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
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.
I made some oatmeal cookies today. I wanted to enjoy a couple of them while they were still warm as I studied. I also wanted them to be safe.
Sometimes I forget and leave food out. Once I left a little bowl of peanuts on this little table by my reading chair. Within 15 minutes, there were dozens of ants in the bowl eating my peanuts. I never see them from day to day, just when they find my food.
Mind you, we live on the top floor of an apartment building, 65 steps or more above the ground. How do these tiny ants climb all the way up here, find a way into our apartment and know where my food is?? It’s beyond reason. They must be really hungry.
My dear friend, Rose, lives in a village called Bankoni. Today we stopped there to drop of her girls and to visit. I love to visit my friends in their homes. It helps me to know them and love them better.
Rose and her family moved into this compound about 5 months ago. They have been busy making it their home.
Rose and her family attend the Group in N’Gomi. Rose and her girls have been members of the church since 2017. Her husband, Ibrahima was baptized in 2018.
When we arrived, Rose put out a big meal for all of us. What a kindness! She served us maize balls with okra sauce or rice with a green leaf sauce.
Rose’s modern kitchen was in a separate building in the compound.
After dinner, Pres Sekou and Elder Lewis met with Rose and her husband for a couple of hours. Elder Usoh and I had a nice long visit and we took a few walks around the neighborhood.
Here is Rose’s store, just a few minutes away:
Before we left, Rose came to show us inside:
Family pictures: Amissetou, Ame, Michou, Rose, Princess and Ibrahima
And a farewell shot with Elder Usoh:
Thank you, Rose and your beautiful family, for a lovely afternoon!
While Pres Sekou and Elder Lewis met with the members and friends here in N’Gomi this afternoon, I waited with these three beautiful young women in the school courtyard. We spent the first hour getting acquainted. Michou (16), Amissetou (17) and Ame (17) helped me practice my French by asking me lots and lots of questions. And I learned a lot about them.
Michou wants to study biology and medicine when she goes to the university. Amissetou also wants to study medicine. Ame want to be an airline pilot. The two older girls are cousins. They’re in their last year at a private high school, preparing for their final big exams in a few months. They study hard.
The private school these girls attend is about a 1 hour walk from their compound. It’s expensive to go there–about $400/year. They all work to help pay for the school fees. They said they don’t mind wearing school uniforms.
I asked them about their beautiful hair and hair extensions. They do each other’s hair every 2-3 weeks. Extenions are usually added for a fete, or celebration of some sort, otherwise they wear more traditional braids or plaits.
That’s when the clip came out of my hair and they all jumped up to plait mine! That was fun for them and for me too!
For the rest of the afternoon I was a proper traditional African woman!
After siting for such a long time, we decided to go take a walk. Across the street and down the hill is the large mango grove where we had the celebration in November. We walked down to this shady cool grove and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees. It was cool and shady and we watched 2 young boys with their sisters trying to find green mangoes in the huge trees. They had a long bamboo pole with a wire loop on the end. When they spotted a mango, they’d pull it down, and the sisters would catch it in a cloth held between them.
They’d found about a dozen green mangoes and were searching for more. I asked what they did with the green ones. They told me they soak them overnight in something (?) that helps take the acid (?) out of them. Then they put them in a big bucket with a lid on it for a few days. Then they peel and chop the mangoes into small pieces and cook them with some seasonings and peppers and they sell this to the school children when they come home at lunch time.
Then the girls spotted a very high limb on a very high tree that had dozens of mangoes on it very high up in the top of the tree. Before I knew it, the two younger boys, probably 10 and 12 years old, scampered up the tree like little monkeys! I called them back and took a picture before they scurried right back up, higher and higher. I was glad their mother couldn’t see them
The smaller of the two boys went the highest. He weighed less and the branch thinned at the top. He had the pole and would grab the branches the mangoes were on and pull them close enough to pick the fruit. Then he’d toss the fruit down 10-15 feet to his brother, who then tossed them down to the girls on the ground. Team work!
By the time they’d picked every last mango in sight, there were more than 50 just from that one limb! These boys were amazing!
These kids were pretty happy with their findings–I’m sure their mom will be thrilled. Then we walked back to the school to see how things were going. Looked like we’d have another hour or more to wait, so we went out into the road to find some kids to play with. They came. They came with their little toys and sticks and rocks and wheels.
All you really need in life to be happy is a stick, a nail, some inner tube rubber bands, and a couple of bottle lids.
These kids make all their own toys. They play with rocks and clods and sticks and old bike tires. They spit in the dirt to make mud. They fill old pods or used bottles with rocks and shake them. They always have their hands in the dirt doing something. They make do. It’s fascinating to watch them, never bored. When I was a kid my Dad built us a sand box to play in. These kids live in a sand box and they are happy.
Finally the men came out and I thought we were finished. Then Chiaka came by–he wasn’t at church, so they went to interview him. That took another hour. We were really getting hungry. It was about 3:00 when they finally finished. Then we finally got in the car and waved goodbye to all our street friends and we drove to Rose’s compound, about 20-30 min away for our next adventures.
We went to the Bamako Branch early this morning to meet Pres Sekou before traveling to N’Gomi (we learned that is the most correct spelling). Before leaving we had some time to help prepare the room for sacrament meeting and get the sacrament ready.
This week Pres Christ Anselme Prince attended. We were so happy to hear that. We have been missing him. He came with his brother, Rich and his fiance Merveille.
While they met in Bamako, we traveled with Elder Usoh and Pres Sekou 1+ hours north to N’Gomi to meet with the group there. Pres Sekou and Elder Lewis spent the rest of the day there conducting tithing settlements and temple prep interviews.
This is the road in front of the school where we meet for church. It’s a small private elementary school owned by Chiaka and some partners. Chiaka is one of our members and he’s given us permission to meet in one of the classrooms on Sundays.
On the way to N’Gomi we picked up Rose Albert’s 3 girls: Habiba (Mischou) age 16, Amissetou age 17, and Ame age 17 (niece to Rose). They live in Banconi along the way.
This is Elder Usoh’s last week in N’Gomi. He is being transferred back to the Ivory Coast. He has come to love this sector and today was a sad day for him.
Our church meeting place:
Pres Sekou is preparing the sacrament.
Elder Usoh led us in singing while we waited for everyone to arrive.
The meeting started at about 9:30 with Pres Sekou conducting.
Really wonderful talks were given by Ame, who is preparing to be baptized, and by Elder Usoh.
Our sacrament meeting felt perfect to me–a gathering of Saints and friends who are trying to keep the commandments and come unto Christ. We had 8 investigators attending today. I could feel them belonging here and I think they felt it too.
I often think about how small and simple the church is here right now in Mali. It’s not big or showy. It’s not shouting “look at me!” We are humble followers of Jesus Christ and we quietly invite others to worship with us and learn of Him. When they come, they feel His spirit. They feel His love. When they read the Book of Mormon, they can feel it is true, just the same way I feel it. There is a strong and powerful spirit moving among these people who will become Pioneers here. There is no place on earth I’d rather be than with them.
After sacrament meeting we had a Sunday School class taught by Pres Sekou. We talked about the Book of Mormon, Another Testimony of Jesus Christ. Each shared their feelings about the Book of Mormon. We read the Introduction to the book together. We talked about the prophets and what they taught and the stories about their families and people. We talked about how the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ and how reading it will bring us closer to Him. What a gift the Book of Mormon is!
Each family received the new Come Follow Me study guide for this year and also the last editions of the Liahona magazine.
I felt completely content here today, with these friends.
Our group today: back row–Elder Lewis, Pres Sekou, Catherine, Marie, Moussa, Julien, Elder Usoh, daughter-in-law of Pascal who is Mousa’s brother (front) and Nicole with child. Second row: Michou, Amissetou, Ame. Front: children and relatives of Moussa.
Julien, Catherine, Elder Usoh:
Moussa with children, Catherine and Elder Usoh:
After church, Pres Sekou and Elder Lewis spent the next several hours doing the interviews. I had my own adventures with the children.
The Bamako Artisan’s Market is right next to the big mosque and it is surrounded by swarms of people and vendors selling their wares–in shops, out of wheelbarrows and carts, and on mats or tables lining the streets. Many of the vendors just spread things out on a tarp on the ground. The parking area is full of poor people and the infirm begging for alms. I’ve seen lepers here and crippled and the deranged, all hoping for a coin or two from anyone passing by.
Because of the mosque and the religious sensitivities, I don’t take many photos here, but here are a few I found online. They give a pretty good idea of what’s going on here.
These next 6 photos I did not take. These are the tables of the traditional medicine and witchcraft items. The vendors do not like you taking photos here unless you pay them or have a local guide who pays them. Here’s what one traveler posted:
The most interesting place there is a fetish market (though there’re just several spots). You will never find so many attributes for black and white magic elsewhere in the world! Monkey heads, crocodile heads, dog legs, lion urine, donkey ears, horns, dead parrots, bats, horse parts, porcupine quills, etc. You have to pay 1000 francs (1,5 euro) for taking pictures of one counter, but it’s worth it! Come with a local guide and he will tell you the stories how to use all this staff! For example, donkey ears help you to weaken your rival in love, or shockfish skin will help a pregnant woman.
These are cola nuts which are used in traditional celebrations like marriages, or like when we visit a village chief.
I took the rest of these photos today outside the Artisan’s Market. First of all, here are some of the motorcycles of people in the market. No idea what you’d do if you had to leave in a hurry.
Here are some more traditional healing things and animal parts and pieces:
Here’s some coconut!
Anounou and the team, waiting for our car to be fetched from the gridlock.
The rest of these were through the car window as we drove through the streets surrounding the Artisan Market. It’s all a big market, everywhere you look!
If you ever visit Bamako, one place to be sure to put on your list is the Artisan Market. I love this market–the artisans, the smells, the unusual things to look at, and all the best friends you make the moment you express interest in any little item!
This is a working market. The artisans actually craft their art right here in front of you. If you want a pair of crocodile shoes, you can see the skins pinned on boards drying. If you want an elephant carving, you can watch the tools in the hands of the craftsman and smell the black shoe dye it’s rubbed with.
The market is like a maze of shops and vendors–everything from food to jewelry. There are beaded necklaces and bracelets and silver and gold smiths fashioning intricate charms or earrings. You can find all sorts of wood carvings–every imaginable animal, masks or African figures. You can practice bargaining for leather goods–belts, wallets, shoes or leather boxes. There are traditional musical instruments like drums of every variety, calabash instruments and African guitars.
Everywhere you look, there’s something interesting and there are interesting people. I’ve visited this market enough over the years that my vendor friends remember my name and remember exactly what I purchased the last time I was here. I am always happy to see them again.
I hope you will take a few minutes to really look at these fascinating photos and every little colorful item you see here. This will give you a good feel for African culture and tradition and a good idea for what shoppers like to buy!
Welcome to the Bamako Artisan’s Market!
Silversmiths making bracelets.
Old Malian glass wedding beads:
Our expedition shoppers buying things for our Ouelessebougou Dinner Auction in May:
The tools are just as interesting as the carvings!
When you soak a crocodile skin in the stuff in the tubs, it softens it.
Finding some gifts for our Mali Elders.
Where they dry the snake skins:
Crocodile and large lizard skins:
I hope you enjoyed that visual feast! In the next post I’ll show you some of the traditional medicine and witchcraft items you can find for sale just outside the Artisan’s Market.