While at homebase this past week we celebrated
“International Day of the Woman”
It is an interesting holiday as the culture in general is suppressive to women (they have very, very little freedom). We do not quite understand how women are honored or viewed on this day in the context of their culture. As a national holiday, many businesses and schools were closed. We saw celebration and a day filled with fun activities. It is celebrated differently per which village you live. We do not know the origins of the day and with such language barriers we do not know what was all spoken at the ceremony. They did have a woman from the village speak and the chief honored Ruth & Linda by thanking them for everything they have done as well as giving a blessing for them to stay and continue helping the village. Our prayer is that God would open all eyes to see women as His beautiful creation; priceless and worthy of respect; and as Christ loves the Church, so should a husband love his wife.
International Day of the Woman Sneak peek:
Bike Race (for girls=unmarried women)- which we participated in! Since we (sheltering wings) have been appointed a “guard/helper” by the village chief, he was able to get us two bikes to use at the last minute. We were told we’d race to the next town (about 5 miles away) and back. Did this happen…lol…not quite. Not only were we were excited to support the women, but now we also had the chance to finally do some physical activity! We did bike- probably about 200 yards. As we began, we were very confused b/c everyone (4 other girls along with Britney and myself which came to a grand total of 6 ladies for the big race;) biked like she was taking a leisurely stroll. Perplexed at what was going on, we simply stayed with the girls. Finally, about 100 yards out of town we all came to a stop. We thought we were waiting for others to catch up (wrong again). Come to find out, we had stopped to begin the race. The nice little stroll we had was merely to reach the starting line. As we biked out of town, we had a crew of men follow along. When we came to the starting point, one of the gentlemen drew a line with his foot in the sandy, red dirt. The starting line was ready. The next thing we knew, the girls took off. Man, oh man did they fly! The race had officially begun. We popped on our bikes with hopes to catch up; however, once we started to peddle faster and faster we realized the bikes did not have gears nor breaks…. whoops. Thus, you can only go so fast before you feel like your wheels are out of control.
We know you are now anxiously awaiting if we caught up and won, we did catch up, but it would not have been right to pass them. We came in dead last.
Oh, how did the girls stop? The men at the finish line caught them. Luckily, we could slow our bikes down, so we did not need their kind help. LOL, it was fun.
After the race, they held a ceremony under a grove of mango trees. The chief and elders of the village were present, as well as the mayor of our neighboring village, the village teachers, and doctors. At the ceremony, they had a small parade which consisted of the students rhythmically marching followed by the women marching and singing. After some introductions, the women danced together in a circle. There was also a dinosaur dancing at one point (comic relief) and some men. Hopefully you can see in the picture how they dance- easier to see it than explain. It is all how they move their feet; it appears they are sticking out their buttocks, but the movement is all in feet.
What seemed to bring everyone the most enjoyment was the dance of the masks. Depending on your village (like the national day of the women), the festival of the mask differs. There is a national day which is known as the festival of the mask. We will try our best to explain what we have been told about this festival. On this day people pray to the mask for rain. The mask also goes around and “hunts” for boys. These boys will be caught and whipped in some villages. Why? Still really do not know and have not had the opportunity to ask someone who truly understands the reasoning (maybe a rite of passage-a mark for the boy to become the next mask..?) In other villages, the mask will hunt for a human sacrifice. Does this still really happen, yes. Thank God not in our village! The current mask will then pick another young man to become the next mask- whomever the mask picks must oblige. Some villages have one mask, some have a few, some have animals, some have colors, etc. In our village, we saw three masks each dressed in different colors, representing different genders. They also had a group of young men/boys dancing along. These boys were dressed simply in pants and some were holding a whip. Come to find out these boys were in training for the mask positions. What they do during training, we don’t want to know. In our village, the masks are volunteers and we think they just dance. The dance is very specific and rhythmic- it is like a musical, so a “dansical.” How they can wear what they do and dance how they dance without passing out is beyond our comprehension! Crazy!! We were told that in older generations the boys in training would dance naked. Once again, thank you Lord of the change with the new generation!
After the dancing, they had an award ceremony for all the bike racers. We were called forward in front of the entire village to receive a consolation prize. It was extremely uncomfortable and awkward as we stood in the spotlight to receive our gift and have our picture taken. Despite feelings of embarrassment which flooded within and overflowed to our faces, we were humbly grateful and moved to receive a national day of the woman shirt. Later that day, the children excitedly requested us to wear our shirts to a soccer game and cheered when we changed into them. Their elation was priceless and unforgettable, it was as if we were now one of them. Thankful to God for that moment!
Later in the day, there were soccer games played and late night dancing. From what we could see everyone dressed in their best for the dance. It really was a fun day of activity and cultural exposure.
Also, this past week we had a sponsorship distribution. Each child in the sponsorship program received a huge bag of rice and a gift (soap, lotion, cookies). One child received a bike.
Periodically throughout the week, woman along with their babies would come for formula.
We went to the market in a village not far from us, which is every Tuesday. We are limited to what we can buy do to sanitary measures and longevity of product. Without the help of a fridge, it is challenging to keep things fresh for a while when they are good and ripe. You can bargain at the food market, yes, they try to “rip you off” (get the most $ for their product). We are still learning what is reasonable for certain products. We also painted the pavilion, which will be used to help teach preschool/tutor children.
Another highlight of the week was playing with the children- teaching them games as well as having them teach us their games. Games are similar yet different, such as ring-around the rosy, bacon in the middle; however, hopscotch is the same. They love balls! They prefer to bounce them verses throwing them (so it appears). They also like Frisbee which was new to them.
They love affection and desire to be noticed. As soon as you extend a hand they want to take hold of your arm. They also try to sneak in touches of your hair, lol. The older girls braided our hair the other day while trying to watch the soccer game- a regular braid. They love to help us carry things, wash things, really anything- they even sat and listened to us read the birth of Jesus in English and then in French, mind you, they speak Dioula (Jula). We know God’s word does not come back void; no matter what language!!
God has placed some children on our hearts, two older boys to be specific. There are also a couple of older girls we have been able to bond with- starting too. They speak and understand some French.
On Sunday, we officially said goodbye to the last of the sheltering wings crew; therefore, we were feeling a little sad, but God is good. Monday, we welcomed in another missionary, Dawn. She teaches the women how to make soaps, how to sew, really anything crafty. We are excited to observe her work with the women and learn more about her project. We will have her company for a few weeks- Yeah!
Prayers: Two boys- pray able to reach their father and encourage them to go to school so we can sponsor them. Pray we can build a relationship with them. Prayers for the children whose eyes seem empty and hopeless- it breaks your hearts
Praises– Meeting other missionaries from different organizations and learning about their projects, praise God for time of rest and rejuvenation, praise Him for a wonderful church service on Sunday (we sang “Great is thy Faithfulness”), and praise Him for the power of prayers and the gifts you have blessed us with!!
Love and Miss You!