With our teammates’ departure, the medical surveying and health education visits to each household in the village were no longer possible, so Corey started investigating other ways we can help the community. For several months, we were working towards a water project, but in the end the Senegalese government rejected our consultant’s suggestion to change to an electric pump from the failing diesel powered one, and ended up providing a new diesel pump, which did solve the problem of frequent water cuts. As we were considering with the chief what we could do next, he suggested we restart a community garden project that folded over a decade ago.
We do not normally try to resurrect other organizations’ failed projects, and were wary of getting involved in this one. At the same time we saw some real possibilities – much of the infrastructure is still there – so we started to consider it. Corey has taken a lot of time over several weeks discussing with people in the village what happened and found that there were many factors that contributed to the original garden project’s failure, including the main water counter to the garden malfunctioning (marking too much water which resulted in huge unpayable bills for the farmers) and the water tower falling over during the first year of the project due to faulty construction.
But in addition to the physical problems, there were also interpersonal problems within the village related to this project. As Corey spent time talking to the different people involved, he found that there are a lot of broken relationships and residual hurt and anger over things that were said and done during the original project. He has asked a lot of questions and explained that we are only interested in helping with a new community garden project if we can do it in a way that brings blessing and increased peace for all members of the village. He refers often to the four kinds of peace that Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden: 1) peace with God, 2) peace with each other, 3) peace with the land, and 4) internal peace rooted in knowing their identity and purpose. A community garden project that only brings peace, or increased blessing, in one area (for example, through increased vegetable production from the land) but which brings discord in the other areas can not be considered a success! Corey has been visiting all the stakeholders asking if there is a way to do this project that would bring blessing in all four areas.
Yesterday he was talking to five or six villagers who farmed the land before the project was organized and things got really “hot” (as they say in Wolof) with lots of angry yelling and arguing. Some men were angry at Corey and yelled at him, accusing him of favoritism – the original project was rife with divisions along family lines that go back to previous feuds. Others said things like, “If this project happens, I won’t let anyone in my household eat the produce of the garden!” and “I am going to die fighting about this!”
It is kind of crazy that wanting to help the chief rebuild a fenced enclosure for a garden to bless the whole village could incite such strong negative emotions!
We share all of this to ask you to pray with us. Pray specifically for the meeting Corey wants to have with those landowners on Friday afternoon (4 October) at 5 p.m. GMT (that’s 1 p.m. EST). Some of the men have already said they are going to boycott the meeting.
Pray for the Lord to give Corey wisdom and clear guidance. Is this an opportunity for God to show His power to heal relationships and to teach about forgiveness? Or should we abandon this idea, despite the chief’s continued prioritizing of this project? Is there another type of project we could do to help? Does the Lord even want us to keep trying to work in this village at all? Pray for God to answer these questions and for us to be faithful to obey His directives, even if we don’t like the answers or if it isn’t easy.