In this post, Axel and Sam reflect on the diverse group of people that find their way into the Beer Sheba community. Axel and Sam have been serving at Beer-Sheba for four weeks.
Many of the Americans who come to Beer-Sheba come as part of their mission work. These Christians, typically evangelicals, come from all over the US. But, the majority come from the Midwest and East Coast. A few are even from Northern Indiana! These Americans come to work at Beer-Sheba and to learn “farming God’s way”. Farming God’s Way is a process that allows the soil to heal under the supervision of farmers. Many of these Americans stay in nearby villages or they live in Mbour. Finally, at Beer-Sheba, these Americans often hold supervisor roles, overseeing the electric power or the internet networks.
Senegalese and Locals
As would be expected, there are a large number of Senegalese workers here at Beer-Sheba. Nonetheless, these workers are very diverse. They come from all over the country to learn and work. Some come from Casamance, some from far north near St. Louis, and others from local villages. Beer-Sheba is located between three local villages and has land contracts and labor agreements with each of them. Part of Beer-Sheba’s mission is to employ local villagers for various jobs. It’s very fun to speak with the different workers and find out their preferences and opinions on certain things. For example, how much sugar should go in ataya (this is a touchy subject).
French people come to Beersheba for a variety of reasons. Some come for reasons similar to teh Americans. Others come for a short week before moving on to their next destination. Currently, the majority of the French people staying at Beersheba are students from an Engineering University in northern France. The association that they belong to sends students from their university to Senegal often to build something for a Senegalese community. This group of French students are currently building a classroom for the school on the campus of Beer-Sheba.
Alongside these others, there are also a few Mauritanians who are at Beer-Sheba. One of them has a house in Beer Sheba but does not work here. He commutes to the city. The other two are volunteers like us. They live with us at the Mercy Ship dorms. They are so fun to talk to and provide interesting insight on different topics. One of our Mauritanian friends knows five languages and often asks us questions about the US. Though at a glance it would appear the Mauritanians could be Senegalese, they certainly are not and hold proudly to their own culture and ideas.
Wolof is not as common in Mauritania and is not the first language for the French or Americans. Consequently, it becomes a fun game trying to remember greetings from different languages for different people. This is one of the most amazing things about Beer Sheba, you cannot assume anything about anyone just from appearance. There is so much lingual, cultural, and national diversity that getting to know people becomes one of the most important and interesting things you can do, and you never know what you’ll be able to learn.