Joseph Azianogbe, our Dear Musician Friend


Every Saturday, Joseph shows up at the church to help clean for our Sunday meetings.  “Showing up,” is not really what he does.  It takes him more than an hour and a half to walk to the church from his home.  He comes to help, and he always comes with a big smile.  I love Joseph.  He has a pure heart.


Because we live in such a dust bowl, every week every thing needs to be cleaned, especially the floors which are covered with dirt.  The Elders help.  We all clean.  It’s a joy to work together.

Today after cleaning the floors, Joseph and I tackled the bathrooms at the church.  It was no small job.


Joseph is a musician.  He played in a Reggae band when he was baptized in November 2018.  Here is a photo from that baptism.  I remember meeting him that day at the chicken farm, admiring his dreadlocks and wondering about his history.   He’s in the front row, third from the left.


Here is the sacrament meeting after the baptism, where he was confirmed.  Joseph is sitting in the middle in front of the blonde gal from the visiting humanitarian group.


Here is our daughter, Claire, explaining to Joseph how to read the notes in the hymnbook.  Joseph is a brilliant musician, but he plays totally by ear.


And here is Joseph today.  Because his band worked every Sunday, he left it so he could keep the Sabbath day holy.  Eventually he cut off his dreadlocks and now he practices playing the hymns.  We often find Joseph at the church, practicing on the electric keyboard there.  His soul is full of song.

Joseph has recorded 10 original songs and we are trying to help him get his music on the market so he can earn some money from his gifts and talents.  We loved listening to his songs on his little phone.  They are upbeat and happy.

Joseph was born in Togo about 45 years ago.  His mother has leprosy and he tries to send medicine to her when he is able.  He has traveled throughout West Africa playing his music with the band, but now he is here, with us.  Joseph planned to go to the Accra Temple with us next week, but he wasn’t able to get a visa from Togo this month because of election unrest there.  We hope he’ll be able to go on our next temple trip.

I love the way Joseph loves the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is filled with light and goodness and joy, in spite of the challenges of survival here with no employment.  His trust is in God and his faith is in Jesus Christ.  I have no doubt all things will work together for his good.

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‘Les enfants des rues’

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Every day as we are out and about, we see children in the streets asking for money.  They are at our windows in every traffic jam and on most corners where traffic slows.  They are single or in groups.  They usually carry small buckets or large tomato paste cans.  It’s said that there are more than 6,000 street children in Bamako.  Most of these kids care for themselves.  Some attend Koranic schools for a few hours, then they are sent out to beg, returning what they earn to the teachers and school administrators.  They live without health care or parental supervision.

Some say that the beliefs of Islam encourage children beggars because one of the tenents of the faith is to give alms, so there needs to be someone to receive these offerings.  These are children who need educations and health care and hope for their futures.

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Moving on:

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Friday is a Day of Prayer

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Here is what we see from our apartment every Friday afternoon.  The white tent across from the mosque is put up every Friday morning, and in the afternoon the muezzin begins calling everyone to prayer.  Men in the street flock to the mosque.  Some gather under the trees and along the sides of our street.

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Some even gather on the roof of the mosque.  The muezzin chants and exhorts and teaches for quite a while and the men stand, kneel, bow and pray.

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After they finish, the men head back to work, or go home to their families.  The vendors re-appear and the stores re-open.

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We love our neighborhood and we love being surrounded by religious, prayerful people.

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Stopping by 1001 Wonders Supermarche

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Because we were in the neighborhood this morning, we walked over to the 1001 Wonders supermarket for a few more things.  At the top of my list were some packets of German salad dressing herbs that we tried last time and loved.  If you see something here you like, you go buy more because you may never see it again.


We also picked up some more cleaning supplies.

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Here are the prayer rugs for sale:

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I think the packaging here is interesting.  Many things are not sealed.

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And different kinds of things are shelved together.  Here we have condiments, margarine, cheese and some canned vegetables.

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John loves to stroll through the cookie and treat aisle.

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Locally packaged chips and treats:

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We have good boxed juices.  If you look for them, you can usually find some that are 100% fruit juice.

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Interesting canned chicken luncheon meat:

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Mosquito repellents and bug bait mixed in with the food items:

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At 12:45 the muezzin prayer calls began and the lights in the store when off.  Time to go pray.  We took our things to the check out and were on our way.

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A Walk in Bamako

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We walked alongside this little family today.  Everyone had something to carry, even the baby.  The twin girls were beautiful.  The mother asked me my name and told me the names of her girls.  She was delightful and never missed a stride.  I eventually asked if I could take a photo of her with her beautiful girls and she was happy to pause for that.

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Shipping containers:

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I think in Bamako there are more shops outdoors than indoors.

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Hotplates, teapots and incense burners:

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Clothes drying rack for things like socks:

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Are you noticing that we’re walking over the sewage trench as we go?

A hammock:

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Children’s playthings:

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Laundry hampers and clothes drying racks.  In this heat, you can dry your laundry in minutes!

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A gas station for motorcycles.  These are everywhere.  You can almost see from one to the next because, well, you’ll never know where you’ll run out of gas.

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Sunglasses for sale:

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Phone cases on the go:

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We walked behind this young man, who is a shoe shiner.  He had 2 brushes in his hand that he clicked together so people could hear his trade.  Everyone has dusty shoes here.  I’m sure he does good business.

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On our way home, here are a few things I noticed from my taxi window.

Here’s a fellow taking a mid-morning nap:

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The interesting thing is where he chose to rest–in a sewage trench at a very busy intersection:

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Furniture stores are usually outside along the main roads like this:

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The upholstered sofas are usually covered to keep the dirt and dust off.

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The things in the plastic bags are stuffed animals for children:

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Here is a beautiful woman with her child begging in a traffic jam.

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These are the water pouches that are for sale everywhere.  They sell for a few cents.

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Beautifully dressed women on motorbikes:

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And this is my neighbor and friend, Miriama.  She sells fruit right by our apartment and I love visiting with her every few days when we need something fresh and delicious.

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A Local Car Wash

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This morning we went back to the Ghanaian Embassy to pick up our passports with our new visas to Ghana.  Across the street is the American Embassy.   They keep us posted every week on any unrest in the country and where to avoid to be safe.  This week’s report was a little frightening.  We do our best to blend in and stay away from any hot spots or dangerous areas.

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Then we walked to the 1001 Wonders store again to pick up a few more things.  We went past this very nice car wash and stopped to visit with the hard-working young men there.  I’m guessing they do a pretty good business here near the embassies.


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They had a pressure washer, wands and lots of soap!

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This fellow was washing the inside of this car that was for sale.  We asked the owner what he was asking for it.  It’s a 19 year-old Toyota and his first price (before negotiating) was about $6,000.  Cars are pretty expensive here, even used older used ones.

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A Visit from a Traveling Sewing Machinist

When you rip your jeans, you pay the sewing machinist to come to you to repair them!  We often see young men with a sewing machine on their shoulder, walking down the street.  They take their skills to your place, wherever you might be.  This machinist came to our apartment building to help one of our security guards fix his jeans.  It was so fun to watch!

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A Walk Through Town and Celebrating Sekou’s Birthday

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This evening we walked through some neighborhoods on our way to meet Sekou.  Today is his 31st Birthday!  We wanted to celebrate with him.  This week he is having his final exams for this semester and Sunday he flies to Accra to prepare for his wedding on March 7th.  We are so happy for him.

Here are a few of the things we saw along the way.  Evening is such a fun time to wander.  It cools down a bit–we had a nice breeze this evening–and people are out in the streets.  Children are playing after a full day at school (most come home late in the day).  We see them playing marbles and other games in the dirt.  Women are out preparing the evening meals.  Men are sitting with friends, relaxing a bit.  Kids are running and playing, some are on bikes.  It’s a good time to be here watching life around us.

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New cement being poured to make covers for this trench:

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Friends walking home from school:

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These women are dyeing fabric.  It was fascinating to watch them work, in purple dye up to their elbows, churning big pots of fabric.

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The did not want me to photograph their faces.  Here are the pots of dye:

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And here is some of the dyed fabric hanging to dry in the street:

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We met Sekou at Amandine’s restaurant at 7:00.  He showed us the exam he took today and one of his medical books.  We had a wonderful evening together talking about the Bamako Branch and things we’d like to do here, talking about his upcoming marriage to Dina, and learning more about his studies at the medical school.

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Sekou told us this is the first time in his life he’s had a birthday celebration.  We were all so happy to be together this evening.  He has 4 more days of exams, then he’s  finished with school for now and can concentrate on his trip to Ghana and his marriage.

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Lunch Prep with the Elders

I smelled something good in the kitchen today, so I went to investigate.  Elder Gbedevi was shedding tears as he chopped onions and peppers!  It was his turn to cook.  He was making spaghetti.  These Elders are so good.

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The price of propane gas is  still very high here in Bamako, so these Elders continue to cook over a fire with charcoal.  They are so good at it.

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A Delicious Treat: Yaourt!

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These Elders are so good to us!  Sunday after church they sent us home with two little frozen bags of deliciousness.  Elder Kouakou described it as “lait, fromage, or yaourt.”  When we got home and tasted it (after it had thawed a bit in the hot taxi ride home), we loved it.  It was like delicious frozen yogurt.

Today during my French lesson with them after our District Meeting (we practice conversation skills) I asked them how they made this treat.  Here is how they described the process to me:

1 kilo of powdered milk
5 liters of water
1/2 kilo sugar
3 packets of vanilla sugar
1 cup of vanilla yogurt

Mix 4 liters of water with the powdered milk. Stir well.
Add the 5th liter of water, but heat that liter (hot) before adding it.
Mix well.
Cover tight so no air can get in.
Put in a warm place, cover with a blanket.
Leave for 6 hours.
Pour into plastic sacs to freeze, or pour into bottles.

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By next week the temperatures in Bamako will reach 105 degrees.  How fun to have such a delicious cold treat in this heat!