Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Life Story - God's Unending Protection

It was a warm day, partly cloudy and not a raindrop all day, after days of rain.  The sky was a beautiful blue with huge, puffy clouds. Our yard was filled with boys playing soccer, there was a calm in the day between clean up from lunch and when I needed to start cooking supper.  Michael had a meeting coming up but encouraged me to go out to see a few women before he needed to leave. I never made it past my first stop.

I left our gate and walked toward the road to Aminata's house.  When I got to her house, her mom was sitting on a small wooden stool eating plain rice out of a bowl and Aminata was nearby bent over at the waste, washing laundry by hand.  As is custom, her mom offered for me to eat with her, in which I replied, no thank you and found a wooden stool to sit on.  The stool was a tiny stool meant for a child, but it was the only one around, I sat it close to the house so I could lean against the mud brick house.  I quickly realized the stool was much to small for me and was quite uncomfortable.  I figured I wouldn't be there long so I didn't say anything.

Our visit started normal with greetings and asking how each others days were going.  I mentioned that we were going to Ziguinchor for the weekend so we could talk to our families, and that sparked a conversation that I never anticipated.  Aminata's mom was quite interested in my mom and dad. She wanted to know how old they were, keep in mind Aminata is my age. She was intrigued to know that both my mom and dad were alive.  She wanted to know if they had white hair, which would tell her if they were old or not.  I asked her if she knew how old she was, and she clapped her hands, threw her head back with a chuckle and said with a bit of a twinkle in her eye, "I don't know." She then went on to tell me that her mother forgot about her, which means her mother did not take note as to what day she was born.  She told me that in those days nobody took note as to what day they gave birth, it is only something they do today.  She was very interested to know if my mom was her age or not, so she started asking me how many children my mom had and their ages, asking me to calculate it to see if I could figure out her age.  I told her I imagined her to be close to my mom's age, maybe a little younger, based on the fact that Aminata was my age and she had older children as well.

I don't remember the exact path that led us to our next topic, but eventually Aminata and her mom started talking about the Guinea Bissau War of Independence (read more about it here).  Her mom began to talk about how she was single when the war broke out but by the middle of the war she had given birth to her second child.  She had never been to school, so she could not read or write, therefore she did not know dates of the war, her wedding or birth of her children.  She told me she had given birth to her first child in Guinea Bissau, but her second was born in Senegal because they needed to flee Guinea Bissau because of the war. They remained in Senegal, making it their new home.  She said she remembers the day Guinea Bissau was declared free because her husband went to Bissau for the party celebration.

They continued their life, now in Senegal, giving birth to several more children.  I wish I could tell you their story ends there, but unfortunately it doesn't.  They began seeing rebels passing through their village, using their village as a passage between Senegal and Guinea Bissau.  The rebels were hiding in Guinea Bissau and beginning a war in the Casamance of Senegal.  This is known as the Casamance conflict, a civil war in Senegal. The day that Aminata and her mother both remember was a day they will never forget.  It was the dry season and they had already planted their gardens.  In their village every house except for one had a grass roof. Amanita's mom had just given birth a week before to their last baby. Rebels entered their village and began burning the grass roofs and all their gardens. They burned the entire village except the house with a metal roof and they took all their life stock as well, every animal in the village. All the people of the village were chased out into the bush in hiding and slept all the ground that night, keep in mind they had a one week old. The next day, the men came back to the village to find rebels had burned everything, their kitchens, gardens, clothing, homes, everything. This family had fled their homes in Guinea Bissau to escape war and now were fleeing their homes in Senegal because of war. They were frightened, homeless, and only had what was on them. They returned to collect what wasn't burned, put it on their heads and started by foot to find a new home where they hoped was freedom.

Listening to their story, my heart was touched. God protected this family before they even knew there was a God. Aminata is now active in our church and has given her life to the Lord. Her mother also loves the Lord with as much understanding that she can. She faithfully comes to church and often seeks prayer. God protected this family through two wars and today they have the ultimate freedom, freedom in Christ.