Hello from the Gambia for the final time!
I can't believe we're already at the end of our time here in The Gambia; we fly home on Wednesday. Thank you so much for reading our letters and for praying for us throughout the last five months.
The last couple of weeks have brought our time here to a close. Each of us finished teaching at our respective schools. Most of us were given a great send off and received some lovely gifts, including matching jumpsuits for Lydia and Amy! Unfortunately the staff at Bakau Upper Basic didn't realise it was Jess and George's last day but they will hopefully be going back to school for a proper send off this week. We also had our last devotion at Agape. It's been a blessing to have time dedicated to teaching the children about Jesus. They seem to have remembered the teaching they've received as well as the new song lyrics, which is such an encouragement.
Amongst many 'last things', we've had our final GAMFES meeting, rounding up our bible studies in Malachi; finished painting Aunty Helen's nursery under Caleb's supervision; enjoyed some lovely hospitality from friends at church, giving good opportunity to get to know people better; and went to the midweek kid's clubs for the last time. At this particular club it's been especially interesting to see how Muslim children still get involved with Jesus-themed singing and storytelling.
On 19 May we had the first Great Gambian Bake Off. It was the long-term Crosslinks Mission Partners versus the Gap Team, and although Mands' Lime cake got top marks in almost all the categories, Hannah's Wonjo cake stole the show for head judge Phoebe Algeo. Another honourable mention has to go to Beth's rainbow cake which was an incredible effort, especially given our unreliable oven!
After our last two weeks in schools, it was time for our final team holiday. We had a six hour journey to Janjanbureh (with only two breakdowns on the way!), spent a night in a lodge on the riverbank, before spending a few peaceful and relaxing days on a boat going down the river. We saw many birds and monkeys and even caught a glimpse of a crocodile and a baboon. Defeinitely the most exciting animals to spot however were the hippos! We went to see the Wassu stone circles (think Stonehenge but smaller), squeezing thirteen people on a small horse and cart to get there! We also visited Kunta Kinteh Island where slaves were kept during the slave trade. Two nights were spent sleeping on the boat, which everyone seemed to enjoy as it was so quiet and the stars were so bright. On the last day we arrived at Lamin Lodge a bit earlier than expected which gave us plenty of time to jump off the boat and swim in the river. We praise God for such a great holiday to end on!
Our final Saturday was spent eating pancakes for brunch before joining some of the GAMFES students at the beach. It was good to see a few familiar faces from universities and the conference.
On our last Sunday in The Gambia it was sad to say goodbye to the church family we have become a part of whilst living here. Hannah and I sung with the choir one last time and then as a team we performed the song "When I was Lost" in front of church - Tom on drums, Tim on guitar, myself on keys and everyone else on vocals. Omega Church has been really welcoming and I've thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the family. Personally, their 2019 theme of 'God's Calling' has been helpful as I decide what I want to do when I come back from the Gambia. I know I should choose prayerfully and use the gifts that God has given me to serve both him and others.
As for now, we are excited to be coming home so soon - all of us apart from Skippy have made a start with packing... We are looking forward to seeing family and friends back in England and to taste the home cooking (and take-aways) we're used to. We will miss much about The Gambia so there is a bittersweet feeling at the moment. We have our final bible study and seminar to look forward to, as well as our leaving parties, where we will be able to say a final goodbye to teachers, students and other friends before leaving on Wednesday evening. It will be an emotional farewell, but God has given us this amount of time for a reason. Who knows, maybe some of us will come back one day!
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