Gambia Trip Report – December 2014February 9, 2015
Progress, prosperity and peace, three words found on the Gambian national crest which epitomise the nation; a country of exceeding beauty, spectacular hospitality and heart breaking poverty. It is a country which grabs you and won’t let you go, this is the reason The Gambia Partnership finds itself celebrating its tenth year.
When we first visited in 2004 we would never have dreamed we would be where we are today. A desire to understand real need, to experience a new culture and shake us from our comfort zones led us out; today we are helplessly committed to learning from and working with the people of this nation. Registered as a charity, The Gambia Partnership has covered a lot of ground to date, some of it with one step forward and two steps back, but nevertheless it has progressed.
Most recently an exciting adventure in mid-November saw 14 people from Lewis come ogether to begin a school and nursery build which will serve as a focal point of the charity for years to come, God willing. From school to retirement age, this rag tag group came together and forged a close bond which will last a lifetime.
The school build is an opportunity the charity has been praying about for years, we had been seeking an opportunity to work with a community and put down roots to build relationships and make a significant impact in an area. Our Gambian committee identified the village of Kabekel through some evangelistic work back in 2013. This year we had the pleasure of spending a week with the villagers digging holes, making blocks, creating foundations and building friendships.
Working innovatively in the build plan using shipping containers the charity aims to develop a nursery and lower and upper basic primary school for around 150 pupils. The first stage is underway with 2 classrooms an entrance hall and an office already under construction. The group worked tirelessly in temperatures of 37 degrees to move things forward with huge encouragement from the island community who amazed us again with their generosity, support and prayers. We are eternally grateful for all of this as none of it would be possible otherwise and we want to say a huge thank you to everyone who contributed.
Aside from the building works, our Gambian committee kept us busy with a full programme of events allowing the group to get a full understanding of the impact of the last 10 year’s support. One of the most moving elements was the privilege of meeting the parents of the 35 children which we currently sponsor and being reminded of the terrible situations people found themselves in and how we were blessed with the opportunity to help. A wife abandoned with 6 kids to support on her own, refugees trying to rebuild lives from the horrors of war, women widowed through medical error, families literally fighting to survive on a daily basis – how devastating these stories. Yet in amongst it all, we have been given the privilege to offer hope and a future. Many of the children the charity sponsor are Muslim, as a Christian charity we don’t differentiate. In a country that’s 95% Muslim, we want to offer as much as possible to all and sponsor these children through 7 different Christian schools.
The charity strives to share the good news whenever possible in the most relevant manner whilst meeting the physical needs of the people. We find there is a genuine interest in the gospel; people have a hunger, a restlessness, a desire to know and understand what the Christian faith is about. We find there are many misconceptions about the gospel there, as there are here, and by giving people the facts their eyes can be opened. It is true what is said in Romans 10; ‘How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?’
Faith is the greatest topic, we all have belief in something but it is not the strength of our belief that matters it is the strength of what we believe in. That belief cannot be misplaced as there is only one truth, as a charity we are committed to pointing people to Christ. If people are not interested in faith, we will continue to work with them and love them as we are commanded in Matthew 22:37-39. Our committee are working hard to progress the aims of the charity and are running a weekly bible class every Saturday attended by 250 kids as well as a Tuesday night theology class to help people understand the basics of the Christian faith.
In amongst all of this, what really matters is the people, one of the most heart wrenching stories from our recent trip was a four year old boy we nicknamed Murchadh who had been rejected from his family by his new stepdad and was effectively homeless. Roseann and the girls made him feel like the most important child in the world during the week, got him new clothes and paid for access to nursery along with a uniform. We are now negotiating support long term to make sure he has a future and understands that what happened is not his fault and that he is loved. On top of this we were able to organise some emergency medical help for a number of children and in one case a small monetary intervention may have saved a one year old boy’s life.
It truly is a privilege to be doing this work; we cannot wait to see the school build progress and to develop the next phase which will give us two more rooms, another office as well as an assembly hall. This will be funded by our new testimony DVD entitled ‘Shepherds Stories’, a trailer for that can be found on our website www.thegmbiapartnership.co.uk or our Facebook page. Look out for the forthcoming BBC ALBA documentary on the November trip which follows the stories of some of those in the group as well as the progress of the build itself.
So what next for the charity? We hope to travel out again in 2015 to progress the build, continue to sponsor children and provide them with hope for the future and to respond to the needs identified by our committee out there. If you would like to get involved we are still looking for sponsors for some children which works out at £15 per month. If you are interested please do get in touch. Once again a huge thank you to everyone who has helped us and is helping us, you know who you are!