We are definitely in another world here in Mali, West Africa. We drove quite a distance in busy traffic which seems to follow no rules. Motorcycles, cars, and small buses all jockeying for position on the road. The heat was intense and drained us quickly. There was red clay and dust. The sides of the roads were dotted with stands of all kinds. Women selling freshly picked mangos and papayas. Men offering to fix motorcycles. Women gathered together chatting and doing one another’s hair. Some just under small lean-tos trying to keep cool. All manner of ways to earn some desperately needed money.
Today’s journey made me think of the National Geographic articles we all saw as kids. Dirty clay soil. Huts with thatched roofs. Small stands with old bottles filled with gas or oil. People under shelters of whatever kind they can find. But the pictures and stories in the National Geographic magazine don’t let you experience the smells and sounds. Or the beautiful warm spirits of the women and men we met with today.
We drove into a small village complete with goats on the church step, chickens by the water jug, dogs sleeping under the small shade tree, and women cooking our lunch in large pots over the hot fire. This village was equipped with a church and a small radio station, which airs Project Hannah’s Women of Hope program in the Bambara language. And this is why we have come.
Jeanne Dembélé, the producer of the program, had been invited to come and meet with several women who listen to the program. They graciously welcomed us into their group as well. We met in the church building where they sang, prayed and shared. Once again it was humbling to hear their testimonies and the way this one program has made a difference in their village. And what a reward to sit with them and listen.
Time and time again, the women shared how the program has changed the way they are raising their children, and their relationships with their husbands. They talked about not knowing how to get their children to listen to them – threatening them with mean words was not working. Now they were learning to speak with love and teach their children rather than threaten or mock them. One young mother laughed as she said her children listen with her and now they remind her if she doesn’t treat them the way they heard in the program.
Relationships are being built. Children are being raised to be God-fearing and to know they are loved. Women are discovering they have value.
A local pastor talked about the great need for this program in Mali. He estimated that 90% of women are unable to read, but they listen to the radio. In fact, Women of Hope is listened to over about 30 stations in small villages. It is making changes in the mindset of the children and women, the very ones who will influence the future.
And this is why we do what we do. What an incredible reward to hear from these beautiful women how their lives have been changed by a radio program. What a gift to be able to sit with them and hear from their hearts. As we hugged good-bye we knew that we each carry a small piece of one another in our hearts. We are bonded together as sisters of the King.