The day at the village was an unforgettable day for me. Here are some photos to summarize our time in Maramara (it was last Monday, October 28).
When we arrived in the village – they immediately took our group to this "tent" they had set up for us. This was the fanciest set up that World Concern had seen in all of their village visits. A few of their villagers sat in the tent and ate with us.
Our church paid for a meal for the entire village – and this was the "appetizer" – chicken. The way they eat – is they just put a large plate in front of a group of people and everyone digs in. Some of the World Concern staff came early to oversee the preparation of the meal to be sure it was sanitary enough for us to eat. The biggest issue was bringing water for food prep. Their water would certainly make all of us sick.
While the villagers gathered, Nate and I finished some videos that we will be showing you in the coming weeks.
Then it was time for the village gathering. About half of the village came. The other half, it seems, had to travel to a nearby village for the market. So approximately 400 to 500 of the villagers came, plus some from nearby villages.
The village meeting began with a representative from the village thanking Northridge Church for partnering with them, and they let us know that other villages in the area have the same needs that they do, and they want to help them too.
That was followed by the Chad Director of World Concern, Athanase, reminding them of what they have agreed to. Things like:
- We can get you a well that you will maintain and take care of.
- Each of your men will make 1000 bricks to be used in building a school (42,000 total)
- We will provide the mason from Goz Beida who will teach your younger men how to build with bricks – so that you can do future projects for yourselves (like making homes out of brick. When fire comes through a village – it destroys the entire village. Making the walls out of brick will provide stability for their homes).
- He instructed them that when their bricks are ready, the building of the school can begin.
- They also will provide a teacher for the school. That teacher will need to be hired and paid for by the village. (The government typically will eventually pay for teachers once you establish your school for a couple of years.)
I then had the privilege of addressing the entire village. I began by telling them that our church is filled with followers of Jesus. And since we follow Jesus, our leader has instructed us to love those with great needs. They have a big heart for other villages in their area, and we, as a church, have a heart for them. Since our children have clean water, we want their children to have clean water. Since our children can read and write – we want their children to learn to read and write. My talk was along those lines.
Their responses were a bit overwhelming for me. At one point, everyone was laughing – so I turned to my translator, Emmanuel, and asked if I said something wrong. He said, "No, they are so excited – they are laughing with excitement." Those from World Concern said of all of the villages they have had this type of meeting with – this one was very unique. This village is ready to work hard (so we don't hurt them as we try to help them), and they are very grateful for the part we want to play in developing their village.
This is Emmanuel (a World Concern employee from southern Chad). He was my translator and will be in the village on a regular basis in the coming years.
It was then time for anyone in the village to respond to what they have heard. That was a moving, amazing time. This is another village chief telling me that their village (3 kilometers away) has the same problems – no clean water and no school. He is asking for our help. At least two other village chiefs attended the meeting. Likely these villages will come to Maramara for their water and to educate their children.
There was a lot of laughter, clapping, and joy in the response of the villagers. One villager thanked the President of Chad for allowing a group like ours to come into Chad, and he asked me to thank President Obama for allowing us to travel to Chad.
The women sit on one side and the men on the other. One woman told us that when the water project is finished it will change their lives. (Remember, in the late part of the dry season, they travel two hours one way for water, and they must do that twice a day. It also will eliminate much of the sickness their children suffer from daily.) The women are very thankful.
This was one of my favorite guys from the village – the only one with sunglasses. I asked one of our team where he would have gotten sunglasses, and they said that the villagers travel a lot to markets and see what is "out there" – so he probably made a significant trade for them – likely in Sudan.
This man's response was the most emotional for me. I cry way too easily, but did a pretty good job of fighting back tears through this entire day. This man thanked the village of Maramara for taking him in as a refugee from the Darfur crisis (over one quarter of the village is from Darfur in Sudan – who have come to live in Maramara). Then he started talking in English, directly to me – thanking me for coming and helping this needy group of people. It was overwhelming to hear him, in my language, thank our church. (I look forward to showing you the video of his speech sometime.)
When the speeches were done, it was time for the meal that our church had provided for them. The women all walked back to the village. The men were going to eat under the tree where our meeting took place.
This is what a meal is like in Maramara. We had purchased some sheep from their flocks that they had killed that morning to feed us. It was primarily potatoes, rice, and sheep that we ate.
And this is why this village faces so much sickness and it is unusual to see someone reach old age in the village. This is the water they drink, cook with, bath with, wash their clothes with, etc…
With our Advent Conspiracy project, we can solve this "simple" problem (not simple for them, but with your gifts – it will be a simple solution).
I would love to take each one of you to Maramara. But hopefully these photos and some videos you will see in the coming weeks at church will help you feel the privilege of what we are doing in partnering with this village.