We left Bamako around 7:30 am to begin our research trip. Our team consisted of four people; Me, Cass, Lameine (the driver), and Ezechiel (the translator). We had never met either of the two Malian guys going with us. Lameine has been the driver for the IMB for several years and takes almost every team out. Ezechiel is a student at the University in Bamako and in the IMB’s English Class. At the University he has studied English for three years and has one year left. Over the next 7 – 14 days we had the task of researching several people groups and areas of their different dialects.
Bright and early our alarm went off to awake us. Lameine pulled up about 7am to load the truck. Then we picked up our translator and headed out. We passed through Segou and then Mopti. Eventually we arrived in the mountains, which were beautiful! However, these mountains are not like the great Rockies back in the U.S. The mountains are more like a giant step, stepping down onto a new level of earth. There was no huge mountain that appeared on the horizon for us to climb up and over, instead the earth just stopped and we had to climb down to the lower level. But still, it was beautiful. From atop the mountain the earth seemed to stretch for miles and miles until the sand met the sky.
After that little moment of beauty things got back to normal, just red sand. Nine hours after we left Bamako we arrived in Bangiagara. Now understand, on this trip there isn’t much more planning than the idea of going; so of course we had nowhere to stay in Bangiagara. Lameine asked what our plan was and said that his wife’s family lived there and we could stay with them. He had never visited his wife’s family’s house before so he thoroughly enjoyed the stay. The next day we left, in search of the Somoya people. A few hours into the bush we stopped in our first village, that supposedly had these people living among them, however, no one had ever heard of these people. We continued on to the village of Zon, which was only about a 30min drive. There we found that this was the center of the people group and several Somoya villages radiated from it. One thing that is interesting about Africa is that people tend to stick to their own ethnic groups; it’s almost hard to believe that people 10 miles apart don’t know the other exist, but it we learned that it happens a lot! In Zon we were able to find all of the information we needed on the people group, rather than having to drive for days to each village.
There was one village, however, that was about 15 miles away called Dian. According to our information Dian was supposed to have Somoya people in it. The people in Zon were not sure about this village, so we decided to go see for ourselves. When we got there we met with the chief and greeted everyone. We soon learned that there was only one Somoya family there, which is not enough to list it has a Somoya village. The chief asked us the purpose of our travels, so we told him that we were researching this people group in order to tell them stories from God’s word. We then told him that God must have wanted us to come to this village to tell them stories instead. We began by telling them a long story from the creation of the earth all the way to Jesus ascending into Heaven. The people seemed very interested, so we told them more stories. Before I knew it our whole group was telling stories, at one point the driver, Lameine, even started telling stories. The Holy Spirit was truly guiding that conversation; there is no doubt about that. We told them that they had now heard the truth and they must decide to follow the “Jesus Road” or choose not to follow it; that from that moment on they had no excuse, because they new the truth. The asked, “How can we believe after you are gone? What if we decided to follow this road after you leave?” I said, “Just like in the story, God will send His spirit to guide you.” I arranged a story by combining a few Bible stories saying, “If you are working in your field and you have something very valuable in your pocket, then you return home and find that it is missing from your pocket, then all of your attention and energy will be focused on what you lost. You will search over your entire field until you find it! When you search for God in this way He will make Himself known to you. It will be like what you have lost simply stands up in the field and is easily found.” We followed by telling the story of the angels harvesting the weeds with the wheat and told they must not wait too long, because we don’t know when the harvest will come. Before we left they asked us to pray for rain and so we did. As we drove back to Zon the air became thick with humidity and we soon came upon huge puddles of water in the road. It seemed that while we were there it was raining all around us. Then that night the first rain came, bringing a downpour on the entire area! Having a few extra days planned in our trip, we went back to Dian the next morning to share more stories and hear their thoughts.