I have been received in various ways in West Africa – but only by the little ones. Babies and toddlers
especially have mixed reactions.
As you can see by the looks on the faces of Saadatu and Ajimatu (daughters of some friends of ours), being with a white man is not always the greatest experience in the world. Mostly it is just because we are so rare there, though, not because we are seen to be inherently evil or anything.
Another little girl I was eager to meet was Umayyatu. She was a miracle baby born to some good friends of mine in Nigeria. She was a miracle because they had been trying to have children for many years, and after much prayer this little miracle was finally born.
Naturally, she was born in a place with no white people around. In fact, the first white person she ever met was the doctor who gave her her first vaccination shots. The second white person she ever saw was a friend of mine who went over there, and the poor man was screamed at whenever he came close to her – because, of course, she thought he was going to give her some shots too.
So when I was planning a trip over I gave careful instructions to my friends: “Show her a picture of me,” I said, “and make sure you always say ‘This is our friend, Jeff.’ That way she will get used to me and know I am not dangerous (!).”
When I first came to visit her things went off without a hitch. She knew who “Jeff” was and, though she was shy, she was not afraid of me. In fact, she was not afraid until I showed up a second time wearing a white robe – looking very much like a doctor ready to give her another injection!
So we have been received in various ways by babies and toddlers; but that is not true of the children or the adults. Without fail they have been welcoming and warm, and we are looking forward to being with them again.