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A Moroccan New Year

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This evening we are having a New Year's Eve Malagasy meal.  Mioty is preparing it for us.  Other than the fact that there seems to be a lot going on in the apartment above us that would suggest we're in for a noisy night we should have a quiet New Year's Eve.

We wrapped up our annual camp yesterday.  It was great.  We had about 60 young people there.  The talent displayed was amazing.  From worshipful danse to musical signing to dramatic oratory to competitive Bible Bowl and a round-robin triathlon of soccer, basketball and ultimate, besides all the bonding and great socializing.  Portuguese, French and English.  From Sao Tome to Madagascar; from Cape Vert to Cameroon; from Kenya to Angola; from Nigeria to Burundi, we must have had over 21 countries represented. Kids studying medicine, law, architecture, tourism, etc.  A university degree in tourism?  You've got to be kidding!  Just for starters you have to study languages; take Arabic, English, German, French, Italian and that's not all.  Not for me, thanks. 

These kids are lonely.  Their cultures are rich in relationships, especially family.  They are young and a long ways from home.  Even with modern communication it is not easy.  Living conditions are primitive.  Studies are difficult.  There is a lot of stress.  Many don't make it.  Some end up with the wrong kind of friends spending a lot of time in bars.  Some return home.  Others find loving support among other Adventist youth in church fellowship.  What a neat bunch we have to work with.  We are so blessed.

One young couple with a 1-yr-old baby boy got up at 1:00 am to be able to attend the camp.  The husband had to try and locate a taxi.  At that time of day they are not easy to find.  He had to walk several miles.  Finally found one.  So he had to return home to get his wife and baby boy and then go to the train station.  They arrived at 4:55 am just barely in time to buy the tickets and catch the train which left at 5:00 am.  They arrived in Rabat at 9:00 am after an 8-hour marathon.  All that just to get to church on time!  You can imagine that this only happens once a year at the most.  The rest of the time they have church in their apartment with the other Adventist students in their town, i.e. Marrakech.  

Mioty, our very special Malagasy Gal, will be heading home on January 12 to get her work visa so that she can return. She has applied to have her own society.  As director she can have a permanent residence visa.  She is the ministerial director for our church in Morocco.  

You must understand that our church is not officially recognized or even organized.  But we have a president, secretary, treasurer and some other officers.  Where else in the world will you find one Adventist church serving an entire country--a church of less than 100 members almost all of whom are university students, less than 30 years of age, who come from more than 20 countries, and which uses three languages in its services--French, English, and Portuguese?  (And, by the way, African English is much different from American or Canadian English.)

This picture shows about 2/3 of the group that came.  It was taken late at night.  Marilyn was already in bed.  Not sure where all the others were.  Mioty is in the front center in blue sitting sideways on Anita's knees.  (Anita is our Rwandan treasurer who is finishing her studies in medicine.  She will be returning to Rwanda for her internship in a few months.  She was a refugee in Goma for about 3 years as a little girl during the Rwandan genocide.  Another of our Rwandan students lost his mother and two of his siblings during that massacre.  He told me that every family in Rwanda was affected.  It is hard to understand.)  You notice the motto:  A United Family for a New Start.  You also notice the flags on the shelf representing each country.  They love those flags.  They mean a lot to them. 

This picture shows Mericain from Madagascar, a graduate in computer programming, exchanging flags with Tatiana, one of our new gals from Cape Vert.  What a melting pot of the world's cultures have the universities become.  

It is now about 7:00 pm.  It is 7 deg. and clear.  Unfortunately, it is about the same temperature inside as outside. Marilyn and I are in the study sitting beside a oiled-filled electric heater while Mioty and her boyfriend, Tsila, a student in forestry specializing in park management, also from Madagascar, preparing our Malagasy New Year's Eve meal.  It is quite an amazing meal of appetizers.  What a lot of work!

On a different note--Moroccans really know how to arrange, stack and display.  This is a window in a shoe store in a mini mall, just in case you couldn't guess.  Notice the shoes balanced on the heads of the mannequins.  "the old order changeth, yielding place to new..."  And we see the evolution in motion in this country.  Some dress completely traditionally; some completely western; some half and half.  But everyone has a cell phone!  

...even Jim from Nigeria who washes my car on Fridays for a few Dirhams.  He is a really nice fellow with a wife and baby boy.  He left his home country to try to improve his life.  He scouts around looking for whatever work he can get. He is a very hard worker, but because of racial prejudice against black people it is very hard for him to find work.  His left hand and arm are very badly deformed from a fire as he was carrying gasoline in a container of some kind, apparently someone tried to kill him by igniting the gas.  But he is very strong and works with all his heart.  So many in need of so much.  "C'est la souffrance humaine," as Marilyn's doctor put it.  When will it end?

This is the Malagasy Meal with Tsila and Mioty--the ordeuvres that I thought we were going to get we will get tomorrow.  

Anyway we got to eat lychees (litchi fruit) for the first time in our lives this evening (the small round nut-like fruit on the right (Inside the shell the fruit is white, juicy, not very sweet but very pleasant.  You peel off the outer coating as you peel a hard boiled egg.).  And, if you can believe it, we will taste Baobab fruit tomorrow (the big squash-like fruit at the back). That's right.  The Baobab tree actually produces edible fruit.  In Madagascar they do not cut the Baobab tree because its fruit has spiritual/healing properties.  The oblong-shaped nuts are the edible acorns of the white or cork oak tree (gland de chène liège).  And, of course you recognize the kiwi and banana all in a Moroccan serving dish. Thought you'd enjoy seeing a picture...  

We have entered a culturally rich environment.

Happy New Year to you all.  We send you our love and blessings.

Pastor Doug and Marilyn Pond