On a recent trip to West Africa, one of the items on my itinerary was a 20-hour drive over two days from Conakry, Guinea to Bamako, Mali to visit the AFM Malinke Project.
The trip had the usual features of West African travel—rough roads that limited our speed to about 30 miles per hour, humidity and pouring rain near the coast, thick dust in the interior, tedious hassles at border checkpoints, and fitful sleep at night in the vehicle while swatting mosquitoes. Mission work in this part of the world requires hard effort, fortitude, spiritual stamina, and a willingness to get dusty and grimy, both in a literal and figurative sense.
Neil and Holly Lovitt did this for years at the Malinke Project, and they left a very good foundation. George and Theresa Tooray are now building on that foundation and doing very well. Upon arrival I found they had fully adjusted to life in hot, dusty Kangaba. There are some aspects of adaptation that are naturally easier for someone already from West Africa, as the Toorays are. However, other aspects may be more difficult for them, like overcoming tribal prejudice. But the Toorays seem unfazed and are having success, as evidenced by a growing number of people attending church. Some are new, and others have come back after many years away.
George and Theresa are learning the Malinke language well, and Theresa already speaks with quite a degree of fluency. Just how well this family has integrated into the community was underlined for me in a way that was both touching and telling. The Toorays’ only child and daughter Zainab, was leaving with us to go and live with the Cokers in Guinea as she prepares to go to college. As Zainab prepared her belongings the day before our departure, a good friend came to the house. Her eyes wet with tears, she helped Zainab pack her suitcase. Finally unable to take it, she lay down and buried her face in a pillow. Compared to surrounding people groups, the Malinke of Mali are known for their tough stoicism. I was surprised by this young lady’s quiet but open show of emotion and affection for Zainab. For the rest of the afternoon she remained inconsolable at the departure of her best friend.
I took a lesson away from this experience and my time in Kangaba. The Toorays are building on the work of a long line of good missionaries before them in one of the most stubbornly resistant fields AFM has worked in. The Pollys, Currys, Lovitts and others prepared a wonderful foundation. Now the Toorays are God’s chosen people to bring the work here to maturity and stability. As I witnessed their impact on the Kangaba community in such a limited time, the love and respect with which they are regarded, and the deep work they are doing to build confidence and win hearts, I realized that God has chosen them for such a time as this. Let’s pray with and for the Toorays, that Kangaba will become a bright and ever-intensifying light in the spiritual darkness of Mali. Let’s also pray that the Toorays can finish their fundraising and training soon so that they can get back to their adopted people and finish and carry on their work.