well to the first meeting and seemed to enjoy it. We handed out 25 additional flyers as people were leaving, so it’s going to be interesting to see how many people come next week. We had quite a variety of English comprehension levels, but overall, people seemed to understand the course and participated well in the group discussions. Please keep this new ministry in prayer – in fact, please consider joining our Alpha prayer team. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
The power in Bamako has been pretty reliable for the last year, however today we experienced an 11 hour blackout. Thankfully hot season hasn’t started yet, so it wasn’t too terribly hot in our house. The outdoor temperature topped out at 105°F which is now “normal” for us and doesn’t feel too hot. But it’s still discouraging to lose a lot of food in the fridge and other inconveniences that come along with extended power outages.
Monday, February 08, 2010
Next week we are going to be launching an exciting new ministry. We will be hosting a special version of the Alpha Course that focuses on people who are learning English. The Alpha Course is a small group Bible study designed for non-Christians who are looking for answers about the meaning of life and/or are curious about Christianity and want to find out more about it. Alpha began 26 years ago as a means of presenting the basic principles of the Christian faith in a relaxed and informal setting. Today, there are over 33,500 Alpha courses worldwide in 163 countries. It is supported by all major denominations.
When we were in California a couple of years ago, a church introduced us to Alpha for ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages). They have been testing this new version of Alpha and because we work with a lot of people learning English, they invited us to become part of the testing program. The more we learned about Alpha and the new ESL version, the more excited we got.
We will be hosting our first Alpha meeting on February 17th at our YWAM base. It will run every Wednesday night for 12 weeks. Every meeting begins with a meal we will be providing, followed by a lesson and small group discussion. John will be leading each session and he’s retained the help of a couple of Malian pastors to assist. For the past few weeks, they have been participating in an Alpha training program on DVD.
We are currently forming a prayer team which is a vital part of the Alpha course. The prayer team will pray weekly for the course and pray for special requests of our Alpha guests. We are also in need of sponsors to help offset the expense of the course. The price of the materials and all the meals totals about $20 per guest for the entire course. If you are interested in helping in either of these areas, please contact us and we’ll be happy to provide more details.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
This week, YWAM Mali is hosting a YWAM Africa leaders conference. We have people coming in from many different countries all over the continent. John has been very busy picking people up from the airport and taking them to a conference center outside of town. People have been arriving on flights at all times of the day and night. John has also been tracking down lost baggage and running other errands. It has been exciting to meet YWAM leaders from different parts of Africa and learn about the different YWAM ministries in other African countries.