Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”


Darfur Diary: Part VIII – My Journey To Chad, Central Africa

“On the Road to Abeche”

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Well, it was check out time. We decided we would go to Abeche today. After breakfast, we went to the moneychangers. It was in the market. This was the most congested of all the markets I had seen. Stores and vendors were jammed tightly against each other. Peddlers were all over the place. Through these narrow streets cars, SUVs, motorbikes, manual bikes and pedestrians have to maneuver. It required the most extraordinary driving ever developed. Only coming around the mountains from the airport to the city in Grenada, West Indies could compare with the skills necessary.

When we arrived at the moneychanger’s place of business it was a shack. I was looking for a large structure. But here was just a small 6x8 hole in the wall. Yet, all these moneychangers, big and small, transact great sums of money. Outside set a twisted body beggar with his hands out. “He surely knows the right place to sit.” I mumbled to myself. On the way back to the hotel, our driver purchased something that looked like fruit. He said, “Eat these and you will never have diabetes. It is bitter. And, it is good for the blood.” I told him I didn’t have diabetes, but I am prepared to consume anything that is good for the blood. I tasted it and true to the driver’s description it had a bitter taste. What it did for my blood I know not.

Returning to the hotel, we paid our bill and packed our bags. Yahya, meticulously, went over every item on the bill. He discovered that they had over charged us $10. Then, while I ate lunch, Yahya and the driver went to pick up our cameraman, Waleed. I had lentil soup, cooked veggies, bread and salad. I truly enjoyed eating at this hotel. Earlier, I had called Leah. She said if there were any trouble to call and they would have a plane in readiness. I told her I had faxed a statement to the church. She said with recognizable concern in her voice, “Be careful.” I said, “I will, but I’m doing okay. I am in my groove or in my place. I am in the heart of Africa trying to save a people. This is where I need to be. This is where I want to be. If something should happen, I could think of no better place than that it happened here.”

When Yahya returned we did our filming of the hotel. As we were leaving, unbeknownst to me riding with us was a Darfurian. He had just arrived from Brooklyn, USA.

It was about 2pm when we finally hit the highway. I spoke at length with my wife via my cell phone. I still cannot get over the miracle of this little machine. Here I was, deep in Africa, thousand of miles away, talking to my wife as though she were in the next room. She told me she had done our annual baptismal ceremony and was preparing to deliver the major message. The drive from N’djamena to Abeche is 600 miles. The driver said he had done it in 8 hours. Later, I learned “no way.” It was a comfortable, scenic drive down the highway for about 200 miles. Then we hit the dirt or clay roads. For the rest of the way we drove on washboard like roads, hard, rough with ridges. We bumped and bounced through the night. We passed a number of small villages. We made several stops in villages. The first was Bokora. It was 4:30. It was prayer time for the Muslims. At 4:55 we started again. We turned off the highway into a small square. It was another market. There were meats cooking on the open fire. Youth walked around selling telephone cards and fruits. There are two characteristics of these villages, and maybe the towns, mosques and markets.

Farther down the highway, we stopped in another small village. We were greeted with the customary cordiality broad smiles, handshakes, hugs and isolamalakem. We asked the two men who greeted us if we could go inside the compound. There were about 7 cone-shaped, straw and mud-constructed huts. A couple of them were for the animals. There were two being constructed. We looked inside. I was shown the seed, dukion. Yahya said, “Fro the seed we get the dukion-like pudding or pie. That is one way of using. There was allocated a pound of seeds per person. It has great protein value. There was a red cement cone-shaped structure about 4 feet high, which is where it is kept. “It can be kept there for 10 years,” said Yahya. I went into an empty hut, round shaped like the Native American’s wigwam or Eskimo’s igloo. I wondered what was the reason for this consistency of the pyramid shape found in many cultures.

There were two elderly women squatting with a large pan. I walked over to them. I smiled, they smiled back. The young women hurried away. The elderly woman showed me the peas she was shaking from the husk, smiling as she held up the pan for me to see. We thanked the two men as we headed for our car. Around 8pm, we stopped at another town. There was another market. This one much larger than the other. And it seemed to be a hangout center, and a bus depot.

The buses, trucks, vehicles of all kinds and shapes were loaded to the nth degree. I marveled at the amazing skills that are necessary to load and drive (or just load) one of these vehicles. I have stood mesmerized, as I have seen them speeding down the highway. How did they get so many people and things on these vehicles? It seemed, as they swayed down the highway, they would surely fall. But, I never saw an overturned vehicle.

As we walked around the market, it seemed nobody was eager to go home. I purchased guava juice and continued to eat the cashews, walnuts, raisin and cranberries I brought with me. There were many items comparable to markets or stores in the USA, foodstuff, clothing, jewelry, etc.

Driving through the night, no streetlights, rugged highways and a driver who seemed to be practicing for the Indy 500, wasn’t the most enjoyable ride. Then we began to have car trouble. Occasionally, the car would shut off while moving. The driver would pull over to the side, open the hood, do something with the wires, get back in, then we would push to get the car started. Once the car was started, the driver would stop and we would pile in and resume our travel.

In addition, we had three flat tires. One of them was fixed, requiring considerable time an effort. We drove for another two hours, had another flat tire; after a short distance had another flat tire. We were an hour and a half away from Abeche, the tire on the car and our spare was flat. It was decided that the driver and the cameraman should go into town. They boarded a truck with the flat tires and headed for town.

It was around 4am when they left. It was 9:30 the next morning when they returned. The three of us slept in the car. I tried to sleep, but the snoring of the two men keep my eyes open. I decided I might as well enjoy the cool of the morning outside the car. I did my stretching exercise, walked and ran. I found a rock that was used to warn drivers of a big drop in the highway. I sat upon the rock, read the scriptures and prayed. Yes, God works in all things for the good. Another benefit derived from staying in the car was a savings of $240. That was the total cost for the four of us nightly at the hotel. Our money was running low. We had to watch every penny. So a savings of $240 was a substantial amount.

It was a mysteriously delightful morning. I felt an embracing spiritual presence. Plus, spending the night in the deep, quiet and rugged beauty of an African desert in the cool of the morning, praying, meditating, waiting for the morning light, was a uniquely priceless experience. I will remember it as long as I live.

Upcoming Events

Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday Night Community Forums. All Forums are held at the House of the Lord Church from 7pm to 9pm.

Join Operation Life Line if you need assistance or know someone who needs assistance with their mortgages as it relates to foreclosures, predatory lending and/or subprime lending.

Attend NRLAA’s monthly forum Focus on Africa the 2nd Saturday from 2pm to 4pm.

Organizing Meetings regarding Darfur every Thursday - 12noon @ the House of the Lord Church
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On June 19–20, 2008, in honor of Juneteenth, The Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) will host its Annual Emancipation Day Celebration. At 12noon on the 20th there will be an Unveiling & Dedication of a Plaque marking the stop on the Underground Railroad at the Old Bridge Street Church, which served as a safe house for run-away slaves. Many invited guest speakers. A Luncheon (invitation only) will follow with Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry as the keynote speaker. At 7pm, there will be a musical concert & dinner, all free to the public, at the House of the Lord Church featuring The House of the Lord Anointed Voices, the renowned singer, Minister Lawrence Craig, Bishop Nathaniel Townsley & The Gospel Jubilee and many others. Dinner will start at 5pm (No cost with reservation). Contact Peggy Iman Washington, the Program Coordinator, @ (718) 596-1991 or (718) 797-2184.

On Saturday, June 28, 2008 at 2pm the 30th Annual Randolph Evans Memorial Scholarship Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held at the House of the Lord Church. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke will be the keynote speaker.

NEED QUALITY CHILD CARE? – Call the Alonzo A. Daughtry Memorial Daycare Center Located at 333 Second Street, (Between 4th & 5th Avenues) downtown Brooklyn, NY @ (718) 499-2066. Immediate openings in a state of the arts center.