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Alicia Pharoah’s first 48 hours in Diouloulou, a village in West Africa, were the most emotionally-charged and draining she’s ever experienced.
Pharoah, now 33, was on a mission trip in November 2008, to connect with the Jola-Fonyi people, who mainly believe in witchcraft or Islam.
“I didn’t have my husband to talk to,” she recalled. “I did cry the first night, but I think a lot was from lack of sleep.
“I had all these emotions and I wanted to tell someone them.”
Pharoah stayed with a group from the Northridge Fellowship in the Idaho Southern Baptist organization. Dennis Cornwell was the leader of the mission trips, which go to Jola-Fonyi every six months.
It was the first missionary group to ever visit the village. Pharoah said there are only about 10 believers in the small village.
“Imagine being in Duncan and only 10 of you believe in Christ and everyone around you believe in witchcraft or are muslim,” she noted.
That’s why she has such a passion to go help those who have become believers and to persuade more to accept Christianity.
When the group had returned from the village, a year before Pharoah’s first trip, they brought some gifts. One of those was a tiny beaded bracelet. Pharoah put it on and it serves as a daily reminder to pray for the village people.
“You think you know what poverty looks like and you think they portray it worse on TV than it really is,” she said. “But when I got there, I wasn’t ready for it. I was overcome with the smells and reality.”
The hospitable villagers speak many dialects, but mostly broken English and French.
“The only difference is our skin color. We have the same emotions,” Pharoah said. “They may not have enough food to last them a week, but they want to feed you. It’s culturally not right to say no to their meals.”
Pharoah plans to return to that village, and expects to step on the soil there three years exactly to the date from her first trip. She leaves Oklahoma on Nov. 4, headed to Idaho.
She will connect with the church group for the two day trip to Africa. After arriving in Dakar, they will travel by car nearly 12 hours to the village.
Part of that trip will take them through rebel territory, The Gambia, and the trip must be done during the day.
“It’s just not safe to go out at night, to travel at night.”
She doesn’t worry. Her first trip helped her place everything in the power of God. It changed her and helped her realize many things about herself.
“My biggest thing was, you don’t have a credit card, or cellphone or a car. Over there, I was totally dependent upon Christ. It helped me realize how real He is.
“No matter where I am I am dependent on him. But still, I don’t know what will happen when I get in my car just to drive across Duncan.”
Pharoah is originally from Maysville, a small rural community midway between Elmore City and Purcell. She met her Shannon , and the pair left Oklahoma six years ago, with two children in tow, Caleb, now 13, and Ashlynn, now 10, to relocate in Jerome, Idaho. Her husband was a youth minister at the time.
Their mission was to plant a church. The couple returned to Oklahoma a year ago, with two more children, Jessica, who they adopted three years ago, and is now 14, and Noah, 4.
Her husband works as a machinist with Halliburton and Pharoah is employed as secretary for Highland Park Church.
They attend Parkview Baptist Church.
She wanted to serve full-time in Africa, but couldn’t convince her husband. So she settles for the trips.
“I knew I could never afford to go, in this economy and I have four kids. When they told me $2,500, I thought, oh my. But if I was willing to say yes, God would make sure I could go, he would provide.’
And so far, that seems to be working for this trip. She cooked a traditional African meal for donations with members from her church and about 70 people came.
She has received many donations for a yard sale she will hold from 8 a.m. to “whenever” Saturday at her home, 2918 W. Walnut. She also is thankful for her husband’s support.
And this time, she’ll have a TracPhone so she can call home every so often.