These nomadic tribes live in small communities that are usually many miles apart and scattered throughout the sahel, a grassy area stretching along the southern part of the Sahara Desert. There are no roads, and whatever paths have been worn into the sun-baked soil are destroyed during the rainy season. In order to reach the villages, Indielou must ask villagers to guide him to the next community. They seem to know at which tree to make a right turn and at which bush to stay left.
People of the Soninke tribe are the native inhabitants of the country and are the majority. They subsist through agriculture and by raising cattle. The Fulani are mostly Mauritanian refugees and also live by raising cattle. The poorest are the Black Moor, who are the minority and are treated as slaves.
Indielou is one of the very few medical resources in the area, and he is making an impact among these predominantly Muslim people groups. Because Indielou is a Christian, the Muslim believers are cautious of his intentions. He has made it known that he will provide medical care to anyone regardless of their tribal or religious background.
Indielou ministry focuses on traveling to small villages, giving vaccinations to women and children who would otherwise not receive them. He straps a thermal cooler to his motorcycle to bring vaccines to those living deep in the desert. The cooler keeps live vaccines viable until they are injected. He provides vaccinations for measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus, tuberculosis, yellow fever, Hepatitis B and polio.
The government of Mali has made an effort to distribute vaccines, but its efforts are not reaching the needy people living in the hamlets. In order for Malians to get government vaccines, they must travel to a government clinic in the larger cities. For those living in distant hamlets with no means of transportation, this is nearly impossible. To add to this frustration, the government has also recently made changes in their vaccination policies. Vaccines were previously given from birth to five years of age. Now, they are only given to children from birth to 11 months. This reduces the time span parents have to bring their children into the city.
Although the vaccinations are lowering the number of cases of these diseases, Indielou continues to stress health education as a primary factor in his work. "Health education plays a very important role in public health because many diseases exist because of lack of information, lack of faith, and lack of sanitation and hygiene," Indielou says. "Teaching people about diseases will enable us, the Luke Society and the population, to prevent more sicknesses. Health education enables people to be involved in the process of being healthy: sanitation, cleansing all areas, drinking good water, and knowing the importance of prenatal consultation."
Being a Christian in this predominantly Muslim area presents interesting challenges for Indielou’s ministry. "For this population, the Bible and Jesus are considered as past history and we must not come back to it," said Indielou. "People don’t believe Jesus is God’s Son. They don’t believe that His blood cleansed our sins. The population has a sort of satisfaction with Islam."
Indielou is encouraged by the influence his medical care is having on the people. "As a follower of Christ, I notice that the Muslim population appreciates our presence and our work among them," Indielou says. "The Muslim people are very grateful about the sincerity, honesty and good behavior of Christians. This population trusts Christians."
Recently, Luke Society supporters raised money for Indielou to build a central clinic. "We are using the clinic to help this population to improve the living conditions and the level of health by offering health care on behalf of Jesus by sharing the compassion and the love that Christ has put in our hearts for the sick people," says Indielou. "I feel really good about having a good building to better help the population that suffers."
The clinic is located in Aite, a Soninke village located north of Kayes, close to the Mauritanian border. Most of the 2,000 residents of the village are of the Soninke tribe, and nearly 1,500 people live in the area surrounding Aite. All of them are Muslims.
All three Muslim tribes attended the opening ceremony for the Bethesda Clinic. Indielou was encouraged to see the three tribes come together to support the clinic.