Saturday, December 22, 2007

Arrival in Banjul

Tuesday morning we crossed the ferry in record time. There is definately something to be said about traveling in the opposite direction as everyone else. When we arrived in Banjul the mass of people headed to Barra (where we had just come from) was unbelievable. There was people every where. We made it out of Banjul and into the suburbs without incident. At the money changers we were again reminded that Tabaski was around the corner. The place was packed. I am not sure how you knew where you were in line if the last person in the building didn't tell you to follow them. I left Teresa and Joanne (with my check) to do the long wait and I drove a teammate to the mechanics to pick up the ambulance which was in for service. When I returned to the money place... Joanne and Teresa were still in line. I was able to wait in comfort in the car! Smart me.

Yesterday brought some sad news. I heard that one of our clinic employees, who had been out for the last two months on a medical leave, passed away. Today, I headed to Banjul with Teresa and Barney to pick up people from Ndungu Kebbeh and accompany them to the family compound. It was a very sad morning as I listened to people comforting the family by telling them how good IJ was. Yes, she was a good person, very helpful. But she didn't know the Lord as savior. It broke my heart. I am here for that reason, that those I work with and come across in the clinic or life's journey may see the love of Christ in and through me. When I returned to the guest house I spoke with Joanne about the number of deaths we have seen recently. Pray God will continue to give us the strength to serve him here.

The rest of today will be a time for rest and preparing for services tomorrow. I am very excited as we will be able to join the rest of our team in worship at the learning centre. This will be the third week for services to be held in the new location.

I trust you all will have a very Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

God Answers Prayer

Thanks for your prayers!

This morning I was up and out working on the truck by 8 AM. The truck has a problem with the fuel filter/pump. Occasionally, you have to pump it to start the vehicle. So, I tried that... It was a bit sticky as it starts best if one person pumps and another person tries to start the engine. I was on my own. Eventually one of the compound workers came and I enlisted his aid. We ended up putting fuel in the truck... opening the bottom valve on the pump and finally, the compound worker got it in his head to suck on the out flow tube (gross!). It worked, a few minutes later diesel was flowing and the truck started. Praise God!

Then I was off to the other vehicle. There is a lose connection somewhere and it won't start. We tried jumping it. No effect. I went home and brought out the VOLT METER (my new best friend). My friend and ambulance driver was waiting for me at the door. He helps me check the fluid levels on all the vehicles. He was very willing to tag along and see if he could help. The battery was charged. So, the next step was to clean the terminals. It was a dirty job. I am so glad I got to do it! My fingers were very dirty when I finished. I attempted to start the car and waa laa... God is SO good, it started first try.

See, I am not much of a mechanic. Praise God he kept it simple for me.

My driver and I went for a drive to find Joanne and let her know the Nissan was back in service... ulterior motive...we wanted to ask her to buy us breakfast. She laughed! Go figure. No breakfast.

The rest of the day was devoted to clinic finances, inventory and caring for sick neighbors. I ran my own little clinic from the house. I did have to go to the clinic and run labs on a seizing child. I called our Ambulance driver and had her transported to our referral center.

It was a full day. I made a home visit and visited a friend this evening. I am praising God for the extra dose of strength he gave me to get through the day.

I trust all you northeast residents are staying warm.

December Prayer Letter

December 2007

Greetings from Ndungu Kebbeh, The Gambia. It is a quiet, still day. There is no breeze. If you lived in New York, you might think the sky looks like snow is coming. But it is The Gambia and it is at least 85 degrees out. The clouds are just acting as insulation today. Solar power will be low tonight.

The week has been a busy one, just as yours has been in the States. The Clinic closed on Friday so our staff can have off for Tobuski and we will remained closed until after the New Year. I have been busy with staffing issues, inventory, finances and preparing for our Christmas celebration which was last night.

During our Christmas celebration, we were challenged to remember the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. Joanne read from Matthew and Luke 2. Buba shared the importance of Christ coming as an infant, and later dying on the cross, shedding his blood. The Islamic Holiday of Tobuski is in just a few days. Our neighbors are all trying to prepare. The harvest was very poor and money is extremely short. Yet, a new outfit or new shoes for each child and your self is a goal for a good Tobuski. A ram will be purchased and slaughtered that day. It is a reenactment of Abraham sacrificing Ishmael. Tobuski and Christmas don’t always fall this close together. This year we do have a wonderful opportunity to share that God sent His son Jesus as an infant, and that Jesus later died on the cross as a perfect atonement for our sins. I have had a few emails about not forgetting the real story of Christmas. We have the opportunity to be a light in this world and proclaim…”For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” I have been praying for the outreaches and opportunities that each one of us will have to share the gospel this Christmas. I pray that we will be strong lights in this dark world.

Tomorrow will be a full day. I will start the day in the role of auto mechanic. Pray for me, I can use all the help I can get. We have two vehicles here in Ndungu Kebbeh and neither one would start this evening. I have a few tricks up my sleeves for the one. If it starts then we can jump the other. If the Lord allows at least one vehicle to start, I will be helping Joanne clean up the rental compound the Literacy Centre has used for housing their facilitators during training. I also want to make a few visits before I leave Tuesday for Banjul.

Return of physical health
Strength each day to do the work that needs to be done that day
The arrival of two medical shipments
Opportunities to share Christ’s love
The opportunity to go to the guest house for some R&R during the Christmas closure
Prayer supporters and financial supporters; thanks for being a part of my ministry here

I appreciate your prayers and support of the ministry here in The Gambia. I am looking forward to what God will do in 2008 even as I realize I can’t shut the door on 2007. Friday, at the close of the clinic day, a staff member (who was disciplined earlier in the week) argued with Teresa and me. He is very angry with me and has blamed me for wronging him. On Friday, he vocalized, loudly all his complaints and then made a few verbal statements that I in turn repeated to our mission director. Barney will be going to the lawyer’s office on Monday with the document that Teresa and I wrote up about our meetings with this individual. Pray that God will continue to give me peace and the strength to stand firm in our decisions. The employee has worked for us for many years. It saddens me that this is happening. I trust God to bring it to an end.

We are still looking for a guest house manager for June 2008-January 2009. To learn more about our ministry in The Gambia, go to and under field… choose The Gambia.

Please pray for our two families and two single women that are on pre-field. Pray God with provide them opportunities to share the ministry he has called them.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year.

Suellen Black
ABWE, The Gambia

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas in The Gambia

Today was a busy day. I spent much of it in the kitchen preparing for our Christmas get together.

Now, when I tell you that, I think you picture me working in a typical kitchen and you would be right. Maybe I am baking cookies... no, not today. Today, I was making Chili, hot,spicey chili. I had a friend over and she helped me pick my rice. I cooked up 18 cups of broken rice and made a dutch oven filled to the brim of chili. It was very good, not quite a Steve's chili, but almost. Soxna, my neighbor, worked on the rice for almost two hours. I made the chili and pressure cooked some beans to add to the chili. (Mom, I know a faster way to make that bean soup I like so much.... 20 minutes in a pressure cooker.) I cleaned my stove, washed the dishes and served Soxna cappacino and wacky cake. She had to add sugar to the cappacino. Yuck. They do like their beverages sweet here. By four o'clock the chili was done, the rice was a glob... you try cooking 8 cups of rice in one pan and 10 in amother. And we were waiting for our guests to arrive. They came slowly, first two. We started by sitting around the charcoal and having some strong green tea (not the decaffinated good for you kind, but the strong stuff). As we chatted two more came, and soon we had six guests and the three of us. Many couldn't come because of commitments at home or they were traveling. We had cookies and hot tea and then warm sweet milk. Then Joanne read the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke. After that it was time for Chili and Rice and Spaghetti, and rolls. I am stuffed. I worked off dinner by driving five of the six home. A drive in the bush at night is fun. I missed the Lippy girls. They went with me a few years ago and we made up Christmas songs... "I'm Dreaming of a Brown Christmas, just like the one I never knew" "Seat belt clank,seat belt clank" (Jingle bells) Our Celebration was small but very good. I think it was enjoyed by all who came and all were able to take food home.

On Tuesday I will be heading to the guest house. I have a few days of R&R planned and a lot of supply shopping to do. I may not blog again before Christmas. I will pray you all have a wonderful Christmas and can find a way to share the JOY of this Christmas season and the Joy that the Birth of Jesus brings. Merry Christmas to all!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Drive by shooting??????

Okay, I have to share with you something that happened a few weeks ago now. I was a bit busy at the time and I would have liked to have included a photo... but that didn't happen.

One of the things I am trying to do while the clinic hours are cut back... is to help out families that should have their child admitted, but the next hospital is 26 kilometers away. It is a bit of a hardship. So, if the child isn't too sick, I have let them go home and I make home visits to give medications and make assesments. I limit my area to just my village or the ones nearby.

The other day Teresa drove me to a village not too far away... maybe 6 kilometers. On the way there I noted a woman waiting at the side of the road for a ride heading in the direction we were coming from. She had a young child with her and was waiting out under the sun. Teresa and I continued on our way and I visited the sick little one, gave him his injections and had a nice chat with his mother. On our return, to Ndungu Kebbeh, I noticed that same woman waiting by the road. I asked Teresa to pull up to them and we could ask her where she was headed. As we stopped another woman also approached us. I asked where we they headed. The whole story came out... the child was sick and they had taken him to the government clinic down the road, (about 12 kilometers from us). She had purchased his medications, which included an injection that morning, which he received at the clinic. It also included a second injection for which they supplied needle, syringe, medication and told her to find someone to give the shot. So, she was waiting on the side of the road to find a ride to my village, to find one of my employees at their home, to inject her son. Then she would wait again to find a car to return her to her village. I felt so bad for this woman. She had been waiting for so long all ready. I checked out the child's chart from the government clinic and decided I needed to show the love of Christ and help her out. So, from the passenger side window, I reached out and gave her child the injection... yup, right there roadside! Teresa was just busting to break out with laughter. Praise God she waited until we were down the road a ways.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Flat Brylee is headed home

This is me and Suellen on the ferry. I call her Sohna when she is dressed like this. She only wears the head piece off of her compound (yard). When we arrived at their place in Banjul, she changed to regular American long skirts.
I didn't have to wear a complae because of my age. If I stayed longer I would have tried it. Girls don't have to wear a head peice.
Suellen took me to a few places in Banjul. I saw the president's arch. We stopped at a few store. One store uses bar codes and scanners for prices. Suellen said that store is only a few years old. She bought a nice padded envelope and fitted me out for my return trip to America. She thinks I should make it home well before Christmas.
Brylee and Mrs Eibel,
Thanks for giving me this opportunity to show Brylee The Gambia. I had a great time and hope she did too. Enjoy the package, I hope she arrives before the Christmas holidays.
PS For those of you reading these blogs... the class is taking part of the Flat Stanley project. You can learn more about Flat Stanley at

Traveling with Flat Brylee

Friday evening we headed out for a drive in the bush. I did NOT get to sit on the dash the whole time. Just for this picture. You have to be careful driving in the bush. Suellen says the deep sand makes you feel like you are driving in snow. She is from near Buffalo, New York, so I guess she knows about snow.

You also have to be aware of children, goats, donkeys, cows, sheep, dogs and monkeys jumping out into the road.

I didn't see anything except for a LOT of pretty birds. I didn't get any picture of them though. I am really happy we didn't find that snake or his relatives. Suellen says they have cobras, vipers and mambas. ugh!

All good trips have to come to an end and I am late for school. Suellen wrote my teacher to tell her I just arrived and she would get me home as soon as possible. I guess she should have written mom and dad too. Sorry about that. I was having too much fun to think about it. Saturday morning we headed into Banjul. I got to ride the ferry! Apparently I rode it on the way to Suellen's, but I was in the envelope.

It is too bad this photo didn't turn out as good as I had hoped. The two big vans just getting on the ferry have a load of sheep on top. They tie them on using a net. Suellen says the sheep are going to market. An Islamic holiday is coming up and every family will sacrifice a sheep that day (if they can afford it).

Suellen let me sit on top of the life boats, just for the picture. She tells me most of The Gambians can't swim. They are really frightened when the crossing is a rough one. We had a great crossing. I got a little sun! No sunburn though.

The capitol city Banjul is in the background.

Flat Brylee visits The Gambia part 2

Okay, Friday was a fun day. I arrived mid morning on Thrusday, and the earlier post was about my first day. Now it is my second day in The Gambia. It was another busy clinic day for Suellen, I just tagged along and played with the kids that came in. I wasn't too sure about eating Gambian food. I promised my mom and dad I would eat good while I was away. It turns out I didn't have much to worry about. Suellen had a nasty intestinal virus several months back and she is still a little wary of the local food. I did have a bean sandwhich... YUMM. A little on the spicy side, but very tasty. It had lots of beans and onions.

After the clinic closed we went visiting again. This nice grandma is the lady Suellen is named after. Her name is Maam (mom) Soxna (sohna) Drammeh. She is really a nice older woman. I love her smile. She went inside to get all dressed up for her photo. She likes to sit on these logs and watch the neighborhood. She lives in her son's compound with him, his two wives and their children. I counted... 10, and three that live with some one else. There are lots of kids around here.

One of my favorite activites, besides playing soccer, was going for a saret ride. Serin has two cows he hooks up to pull this two wheeled cart. You don't get anywhere fast, but it was a fun way to travel. Maam Soxna told me it wasn't too fun to travel that way when it is really hot and you have a long way to go. I guess she is right.

While I was visiting Maam Soxna, we greeted her in her house. This is her bed. See me! The house is just a one room mud brick building. Out back is the outhouse, except there isn't a house... just a wall and a hole in the ground. I didn't have to use it!
The spots on the wall are where the termites keep trying to destroy her house. yuck!

Ode to a Visitor.... Flat Brylee

For those of you who are regular post readers... this post is for Mrs. Eibel's class at Firelands Elementary School in Oberlin, Ohio. You may learn something, feel free to read along.

It was a really long trip to Suellen's. I began to think I would never get out of the envelope. But finally one day, there I was out in the sun and meeting Suellen face to face. She was a break from the clinic where she works... and found mail in her mail box. Apparently this is NOT a common finding. So, she was really surprised! Me too. It was hotter than I thought it would be. I went back to the clinic with Suellen. She kept busy. I learned that there is a nasty disease carried by the mosquitos here. It is called Malaria. I saw some really sick kids. It made me sad and kind of nervous... mom and dad wouldn't like it if I got Malaria while I was here. Suellen told me she would give me some medicine to take once a week while I was here and for a month after I return to America. I don't want ot take medicine, but I don't want Malaria either.

When Suellen finished at the clinic,
we headed to her house.
This is what I saw in front of her door.

I am so glad I didn't see what was inside of it. Here is a picture of it next to Suellen's shoe. The people here call it the snake's shirt. I guess I have something else to watch out for... Malaria-mosquitos and snakes. Hmm.

Ride 'em!

Suellen actually has a very nice house. She even
has it decorated for Christmas. You should hear
her try to explain Snowmen to the Gambians.
She has a tree with lights, but doesn't get to turn
on the lights too much because she only has two
This is a picture of her outlet in the kitchen.
She has one in every room.
They are up high and out of reach so
small kids can't get their fingers in .

They all have a cover too.

I wore my soccer shirt and Suellen was glad to hear that I like to play soccer. I was able to play with some of the nieghbor kids.