I want to introduce you to Djeneba Sissoko. She is in the eighth grade at Grace School.
Eight years ago I was visiting the Sissoko family and found that the atmosphere was not very good. The sick mother had just lost her sight and the dad was retiring from the local urban planner’s office.
Young Djeneba was crying because her older sister Djadji was dressed up to go to her third grade class at the public school, leaving her sister at home. Her insistent cry was above any attempt of her parents to try to calm her down. During all the time I visited with her parents she continued to cry. Two times in two weeks, I witnessed the same scenario and I realized that she was persistent.
That year Grace School had a first grade for the first time. Even though she was too young, I asked Mr Sissoko if he could bring Djeneba to our school so that she can learn something before she is fully able to study. And after a month Djeneba was able to read the letters taught in the class. She took all the tests and at the end made it to second grade. From then she never repeated a class. Now she is doing well and is proudly in eighth grade.
Last August, her dad came to me with big concern about Djadji, saying "Djeneba has became her bigger sister's teacher at home.” I had assumed Djadji was at the high school already but no. She was still in 8th grade. Mr Sissoko expressed his desire to send Djadji to Grace with her sister but they could not pay the parents' portion of the costs.
Because of all the support we get we were able to offer Djadji a place at Grace school as well. Now both sisters are tuition free in the same grade at Grace school and Djadji is doing much better at school.
There are many students like Djeneba and Djadji in our school by the grace of God through your support.
Thank you very much for allowing the less fortunate to get the opportunity to get a good education. Together we are bringing hope to families.
God bless you,
Happy Easter to you all Friends,
We hope you are doing well and that you are having a great Easter celebration.
This Easter my cousin Souleymane is going to slaughter a goat, an add-on to the beef we bought from our church so you are highly invited to come and celebrate with us!!!
Grace High School will begin being built next month and we hope to finish the first level of laboratory block before 5th of September 2019. The reason we choose this is that it can be used as regular class and office. We will have 2 classrooms, one office, one room to keep staff, and two rest rooms. It is the easiest way to start it. During the school year we can build the regular class rooms and later the administration building.
We applied and paid for city electricity but we are still waiting for it to run the water pump for making the bricks. If they keep delaying the delivery of electricity we will be using a generator even though it will cost us more.
We have enough sand on the site to start the work.
I want to introduce to you one of our teachers, Mr. Pascal Togo.
Pascal is the English teacher at Grace School. He teaches English from 3rd grade to 9th grade. Pascal is a graduate in English teaching from the University of Languages of Bamako. Since 2014 Mr. Togo has been a key teacher in Grace School. I practice my English with him, we are very good friends.
Pascal is a fervent Catholic believer. His wife Niangaly Guindo is a very nice person, a prayer warrior and an evangelical Christian. They have one beautiful daughter named Marie Jeanne. They live one block away from us. On top of what we do together at the school, we have a positive influence in our neighborhood and I am lucky to meet and live by people like Pascal.
The public schools are facing a difficulty of validation because of many strikes while the private schools are continuing their classes.
The unrest in the area has moved many into Koro. Then many people are coming to ask to enroll their kids in Grace school next year. We are sad to not have space for them. The pressure they make on us is driving us to think of having two 1st grade classes next year and adding every year.
This year we want to organize a student day to celebrate students and teachers and to have fun the whole day.
In Mali Easter is not as famous as Christmas. Especially this year the atmosphere is not at all festive because of the war we are surrounded with.
Again it is better to view war on the screen of TV or in a movie theater but it is a nightmare to smell it in real life. I can't describe the pain, the social burden and moral stress that come with it. The tenuous lives of the survivors are just an inch away from the dead victims of the war. Many of those who run into the town from the violence, have lost everything they had and are not likely to get it back easily because they can no longer farm their lands and raise their animals as they used to.
Thank you for praying for the war to stop and Mali to rest.
Thank you! God bless!
Your friend Ibrahima Kodio and family
Easter greetings from Koro,
We are grateful to survive all the unrest in our locality. This month Koro was on the news almost every day. The situation forced the prime minister and many of his ministers to visit Koro to lessen the boiling atmosphere. At the same time all the Evangelical Pastors of the area of Mopti planned a prayer meeting in Koro because of the situation. Many other actions like prayers in communities, mass demonstration, and many more characterized this month.
We sometimes thought we were reaching a final social disaster in Koro: The army had started burning motorbikes of those who would not respect the driving restrictions. Jihadists are imposing Sharia Law in some areas of Koro. Robbers are stripping people of their animals and goods. Kids have been slaughtered on their way to school. Many villages have been burned as a result of inter-ethnic conflict. People are uprising against the county mayor office of Koro, which the population judged to be indifferent to this chaotic situation.
The list is long and horrible!!! All this in the news, on the radio and on TV drove many friends to call to make sure we are Ok. I received call from friends who had not called me for ages. It was a catch up with many of them. I know I have friends and they care about our safety. Even though sometimes we are silent we stay connected as friends. Thank you for your prayers and care. It is definitively a mark of love.
As I was reading in a favorite blog of Peace Christian Church lately, this difficult situation in Koro made me tougher, like when you boil eggs they become harder.
The girls at school have hairdressings like the Fulani’s to show compassion. Some Fulani’s have been confused with the jihadist ones and killed while they are innocent.
There is continuous movement of the population from the villages to towns like Koro, Bandiagara, and Bankass. The population takes the conflict with them where ever they go. I learned that last night they was a shooting in Bandiagara, with one death and four injured. No one knows the true source of the people who attacked the motel in Bandiagara.
Population movement may bring diseases as well. We thank God for the vaccination of Grace students. For now only one student was declared to have some weird black nodules on his skin and the nurse believes it is due to measles, which used to kill many kids here. Because of the vaccination it can’t develop in his body. Please praise God for that. There is an ongoing vaccination of all the kids against measles and other diseases. We are grateful to have a nurse at school.
Abel the school nurse got married on the 24th of March to a nice lady named Louise POUDIOUGO. She is a nurse as well. They celebrated the wedding in the village by the parents. It was a joyful event. Please thank God for the wedding and pray for divine guidance for their future as a family.
Please pray that I and all those in my house, and school would not ebb away the cross which is ours as followers of Christ. Pray that we withstand our Christian faith no matter what it costs.
In the middle of this unrest I receive a call from the local director of domain and land. He congratulated us for the first newspaper appearance for the public notification of one hectare being granted to us by the government for the upcoming Grace high school. I knew very little about the length and complexity of the procedure to get permanent access of land from the government. But we have done the hardest part of it. The news was announced at the court and the mayor office for larger public display.
In two months there will be another and last publication in the official news. Please pray that everything goes well and fast.
We wish you a very happy Easter!! May the victory of Christ over the power of death produce in you the power and ability to rise up from any difficulties and boundaries that may hold you down! We pray for that in the name of Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your partnership which is making this education ministry possible.
God bless you
Greetings from Koro,
February was short but full of many ups and downs.
This February was characterized by the prohibition of riding motorbikes and pickups in many areas in Mali including Koro. Thank you for your prayers that I know for sure has changed much of it.
The restriction was unbearable until they did some exceptions for the towns. The corrected version goes like: It is forbidden to drive motorbikes and pickups in the town before 6 AM and after 6 PM, but permanently outside the town. Anyone who needs exception has to get a written authorization from the army otherwise will be treated as military target. We assisted many who were fleeing to the city of Koro while the jihadists were slaughtering dozens of civilians, burning mayor’s offices, and closing schools about 40 Km from Koro.
We witnessed Fulanies and Dogons from those places running into Koro from the civil war. The dominant luggage of most of them is bundles of long grass straw to provide shade wherever they go as they can not afford housing.
I used to see all this on TV or in newspapers but now I am seeing it live and daily.
This month the civil war has increased and ethnic group killing has reached a very bloody level. None can really say how many were killed. It is just absurd that the army is imposing such a hard measure and dispositions over peaceful citizens while those who kill and close schools remain unperturbed.
All the NGOs are confined to the corners of their offices and most of their personnel have to walk or ride bike to work. It slowed down things to idling level.
We are determined to keep up with the education till we can't do it anymore. For safety our only hope remains the Lord Jesus Christ. Please keep up praying for us.
At Grace School our program is not affected because we teach only in daytime, in fact our courses are being intensified as many of our new students need extra teaching to catch up.
We are thankful to God for sending us Mathieu Togo, one of my former students in high school. Mathieu is very devoted and loving, I call him "Le charismatique" (the Charismatic). Indeed when he was a student in the public high school he was leading the local Student Bible study group in Koro. He is now in charge of accelerated teaching of reading and Math to the challenged students.
A few days ago a student from the high school died from a truck accident while he was entering his school. The student union decided that the whole country will observe four days to display their upset about the frequent construction trucks passing by the front doors of schools and victims among the students. They want the government to deviate construction trucks away from school sites when school is on.
It is a wise and feasible demand but at Grace we decided to observe just one day sympathizing to the families with lost kids on the school road. We are grateful for the understanding of the local Student Union.
Please thank God for the group of three Geometers (governmental mandated agents of domain and land) who came to place a physical border for the proposed land for Grace's high school in process of definitive concession from the government. Please continue to pray as the process is still long and things are slowed down with the current situation in term of security for local administration.
We thank you for your support of the education of the most vulnerable kids in the world.
God bless you,
Greetings from Koro,
The year 2017 has passed and 2018 is quickly consuming before I came to you with an overview of our activities.
Together during 2017 we were able to:
This building has been our advocate to convince the government to proceed to a definitive concession of about one hectare from the school domain area.
On top of this relatively gigantesque building and good progress toward the accession of a hectare of land for the high school, we were able to:
We praise the Lord for the empowering and safe trip of Dr Brandon POMEROY to Koro in early January this year. It was a great timing.
This first week of February was a bit harder and difficult with the death of our 9th grade student Issa GUINDO. Issa was one our most polite and hard working student. He arrived at Grace in October and was so caring for all and loved by all the students and teachers. After one month he was sick, a recidivate case of mental disease before passing away. It was a great shock to all of us. We visited his parents who live about 30mn from Koro, with a large number of students and teachers. It was a very sad event.
This first came up again with the Official Restriction from the CEMG (Chef d’Etat Major Général des Armées ) to not drive any kind of motorbike or truck in Koro because of security issues. It is clearly said that the soldiers will treat anyone disobeying these restrictions as a military target.
I personally don’t think those extreme measures are a solution to our security problem, but we have to obey the restrictions. We have the best solution- Education -with love to all, without discrimination.
On the other hand, the hard situation makes our dream bigger and more clear-cut. Giving us the vision of extension in three ways- Higher, larger, and multiple growth is possible if you accompany us in this ministry.
We say big thanks to you for all what you have done to support this ministry we are involved in.
Thank you, God bless you, renew you during this Year 2018.
Season greetings to all of you!!!
Merry CHRISTMAS from Grace School students and teachers!!!!
We are thrilled that the feast of celebrating the most important gift to the world has arrived. We hope you all are having a great Christmas season.
Here, at Grace School the celebration started with a wedding. After a long and challenging friendship and engagement Jacob and Hawa POUDIOUGO, both teachers at Grace School, said “Yes” to each other at the school on December 14th- a working day!!! What a grace!!!!
Jacob joined us in 2015 as an elementary school teacher and Hawa this year as a kindergarten teacher. They are both very loving and gifted. We are grateful to have them on our team. It was a grace for us to be part of that joyous event.
We had the children make drawings for Christmas. It was a great introduction to many of our new students who I think learned much after they underwent this exercise. At the same time it was an opportunity for them to ask many questions about the birth of Jesus and read from the Bible at some level the history of the mysterious birth. It was art combined with religious education.
The support of loving friends like you tells the students of Grace School and their parents that they are not alone, but that there are countless God-fearing people who are thinking about them valuing them, appreciating and investing in their education.
We had our second meeting with the parents whose kids need extra teaching, as they are way behind where they are expected to be in term of reading, writing, math and art. I was surprised to see that those parents need help more than their kids do. Some of them ignore what it is to father a kid!! God has been so generous and gracious to entrust them those sweet kids even though they are that irresponsible. This issue is dragging me to think of our staff counseling the parents. My visit to some families of those challenged students reinforced my conviction of this need. Please pray for wisdom and the right people to be tasked that.
This region is often colored by radical extremists and inhumanity, threatening the safety and the security of the country. In the middle of it, Grace School through the teaching and the Love must stand as a light, a powerful tool that can dispel a great amount of darkness. We are grateful to have you fueling this light. I can’t describe it with my limited English words.
Please pray for a short and hidden visit we are organizing. Our God is the Master of all security and Safety.
We say “Thank you” in the most meaningful way!!! God bless you.
Your friend Ibrahima
It is out of a difficult month we are! October was one of the most unstable months in Koro. It was a serious threat after they burned down two Catholic churches and some Toguna (traditional court in the Dogon culture)
My friend Pastor Serge Bayo was coming from Burkina Faso after 6 PM, only 30Km from Koro, when at the border with Mali he was arrested by the Burkina national army. They shoot him in all directions and still miss him. They nearly destroyed his motorbike. Some of the 7 soldiers who were shooting run away believing he was a bullet proof kamikaze.
When his motorbike blocked he heard them shouting “ALT-ALT kneel down” He obeyed. They came and explored and searched for any weapons he may have. Found out he had only some gloves and his Bible in his worn conference bag. After a check they found out that a total of 52 bullets were shoot. Four bullets touched the motorbike and only one passing by had torn his pent, burned a bit his upper leg but did not penetrate him.
All were speechless and wondered why 7 well trained soldiers shooting a total of 52 bullets did not touch this man. The answer is easily found in Psalm 91.7. His shallow burn was treated by the military nurse before they accompany him to the closer town.
We are privileged to have Serge’s daughter Rose Bayo in our house for high school since 2014. We praised God when Serge visited us three weeks ago.
We know that true peace is the one in the heart and God is the only source. Thank you for your prayers and supplications for us, so that we stay secure in the middle of unsecure environment.
So the School year despite all this trouble, is going very peaceful and well. No unrest is sensed in school. Kids are happy and are learning well. We had a great parents meeting and all went well. It was mainly about what a Christian School is and is not. We largely talked about parents being the first teachers of their kids and how they must work with the school, partnering for a success in the ultimate Job - educating the kids that God has untrusted us.
This is possible as you fit in with your support, to weld the parts and fuel it making the system work.
God bless you richly !!!!
Hello from Koro,
We just had the results of the national exam in Mali.
In Koro the result was terrible in general (18%) but again God has been good to us. At Grace we had 8 students pass out of 16 that took it. They are now eligible to move on to high school. We praise the Lord for his great goodness to us. I had not expected that good result because of the quality of students we had. Surprisingly two of our good students Nema Saye and Amadou Ganamé didn’t pass. Please pray for them and the others who didn't make it.
We thank God for the kindergarten classrooms we are getting by miracle. Please pray for the administrative documents that would allow us to start receiving the kids in the kindergarten. We want it to be a most fun place for the kids to learn and find friendship.
We continue to work hard towards our goal of a general and professional high school. We need your help to get there. Partnering with you has allowed us to dream and dream big!!!! Thank you!!!
Koro area is in a difficult situation now more than anytime in it's history. A few days ago there was a community fight that cost hundreds of lives. No government or international action was done at that place till now to prevent escalation. There are several places in the country at that condition of security. We deplore that those conflicts are an imminent threat to our education program and development. It is widely reported that many armed people who fought for the radicalized Muslim groups have arrived to fight the hunters who are there to protect the community.
There is a very high risk of a bloody conflict in this area very soon if precautions are not taken to avoid it. As you know, no education or development is possible when there is no peace. Please take time to bring this issue before the throne of grace. Please keep praying for peace in Mali.
There is nothing we can do besides prayer. Our government is not powerful in the face of the security challenge in the region. We know for sure that there are some invisible evil hands behind this conflict. Please pray that those who act in darkness to promote conflict in Mali may be exposed and fight by the Lord.
We have good rain now in Koro and the long line of donkey carts in front of the school has stopped even though some families around the school keep coming to find cleaner water as they have shallow wells.
There is no word powerful enough to describe what this school year is like! It is just miraculous. We thank you again and pray that God be with you and bless you in return.
Since late May we have been searching for ways and means to get the kindergarten next year at Grace School because of parents' request.
After many office visits, we understood that we cannot easily get papers before the classes are available. We then quickly started exploring ways to get three classrooms built before October without sounding crazy :)
All is coming together quickly after we had lost hope in the possibility. A few days ago nothing was stable - It was YES and then NO after we had started making mud bricks. That is why I waited to tell you the final conclusion.
We got land by the school (just behind) different than what we have bought few years ago.
We can no mistake say that the Lord has arranged that for us.
To make it short here is the story:
One of our former student's parent had land behind the school. We had our family land where we were to eventually build our house. With a little extra money we traded the land so that we can have a place for the kindergarten. We have started making mud bricks and building the three mud classes on the land before another change of mind. They are small and simple classes. Within five days here is the result of the construction.
Please thank God for this construction. And pray in secret for less rain before the building gets dry :) otherwise we will have to start all over again.
God be with you and bless you,
Greetings from Koro,
As we move towards the year-end exam, we greet you from Koro
May was super busy for us and not very secure but because of your prayers things are better here now.
From the eyes of the teachers we evaluated the school year during our staff meeting. It was great to share our fears, our satisfaction, our weakness and our strength. The conclusion was encouraging.
“And the child grew and become strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him”. Luke 2.40 KJV
There is nothing more a teacher likes to see than the growth of his students with wisdom under the Grace of the Lord. Here at Grace we see the kids growing and it rejoices us more than anything. When we look at the kids we clearly see the difference in many ways between when they came in this school and now. We know the Lord has done things in their lives during this school year and we look forward to see further growth in their lives in the coming years.
This month was full of activities because the government squished the different pedagogical evaluation in the months of May as March and April were seriously disturbed by the continuous strike. So the second term was in late April and the third in May. Please thank God for the third term those passed well, and pray for the DEF Exam (9th graders national exam) that starts on the 5th of Jun.
We had the privilege to visit many students’ families and it was amazing to hear firsthand the appreciation of parents. It brought us to believe that the school is well appreciated by all no matter which religion they practice. The frequent request from the parents was the kindergarten and the high School. We kept giving them hope about those requests to be fulfilled in very short future. This year we deplore the school abandon of two students including one boy who went to the artisanal gold mining field despite all the counseling of parents and teachers and a girl who prematurely got married and didn’t want to do nothing with school.
The deplorable attitude is that many parents force their kids to fast during this Ramadan. Those kids come with complains about belly pains, dizziness and many more, driving crazy Abel the school nurse to go tell the parents to stop forcing the little kids for fasting. Many believe it is a sin to cook in the family during this Ramadan period. If you do it, they believe you will bring curse in to the family.
We had one big rain but it is still not enough to stop the water crisis in the town.
Please pray that we get some more rain soon.
The school water pump failure was felt by the entire town of Koro before we get to replace by a new one. As soon as it was fixed the news went quickly and the line of donkey chart with colorful jugs was automatically there.
For the construction we are short in cement because of transportation issues and we hope we will get it very soon to resume with the work.
We acknowledge your support in this ministry, miracle is happening here because of your different supports. God bless you in return to all you do.
As I finish this newsletter I get a call from Bamako telling me that my lost backpack (with my new laptop, electric tooth brush, an amount of CFA cash, document for the school and some of the church plus cloths etc.) was found with everything inside. Praise the Lord with me for that. He answers all our prayers all the time.
Your friend Ibrahima.
“You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.”