Friday Mornings in our Neighborhood

Every Friday morning the Ar-Rahma Mosque across the street prepares for a day of prayer.  Here are a few pictures I took this morning as we stood in the street here by our apartment, waiting for a taxi to come along.

First the men pull out the tent poles.  They erect this tent every Friday for overflow mosque attenders.  Actually, our whole street fills with men and prayer rugs at mid-day.

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Then the tent is raised.

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This man is selling the wash pots the men use to clean themselves before praying.

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This is our neighborhood trash collector.  He comes down our street every morning collecting the trash we put out.  Usually others have gone through the trash before he removes what’s left.  By the time his rounds are finished, his cart will be piled high.  These trash carts pulled by donkeys are seen all over town.  Usually young boys pick up the trash and haul it to a dump somewhere.

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The tent us up, the street is swept, and soon it will be time for prayer.

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O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings!

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Every time I see a worn pair of missionary shoes I think of the many times in the scriptures missionary feet are mentioned.  Here is one:

3 Nephi 20:40
And then shall they say: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings unto them, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings unto them of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!

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Elder Sulu ironing:

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Many missionaries keep what they call transfer journals–a place where their missionary friends and companions can write a note when they are moved from an area.  Elder Usoh asked us to write in his journal this week so he could take our words with him back to the Ivory Coast and his next area.

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District Meeting and Farewells to Elder Sulu and Elder Usoh

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We had our last District Meeting with this set of 4 Elders this morning at the church.  We were all a bit sad to say good bye to Elder Sulu, our District Leader and Elder Usoh who makes everything so fun.

Last week at the market, we shopped for a thank you gift to give to the Elders who get to serve in Mali.  We found the perfect thing at the Artisan’s Market– Chiwara carvings.

Here’s the note we gave each of them with their Chiwara:

According to Bambara legend, Chiwara is the name of the antelope spirit that taught humans the fundamentals of agriculture. The Chiwara is an enduring symbol of Mali and represents hard work and excellence. Still today, the Chiwara society in Bambara culture gathers young-adult males to clear, sow, and harvest the fields when the greatest number of laborers is needed. The survival of the community depends upon the quality of their work.

Thank you for serving the Lord with hard work and excellence, doing your part to establish His Church in Mali. You have had a pioneer experience that few missionaries will ever have. You have cleared, planted, and harvested among these precious children of God. We will never forget you.

When you look at this Chiwara wood carving, remember that you are a Chiwara missionary. Remember.

We love you!

Elder et Soeur Lewis

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These Elders have been like sons to us.  We are so grateful to know them.  We wish them well as they return back to Cote d’Ivoire.

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District Meeting and Dinner with Dick and Eddie Loomis

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We had our weekly District Meeting today with our 4 Elders.  We’ve learned that Elder Usoh and Elder Sulu will be transferred back to Abidjan next transfer.  We’re sad to see them go.  The work here is hard, but rewarding.  We’ll miss them.

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John and Bro Mbaya are always cleaning up the church records.

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Tonight we had dinner downstairs in the restaurant in our building with Dick Loomis and his son, Eddie, who have been with the expedition in Ouelessebougou.  We had a great evening and heard lots of exciting news about a German doctor they visited here in Bamako who is the leading expert in the WORLD on Malaria.  Good things are happening!

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Primary in the Bamako Branch

Our numbers are growing in the Bamako Branch.  Here are our beautiful Primary children.  Today we taught them about the song “I Am a Child of God” and what the words mean and how we can stay on le bon chemin, or the good path to return to our Heavenly Father.

It was nice to celebrate my 61st birthday here, with our members who sang to me in French, Bambara and English!

Dinner with Mike Maughan and Sekou

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We had a great evening visiting with Mike Maughan and Sekou.  Mike’s been with the expedition in Ouelessebougou this last week and he flies out late tonight.  We loved hearing more of the details of Sekou’s life and conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He’s a remarkable man and a stalwart here.  We’re grateful for him and for good people like Mike who come over to learn about this country.  Mike’s grandfather, Marion D. Hanks, was the founder of the Ouelessebougou Alliance in Utah.  Their family carries on the tradition of helping and serving here.

Making Shea Butter in Bassa

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In most villages in Mali, during most times of the year, you will hear the steady pounding of women who stand with mortar and pestle in hand, pounding shea nuts.  It’s a soothing sound that is steady and constant and sounds like a carpenter pounding with a soft, heavy mallet.  It’s soothing.  If you follow the sound, you will usually find several women in a compound, pounding and some bent over large tubs of hot emulsifying shea, mixing it like human Bosch machines.  They working together.  They help each other.  They are making shea butter, one of the finest products made in West Africa.  This is women’s work.  It’s hard work.  It’s hot work.  It’s soothing work.

The shea nuts are collected off the ground when they fall from the trees during harvest time.  They are dried or roasted and stored during the rest of the year.  Today in Bassa this group of women was making the shea butter from the roasted and ground nuts.

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In the villages you see many of these roasting ovens.  The nuts are roasted over slow-burning fires.  They have a peculiar smell.  Sometimes the nuts are spread on the ground to dry in the hot sun.

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Here are some photos I’ve taken in other villages.  These women are using stones to crack and shell the nuts.  The nut is taken from the shell and pounded or ground in a machine to make a paste.  Many villages have a grinding machine that the villagers share.

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After the nuts are ground, the paste looks like this:

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This is washed and mixed with water over and over until the oils separate and emulsify.  That’s what the women were doing today.   Here’s a little video clip:

Eventually the impurities are washed out and the shea butter is clean.

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This woman has made her finished product into a large heavy ball she’ll wrap in leaves and bind to take to the market to sell.

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Shea butter is an ingredient in many beauty products, creams and lotions.  It’s used here on the skin, in the hair, for wounds or burns, for bites or sunburns, and for general aches and pains.  It’s also used as their main cooking oil.  The shea nut is a gift to the women of West Africa.  It’s a perfect ingredient and a perfect remedy for most things that ail you.

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You can learn more about the process of making shea butter here:


A Ouelessebougou Hospital Visit

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We made a visit to the Ouelsesebougou Hospital this afternoon to show the expedition team around.  This hospital has been built since we started coming here 10 years go.  It was completed around 2013 or 2014.  It’s still mostly vacant.   Handwashing stations like the one above greet patients and visitors at every entrance.

We’ve made some good friends here over the years.  One is the Dentist, Dr. Coulibaly.  He is a kind and good man who makes do with what he has available.  Last month when our medical team was here, our Dentist, Dr. Johnston, worked with Dr. Coulibaly, doing mostly extractions.

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Here’s a look at the OBGYN wing of the hospital.  Our daughter, Claire is putting together an OBGYN expedition at the end of this year to come and do surgeries here.  They’ll focus on fistulas and prolapsed uteruses.  These pictures are for her, as they make plans for what they’ll need to bring.

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Saturday is a special day. It’s the day we get ready for Sunday.

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We live in a dust storm of a dessert here in Bamako.  The warm breezes blow dust in every direction, through every crack.  Every Saturday morning the church building needs to be cleaned to prepare for the Sabbath.  Members come faithfully, missionaries help.  We all work together to make this an acceptable place to worship.  It’s good work and we enjoy being together.

I tackled a few unused rooms upstairs where our supplies are kept.  If left un-swept, the dust buildup is almost enough to silence the sound of our footsteps.

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After a thorough sweeping, the floors are mopped.

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A local broom:

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The cleaning closet:

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Working with Pres Sekou after the cleaning was finished, planning tithing settlements:

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