TABADJAN (Village), GUINEA, WEST AFRICA:
Originally written as an email by Jimmy Stanley to friends and family.
During mid 2015 one of the boys from the Guinea church started having dreams about being in an area where he was surrounded by lots of kids constantly; when this would happen he would go and tell his pastor and ask what it meant. The pastor having no idea just told him to not worry about it but if it was God it would eventually become evident what he was being prepared for.
Pastor Samuel (A pastor who grew up in one of our schools then later went to Bible School in Conakry) left Koumbia on a motor bike to go cross country to get to Guingan to visit family, he got lost on the multiple trails and ended up in a remote village where he stopped to ask directions from what he thought was a Peular (Fulani Tribe) man. As they conversed in Peular he heard another man up ahead yelling at some kids to get out of the way for the motor bike to come through, The man was yelling in Bassari!
Astounded he asked the man who he was and the man said that this was a Bassari village that had settled here after the war with the Peuls around 1952. A Bassari military man who had lost a leg in the war was going around the area re-grouping and re-settling Bassaris who had been dispersed with the fighting. Tabadjan, this new village where Pastor Samuel found them was the main central village, and there were Four satellite villages within a 15 to 20 km radius. They were locked in on the Guinea side by the Tamine river on the other side of the Guinee Bissau border . They had basically no contact with other Bassari in Senegal or Guinea as they all went to Guinea Bissau for work, the only contact they had was with the Guingan area Bassari who occasionally came to the area to harvest palm wine.
Samuel took time to talk to them and they explained that they were very poor in agriculture because the area was saturated with free roaming cattle that ate all their crops. They also exclaimed that they were mentally poor because they had no school for their children to learn. They had asked the government and been refused because they were extremely remote. They had asked the catholic mission and been refused, they couldn’t afford to pay a teacher on their own so for more than 20 years their kids were ignorant on all subjects, they were at a total and complete disadvantage, the world was leaving them behind to poverty and hopelessness.
They couldn’t even say hello in French! (The national language and language of business and commerce)
Samuel went on his way and on getting to Koundara he called me to tell me about this discovery and ask if it was possible to send them a teacher? I told him that that would be no problem. Pastor Samuel was to go to the Gontin church and meet with the leadership and see who was available to go as a paid teacher.
Gontin Church being the mother church and the area where my brother John had served years ago when we were first allowed into Guinea. Gontin Church had plenty of young people who had come up through our schools and were spiritually mature as Christian school teachers) Long story short they decided on Timothee.
In Tabadjan village there is a building that was built by an old catholic priest from Bissau, good solid cement walls with steel doors and windows, the roof had blown off in a wind storm. The village had re-covered it as best they could but it was only used for grain storage. The Tabadjan village emptied it out and cleaned it up when they heard they would get a teacher. When Timothee arrived he was swamped by kids and understood the dreams he had been having. After only one month the kids were already singing French songs and saying French words and were ahead of the other villages that had teachers for up to 6 years. The parents are ecstatic!
Due to the cattle/agriculture situation we would like to follow the plan that we used in Gontin and Wakilare that worked very well and establish an association; declare it to the authorities and they will take measures to deal with the cattlemen. So we would hire plowing done by the local tractors for big rice cultivation, one big field divided into individual plots, and have donkeys for the small cultivation for one year to get them going and then it would be self sufficient. This also brings the villages to the attention of the government and they benefit from programs available. Just since we have been there there have been visits from different programs to see what’s going on. -Jimmy Stanley
Above Photos: The Tabadjan School Children and their Teacher Timothy. Currently there are 4 Teachers Teaching in the village of Tabadjan with over eighty students. Timothy, along with growing up in the initial church plant at the village of Gontin is also receiving Bible School training in the town of Koundara at the new Bible training Center
Now five years into this new work at the village of Tabadjan and the atmosphere has changed completely! The village has taken on a new air of hope. Thanks to the Bassari Mission supporters, our Bassari Teachers and Pastors and the agricultural support systems in place the village has entered a new chapter. Some of the surrounding villages, also Bassari are showing a dramatic interest in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we were recently invited to teach in the village of Xhaco, 20 kilometers further interior from the village of Tabadjan and a Christian Bassari Teacher has volunteered. I hope to include a write up on the progress of these new works in the future somewhere on this website. Stay tuned.
I realize that some of these perspectives could be seen as shallow, for an in-depth look at how Bassari Mission Africa serves in Guinea check out the new book: A Life in the Gap, Pastor James Cambell Stanley and his Family Legacy of Missions in Africa. Details can be found on the Contact Us page.
New Work in Guinea
XHACO (Village) GUINEA, WEST AFRICA:
Originally written as an email by Jesse Delarge to friends and family
I'm going to include a couple of other people in on this email. Interesting things going on in Xhaco. Thats the village that Jen and I visited the last time that we were in Guinea. I want to call them previously unreached? At least unreached by Christianity.
When Jen and I went in to Xhaco it was by invitation from the village itself.
Xhaco is a village about twenty kilometers from the new work happening in Tabadjan. When we arrived one old blind Bassari man was really happy that we had 'come'.
We knew what he meant, he meant that the word had spread, a new atmosphere of hope was emerging to replace the a time when this group of people were alone, isolated and un cared for.
We took with us Timothy, the pastor/teacher at the new work at Tabadjan. Christine, Timothy's wife and childrens teacher. Sargent, the village chief's son and next in line to become chief. Nestor, the co pastor and childrens school teacher.
The village fed us as guests but the food was bad, I mean rotten. I think something in the sauce went bad but we recognized that this was the best that they had to offer and we all ate it anyway.
Timothy had a long conversation with us present to the village chief and it was pretty formal. He explained a lot to them about Christianity and what that meant if we were to come back permanently and by their invitation. We also gave them a few solar radio gospel recordings. Hours of content that included sermons, songs and the new Testament recorded in the original Bassari and also Peul.
(The Pulaar are an unrelated tribe of people that settled in the Bassari Territory. Though not of the Pulaar tribe themselves the Bassari of the area also speak the Peul language. Peuls are predominantly of the muslim faith or a mix of muslim, voodoo and pagan)
After that we wanted to see the river so we motorbiked way out past the village, probably another 10kms to the edge of this bowl/cliff. Parked the bikes and walked down to this random Bassari guys farm on the edge of the mountain. It was so steep that no motorbike would have been able to make it up or down from where we were. This Bassari guy out in the middle of no where knew Jimmy personally somehow. Him and his family and his dad were all camped out there clearing bush for the farming season. You could look out over this valley from the side of the cliff and there was a spring that came out of the mountain. They were building a fence around the spring water run off to keep the animals out. We ate with them there as well by invitation, refusing would have offended them. The man seemed to be some kind of hunter and he had killed a deer the night before. We ate far better with him then what the Xhaco village had prepared for us as guests that they knew were coming. I think this guy and his family were already Christians, but I dont think any of them read. I could be wrong about the Christian part.
After we ate with them we walked down to the river. It was probably a good 3kms away further still from that Bassari guy's farm (13kms from Xhaco, that part of the river then probably being 20-40kms from Tabadjan? Distances can be hard to remember when the terrain is bad)
It was a paradise, I can remember telling Timothy those exact words, paradise.
Sand banks, deep pools and rocky rapids, we swam to the other side Tim, Sargent, Jen and I. Halfway across Sargant called out for help, he couldn't make it. To be fair it was a decent swim. I was kinda' freaked about crocodiles. Some of the migrating fisher people showed us recent skins of the baby crocs that they had caught in their nets.
We left after that, walked back to that Bassari guys farm (his actual house was up on the plateau above the cliff)
We got back on our motorbikes and went back through Xhaco then did this big tour back to Tabadjan by some other rout.
I asked Timothy later when we were going to go back to Xhaco, I wanted to bring my projector and show them the Jesus film. Tim told me that we shouldn't. He told us that we should wait to hear back about "the talk". He meant it was too soon to rush into things.
Jen and I later went back to the river. We decided not to spend any more time in Xhaco. They probably would have loved to have us but we didn't want to ignore Tim's council. We drove through, chatted a bit and then headed to that Bassari guys house above the plateau. He let us park the motorbike in one of his huts and we carried on down to the river to camp out by ourselves for a few days.
The Bassari were nervous for us, Nestor especially, they look after us but he didn't know about how North Americans opperate. Being baby sat isn't really my style. Alone just Jen and I we spent the next few days on the river trying to re-create that paradise we found with our friends the time before. We built a sleeping platform up in the trees high off the ground because we spotted hippo tracks along the river. Besides that on the other side of the river it was a patrolled national park/reserve. What all animals live in those dark forests of Guinea I couldn't tell you. I brought the shotgun and in the middle of the night woke up to this weird eyrie howling. I shone my flashlight around and saw eyes. A civet cat came really close and was kinda' just watching us, I had the shotgun in hand but I've become more of a connoisseur of living wildlife that I don't particularly want to eat over the past couple of years. During the night we could hear the not so distant blowing of hippos as they come up and out of the water.
The river campout just Jen and I wasn't all that I hoped it would be. Without friends to share it with it wasn't that fun. We chilled out until a bunch of river boat fishing people came up river and spotted us in their canoes and then came and asked us for cell phone charging. We left shortly after.
We did however leave a gospel recorder/solar radio and flashlight with that Bassari man and his family on the side of the cliffs. They were good people, true Bassarris. In the morning we climbed the cliff and the baboons barked at us from the top of the plateau, they came in pretty close but I'm not particularly partial to baboon meat.
On this trip I brought with me my GPS so I knew the route home. (We know all the routes now regardless of GPs which is no small feat considering some of the distances and foot paths,
Back through Xhaco, then the plains all the way back to Tabadjan.
The one thing that really stuck out to me about the village Xhaco. When we were passing through on our second trip to the river we met that same old blind Bassari guy from our first trip in. He was out in a field outside of the village beside the motorbike trail. I don't know what he was doing out there, its like he lost some of his clothes, half naked and was wondering around. He was the guy, the one that originally told us that he was so glad that we "had come". I didn't get the feeling that he was crazy, just lost.
I like to think that I can read peoples intentions through their eyes.
"These dim windows to the soul..." and all of that. My interpretations haven't let me down yet. Ever.
"...the least of these you do unto me.. (Mathew 25:40)."
For a blind dude, you could really see it in his eyes and who knows. I think sometimes that I could be accused of over romanticizing missions but if God were to show himself, would it not be through the clouded eyes of a blind man.
A true Bassari , He was already a Christian. He just didn't know it yet.
Above Photos: The Village Xhaco 2019. Meeting with the Elders in the shade of a tree. The river with friends
Above Photos: The village Xhaco Students (60) with Nestor the Bassari Teacher and Church leader. Nestor is from the original Guinea church plant in Gontin. He was a student there in the 90's and is now a Missionary to his own people further interior.
Now two years later and the village 'Talk', that was mentioned in the email above has finally come to pass. Recently Nestor and his family who were originally teaching at Tabadjan and who originally grew up in the initial Gontin church plant, have volunteered to serve in the village of Xhaco. The village is ecstatic!
Xhaco is a hardship post, along with Tabadjan these areas are pretty barren and very remote. For a Bassari like Nestor or Timothy to volunteer to be in some of these areas truly is a mark of how desperately they want to reach their own tribe with the message of Jesus Christ. These volunteer Pastors, Teachers along with their families literally uproot from their home areas to serve in other Bassari villages miles and miles from home. I wish that I had more eloquence to describe the impact that this has to a tribe of people and even to Guinea as a whole. These places would otherwise be left even by their own government to fend for themselves as the rest of the country springs forward. Because of the remoteness of these villages the government will not step in and provide a school let alone find a teacher that would volunteer. The Bassari people know all of this, they work in the surrounding towns and villages in the dry season and see themselves getting left in the wake. Friends be not deceived, missions work takes nothing from the culture, you couldn't change that if you tried, it does however change hearts with its message of Jesus Christ and adds hope to people searching desperately for answers.
For more information and an in-depth view into how Bassari Mission Africa works, the initial church plants in Senegal then Guinea and how the gospel has been spread to the surrounding villages please check out our new book. A Life in the Gap, Pastor James Cambell Stanley and his family Legacy of missions in Africa. Details can be found on the Contact Us page.
New Work in Guinea, Town of Koundara
Bible Training Center: A few years ago Pastor Augustine originally from Gontin, son of Daniel had an idea. it was an idea that we had thought of years before but never really come to any conclusions. To build a Bible training center in Bassari Territory that would be used to train teachers and pastors that were then to be sent to new areas as missionaries to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the past if there was a christian student that showed interest and promise in volunteering to become a Pastor then we as a mission would send that person all the way up to either Dakar on the Senegal side, or Conakry on the Guinea side to atend Bible school. Bible school usually took about three years to complete and although the Bassari Mission substituted most of the cost (Housing, food, the schooling cost itself) the people that completed the Bible schooling came back with a diploma but nothing else. The problem was that the weather in Dakar and especially Conakry was different from the weather and the seasons in Bassari Territory.
Normally durring the raining season, schools and regular activity stops so that people can go out to the fields to plant and harvest crops that provide food for them and their families in the dry season. (This spacific area of Africa has two seasons, the hot and the dry season)
The problem was that the wet season in the Bible school areas (Dakar and Cokakry) were so different that the school season would start or end at a time that did not match up with where the Bassari people had their land and their farms in Bassari Territory.
This problem often left the people attending the schools to miss different parts of the planting or harvesting season (wet season/rainy season) making it impossible for them to support themselves or their families. They would head off to Bible school and come back three years later with absolutly nothing to their names but a piece of paper that told them that they were Pastors.
What was the solution, how could this be changed? For years there was no solution, it wasnt the right time or the right place in history to do anything about it.
Fast forward to 2019 and we now have a Bible training Center on the Koundara Church grounds within a stones throw of Bassari Lands! The Bible training Center is headed by Pastor Augustin the director of the zone under the National Church (Alleluia).
A Message from Jimmy Stanley.
The CIFPL (Center International for Training Lay Pastors) was open for the first training sessions on the first of October. The Pastors that had graduated from the Bible schools in Conakry and Dakar volunteered to come teach as they had books and materials. They decided to teach by subject so that the bush people would understand. They only accepted 12 young men who were presently involved in their home village churches. The sessions were only during the week so that the boys could be back home for Sunday services. Initially they had only 10 desks and chairs which we had to double since then. The city Bible schools were so encouraged that they have been sending books and materials to them. In the mean time we had been trying to figure out what dialect or language would be best in evangelizing the tribe as a whole, they actually prefered pulaar when watching the Jesus film, we teach Bible and French in the schools because they need French when they go out to find work after rainy season and the gospel is the reason for the success of the mission. We had gone to the Linguistical organizations and had no result since most of the missionaries had left when the EBOLA virus began. Finally we found someone who had worked with missionaries in this language group and were able to track down some of the literature that had been translated and printed. It was a huge hit with the people, the old people actually cried to hear their original tongue read to them, the young people couldn't believe how much they had lost of their real identity, they were excited at being a real people group. So we had all the materials re-printed and started literacy classes in the villages, this has created a whole new interest in the other satellite villages that surround Tabadjan and Xhaco.
Above is a picture of the new Bible Training Center in Koundara Guinea just after it was completed. This building goes beyond all expectations of what we could have imagined. From Pastor James Stanley coming to Senegal in the early 1960's to a tribe of naked people living in the bush to now where the Bassari themselves teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As Pastor Stanley would say,
"Praise the Lord, as he speaks to us and through us, and we give Him all the glory!"
Behind the training Center is the original church that has been expanded and renovated multiple times because of the church communities rapid growth. The Church itself was built in the mid 90's by volunteers from the Wasaga Beach Faith Missionary Church in partnership with the Stanley Family serving in the area at that time.
Friends I can not tell you enough about the impact that this has on the Bassari as a people and even the many other peoples and other tribes that attend the Koundara Church under Bassari Pastor Augustin. The pride that these people have for their churches both in town and in the bush villages is so difficult for me to translate.
On our last trip to Africa my wife and I brought with us a small projector with all kinds of videos and movies. The set up was entirely run by solar because there is no electricity in the bush. The solar charged my portable batteries and the batteries with the projector played the videos.
Jackie Chan, Boyka, Jet Lee. The Bassari love a good action karate movie. My wife and I would travel to every Bassari village by motorbike and stay for a while to hang out with the people in between the projects that we were leading. In the evenings I would set up my projector and the entire village would show up, sometimes we had close to two hundred people depending on the village. When Jackie Chan or Jet Lee was on the screen the laughter and village commentary was constant.
"Turn up the volume!' they would yell out over the general uproar, but my speakers were maxed out!
Sometimes I would start up the projector, the whole village seated on the benches that we dragged out from the school buildings. Stools, tree stumps, donkey carts and bicycle seats under the stars. Everything was a chair. I would give the village the choice of movie and scroll down the list up on the screen.
Down near the bottom was a title that most of the kids that attended the mission schools could now read.
"Jesus Film!" They would shout out.
I kid you not and I could hardly credit it myself if I had not but seen it with my own eyes time and time again, village after village. Out of all the videos and movies that I had the Jesus film was always and unanimously the top pick....
Why was that? I thought to myself even now as I think back on it I can remeber so clearly.
Home in Canada anything titled 'Jesus' anything would probably be the last pick, especially up against Jackie Chan. What had we lost that Africa had found?
Back in Africa the film would start to play dubbed over in Bassari or Pulaar depending on the Bassari village.
Pin drop silence through the entire three and a half hour video.
Jackie Chan with all of his Karate fight moves would have the audience in an uproar, nobody could hear a thing!
I remember when during a playing of the Jesus film a small conversation in the back row of seats started up. A village elder at the front stood up and chastised the back row for speaking.
It was probably the hundredth time that I had played it, Jackie Chan and his Forbidden Kingdom could wait, but this man needed to hear Jesus at least one more time.
Friends I can only relate to you these stories in hopes of communicating to you the value. Some people might argue that the only reason that there is any success among the Bassari is because of the physical things that we bring with us to their villages. The medical work, the agricultural projects, the government regulated education and the teachers.
New King James Version
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without [a]your works, and I will show you my faith by [b]my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is [c]dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made [d]perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was [e]accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Listen carefully when I say this. None of the Gospel could be taught, Gods love could not be shown, the value of the Bassari people could not be demonstrated too, if we ignored the physical and focused only on the spiritual. The one thing that these people were missing that could not be bought was the message of Jesus Christ and the promise of Eternity.
There is a deep calling, an un fulfilled longing deep within each one of us that can not be denied.
I hope that you who read this will join with us in prayer as we boldly charge forward into the the next 60 years working together with the Bassari and anyone else who might listen.
Where ever that might take us.