Opportunity Ramadan – A Day In Mali
Dr. Claudia R. Wintoch
October 29, 2003



The first half of a day during Ramadan
(you won’t want to miss this)

A few days ago we probably saw the last rain for this year, and while “winter“ is approaching, the heat is still unrelenting. I was lying on my bed trying to sleep, yet unable to because it was to hot. Finally I got up again, for another shower that would bring temporary relief. Still tripping, I found my way back, found the opening to climb under the mosquito, and lay back down on my mattress. After one month I now knew the best way to lie down with the barrier of the mosquito net to overcome. So I lay on my bed again, enjoying the coolness of the fan blowing right next to me, while still being wet. But it didn’t take very long until I was dry again. At 6 a.m. the alarm clock finally rang. I hadn’t slept very much, but I needed to get up. Thank God, it was Wednesday, when I start teaching at 7:45, and not Thursday when I start at 7 a.m. I was tired and had a hard time getting up, but I had no choice. I opened my French Bible to read His word, then I took my three coins to go to the little shop where they sell breakfast and bread in the morning. I would teach 4 hours and get home in the afternoon, so I’d better have some food in the morning. I grabbed my sunglasses and left the house. It was 7 a.m. On the way out I greeted my Ivorian neighbors. Arriving at the little shop, I noticed that there was no breakfast out this morning, and no people sitting there eating as is normally the case. Ramadan – this is the third day of their 30 days of fasting. People don’t eat between sunrise and sundown. Thank God, he had bread at least. As I always, I bought my “nbuuru kelen” (“one bread” in Bambara), and returned home. As I walked into our courtyard, I saw Sa., who is one of the few people living together who are part of the Unification cult. Sa. doesn’t speak any French, and it has been much fun practicing my Bambara with her – for her and for me. The other day, E. – who is the oldest female in the household – told me that Sa. was going to the market (which is quite a distance) every day, and offered to have her bring me stuff if I needed any. What good news! For days I hadn’t had anything but my pasta with tuna and bread with jam. So, I gave Sa. some money and in Bambara, asked her to bring me cucumbers, tomatoes and yams. Thank God!

Time was running. I got back into my apartment and had some bread with jam while reading my Bible. 7:30 – it was time to get to school. I grabbed my bag, made sure a bottle of water was in there, and left the house to walk to school. I was walking down the dirt road, with its ditches that were partly still filled with water. But it was already a lot easier to find your way through the water as it dries up more and more. Two houses down the road, I looked over to where Hawa and Mariam live, with their families, including little Kiatu for whose healing I prayed last week. One of them is always outside, and we always greet each other in Bambara, since they don’t speak any French. But this morning nobody was outside. I got to the paved road and turned onto it. My mind was on the upcoming class, while from time to time people would greet me as they are passing by. Finally I reached the dirt road where I had to turn to get to the High School. At that very corner, every day, I would greet Monsieur Maiga. As many others do also, he sets up a table and sells breakfast, particularly bread and eggs. So, he is my “egg-man”. Usually, he leaves at 11:30 – for the eggs’ sake, since the midday sun is not the best for them. But when I teach until noon, he waits for me. Not having had any decent food for a couple of days, I was looking forward to eggs again today. Yet, I was disappointed. As I reached the corner, there was no table or breakfast. Ramadan again. No eggs for the next few weeks. I continued on the road and reached the school. There is always a good number of people in front of school, selling cold water and food. And yet while there were still a few, their number had decreased significantly. I walked through the main door. The past few weeks that had always been quite challenging because of the amount of water there (they had put a wooden plank there so you could cross) but even there, the water had started to dry up. I went inside and up the staircase a few floors. Some students greeted me in German, all excited they were able to do that, and I greeted them back.
I reached the top floor of the building and found my classroom. The SE class. I also have the S1 and S2, and the SB1 and SB2 and the SH1 and SH2 class, but I don’t have the LLT class any more. And there is quite a couple more classes. Those abbreviations show what the focus of their studies is. So I walked into my classroom; this is my smallest class with 17 students. The floors are dirt, like the road outside. The room is filled with small wooden desks and benches with often three students squeezed onto the bench. In the front, there is a blackboard that gives you the impression it has been there a very long time and has seen a lot. There is also a metal table for the teacher. The table is covered with dirt and chalk and wet from the sponge that sometimes lies there (when it’s not used by another class). There is no chair for the teacher. I took out my folder and the books I was finally given and laid them on the dirty desk. I was already covered with sweat because it is very hot on the last floor. The I looked at my watch – it was nearly 7:45. Yet, not even half the students were there. I had talked to my superiors; even in Mali students were expected to come on time. Last week I had told them, I would mark them late and send them to the “supervisor” to explain the reason. 7:50 – more students had arrived and I started class. 8:10 – two more students arrived, without being able to explain why they were THAT late. I warned them and told them I expected them on time last week. Then I continued teaching. What a joy to pass on knowledge to those kids! It is their second year German. And them being such a small class, it allows you to focus more on the individuals and actually learn their names. Some things are not any different in Mali; one girl copied the exercise from her neighbor’s notebook. Another one copied the homework and gave it to me after one hour, while I had collected them in the beginning.

Two hours had passed and class was over. In Mali, there are no school bells announcing the beginning and end of class. But it seems that students come late and leave early because the Malian teachers don’t care. Ten minutes before class is over, it starts getting really noisy. At least this classroom has a door. Yet, like in all other classrooms, the window shutters keep opening and closing, making noise and darkening the room. I left the classroom to walk over to my next class, the S1 and S2. They are my one beginning class. I walked into the classroom, and immediately I was told it was not time yet, which I acknowledged. Again, I put my folder and books on the dirty table. No chair. The “respo” (responsible one for this week) went on a search for the sponge and wiped the board, as well as left to get some chalk. 10:00 – time to start class. This is the fourth full week, yet four new students showed up for class. That now makes a total of 53 students in this class. A challenge. Yet, they are very excited to learn a new language. The classroom is filled to capacity, and it is a challenging to keep their attention at all times. Again and again I have to ask them to be quiet. Because of the sheer number of people, I’m unable to see who it is that talks. Yet, I warn a couple of people and write down their names. I also write down the names of those who participate a lot. The two hours passed really quickly again. After class, several people came up to me. A couple of them had copied their homework and I had given both parties involved a 0 (failed). Yet, I had invited them to come up and explain, and they sure did. We cleared everything up, while the students one after the other left the room. It was noon. Most students had left, when I got out my bottle of water. I was sure thirsty! How warm water can be good! After I had put down my bottle, one of the students addressed me, “Are you not fasting?” Immediately it occurred to me why I didn’t have any difficulties with students who wanted to leave to get a drink. They not only don’t eat, but they also don’t drink during the day – in THAT heat! About ten students were still in the classroom. I answered him that I was a Christian. That was the beginning of a GREAT one-hour conversation with about four or so of those students, with the others listening. Since they don’t have to leave to have lunch… :-). They started asking me one question after the other about the Christian faith and I had the opportunity to clearly present the gospel to them. They wanted to know everything and were really curious. One had barely finished a question, another one asked his. I told them about Jesus being God (they think he is a prophet), and think I was able to give them a decent comparison of what the trinity is, which doesn’t make sense to them. I also told them that Jesus said he was the only way to God. We talked about the cross and resurrection. I told them how much Jesus loved them, and that He died just for them. I told them there was nothing more wonderful than knowing God, and that He wants to have a relationship with them. I told them that I spend time with Jesus every morning, that I talk to Him and He talks to me, and that I can feel His presence and love. I told them also that He is the all-powerful God and that I have seen Him heal the sick and do miracles. I challenged them, telling them that I would pray for them when they are sick. I even told them to bring sick people and I’d pray for them. I told them, they could pray for the person in the name of their god, and I’d pray in the name of Jesus, and we would see who is God. I think they were intrigued. I also challenged them – as they are fasting and praying – to ask the true God to reveal Himself to them. I challenged them to pray that the truth would be revealed to them. I challenged them to pray that Jesus would make it clear to them if He was the way to God. They accepted the challenge. I told them I’d pray for them also, and that God would surely answer this prayer. I think they are curious to see what will happen. LET’S SEE THE POWER OF GOD TOUCH THESE KIDS!!! They also asked me to pray that they would succeed in school. I told them, I could do that, but they would have to do their part. Then the conversation continued on about other things – life in Mali, life in Austria, food, the Bambara language. We all greatly enjoyed the conversation. At one time they kind of invited themselves to my place for Austrian food. I told them we’d see.

At 1 o’clock I left school exhilarated! Praise God! Ramadan is not only month of great darkness, but a time of increased spiritual awareness when people are very open to spiritual things. May the Lord of the Universe, the King of Kings, reveal Himself to many in this time! May His love and light flow and shine brightly through me! May the kingdom of God increase in power and numbers!


I’m getting to know them more and more, and am expecting them to come to know the Lord in the near future. They are so eager to learn, so hungry for more. There is C. and E., a couple. C. has already read one of the two books I lent them. I only have 4 Christian books in French. What they have now is Mahesh Chavda’s biography and a book on sanctification. C. said he loves talking about theology and would love to discuss things with me. E., his wife., borrowed a couple of worship tapes and loves them. She wants me to teach her how to play the guitar, which I will. Then there is Si. As is C., Si. is also a student at university. He has been reading one of the books and came up to me the other day saying that he has some questions on what he has read. Si. is one who thinks a lot, and is very interested. When I showed them pictures (of Austria, the US), he had so many questions. Tomorrow afternoon, he is coming to find some answers. Please pray that the Lord would touch him and open his eyes. Then there is Sa. – I think she is Si. fiancée, if I understood right (in Mali everyone is family and it’s often not clear how people are related). As mentioned in the beginning, she doesn’t speak French, which makes me think she has no schooling. Only one third of women in Mali are literate. Sadiu has come twice so far to help me with cleaning, and I’ve enjoyed greatly practicing my Bambara with her. I want to find out whether she knows how to read and write, and if she doesn’t, I’m gonna offer her to teach her. And then there is Ce. who doesn’t live here, but spends much time here.


So far I’ve been to three different churches – the Assemblies of God church (which was like the evangelical churches), then a church with a Nigerian pastor that is trilingual (English-French-Bambara – all songs and the preaching), and a church with a Cameroonian pastor (in this order). The people of the last church have been the most welcoming. I met a few students who were very nice. They took me home after church and had a look at my apartment. On Tuesday, two of them even came to visit. We talked about a time of worship here which they were very interested in. When they came back they said they wanted me to talk to their pastor about that. However, I don’t want to get really involved in a local church to avoid problems when I start weekly meetings. I long for those who don’t know Jesus to come and find him, and don’t want those from other churches to come and create problems this way. At this point, I’m still waiting on the Lord to give me the GO AHEAD for the first meeting. And, as I’m week by week adding another peace of furniture made by the carpenter around the corner, I’m not yet there either (benches are coming).


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Well, tomorrow I start teaching at 7 a.m., so I’d better prepare my class. Send me a line when you have time – every e-mail means a great deal to me.

May the Lord bless you abundantly!




Ask of Me, and I will make the nations your inheritance. (Ps 2:8)

Dr. Claudia R. Wintoch
s/c Ecole Biya
BPE 2165

Tel. (+223) 220 0311


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