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Surviving in Gambia

Dead forests

Dead forests stand like armies of skeletons bleached white in the sun.

The contents of the gaily painted chest held at the Latri Kunda meeting room reflect, I suppose, some of the problems of the members who live there.

The chest is made of tin and is kept locked, giving it an air of importance as well as mystery. Standing at the front of the room, the box is not just a piece of furniture but acts as seat, table, work bench, something for children to stand on to get a better view, or something for chickens to peck.

However, it is the contents of the tin box which are of greatest importance to the brothers and sisters, for they are a jumble covering all human needs, material and spiritual. The treasure includes Bibles, pieces of candle, the ecclesia's cup and plate neatly wrapped in a cloth, Sunday School notes and workbooks of all descriptions, pencils and stubs of chalk. Here too the 'Health Care Centre' may be found. Tablets for ringworm, thread-worm, tapeworm, and many other species of worm for that matter. Here are the tinctures, creams and potions for scurvy, scabies, festering sores and skin disorders of all kinds. Here are the bandages and plasters for burns and abrasions, and pills for relief of pain and for the dreaded Banjul belly. These are all are in constant use and replenished on every CBM visit to Gambia.

The ecclesias in Gambia struggle on. Every day is a fight for survival and plans are rarely made for the future. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, and if Gambian society suffers, either by natural disasters, or by severe outbreaks of malaria or dysentery, such as happened this year, then the ecclesia suffers too.

When international trade barriers are put up or markets fixed, such as America's embargo on the importation of peanuts which took place a few years ago, it has devastating repercussions on the Gambian economy, throwing thousands of subsistence farmers and their dependent extended families into poverty and deprivation and, of course, directly affecting the lives of brothers and sisters.

In addition to these troubles there is a new and sinister threat with which the Gambian government has yet to grapple. In recent years the coastline of the country has been eroded by storms and freak weather conditions. The sea is invading large tracts of land. Dead forests stand like armies of skeletons bleached white in the sun, parodying the human remains from Muslim cemeteries whose tombs faced east and were close to the sea. Now the waves have exhumed many of them and scattered their contents along the shoreline.

Yet mid all this uncertainty, Sunday by Sunday at Farafenni and Latri Kunda the brothers and sisters meet in fellowship to remember the Lord Jesus Christ and to pray for his Kingdom to come. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Michael Willey
from The Bible Missionary, no. 155, January 2000

Information about Gambia