Friday, January 22, 2010

Vaccination Clinics

Why do we vaccinate?
In the countries the Songhai call home, overwhelming human needs are a part of life. The Songhai Team believes that the ministry Jesus modeled was holistic, the soul and the body together.

Over the years, we have sought the best way to meet health needs. We believe that one of the best ways is to help the government immunize. Each larger town has a clinic (CSI). The head nurse (major) is given the responsibility to care for an area of people, usually 10 - 15 villages, and about 20 – 25,000 people. While in a couple of the bigger outlying villages within this area, there are usually one or two first aid nurses, the major is charged to frequently visit the outlying villages. We can easily help with both transportation and man power for these visits to help them vaccinate this population. For us, we fit into an established, complicated system with minimal effort. Although it puts us in a helping role, dependent, and under their leading, it allows us to make relationships with local governmental and village leaders and medical personnel. We are given credibility to our presence in a post-colonial, project-oriented country.

Vaccination teams witness to Jesus’ compassion to needy people in a concrete way. Vaccinations provide immunity to diseases, both to individuals and communities and they lower the disease threat to communities, giving people more time to hear The Message. They provide inroads to new villages and continued open doors where otherwise Christians would be banned. They provide a wonderful opportunity to do pre-evangelism and direct, hands-on blessing and intercession. Vaccinations offer an opportunity to meet people and act as a conversation opener.
General flow
  • Registration – Tylenol – Vaccination - Gift

Giving “Tylenol”
  • Locally it is called “Paracetamol”
  • Doses are as follows:
    125 mg/ 1 tsp/ 5 cc of liquid for a small child
    250 mg/ ½ tab for a school age child
    500 mg/ 1 pill for an adult
  • It is best, but not crucial, if you can give the dose to the child before the vaccination is given. Give the cup to the mother, care giver, or the child to hold. Do not stand directly in front of the child as sometimes they will spew it out.
  • Bring an extra outfit or T-shirt per day.
  • Wear gloves.
Giving vaccinations
  • Some vaccines will need to be re-constituted. Have two people to check the dilution, no matter how busy you are.
  • Make sure you draw up ½ cc of vaccine, not air.
  • Keep all vaccines as cool as possible. Most are heat sensitive. BCG and Measles are also light sensitive.
  • Greetings are so important in this culture, first the parent and then the child.
  • Do not separate moms and children.Vaccinate them, if possible, while their mom or older sibling holds them or carries them on their backs. Sometimes the moms will just expect you to take the child yourself; try to encourage her to sit in the chair and hold her own child.
  • Use gentle but firm restraint. If a child is wildly thrashing about and screaming, an African will usually come to help hold the child. It is better to let the child go than to accidentally break a needle off in the child’s arm or have the child slapped and humiliated, injured from unnecessary restraint, or cause such a scene that the child will be abusively beaten afterwards.
  • If the child refuses, take their registration card and tell the person counting doses.
  • If a private place is not provided for the vaccinations, try to shield a child who you see is especially afraid with your body between them and the crowd.
  • If you shame the parent, you will only make it worse for the child when he/she gets home. If a Songhai parent is getting out of hand in his/her punishment towards a child, usually a friend or family member will come between the parent and child or will give the child sanctuary till the parent calms down.
  • Take every measure possible to insure you are not stuck with a used needle, bitten by a child, spit up on (especially in the face), urinated upon, or defecated upon. Most of this is minimized if the parent holds the child and gives the dose of Tylenol.
  • Also, it is advisable to take a change of clothing and a fresh lab coat with you each day, along with hand sanitizers, wet wipes, bleach wipes, a pen, and scissors.
  • Bless, pray, and speak Truth over the child. You have a special opportunity to pray for each child you lay hands on, what a privilege! Pray with your eyes open and continue through your normal movements so they will not think you are putting a spell on them. Eye contact with a child is fine. Bless them in Songhai.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Do NOT recap needles.
  • Dispose of used needles and syringes separately from paper trash.
  • Be accurate on your technique for each injection.
  • Pay meticulous attention to your sterile technique. Abscesses are common with all the filth.
  • Keep an accurate count of vaccinations given.
  • Put a check in the upper right hand corner of each card when you give the dose, so that the card cannot be used again by another person.
  • Vaccine must be kept cold. (Work out how you are going to do this with your Songhai Team Host)
  • All nurses will give the injection in the same arm. If this is not possible, note it in writing on the registration card.
  • It is best if the children can stay around the clinic for 15 – 30 minutes after the vaccination is given, to make sure there has not been an allergic reaction of any kind. If this is not possible to control, then we will try to stay in place 15 - 30 minutes after the last vaccination is given.

Songhai children’s fears
  • Some children have been taught that white people will eat them.
  • They are afraid of the latex gloves.
  • They associate your white coat with previous not-so-pleasant trips to the local clinic.
  • They are afraid of needles, pain, and the unknown, like we all are!
  • They are afraid of the shaming from peers and discipline (sometimes abusive) from their parents if they move or cry.
Volunteer health workers’ stresses
  • Language barrier
  • Very long, very busy days
  • Harsh climate (very hot or very windy and dusty)
  • The unknown, undefined working situations
  • Chaotic situations, noisy, crying in “surround sound”
  • Coming face to face with great human suffering and poverty
  • Being unable to address or meet all the needs

Needed supplies
Supplies depend on where you are working and the vaccine(s) to be given.
  • If you are coming to help a clinic to do the usual childhood vaccines, the major should be able to supply the syringes, vaccine, cooler, paperwork/ registration card, and used needle containers.
  • If you are coming to do a clinic independently of the major, you will need to bring all your own supplies. Generic medications are usually available for purchase here at good prices. If you are considering a medical-oriented ministry with us, we should begin to plan and purchase needed items as soon as possible to obtain what your team requires before you come. While they may not be of the same quality you are used to using in the States, this will cut down on your purchase expense and the amount of supplies you need to transport and clear through customs. Any medications or supplies you bring in must NOT be out of date.
  • Supply list to consider:
Vaccines and diluents
Syringes and needles, appropriate sizes for vaccines and reconstitution
Used needle containers
Alcohol and cotton
Regular - sized Band-Aids
Non - sterile gloves
Tables, table coverings, and chairs
Wet Wipes for faces and hands
Clorox wipes
Hand sanitizer
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) - liquid and tablet
Pill cutters
Medicine cups
BP cuff and stethoscope
Epi-Pens (or Epinephrine and syringes) and Benadryl
Trash cans and liners
Pre-evangelism tool

Pre-evangelism tool/ gift
While working in the government clinics and in some of the villages, Christian teaching is not welcomed. We can still give witness in indirect ways, take every opportunity to answer all their questions as to why we are there, and search out people to bless and pray for.
In the past, teams have used a coloring page of song lyrics (print a design and song text on white paper bring some coloring pencils to give out and teach the song while kids are standing in line). This has worked very well.

Other gifts could be: Dum-dum brand suckers, Happy Meal-type toys or Hot Wheels for children, costume jewelry for moms. Receiving blankets or stocking hats for newborns gives an opening to greet new mothers and pray for and bless new babies.
Get the job done
  • If you are working outside, you might use a string and the cars to establish boundaries and crowd control.
  • It is easier to keep “traffic” flowing if you arrange your stations in a row, which is not always easy when you are intent upon finding shade and avoiding donkey poop!
  • Whatever your hands find to do, focus on it, and do it with your might, because you are serving Christ.
  • Each person should have an assigned task. Stay put at your assigned job. It gets the whole team out of sync if one person goes missing. Each job is important, whether you are holding a child or counting doses or giving a sucker.
  • Vaccination clinics require of each individual flexibility, team work, stamina, resolve, and perseverance.
  • Bless, encourage, and build up individuals and parents. Model compassion with hugs and kisses, tender touches, and smiles.
  • Do not forget to encourage your team mates and pray for each other as the day goes by.
  • Do not forget in your busyness to drink your water and take a break for lunch.

Licensed medical professionals must bring with them
  • a notarized copy of your license(s) and diploma(s)
  • antiviral therapy in cases of needle sticks
  • white lab coat(s)

Other health needs
There will always be other health needs that require attention during a vaccination clinic. If the major is with us, he/she should see to these needs. If the team would like to address common kinds of things, such as pink eye, skin abscesses, ear infections, colds and respiratory infections, and malaria, this will require additional permission from the clinic and government. You should plan to bring out the necessary supplies, medicine, and personnel and have someone who is trained and licensed to diagnose and treat on the team.

Your prayer team
We will need some very faithful, serious prayer warriors to pray and fast for this ministry.
  • Start with praise and thanksgiving
Praise Our God who is a giver… a giver of good gifts, a giver of life
Thank God for making this ministry trip possible through those who have given generously -- those who have given supplies for the clinic and those who have helped others to make the trip possible, so that The Lost would have another opportunity to know Christ.
  • Intercede for travel
Safety in travel
Flight connections to be made
All baggage to arrive same day as the team
Ease through customs
  • Pray for the clinics
Peace surrounding the place we are giving the vaccines — it can get to be so wild sometimes we have to go home (noise, people pushing and shoving, kids crying and others running wild, etc)
Christ’s love to be shown in tangible ways
Openings for the Message to be shared
Receptivity of chief and elders in each village
Favor with the government nurses who we will be working with, good working relationship
  • Intercede for each child receiving the vaccination
For life and health
For the Picture Message “Jesus loves the little children” to be burned into their hearts and minds
For family to bring the children to get the vaccine
Against any false fear surrounding the receiving of the vaccine
Against any allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock or abscesses at the injection site
For each of the children receiving the vaccine, that this dose would preserve their lives so that they will have many opportunities to hear The Message and believe
  • Pray for team members
Pray for health and stamina, good nights’ rest
Daily, whopper measures of patience and joy
Understanding and compassion
Diligence, alertness, correctness in administering the vaccines
For team leadership -- well prepared but not paranoid pessimists, optimistic and organized but not oblivious to needs or overlook opportunities
  • Intercede for The Lost
May they know that the greatest gift that will be presented to them is not the vaccination, though valuable
“God’s greatest gift to us is, and always will be, Himself. His presence brings satisfaction. His absence brings thirst and longing.” (Randy Alcorn, "Heaven")
May they pant and thirst after the presence of God; may they seek His face in this dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 42: 1,2 and Psalm 63:1)
  • Other prayer subjects
Details, like cars working, ferry running, remembering all in daily packing of supplies, food and water…
Pray against any closed doors not of God’s will

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Telling the Story

Many non-literate cultures have practiced the art of oral learning for centuries. Stories are used to share the important events and beliefs of these people.

But how do you share the love of God to those who can not read and have never really heard the Gospel? Sharing a Gospel track or giving them a Bible is out! But giving them a Bible through a story is a wonderful way to communicate His Story. So, we too have a story to tell. This story has eternal significance for it’s The Story of Jesus and His love.

Storying is simply telling the redemptive account of God’s love in simple, easy to understand portions. It begins with God's creation of a perfect world, continuing with the entrance of sin into the world and His provision for our forgiveness. The Story peaks with the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Perfect Sacrifice, Jesus. And yet, we know that The Story is not finished. We wait for the 'happily ever after' when He comes again for His Church and the age old battle is finished. Until that time, The Story must go on. We must tell those who have not heard so that they to can believe.

Jesus taught in story format. Matthew 13 tells us that Jesus told many stories or parables for a purpose. The Message paraphrases His own explanation for teaching with stories like this,

"Whenever somebody has a ready heart for this (insight into God's Kingdom), the insights and understanding flow freely. But if there s no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories, to create readiness, to nudge people toward receptive insight."

In Chronological Bible Storying for evangelism, each story builds upon the previous one, from creation to Christ, explaining God's desire for and provision for relationship with mankind.

Excellent background teaching, how-to explanations and helpful resources for leading a group in Chronological Bible Storying can be found on line:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How to Work with a Translator

Why it’s difficult:
When working with a translator, there is a temptation to think, “Well, this shouldn’t be too difficult.” You are, after all, still speaking English. However, as anyone who has worked with a translator knows too well, it is quite difficult. This false presumption of ease becomes problematic. The irony is that teams who have prepared for so many details of a trip often forget to address this critically important element.

Working with a translator is also difficult because it’s rhythmically unnatural. You would never stop what you were saying to a friend or in a sermon mid-thought or mid-sentence to pause. Yet, when working with a translator you must pause regularly.

Another difficulty when working with a translator comes from idioms that have snuck into your language. Growing up speaking English you’ve mastered all the hidden nuances that go into language. This is not a problem with other native English speakers but can be a huge problem when communicating through a translator.

While there may be more issues involved, this document is meant to address these specific issues. Hopefully, since you are reading this, you’ve already avoided the first pit-fall of not planning on working with a translator, and we can now address the other two issues.

The following are just some helpful hints and some training tips that hopefully will make your time and, more importantly, your ministry with the Songhai more effective.

Testimony Training Tips:
Developing a short, gospel-centered testimony is crucial for every member of the team, who should all be ready at any instant to give a reason for the Hope they have in Christ. The exercises listed here help you prepare to give that testimony through a translator.

Rhythmic Testimony Practice
  • Pair off into groups of twos. Take a minute and share your short gospel-centered testimony with one another as you would to a fellow native English speaker.
  • After doing this, repeat your testimonies to one another but breaking them up with pauses. To make sure the pauses are long enough have your partner repeat the sentence you just said.
    Ex. “Hello, my name is Mark” (partner repeats) “and I would like to tell you about everlasting life” (partner repeats), etc.
  • GOAL: This gets the speaker used to very unnatural pauses. If you say too much before a pause, it will be hard for someone to translate. Try to speak in brief, flowing phrases.
Short and Simple Testimony Practice
  • Have someone share their testimony to the group via translator (another member of the group).
  • After the person sharing says something, the translator needs to repeat what was said but in the simplest way.
    EX. Testimony giver: “I want to tell you about being cleansed in the life-giving blood of Jesus.” Translator: “He wants to talk to you about Jesus”
  • Take turns allowing everyone in the group to participate.
  • GOAL: The goal here is simplicity. The group needs to be listening for idioms that might not be understood by the people you are speaking to and possibly even the translator. This could be religious jargon such as “putting God in a box” or “washed in the blood of Jesus” or maybe just odd English phrases such as “who fixed the chicken?” We all understand this is asking “who cooked or prepared the chicken” but direct translation would make it sound like the chicken was broken. As a group, listen for idioms and help the speaker arrive at the simplest way to say their testimony.
Focus Testimony Practice
  • Have someone share their testimony to the group via translator (another member of the group).
  • As the testimony giver begins their text, the translator needs to say something completely different than what was just said. They could read a recipe or a newspaper or just make up something.
    EX. Testimony Giver: “Hello, my name is Mark and I would like to tell you about Jesus.” Translator: “The Chicago Bulls beat the Detroit Pistons last night 110 to 98.”
  • GOAL: It’s surprisingly difficult to stay focused on your text when you are hearing something completely different being said directly after you (i.e. another language). This helps the testimony giver stay focused on their text without trying to listen to what’s being said directly after them.
Distractions Testimony Practice
  • Using either the “focus testimony practice” or the “simple testimony practice,” have a testimony translated.
  • The difference here is learning how to deal with distractions. The rest of the group can be as creative in coming up with distractions. Someone could have a loud conversation, play with their cell phone, turn the lights on an off, etc.
  • GOAL: The goal is learning to keep pressing on in the midst of distractions. It’s good to think through how you’ll handle distractions on the field.

Helpful Hints:
  • Speak slowly and precisely in short complete thoughts. (Sometimes it’s easier to translate short phrases that contain the whole thought. Stopping in mid-sentence or mid-thought may be difficult to be understood).
  • Speak to the audience, not the translator.
  • Maintain eye contact with the audience. Do not wear sunglasses when you are teaching or speaking directly to people.
  • Do not develop a side discussion between just you and the translator.
  • Make sure you give your translator time to finish the translation before beginning to speak again.

Songhai Specific:
While the above principals apply across the board when working with a translator, there are some key cultural considerations to be aware of when working with the Songhai.
  • Because of their orality and interdependence, Songhai people neither listen to nor process new ideas as Westerners. Expect those listening to your stories to respond verbally to you and talk about what they are hearing with their neighbor while you are teaching. It is often distracting to Americans to have people milling around the perimeter, talking to others, or standing and greeting others in front of you, but this is village community life.
  • The Songhai are mostly Muslim. This can help as you build bridges with some of the great characters of the Old Testament that they will be familiar with (at least their names). However, emphasis must be placed on Jesus’ uniqueness and his not being merely a man or merely a prophet.
  • West Africans in general process information and make decisions as family and community groups. A son would shame his family to make a big decision without consulting with his father and possibly uncles as well. This is good to think about when calling for a decision. Perhaps it would be best to present the entire plan of salvation and then allow an afternoon or an evening to process and talk through what’s been said before demanding a decision to be made.
  • You will undoubtedly develop a friendship with your translator. He will be your mouth and your ears for an entire week. Use caution however when exchanging emails and phone numbers and never promise to send packages or gifts. Please tell your Songhai Team Host if your translator asks for financial aid or a gift or if you are having any problems with your translator.
  • Your translator will be your cultural link to the Songhai people. It is good to ask him, “Is this culturally appropriate?” often.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Free Advice to Volunteers

The Songhai Team has a strategy for reaching this people with the Good News. We have asked for volunteers to do or help accomplish specific parts of this strategy. Know that you have been prayed for before you knew you were coming to minister to the Songhai people. You are a valuable part of God’s plan to tell and show the Songhai about His love. We are excited that you are coming! You are an answer to prayer!

With this in mind, we would offer you this advice:

Come fresh and rested to meet the Songhai people

Get plenty of rest BEFORE your trip... you will be tired enough from jet lag, heat, and all it takes to adjust to a new environment. You will be more prone to illness and less able to deal with cultural stresses if you are exhausted.

Come to minister to the Songhai and meet their needs

We will fill your days with fun and adventure, but it will not be a vacation. Come to give your all everyday. Come with a servant heart to be emptied out. Come to be used by God, not to be served or to be filled. Come with an expectation that God is going to do something great through you and your team that will further His kingdom on earth. You may not see this, but claim it by faith. Work confidently knowing His Spirit is with you to work through you. He will bless you, empower, and enable you to complete the task that He has asked you to do, and protect you as you do it. Also, look for ways to be encouraging and helpful to others on your team and your hosts.

Come to learn from the Songhai people

Come as a learner, rather than a teacher. Come with an open mind, rather than a closed one. Come to listen, rather than to talk. They are a proud, unique people, who are made in God’s image. Pray for God’s eyes to see, His ears to hear, His hands to work, and His heart to love. Be open, willing, and pliable to what God will teach you through this experience. When you come to give, you will find that you receive. Once you are home, it will amaze you to unpack your bag and find more than souvenirs “inside”– you will go home a changed person.
From another perspective, your learning actually begins before you arrive.  One thing that will make you feel more confident as you interact with the Songhai is to learn a few local greetings in the months leading up to your trip.  Our section called "Language Helps" will be useful.  It is also of great benefit to brush up on some basic French phrases, which will help you as you travel. 

Come to live in the Third World

It will not take you long to figure out you and Toto are not in Kansas! This is not America. There are no beepers, nor central air conditioning. Occasionally there is no electricity. Sometimes the Internet server is down for days at a time, and there is no e-mail. Other times communication to the USA by phone is impossible. It is not unheard of for baggage to arrive late or be forever lost. Most people do not own a watch. If you do not mind the wait, there is usually at least one flight out a week, especially if you would like to go to another part of West or Northern Africa, such as Libya, so do not panic. It is very unusual to find a diet coke. Yes, we do have a few bugs, snakes, mosquitoes, and scorpions, as well as Snickers, Pringles, and Perrier. However, do not ask for grape jelly; the French have better things to do with their grapes! No, you do not have to bathe in the river, unless you want to. We’ve never heard of McDonald’s here, but then again you do not have to chase down your dinner-- we do that for you.

Come committed to staying healthy

It is no fun to spend a couple of days in and out of the bathroom alone at the guesthouse. Your time is short, and your days will be full. Your team will be incomplete without you.
A person can only survive three days without water. You are coming to the desert, so you do “the math”. Bring an insulated bottle that can hold at least a quart of water. Drink only bottled water or water that has been filtered. Drink at least two quarts of water a day, preferabley MUCH more. Please, do not ask to drink from another person’s thermos bottle; this is a quick way to spread germs. A headache may be a sign that you are not getting enough water.

For emphasis, we will say again, you cannot drink too much water. If you get diarrhea (defined by three or more watery, loose stools in a 24 hour period) you will need to increase your fluid intake, adding a pinch of salt, several teaspoons of sugar, and a squeeze of lemon or orange juice to every quart of water.

Clean hands
Don’t be obsessive, but take every opportunity to wash your hands with soap and running water. Bring a couple of sacks of wet wipes or a cleanser, like Purell, to keep with you at all times.

Clean clothing
Bring at least one clean set of clothes for each day or plan on washing while you are on the field.

Personal hygiene
Take a shower before falling into bed at night– local germs do not make good bedfellows.

Please tell your Songhai Team Host and Volunteer Team Leader if you are feeling a little “off”, physically or emotionally. Not so that we can be nosey, but so that we can help you prevent an illness or stressor from getting out of hand. If you are sick, please do not help with food preparation.

First Aid
Keep even minor scrapes, cuts, and blisters clean and covered. Open wounds of any kind can become infected easily here.

Take your anti-malarial medication as directed by your physician. Use insect spray. Wear long sleeved clothing at night. Sleep under a mosquito net or in a room with screening. There is no immunity to malaria.

Medical care
Please do not come sick. For unexpected illnesses, we have physicians here who can diagnose and treat common illnesses and pharmacies where we can purchase drugs. Twenty-four hour clinics are available, but care is basic to nil. There is no such thing as an emergency. It takes at least 24 hours to get a medical evacuation flight to Niamey into Germany or France.

Come ready to experience African cooking

While you are here, your taste buds will be treated to a new delight every meal. You can try fried grasshoppers if you would like, but we do not normally eat things really strange like zebu hump, cow stomach or tail, goat head, or anything that moves on the plate. However, we do eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in season, grains, noodles, milk, beef, fish, and eggs in African, French, and American recipes. Good chicken is a little harder to come by. French baguette bread loaves are almost always available. Imported foods such as cheese and ham are very expensive. Rarely would one find a Diet Coke or Mt Dew.
Daily shopping and food preparation take a great amount of time and effort to make sure that you have something healthy to eat at every meal. So, be adventurous and try at least a spoonful of everything without complaining. You will not be served cheese with your whines! We will be willing to alter menus for serious food allergies (hives or anaphylactic shock), but not for food preferences. The noted exception: If you are required medically to be on a certain diet (we’re not talking here fad diets or preferences) you will need to contact us and tell us about it; you will probably need to bring your food with you and/ or plan on preparing your own meals.

Your mother always told you about the starving children in Africa; everything she told you was true. Your mother was right all along. While you are here you will meet some of these starving children face-to-face. They beg on every corner. They are rummaging through the trash heap as you leave the restaurant. They are watching you eat in the village; they will eagerly eat what you thoughtlessly threw down in the sand and drink the last swallow of coke in your can after you discard it. So, do not waste food, especially in front of them.

If you are offered food or drink in someone’s home, keep a smile on your face and say “No, thank you. I am not thirsty/ hungry” if you do not want any. They are probably offering you the very best they have in the very best container, and they will seat you in their best and only chair. Hospitality is a virtue in Songhai culture, as is the receiving of this hospitality. Slurp your tea very loudly to express your thanks. Burping and spitting out bones on the floor is acceptable in Songhai homes only. If your food comes straight out of the fire, it is ok to eat. Do not ask what it is, you might not want to know. The dish you are offered will often be the entire meal for the whole family. The guest will get to dig in first. So, eat a small amount from the side of the plate nearest to you, leaving most for the rest of the family. Eat ONLY with your right hand, and DO NOT lick your fingers until you have finished completely.

Come prepared, period - it’s the original Boy Scout motto

“What to Bring” and “How to Bring it” has already been covered. If you have any questions, let us know. Please, do not fret thinking about what you forgot or lost along the way. We can purchase basic toiletries, personal feminine items, and enough clothing here to get you by, meaning, you will not be needy but neither will you be making a fashion statement!
We will caution you not to wait till the day before you leave to begin shopping and packing. If you do so, you will probably not make it to the airport on time for your flight.

You must spend hours on your knees in prayerful preparation for this trip. One volunteer recently wrote,“Food can be bought, clothes can be washed, but a heart prepared makes all the difference.” Amen!!

Come willing to open the gates of Heaven

You are coming to a Muslim/ Animist area, and you are wearing the perfume of Christ. Most people will be excited that a white person is in their village, anticipating the gifts they think are bringing. Most people will tolerate your presence. However, not everyone will be glad you are here, and these folks might be disruptive in various ways.
We have had team members and volunteers spat upon and yelled at, but not ever physically assaulted. We frequently have volunteers to be the topic of discussion at the Friday mosque preaching.  Occasionally demonic possession has been confronted. This should not surprise you; you should expect it. Matthew 5:11, 12 speaks directly to this:

“God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, ancient prophets were persecuted too.” (New Living Translation)

Come to work as a team

We do ask that you come prepared to do your job, which includes a plan to accomplish this task, along with the supplies you need to finish your task. You will be in dialogue with your Songhai Team Host before you arrive to talk specifically about your task, how it fits into the overall strategy, and what expectations we have for you. Respect your Volunteer Team Leader; make it easy for him or her to do the job. Be willing to follow his lead. Be well prepared to accomplish your ministry once on the field.
Personal goals are secondary to team goals. Sometimes volunteer teams will actually come together for the first time when they arrive on the field. If this is the case, we ask that you try to be in contact by e-mail or phone with your other team mates before you come, to share ideas and begin getting to know one another.

Especially for those of you coming from the same place, work hard at knowing one another well before you come. You will need to help with one another's weaknesses, as you will have a few of your own before the trip is over. Build your team on each other's strengths, and see differences as unique blessings that God has given your group. Avoid divisive grumbling and non-edifying complaining. This tears a team apart quickly, takes the joy out of the day, and makes ministry a burden.

Major on the positives. Focus on the job to be done and your role in bringing your task to a successful end. Do your part and then some. Take care of interpersonal issues among team members before coming. EACH PERSON should have an assigned task or know their role BEFORE coming, and then keep an open mind and be very flexible.

We ask that you spend time with the Lord before coming to look at your motives for wanting to be a part of this trip. Has God called you to do a specific job with this volunteer team that is forming? Critically look at your physical abilities, emotional stability, and spiritual maturity. Traveling to and in Niger is physically, emotionally, and spiritually taxing to the very limits. Please consider carefully and prayerfully your decision to come to Niger. This is not a vacation. If you have specific questions as you consider this volunteer possibility, please ask us. Also, have someone you trust to pray through your calling with you, discerning God’s voice leading you in preparation.

Come ready to be changed

After the trip, you will never be the same again. You will change; you will have a different worldview. God will speak to you in different ways than before, you will see God as you never have done so before. So, buckle up and hold on! Be ready for anything. Because of what God has done, is doing, and will do, we can definitely promise you an adventure.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The 4-1-1: Passports & Visas

Passports and Visas
You will need a passport and visas for international travel. Ask your travel agent to help you make contact with the Consulate(s) or Embassy(ies) for the country(ies) you are planning to visit. They will give you specific instructions to receive your visa(s). Each country has different requirements. Several months might be required to secure these legal documents, so do not delay beginning. Do not get your "4-1-1" second-hand -- get your information directly from the appropriate embassy in writing. Most embassies now have web sites so you can work with them directly.
For Niger, submit your visa request to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC.  Send them Fedex overnight, along with the fee per person, and include a Fedex return envelope to:
     Ambassade du Niger
     2204 R Street, N.W.
     Washington, D.C. 20008
     Tel: 202.483.4224
     Fax: 202.483.3169

Keep your passports on your person at all times during your trip.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thinking about serving?

The Scripture admonishes us in Luke 12: 30 to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength…” This is indeed what volunteers come to do. Each person willingly yields his or her uniqueness to God, is obedient to His call to go, to serve, to be used, to be changed… nurses, newspaper editors, typists, teachers, photographers, computer techs, Sunday School teachers, homemakers, youth ministers, pastors, laymen, soccer players, Mission Angels, truck drivers, worship leaders …. They have all come to encourage, to disciple, to spread the Word that God is Love.

To date, over 450 volunteers have come out of obedience to God to give of themselves. People have given out cassettes, Jesus films and Bibles, written literacy texts, and made health teaching materials; some have come to help open up new areas of ministry, and others at home have given generously and cheerfully to enable others. Volunteers have staffed Vacation Bible Schools, a health fair, and vaccination clinics; they have completed a water survey, AIDS teaching, and teaching conferences. Volunteers have cared for orphans, helped with local school supplies, purchased goats for malnourished feeding programs, and helped beginning garden and sewing projects. Volunteers have come and prayed: prayer walkers walked through streets and up sand dunes, prayer riders road cars through busy streets, in boats up the Niger River, and on camels in the hot sun, and still others, continents away, have pledged their intercessory ministry for children through gifts of dolls and balls.

Who knows but that you have been lead to us for such a time as this! Let God have His way in you, freeing you to love not only in word or speech, but also in deed and truth. Be His expression of love to those who do not know Him.

If you are interested in serving on the Songhai team, please contact us at We can answer your preliminary questions and point you in the right direction. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Bare Bones

Please email us if you would like a PDF copy of this document. All team members will need to receive this!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Team Leader Checklist

Paperwork Process
  • Contact a member of the Songhai Team
  • Answer a volunteer request
  • Receive a RVA Number from the IMB
  • Reply to automated e-mails from the IMB 
Form a Team
  • Explore opportunities and possibilities
  • Choose team members wisely and prayerfully
  • Research your people group, destination and ministry via our web site, orientation materials, links, etc
  • Ask questions
  • Plan organizational meetings, prayer times, and fund raisers
  • Attend Cross-Cultural Training
Complete All Preparatory Tasks
  • Secure your passport and visa(s)
  • Get all vaccinations
  • Get anti-malarial medication, antibiotics, and other personal medications
  • Register on-line at the US Embassy (each individual)
  • Fill out the IMB Emergency form on-line (each individual)
  • Obtain travel insurance (each individual)
  • Arrange for emergency funds/ contact your credit card company
  • Make travel arrangements- flight, ground transportation, etc
  • Contact your air carrier to know current carry-on and checked baggage limitations
  • Send copy of travel itinerary to the field
  • Know what to bring and how to bring it
  • Obtain police background checks for each volunteer, bring copies to the field, required by the IMB
  • Complete Child Protection Training, required by the IMB
  • Obtain special documents for travel and customs from your church
  • Make on-field housing arrangements
  • Study all pre-field orientation materials listed on/ linked from pre-field orientation page
  • Copy, read and discuss all materials
  • Confirm that all team members have read and understood all materials
  • Assign each team member a specific part of team ministry
  • Ask questions
  • Secure ministry supplies
  • Gather a prayer support team
  • Shop for personal items and medications
  • Secure a budget from the field no less than one month before arrival with instructions on how to transfer funds to the field
  • Plan daily debriefing/devotional time
  • Receive a schedule and team goals from the field
  • Start taking anti-malarial medication
  • Pack, weigh, and label (inside and out) baggage

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Team Leaders

Warning: This is A LOT of information!!

There is no way we can realistically package what it would take to prepare you and your team for the experience of living and working with the Songhai people, but we are giving it our best shot! 

Hosting volunteer teams is a welcomed part of our job that is made easier with your help. Please come along side of us in preparing your team to be able to minister in the most effective way possible.
Be a Responsible Leader
It is your responsibility to make sure your team is prepared, as much as possible, for what lies ahead as you travel to your destination, sojourn in West Africa, and minister to the Songhai people.
We cannot stress enough how important it is to be prepared!! In fact, we feel so strongly about this preparation, that anyone who comes without reading and studying the pre-field orientation materials will be required to do so before beginning ministry once on the field. We do not want to appear harsh, however, we have seen time and time again how even one member of the team who is not physically, mentally and spiritually prepared can negatively affect the whole team’s outcome.
Your team’s goals will be developed as you dialog with your Songhai Team Host. Please make sure each person on the team has an assigned job that fulfills part of these goals; volunteers will be more content and fulfilled knowing they have a purpose. They should understand their job description and come to the field organized and ready.

A team member may have personal goals as well. Team goals will not be sacrificed to accomplish personal goals.

Churches are beginning to deal with liability connected with volunteer trips. Be in-the-know for what your church requires in this area.

Current events have lead to increasing security issues within the Songhai homeland. After you have registered with the American Embassy, the consular office will inform you if there are current concerns.

They advise: “For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet Web site where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free within the U.S. and Canada or, for callers from other countries, by calling a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).”

We know what it takes to plan to make a trip overseas, so we want you to know that we truly appreciate the time and energy it has taken you to prepare in many ways, both yourself and your team. With this in mind, we know that the unexpected can occur and that cancellations might happen. We are hoping that kind of situation will rarely present itself.

In short, if you do not come, it is more than disappointing for everyone involved, and it can get very complicated, especially at the village level. If you or your team cancels, and expenses are incurred, you will be responsible to cover these expenses.
Be a Paper Manager
Your Songhai Team Host will fill out a volunteer request and send it through the proper channels. Your volunteer team will then be assigned a project number (RVA Number) when the volunteer request is approved in the Richmond, VA office of the International Mission Board (IMB).
As the Volunteer Team Leader, you will begin receiving a series of automated e-mails from the IMB. Please read these carefully and respond to each in a timely fashion.
Be a Resource
You are the first link in the chain. You will be the one receiving information and communications. Be informative; share what you learn with your team.
Be a Link
We will gladly answer any and all questions; however, to facilitate this process, it would be easier to have one person on the team e-mail or phone us to communicate your team’s questions and then share the response with the others.
Be a Pastor
Volunteer teams that have been meeting regularly one to six months in advance for spiritual preparation function more effectively on the field. There are some excellent resources out there. Some suggestions are:
Be a Builder
We encourage you to build your team carefully and prayerfully.
Your team will need to develop its own support group who will be fasting and praying for your journey and ministry, as well as holding the ropes at home by encouraging and helping your team members’ families.
Be a Friend and Counselor
You will lead daily devotionals and debriefing with the team on the field. You are also responsible for dealing with any interpersonal problems within the group. Dessert and coffee after the evening meal provide an excellent, non-threatening time to debrief, deal with stressful issues, answer questions, and re-group for the following day.
Be the Command Center
It is not unheard of to have various unplanned needs during your visit with us. Please be prepared to handle such emergencies as medical care / evacuation, lost passports, lost airline ticket, luggage that arrives late or never, delayed flights, etc.
For example: A medical emergency/evacuation may require the purchase of or up-grade to first class seating for a return flight home.  Up-grades cost around $3,000, while a ticket will cost around $7,000.  The cost of medical care and prescriptions must also be covered.  These expenses are usually later reimbursed by insurance, but are initially out-of-pocket.  Make arrangements for emergency funds for flights to be available through your credit card company.  Cash or a check from your church can be used for other medical emergency expenses.  You must notify your credit card company BEFORE coming that you are traveling in Niger or they WILL BLOCK your account. 
Be an Intercessor
For the month following your team’s return, we ask that each volunteer participate in "30 Days of Prayer for the Songhai People". This short devotional will be included in the orientation book you receive on the field. Unless someone returns to the field, never again will their hearts be so very in tune with what God is doing among the Songhai people … consider it a prolonged prayer walk.
Be an Attentive Listener
Post-trip we ask you to make contact with everyone on your team, at least by phone, within the first two weeks after you return, especially those who traveled outside of the States for the first time or those that may have experienced some special challenge during the trip. Re-entry can be difficult, and no one except those on the team can really understand. If you make a date to share photos or have dinner together as a group, this is a great time to check up on everyone spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Be a PR Person
There will be many who would like to hear your team’s stories and see their photos. Seek out opportunities for each person to share what God is doing in individual hearts and in West Africa among the Songhai people.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Adopt a Village

Several village adoptions have been carried out in the past. Both those who have adopted a village and the village that was adopted have been blessed. The key to this relationship has been focused and constant prayer. Through prayer, the spiritual and physical situations in these villages have been changed, and the eternity for some people has been altered.

This is a way to be involved in missions without leaving home. Stand in the gap for the Lost. Encourage Christian leaders on the "front lines". Through prayer, you can be part of bringing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to those who have not heard.

We would like to extend this project into other Songhai villages, where ministry is already taking place or where God is leading to begin ministry. Whether as an individual or your family, church group, home group, whatever, if you would like to participate in this ministry of prayer and encouragement, please email us at

Here is how it all works:

  1. Contact The Songhai Team and let them know of your desire to be a part of this ministry and the length of your prayer commitment. This length of time is for you/ your group and God to decide.
  2. Read about the Songhai people's life-style and customs, beginning on this blog. You might be able to find information at your local library too. Locate your village on a map.
  3. Pray for your village and local church planter, using the listed prayer subjects below as a guide.
  4. The Songhai Team will send periodic updates about the village, church planting, discipleship, community development projects, etc. In addition, sign up on our monthly prayer letter list, which will contain information from time to time about your village and local church planter.
  5. You can be creative in your ways of encouragement. Often the church planter and their family are the only Christians in their village. Cards and small packages can be a blessing beyond what you can imagine. Just to know that someone is thinking of you and praying for you can be a real blessing.

This is you can expect from our team ...

  • Joy and gratitude for being a part of what God is doing among the Songhai
  • Information about the Songhai people & a specific village where Songhai people liver
  • E-mail updates concerning your village
  • A monthly prayer letter from the Songhai Team

This is what our team expects of you ...

  • Daily, informed intercession for your village and church planter for the length of time of your commitment

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Praying for Missionaries

Praying For Missionaries A-Z

Anointing- Ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit so that the missionary will operate in the Spirit's Power.

Boldness- Pray that the missionary will speak the Word of God with boldness.

Comfort- Ask for comfort when the missionary is discouraged, brokenhearted, or stressed out.

Direction- Ask that the missionary will sense God's specific direction in ministry.

Encourage- Ask God to send someone to encourage the missionary.

Family- Pray the missionary will guide their children in the way they should go.

Glory to God- Pray that the missionary will live each day to glorify God.

Humility- Ask that the missionary will develop a sense of humility and reject pride.

Insight- Ask that the missionary will see people and things from God's perspective.

Joy- Pray that the missionary will be full of the joy of the Lord in all situations.
Knowledge- Pray that the missionary will desire knowledge of God's Word and apply it consistently.

Love- Ask that the missionary will be a vessel through which God's love flows to others.

Motivation- Pray that the missionary will labor from godly motives, not to please other people.

Needs- Pray that the missionary will realize that in Christ all needs will be met.

Open Door- Pray that the missionary will recognize opportunities to share the gospel.

Prayer Partners- Ask God to provide prayer partners who will intercede on a regular basis.

Quiet Time- Pray that nothing will keep the missionary from having a quality quiet time each day.

Revival- Ask God to work in the missionary's life so he or she will experience personal revival.

Servanthood- Pray that the missionary will do his or her work with a servant spirit.

Thankful Heart- Ask God to give the missionary a thankful heart, even in difficult situations.

Unsaved- Pray that the unsaved will develop a hunger and thirst for Jesus Christ in their lives.

Victory- Pray that the missionary will know victory in spiritual warfare.

Weariness- Pray that the missionary will not get bogged down in having too much to do.

X-ray Vision- Ask that the missionary will have X-ray vision of the heart and desire a cleansed life.

Yieldness- Pray that the missionary will be completely yielded to Christ and willing to die to self.

Zeal- Pray that the missionary will have a renewed zeal to share the gospel.

Taken From: Contempo Magazine (WMU)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In Daily Prayer

Day 1. Begin by praising God, Creator of this unique people, giving thanks for His love for them.

Day 2. Intercede by asking for the revelation of His plans for the Songhai,

Day 3. Salvation of the Lost,

Day 4. Openness and receptivity to the Gospel,

Day 5. Breaking down barriers of generational disobedience,

Day 6. Dreams, Visions, and Miracles that will draw the Songhai to God,

Day 7. Tangible blessings of food, water, and health to follow salvation, and

Day 8. Religious freedom.

Day 9. For those who minister to the Songhai ask for love, creativity, and compassion of the Father,

Day 10. For the mind, servant heart, and understanding of Christ,

Day 11. For anointing and protection of the Holy Spirit,

Day 12. For language proficiency and wise language teachers,

Day 13. Team members' working relationships and lifestyle witness, and

Day 14. Favored relationships with village leaders.

Day 15. Intercede for personnel ministering on the field,

Day 16. Volunteers (stateside and on the field),

Day 17. Current personnel requests,

Day 18. Strategy and Team development,

Day 19. Songhai believers' faith and daily walk,

Day 20. Relationships between Christians and Muslim/ Animist family members,

Day 21. Local village churches and leaders,

Day 22. Outreach ministries in West African cities,

Day 23. Songhai Bible translation work in Mali,

Day 24. TransWorld Radio and other broadcasts reaching the Songhai,

Day 25. Literacy training,

Day 26. Chronological Bible Storing,

Day 27. Discipleship,

Day 28. Health care concerns,

Day 29. Jesus and God's Story film translations and showings,

Day 30. Water concerns, and

Day 31. Hunger Relief projects.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Songhai Recipes

Traditionally, Songhai are millet and rice farmers. Due greatly to the advancement of the Sahara Desert towards the Niger River, harvests of recent years have been very poor. Often seed grain has been eaten long before time to plant again; more and more, they daily live hand- to- mouth. During the scorching months of March through May, those who live in smaller villages graze the hot, bare, sandy fields along with their animals looking for leaves and herbs to eat, some starving before the next harvest. Cash / food crops of millet and sorghum are raised during the short three to four month growing season from June to October. However, for those Songhai who live right along the banks of the Niger River, they have the opportunity to fish, harvest mangos, raise rice, cultivate small gardens, and raise a few small livestock to help feed their families. Much of their garden produce is sold rather than eaten.

The largest majority of the population is undernourished or malnourished, as they subsist on a diet mainly of millet. Millet that is ready to eat requires a tremendous amount of work by an entire family from planting to harvest to meal preparation. The typical dish of the Songhai is millet porridge. A hard ball of pounded grain is placed is a bowl and covered with water to soften it before eating. If milk is available, the ball is covered with milk rather than water, and occasionally sugar is also added. This dish is eaten twice a day. If rice or millet is eaten for the evening meal, a thin sauce that contains whatever vegetable(s) might be available accompanies it. But at the moments of celebration, food abounds; a goat is slaughtered for the sauce, rice or macaroni appears on the plate rather than millet, and individual portions increase.

Sunday Leg of Lamb

1 large head cabbage cut up in chunks
5 pounds carrots
5 pounds onions
1 large can tomato concentrate
5 pounds green beans
2 Tbsp. Black pepper
3 small hot peppers, or to taste
5 large bouillon cubes
4 Tbsp. Salt
3 cups vegetable oil, more or less
1 gallon water
Seasoning leaves of your choice or whatever is in season

  1. Take one large leg of lamb, clean it well, and boil it in water. Add salt and pepper. Cook it until tender, then take it off the bone, and cut up in small pieces.
  2. Cook up about 20 pounds of rice in another pot.
  3. Take a third, very large pan to cook the sauce.
  4. Add all together and cook until vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Juice from the lamb can be added as ingredients cook down. Add meat about 10 minutes before the sauce is finished cooking. Add 1½ cups of peanut butter at the end of cooking time, if desired.
  5. Serve meat sauce over rice in large medal trays or in individual serving bowls. Eat with your hands.

Serves about 40 people. Can be doubled for large groups.

Buy baguettes to slice and serve with the meal, or use macaroni rather than rice, to make the meal extra- special.

When everyone is finished, invite the neighborhood children in to eat what is left.

Rice & Black-Eyed Peas
Mo & Dunguri

Pot 1: cook rice according to package directions to obtain about 1 cup of cooked rice per person.
Pot 2: cook black-eyed peas according to package directions to obtain about 1/4 - ½ cup of peas per person.
Pot 3: chop 1 medium onion ("albasan") and fry it in about ½ cup of oil ("ji") till slightly black (but not burned).

To serve: Layer first the rice, then the drained peas, and top with onion/ oil sauce. Salt to taste. Often it is topped with a powdered spice mix ("yaaji margu-margu") made of powdered, roasted peanuts ("damsi"), dried onions, chicken bouillon cube ("maggi"), garlic ("tafarnuwa"), salt ("ciiri") and dried, hot peppers ("tonko").

Alternate recipe: Sometimes women cook their rice and peas together, seasoning it with a small chunk of market soda ("soso") which turns the dish a dark reddish purple.

Serves 6 people.

Bissap Juice

2 cups dark red, dried hibiscus flowers *
2 cups sugar
a few sprigs of fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 cups pineapple juice-- optional

Bring to boiling 2 quarts of water. Remove from heat and add flowers and leaves. Steep for at least 10 minutes. Separate the flowers and leaves from the water with a strainer. Add the sugar, vanilla, and pineapple juice. Let cool. It is usually served as a cold beverage, but during cold season the flower is often brewed simply with sugar as a hot tea. It can be frozen in ice cube trays, Popsicle forms, or small plastic bags for individual servings.

*As hibiscus flowers are not readily available in the USA, you can get the same taste from cranberry or cranberry/ raspberry juice. Substitute the juice for the liquid you would get from steeping the flowers. Alter the sugar according to your taste.

Alternative recipe: In a more concentrated form, it can be used as a punch. Steep in 1 quart of boiling water (or begin with an unthawed, frozen concentrated juice). Add 2-4 cups of sugar while still warm. When cooled, it can be diluted with soda water, tonic, ginger ale, sprite, or fruit juices. Crushed pineapple can be used, as well as ice cream, sorbet, or sherbet.

Alternate recipe: You can experiment with the flavorings using pineapple, orange, or almond, rather than the mint and vanilla.

Date Sauce

1 pound of lean round steak, chopped in bite-sized pieces
¼ cup oil
4-6 fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium green peppers, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
¼- ½ cup dried, pitted dates, chopped
2 tablespoons or so of tomato paste
2 soup cans of tomato sauce to start with
water, if needed
spices-- 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, ½ tsp. cumin, ¼ tsp. cinnamon

Brown meat in a couple of tablespoons of oil. Remove from pan. Add tomatoes, onions, and green peppers to the same pan, adding oil. Simmer until the vegetables are mush and the oil has separated out. Add garlic, spices, meat, dates, tomato paste, and tomato sauce. Simmer till sauce is thick (should be very thick and rich) and meat is tender. Add only enough water to keep the mixture from going dry (or you can add more tomato sauce). Serve over prepared couscous, rice, or noodles.

Serves 6 people.


A popular dish at most local African, as well as European, restaurants is brochettes (shish-k-bobs), with frites (french fries) on the side (definite French influence). So, using your favorite meat marinade, grill out your k-bobs (nothing fancy, just any kind of meat and onions) and fry up some french fries (eaten, of course, with dijon mustard or mayonnaise!).


2 cups dried black-eyed beans 1 small onion
1 egg 2 cups cooking oil
salt hot pepper

Wash and soak beans (about 2 hours). Remove skins by rubbing a few of them together at a time in your hands. Use a blender to grind the beans into a smooth paste. Chop onion and pepper finely. Blend into the bean mixture and beat for about 5 minutes. Add salt. Beat thoroughly for 5 minutes. Add beaten egg to improve food value and to make the mixture light. Heat cooking oil. Deep-fry the mixture a tablespoon at a time until golden brown. Drain.

From Niamey to Tera, Niger, cecena is a popular food among the Songhai. It can be eaten alone with a dip made of tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and spicy peppers (see tomato sauce). It can also be eaten as a sandwich made of a baguette, split open, a few cecena stuffed inside, and the dip poured over top.

Sugar Peanuts

2 cups raw peanuts
1 cup sugar
a scant ½ cup water

Put all ingredients in an ungreased loaf pan. Cook until water evaporates. Make 1 layer of the nuts; don't crowd the pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for about 1 hour.

Throughout West Africa, sugar peanuts, as well as roasted peanuts, toasted coconut, and roasted cashews, can be bought almost anywhere. The people make these and stuff them in used, empty, quart liquor bottles or wrap them in plastic bags, to sell. Smaller servings of roasted peanuts in the shell can be bought on the ferry ride across the Niger River near Gotheye from a little girl with a big tray of tiny tin cans full of peanuts on her head.

Sauce Gumbo

Fry together:

1 pound beef, cut in small pieces
couple Tbsp. Oil
1 onion, chopped

2 Tbsp. tomato concentrate or paste which has been mixed with about 2 C. water. Add salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste. Let simmer.

In another pot:
cover with water 2- 3 C. finely chopped, fresh okra and boil with a pinch of soda and cook till the seeds begin to turn color. Then add the meat mixture and cook about 10 minutes.

Serve hot over rice, macaroni, or couscous. Songhai people will eat this (usually without the meat) with a corn flour ball ("kolkoti hawru"), similar in taste to cornmeal mush and similar in texture to Jello.

Fari Masa

In a big bowl, mix together 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp yeast, 1 1/2 -- 2 C warm water and let the mixture rest until it foams.

Add 4 C sifted plain flour, a dash of salt, and a beaten egg. Mix well and allow the mixture to rise 30- 45 minutes. Here, the ladies put it in the sun covered, so the flies do not get in it.

Heat about 2 C vegetable oil in a small sauce pan (or prepare your deep fryer). Here, the ladies use a "fema" (traditional cooking spot/ kettle/ fire combo), which is a big pot of grease, supported on three large rocks, over an open fire.

Keep a small bowl of water next to your dough bowl and wet your serving spoon each time before dipping out a spoonful of dough. Here, the ladies will use their hands flopping out large handfuls or pinching off small portions of the dough. They are very adept at this. It is amazing to watch. This technique is for the very adventurous or most talented of cooks!! Drop several spoonfuls of dough into the hot grease and fry till golden brown, turning once. Here, the ladies use a twig or old bike spoke to poke around and turn the fari masa while they are frying.

Take them out with a spoon which has holes and drain on paper towels. Here, they use old bits of cement sacks, or paper that has been scavenged and recycled from the corner dumpster. So, one is never too sure just who's news one could be reading!

Tomato Sauce

Chop up one onion and fry it in a saucepan with about ¼- ½ C vegetable oil. When the onions are transparent, add a couple of tablespoons of tomato concentrate (or a small can of sauce). Allow this to simmer several minutes until onions turn orange. Add a couple of chopped, fresh tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 large chicken bouillon cube, and a chopped green pepper. Allow this to simmer covered till vegetables are soft. Serve warm with fari masa or cecena. Optional ingredients: add chopped garlic and spicy pepper to taste.


2 pounds of lean beef cut into bite-sized pieces
a couple of tablespoons of oil
1 medium onion
chicken bouillon cube(s) or powder
assorted vegetables cut into bit-sized pieces—
tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, eggplant,
cabbage and zucchini
tomato sauce
garlic, black pepper, and salt to taste

Combine and sauté meat, onion, spices, garlic in a well-oiled skillet. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and bouillon cube(s), or a combination of tomato paste/ tomato sauce/ chicken bouillon. Add some water, enough to allow it to cook over medium heat till the meat is tender. Add vegetables and cook till thick (consistency of potato soup).

For the steamed bread you will need:
2 C plain flour
½ Tbsp yeast
¾ C lukewarm water
1 tsp salt

Mix the dough and let it rest 30 minutes. Make the dough balls, at least 6, and let them rise about 1 hour. Make the tomato-based meat /vegetable sauce then separate the vegetables and meat from the sauce / broth. Place the dough balls into the sauce, and cook until done. The sauce should be enough to cover the balls about half way up. Steam dough balls in the sauce about 30 minutes, covered, over low heat. The bread balls will be about softball size when done and have a firm texture.

Tukasu is a special dish of the Timbuktu area, served when a Songhai host wants to express to visitors that they are very special and respected.

Peanut/Vegetable Sauce

Step 1: Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pot. Add about a pound of beef, cut into bit-sized pieces. Fry till brown. Add a cup of water and simmer till tender.*

Step 2: In another pot, start again with a couple of tablespoons of oil. Add 1 medium to large onion, cut into small pieces. Stir well. Fry till onion is transparent. Add 1/ 3 C of tomato paste and 1 soup-sized can of tomatoes (or fresh, cut into small pieces). Cook for about 10 minutes. Then add a couple of chopped garlic cloves.

Step 3: While the other pots are simmering, prepare your veggies, cutting into small pieces whatever you like or have on hand. We use a combination of green pepper, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, cabbage, and greens (about 2 – 3 Cups of fresh veggies).* Add these to your tomato sauce and a cup of water. Add the meat and broth. Season sauce with ½ tsp black pepper, ½ tsp coriander, ½ tsp cumin, ½ tsp curry, 1 or 2 chicken bouillon cube(s), and salt and hot pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and let it simmer till thick and veggies are tender.

For Peanut Butter Sauce, you can half the meat quantity. Add a couple of tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter to some warm water, and stir it in at the last when the veggies are tender. Allow the sauce to continue to simmer till it is thick.

Serve over white rice or macaroni.

* Many times we begin with left-over roast, veggies, and broth and the sauce is equally good, if not better!

Serves 6 people.