Bible stories connect well in Mali
JEFFERSON CITY—In the hot, dusty deserts of West Africa lay one of the poorest countries in the world, Mali.
Bordered by many states in West Africa such as Algeria to the north and the northeast, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso to the southeast, Ivory Coast to the south and Senegal and Mauritania to the west, Mali is a country of many different traits. With the Niger River running through the southeastern part of the country, being a critical source of sustenance and transportation, Mali has its lush sections but is mainly dry and arid desert considering it extends into the Saharan desert in the larger northwestern region of the country.
This is where Woman’s Missionary Union/Women’s Missions and Ministry Specialist Vivian McCaughan of the Missouri Baptist Convention recently went on a vision mission trip with six others. Among those on the team were: Ed Cox, International Mission Board (IMB) prayer strategy coordinator; her husband, Jim, who along with his wife is a member of Parker Road Baptist Church in Florissant; Tanya and Jimmy Crumm of First Baptist Church, Bainbridge, Ga.; and Martin Hickman, a Southern Baptist from Mississippi. When they arrived in the country they met with IMB Career Missionary Rita Salter, who has been in Mali for about five years.
“The first thing we’d do as we walked into a village is seek out the chief to ask permission to prayer-walk the village,” McCaughan said.
As they explained to the chief that they wanted to pray for health and sustenance in the village, he agreed to let them do so. With Islam being the predominant religious practice in Mali they had to use discernment when explaining their purpose. The Mali people have many animistic beliefs, so the way in which they were approached was vital. The missionaries would go from village to village and simply tell them Bible stories, something that drew the interest and excitement of the people.
“One day I told the stories using a woman named Kadjatoo who was able to translate to the people about the little boy who shared his lunch and Joseph (of the Old Testament) because I felt that these were stories that the people could relate to and appreciate,” McCaughan said. Being oral learners they remembered these stories very easily. “The next thing we heard was that they were going throughout the village telling the stories over and over,” she said.
“Here in the states, we take so many things for granted,” McCaughan said. “We don’t appreciate the simple things like having clean, running water and food sufficient for just one day. One thing I noticed about the people of Mali is that they are very relationship-driven people. They value others and what they are given, whether it be relational or material.
“Time with people is very important to them. Here in the States we are very time conscious and rushed. In Mali they aren’t clock conscious. We would help them draw water from their village well and sit with them in their kitchens which consisted of a large pot and a fire as they cooked.”
This way of cooking may seem almost barbaric, but it is a way of life for the natives in Mali, she said. It is also very dangerous.
“We saw a mother carrying her little 3-year-old boy who had his hand wrapped in a piece of cloth because as he was playing around one these large pots that happened to be filled with boiling oil,” she said. “He accidentally fell and seriously burnt his hand.”
Although the chief was very reluctant at first to welcome McCaughan and the other six into his village, as they finished their vision trip, the chief welcomed them back with open arms. The missionaries said they were well-received, and they would encourage their churches and different ministries to visit this lost region of the world.