In January, we had the opportunity to visit Kédougou (a town and region in South-eastern Senegal) with the World Renew team here. The point of our visit was to complete a workshop on Shalom (peace) in the church and the community with several Bissari pastors. The Bissari are a much smaller ethnic group than the Wolof, and are some of Senegal’s poorest people. We were shocked at the difference between Dakar and Kédougou. Kédougou is so green and has many different trees and plants than in Dakar. It was much hotter because it’s inland, but there are rivers and waterfalls. We got to see the Gambia River and it was beautiful! It had been a while since we had seen rivers. We have the ocean, here in Dakar, and some ponds/swamps, but that’s about it for water. However, due to the heat, the dryness, and the lack of roads and resources to buy vehicles, and the insects that are there which kill horses and donkeys, showed us in just a short time that life in Kédougou is much more difficult than life in Dakar. However, Senegalese teranga (hospitality) was certainly still there and we were greeted with happiness and asked to share food and life with our new friends there.
When we arrived on the weekend, we were able to attend the dedication of the Bible in Oniyan (the Bissari language). It was incredible to be a part of an event where you can see how excited and happy our fellow brothers and sisters are to finally receive the New Testament and Genesis in their own language. There is something about seeing God’s Word being paraded around with the greatest respect, and to have dancing and singing happen while it is read, because of the joy to be able to read God’s Word in your own mother tongue. It was a wonderful way to start our 4-day training session with 15 pastors. We did not do any of the training, but we were able to help set up and see how World Renew conducts training sessions. The pastors kept saying how nice the training was and how helpful. Usually when they had training sessions from other organizations, it was just lecture based and this was very hands-on and they really appreciated it. One of the things that we loved to listen to, were the animations that they would do in between activities. They had several Bissari songs based on Bible verses that were set to traditional Bissari melodies. The melodies were quite different from Wolof melodies and it was wonderful to be able to learn about a different Senegalese culture for a short period of time.
We are so thankful that we were able to be part of the trip to Kédougou, especially as it was not originally planned for us to go, and to be able to see and experience a different part of Senegal. As it is about 16 hours travel away from Dakar, it truly feels like a different world, where the scenery, the language, and the people are unfamiliar.