Trip journals

10.28.2005

New Blog Site

Hey kids!

I've moved my journal to a new site:

www.xanga.com/emilyinwestafrica

This way you can subscribe to get an email every time I update.

Go visit now! If you click on the link above you get a FREE iPOD and a chance to win a vacation to Tahiti!! Okay, not really...but you should click on it anyway...

BUT if you want to see essays and pictures from my trip to Africa last year, keep scrolling down here.

10.18.2005

Lingo Luck

I'm back from my eventful roadtrip with Mrs. Kay (see earlier "Roadtrippin" post), and good times in San Antonio with my best friend, the lovely Latina Senorita Jackie Pastrano. Now I'm spending some time with the fam in El Paso before I go to two months of ministry training in Virginia.

For those of you graciously praying for the Lord to help me learn French, GOOD NEWS! After training in Virginia, I've just been informed that I will fly to Burkina Faso for three months of French training before I go to my permanent apartment in the Ivory Coast, (also known as Cote D'Ivoire).
Here is a map for those of you who (like me!) have no idea where in the stinkin' universe these countries are located. Remember, you are looking at West Africa: http://www.sitesatlas.com/Maps/Maps/705.htm
If that doesn't work, here is another:
http://atlas.7jigen.net/en/

I'm getting eye surgery in Mexico next week, (Yes, I'm crazy - or as they say - loco). I'm starting to get a little leery...please pray about that one, folks! And please! Email me with your prayer requests: emilyrocks43@hotmail.com.

My tired daddy is snoring in front of the tv, doing that head bob thing... yeah, you know the one...the same sleepy head bob I did in every college class I ever attended, and many a Rapides Parish School Board meeting. I better tell my daddy to get to bed before there is some permanent neck damage...

Movie to see in the theater: The Constant Gardener
Movies to rent: Hotel Rwanda, Crash

My tentative schedule:

Oct. 31: Virginia for training
Dec. 16: El Paso for Christmas
Jan. 4: Flight to Burkina Faso

10.09.2005

Road Trippin: Snores, chicken suits and burnin' love

So before I go to Africa, I get to spend some time with friends and family...

Tonight, I'm writing from a hotel room in Parsons, Kansas.

Road trippin' with Mrs. Kay has been a delightful experience. Here are some random highlights:

- Bonus: I like Memphis. We stayed at the famous Peabody hotel that has ducks who ride down the elevator every morning to swim in the lobby fountain. You know Mrs. Kay ate that up like a little kid...
- Bonus: The hotel forgot to lock the door in our room that connected to the vacant posh honeymoon suite, so we snuck over to enjoy the good life...
- Bummer: We saw Graceland, the home of Elvis. Graceland was great, but I thought I'd find some funny seuveniers like a bad Elvis wig or a literal hunk of burnin love, but those people have some serious respect for that man. Not an Elvis joke to be heard...
- Bonus: We also walked down Beall Street (like a classy Bourbon Street) and picked up some bikers. Mrs. Kay's still got it!
- Bonus: Our room service guy was Mamadou from Senegal. I had a great conversation with him about his home country. He was sooo excited to talk to someone who had actually been there. He told me about his family and the Quran school he attended in Dakar. Lesson of the day: Don't drop the ball. Everywhere is a mission field...
- Bonus: We went on to Hot Springs, Ark. where I took Mrs. Kay to an old fashioned bath house. Those of you who know her can probably hear her spirited, childlike giggle as she experienced her first mineral bath, hot towel wrap and massage. (By the way, she turns 83 next month...she's so hilarious.)
- Bummer: Mrs. Kay snores. Like SNORES. Enough said.
- Bummer: Everywhere we've gone, we've run into homeless Louisiana evacuees starting over. Arkansas, Tennesee, Kansas, Mississippi....They are everywhere...
- Bonus: On the way out of town, we stopped at a really random store called the Hot Springy Dingy, which turned out to be a head shop that sold glass pipes, novelties and COSTUMES. We made friends with Dave and Hannah, the old hippies that run the place and MAKE the costumes by hand. Mrs. Kay and I had to try some on....I went for the chicken suit. She tried on the cavewoman duds...I'll try to post those pictures for sure.
- Bonus: We went to Branson last night where we saw Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede show! There are trick horse riders, song-and-dance numbers, and you eat your whole dinner with your fingers! YeeHaw!
- Bummer: Aparently we were too late to the show to see the buffalo stampede where the Indians come in and save the crowd...
- Bonus: Today we drove to Kansas to see Mrs. Kay's third and fourth and ninth cousins that she hasn't seen in years. Good times, good Kansas home-cookin'.
- Bummer: On the way to Kansas I got the first inevitable speeding ticket of the road trip...blasted Green County, Missourri sheriff's deputies...

So I'm having a great time! I've also had some good Jesus time in preparation for my big trip, and some good time to reflect on everything I've learned in the last few years in Alexandria. More on that later...I'm realizing how much I love you all and how much I'm really giving up to serve the Lord...

It's gonna be worth it.

9.08.2005

9.07.2005

The sequel

So the last time I posted on this blog was a year ago after I got back from a short trip to Africa....
Guess what...
I'm going back. Who knew?
I've just accepted a missionary position with the International Mission Board to West Africa.
I applied for this missionary gig thinking I would be matched with a job where I'd be ministering to indigenous people someplace rural ... but God's thoughts are higher than my thoughts!
Instead, my assignment is to be a journalist in a big city writing all about the mission work going on in 22 unreached countries in West Africa. The IMB offered me that position without ever knowing I'd been there before. I already know some of the people I'll be interacting with daily. Isn't that wild?
I'll post more later...
First, though, I want all the people who helped me go to Africa last year to know that their support planted a seed that has potential to spread the beautiful message of Jesus throughout West Africa! See, I know God used that trip last summer to groom me for my future duties. God can now use the stories I write to show people how to pray, call out new missionaries, and prompt people to send money. God is using your gifts to EXPONENTIALIZE his kingdom! Know He's used you! God is good!
I love you all! If you think of it, email me your mailing address to emilyrocks43@hotmail.com.
ALSO, if you would like an automatic update sent to your inbox every time I post something, click under "comments" and leave your email address.

TIMELINE:
Oct. 1: I'm leaving good 'ol Louisian to go on a Winnebago trip with Mrs. Kay (haha, I love it!)
Oct. 14-ish: El Paso with the fam
Oct. 31: Virginia for training
Dec. 25-ish: Home for X-mas
Jan. 2-ish: Ship out to Africa

"How can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
--Rom. 10:15

8.31.2004

The trip

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

So I'm back from Africa ...
"Asalaa-maalekum!" they say, Peace upon you … "Malekum-salaam," you reply, and peace to YOU.

I’ve documented everything on this blog. No doubt waaaaay more than you want to read about … but I put in most everything from my journal…. You can click to different sections on the right to read about different things. SCROLL TO THE VERY BOTTOM TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES... and please don't judge me for not editing...

So, here’s the short answer… How was your trip, Emily? Well, It was real. I feel like I got a real, first-hand view of how missions work in a truly unreached area. I met amazing missionaries, visited African villages and even prayed with some of them. I understand much better now why foreign missions are so important.

We spent most of our time in the city, and remained healthy (no doubt due to your powerful prayers!). We stayed in the dorms at a boarding school for missionary kids, (so no sleeping in grass huts or eating grubs or anything like that…). But I definitely experienced African life.
Here is the city of Dakar (click on images to see them bigger)


First of all, let me THANK YOU all who supported me and prayed for me. I learned SO MUCH through this experience. Know your support helped encourage the career missionaries, brought prayer in the name of JESUS into the homes of Muslims, and you helped give me a vision for my future. THANKS!

Here are some ruminations:

Before I left, I prayed Psalm 51…for God to break my heart.
What broke my heart might surprise you. It surprised me.

It wasn’t the abject poverty we saw – most people seemed to have basic shelter and food in the city. It wasn’t the completely unsanitary conditions or women working hard on the crops or water wells with babies strapped to their backs. That’s normal to them. They didn’t seem to mind. It wasn’t the Talibe children begging on the street – that’s just considered part of growing up for them. My heart wasn’t even broken for the lack of education. I mean the people have functioned quite well through history as an illiterate, oral society....

One thing that did tug at my soul was the stronghold of Islam.
It pains me that they can’t escape it. If a person in our neighborhood ponders Christianity, they have hundreds of churches to visit to find answers. A Senegalese person considering Christ has no one. One missionary per million people is spread a tad thin. With the towers of the mosques towering over the people, watching their every move, they can’t escape it. To consider Christ takes a concerted effort with little confidentiality, risking reputation to seek out the truth. I hear people say, “Why do we need to go to so far and pay so much money for foreign missions when there are plenty of lost people in our own backyard?” It’s because those people in your backyard have access. West Africans don’t. That’s why we have to go, to send, to pray for the faithful servants over there.

But where my heart was truly broken was for the missionaries who abandon everything about the life you and I know to become a part of a completely different world.

You better believe the reporter in me kicked into high gear and interviewed the heck out of these most interesting people. I was so struck by them that I’ve highlighted each of them in their own section at the end of this blog so you can hear all of their amazing stories.

Seeing their work and the patience they must have for even the slightest of fruit, I’ve also gained a new respect and fear of God’s timing. I guess I realized that even though He may ask missionaries to give up their entire lives to serve somewhere, that doesn’t mean they will necessarily see anyone accept Jesus. The fact is -- He doesn’t guarantee anything in this lifetime – no matter what we sacrifice. That’s a tough one.

Through this trip, I saw why God had to give us Jesus. You see, these Muslims don’t have a personal God.

They pray through beads, they don’t have any concept of God speaking to them or
showing them things in their lives. They have no spirit that walks with them daily to counsel them in every moment. Their God is distant. He doesn’t take personal interest in them. While justice and tolerance are key concepts in their religion, “love” is not a key term. It’s so easy to see -- especially in these Africans and their overt friendliness -- that God created humans with an innate desire to love and to be loved. Why wouldn’t He want to fulfill that? He did fulfill that, in the best way possible. By sending us a man that we could see, touch, hear and know personally. Pray the West Africans can realize that.

I know you are asking: Are you going back? I could. I sure wouldn’t mind if that’s where God wanted to call me …. But who knows….if you want, you can pray about that with me…

So that’s the short answer about my trip...(ha, right, wasn’t so short….)

Oh yeah!! ... I met three Aggie missionaries in Africa! Gig’em!

Here are more details, pictures and ruminations if you care to read them…

**quick note** If you read these stories and come accross a person or two that touches your heart, I encourage you to just pause and say a little prayer for them ... God hears the prayers of his righteous people ... thank you so much.

8.30.2004

The mission

I went to Africa as part of the Antioch Conference in Dakar, Senegal. (The first missionaries ever were sent from the early church in Antioch in Acts. 13.) About 10 churches from all over the United States sent small teams to the conference. Each team explored a different area/people group in hopes to set up long-term ministries in that area.

The conference was put on by the International Mission Board. With so few missionaries in this area, the IMB figures if stateside churches will concentrate their mission efforts in one place for a few years -- with one missionary team and one people group – that can maximize mission efforts with lasting relationships instead of touch-and-go short term efforts. Makes sense, right?

Here's my team -- the most Godly, encouraging group I could possibly have travelled with: Ricky, Emily, KC, Larry, Frank, and Florence


I tagged along with the team from Hunter Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which was exploring the idea of forming one of those long-term partnerships. Please pray for Hunter Street as this team motivates and mobilizes their church body for future service in West Africa. My church, Calvary Baptist Church, didn't send a team, but I surely learned enough to share with my church family back home.

A missionary hosted each church team at the conference. Each team was taken to visit the people and villages they hope to serve long-term. Our host was Donny, who has served the Wolof people in the city of Dakar for 15 years. (read more about Donny in the "missionaries" section...)



Why did I go? I am realizing that God has designed my life and heart for some sort of missions or ministry. I’ve been looking for ways to explore that for a while. Many short-term mission trips involve construction projects or children’s ministries. If you know me, you know well that neither of those are really my spiritual gifts…heh, power tools and children…not so much… But God has given me a heart for discipleship and building lasting relationships. This West Africa trip was a rare opportunity to for me to meet the missionaries, see where they work, and see firsthand how they build relationships where nobody else will. Most missionaries sign up without ever seeing what I’ve seen.

What we did: Most of the time, we spent exploring Dakar, a major city of millions of people on the coast of Senegal. We prayer walked through the urban neighborhoods and met all the people (about 10) who have ministries in this city.
I must tell you, prayer walking in Senegal is so different than anywhere else because the people are so friendly!

This was one awesome thing: If you smiled at ANYONE on the street and looked them in the eye, they couldn’t help but give back the friendliest grin. That just doesn’t happen in the states! Try it! Most people will just look away…but not these Senegalese!
We could barely speak our prayers as we walked because so many people approached us, eager to make friends with us and find out why were there. They were quick to invite us into their homes. Most of the time we were with an interpreter, but even when we weren’t the people were just as hospitable. They never turned down an offer to pray before we left them, even though they knew we were praying in the name of Jesus -- not Mohammed.


8.29.2004

Walking through a Wolof neighborhood

All week, Donny drove us all around town in his Hundaii telling us all about these people and how they live.

There are more than a million people in this “metropolis,” but you won’t see any skyscrapers. Instead, you We heard the honks of the overly aggressive taxis on the sandy streets. We saw the bright colors of the mangos and bananas sturdily balanced atop the heads of the Wolof girls regally draped in brilliant iridescent fabrics. We smelled the goat herds that weaved through the exhaust clouds of the rough-riding city buses. Around 6 p.m., we heard the wails of the Muslim call to prayer piped through speakers into the city streets. Not everyone stops to pray. Only a few do, in fact. It’s a mystery why 99 percent of them claim to be Muslim and why they are afraid to convert.

The women are immaculately dressed with beautifully colored irridescent fabrics. The men wear robes with prayer beads. The younger kids wear western-style clothes, tight jeans and tennis shoes, much to the dismay of thier elders.

While thier bodily posterior is so beautiful, they walk among trash trash trash everywhere, in the streets in thier yards, and nobody seems to notice or want to pick it up....I don't understand why. Its like they forget it's there. But the clothes and the fabrics are so vibrant. It's like the colors are brighter on this side of the world.

We went prayer walking through an urban, "middle class" Wolof neighborhood one of the first days we were there without an interpreter. We were so nervous...but we learned a little bit of the language before we went out...and the people were so friendly!
This is one of the streets we walked down. (yes, that woman has a bucket on her head!)


(Middle class is a relative term, I suppose.) Even in this city of more than a million people, the roads aren't all paved. We prayed as we walked and the children called us "toubabs" (pronounced two-bobs) as we walked by. That's kind of a derogatory term for white people, kind of like gringo, but with much more implication considering the white man stole these people to sell them into slavery. Riiight. So to the little kids....we are like the Boogie Man, haha. (Interesting cultural note...for some reason, the children also called my African-American teammate, Florence, a toubab...hm....)
However, everyone was very very friendly, inviting us into thier homes, offering us food. They wanted to talk to us even though they knew we couldnt understand French or Wolof (the main language in Dakar.) This guy invited us into his house, even though he couldn't understand a word we said! But we understood him when he said, "We family!"


They all wanted to give us thier addresses, I guess in some desperate hope that maybe we'll come back for them and save them from this mess. They are all Muslim, sort of. Just because it is the God of thier fathers...

Beautiful family


The Soap Man

While we were walking through that neighborhood, I prayed aloud for someone who speaks English. No kidding, that that very moment, a jovial Ghanaian man walked by, saw the Toubabs and said, “Hello, Hello!”
Oh man I wish I had a picture of this guy....
We chatted. I forget his name, but I won’t forget his business. Soap. Yep, he sells soap. The best soap in town. Everybody knows about his soap and the soap business is good. He made sure we knew the way back to his kiosk so we could buy some soap of our own. The Soap Man.
We asked if we could pray with him in the street, and just like every single person we asked, he said yes.
Now, the prayer stance is a little different in Senegal. We learned it before we headed into the streets. Open stance, palms up, wide eyes looking to heaven. The Soap Man took the stance with us while we prayed aloud for his family, his faith, his soap. At the end of the prayer, you put your open palms to your face, like you are splashing the blessings from the prayer on your soul, not wasting a drop. The Soap Man thanked us and moved on. We never did buy any of his soap, but I still pray he may know Jesus someday.

International Church


Sunday morning, we went to the International Baptist Church, one of two small churches in this city. (compare that to hundreds just in Alexandria!)
The preaching is in English, so it draws missionaries and African refugees from other countries mostly. It was so powerful to sing in that unairconditioned place with the windows open, releasing our voices out into the spiritually dark streets! I just thought how amazing it was that every single person in that church made SUCH sacrifice to be there praising God! Whether they left behind thier lives and families to head into the mission feild, or they left behind thier homes and businesses that were taken from them once they converted to Christianity... these people truly love the Lord with an unbelievable faith and trust, together celebrating Jesus.
A glimpse of heaven...every tribe, tongue and nation united praising God....Powerful!


8.28.2004

TOUBA



Every Muslim country has a Holy City, a Mecca of their own. We trekked three miles through the countryside in Donny’s Hundaii to Senegal’s Holy City of Touba to see the true power of Islam.
This city hosts the most ornate mosque in the country, with the most politically powerful marabouts. Driving up to the city through the sea of oppressed people, the tower can be seen for miles, watching over them all, like they can’t escape – and really they can’t. (Someone compared it to the eye in the Lord of the Rings…ya, like that.) If a person in this town were to convert to Christianity, I couldn’t imagine the repercussions. Donny said the government doesn’t make anyone who lives in Touba pay utilities or taxes. Here's a view a mile away from the car.


Our tour guide through the mosque was an educated man named Mamadou (Wolof for Mohammed). We saw the tower, surrounded with speakers to pipe the call to prayer through the streets for miles. The tower also had clocks, to measure the 22-prayer time five times a day. Most people only come on Friday, though. About 10,000 . During Ramadan, about 12,000 come to pray. Seems like I saw more people than that walking the streets of Touba. That just goes to show how seriously they take this religion that rules over them.

There is a fountain of “holy water” that flows out of the troughs in the courtyard where people wash their arms, face, nose, ears to purify before prayer. They say women can’t go into that area until they are about 60, post-menopausal…because they don’t want to chance a young woman being on her period while in there to taint everything. About the time Mamadou told us that, I watched a dingy Talibe boy putting his dirty bare feet into the trough to play around. Hm. Some holy water.


Mamadou also said the women pray in an area behind the men, so the men aren’t visually distracted when they face the mecca.
Interestingly, Mamadou said the tours are more open and frequent now to show the “pleasant” side of Islam that embraces “tolerance.” I heard another tour guide talking to Mamadou later about how this tourist season seemed slow this year….
Mamadou said the white iridescent rock that is the floor never gets hot so the praying people can kneel on a cool surface. As we walked, I prayed for those rocks to spring up visions of Jesus Christ to those praying to Allah.

As we drove away with heavy hearts, Donnie told us that he’s heard word that there are two Imams (Islamic teachers) at the Touba mosque that say they are believers. They remain teachers at the mosque, but they are allowed to teach about Jesus since the Muslims consider Him a respected prophet. Pray for those guys. As one of my team members pointed out…they are kind of like Nicodemus…


Raymond and the marabout visit

Raymond


Raymond was a devout Nigerian Muslim at the mosque one day rising and falling – the repetitious prayer stance of Islam. Deep in his meditation, he heard a voice speak to him.
“You don’t belong here.”
Raymond looked around to see who it was. You see, Allah doesn’t talk to his people verbally, through any kind of Holy Spirit. It was something else. Raymond stepped outside the mosque and looked back. He heard the voice again: “You don’t belong there.”
His life changed forever. He found Jesus in a Catholic Church, but he fled when Civil war broke out in Nigeria. He headed to Dakar, Senegal, where so many expatriates from war-torn countries find refuge. After some time, his refugee visa papers to the U.S. were waiting for him at the United Nations Office. He went to pick them up, but it wasn’t right. Instead of taking his ticket to Western freedom and opportunity at that moment, he asked the UN officer cross his name off the list. He forever declined that chance to leave so that he could stay in Senegal and start a ministry for refugees in Dakar.
He now has a Christian counseling center for refugees to help them get back on their feet.
The team in Raymond's refugee center:




THE MARABOUT VISIT:
As we stood on the sidewalk in a bustling Dakar neighborhood looking up at the new refugee building, Raymond told us another story.
He also has a heart for the displaced children. Many parents send their young boys away to Koran school, where they learn nothing but the Arabic needed to study their holy book. As part of their “education,” the marabout (head of the mosque) sends the boys into the streets to beg for money to support the mosque. (So, like we tithe, the Muslims just give to these beggar boys, known as Talibe) Anywhere you walk in Senegal, these thin, shaggy-looking “Talibe” trail you in hopes for some change. If they don’t make their daily quotas, they might get beaten.

At the grocery store recently, Raymond met the Marabout from his neighborhood and told him about his ministry. By chance, they met again and the marabout opened up to tell Raymond he was concerned about his Talibe sleeping outside with the rains coming soon. In an unprecedented act of vulnerability, the marabout asked Raymond if his Talibe could sleep under the roof at his refugee center. Amazing.

As we stood on that sidewalk listening to Raymond explain more about his ministry, Raymond looked over our shoulders and tensed up. “Here comes the marabout,” he said. As naturally as possible, I turned my head to see the man as chills crept up my arms in the African heat. His frame was smaller than I expected, but his long iridescent robe flowed behind him regally as he strode down the street with an air of wise confidence. His head was shaven bald, capped with a round hat, and his surprisingly young chin was darkened with the marabout’s defining short-trimmed goatee.

Raymond excused himself from our small group to greet the marabout in the street. We witnessed their civil – and at times jovial – conversation. While I couldn’t understand their Wolof words, I couldn’t help but hear the unspoken spiritual battle being fought right before my very eyes. What a powerful microcosm of the supernatural warfront these missionaries face every day. Powerful.
Pray for Raymond’s Talibe ministry to rise up a strong generation of Jesus-fearing men that could have been lost to the Muslim world.



The Rapid ride



Our time in Dakar was drawing to a close, but I was just dying to ride those dingy yellow buses that all the locals ride…the ones where the guy who takes the money is always hanging off the back fender…no matter what the speed, no matter how much exhaust was getting pumped in his face.. The buses are called Rapids (pronounced Rap-eeds’) … and I just wanted to ride one! But none of the missionaries who knew the city wanted to take me (I can’t figure out why…) . So one of the missionaries hooked us up, (me and about three other brave souls) with one of his local believers to show us around…Abdulaye.

Hollie and Emily in the Rapid


Inside, the drivers keep pictures of the marabouts in the window. These aren't city buses...they are actually run by the marabouts, who have bigtime political power and wealth.


KC making friends in the Rapid Posted by Hello

Abdulaye

Abdulaye stole my heart.


I talked to him as he guided us through the streets of Dakar. He was so gentle and friendly. I found out he became a Christian after realizing the truth in a Bible he found. Since then, his family had become believers except for his aging mother that lives with him.
After he got more comfortable with us, he admitted it’s tough for a Christian to find a job and support a family.
Before we left, we prayed for him, his family, his Christian boldness and his mother. As we looked up after the prayer, his humbled watery eyes looked straight into ours and it seemed he yearned to say more than thank you, but his English couldn’t travel beyond that simple sentiment. In an endearment more sincere than any I’ve received, he simply said, “I’ll miss you.”
I have dozens of friends who pray for me often. He doesn’t have that. How humbling.

I thought about Abdulaye when I was at my church on Sunday, soaking up the beautiful sound of 1,000 people praising Jesus together in song. I realized that’s a sound Abdulaye has never heard and will probably never hear until he gets to heaven. What a heartbreaking thought.
That’s when I thanked God for you, dozens of spiritually encouraging souls around me all the time. May I never forget what an amazing privilege that is. Thank you.

On the streets of Dakar....Hollie, our nurse friend that we met at the bus stop, Abudulaye, his friend Modou, and me. Posted by Hello

PRAYING FOR THE MOURNING WOMAN


As we walked with Abdulaye, this cheerful family was hanging out on the street outside their lower-middle class home in the middle of the city. We stopped to kick the ball around with them and oogle over their many beautiful babies. They loved being able to see their pictures on the digital camera. There must have been 25 of them, young, old, coming out of this house.

After we made friends, we had Abdulaye ask if we could pray for their family in the name of Jesus. The apparent head of the household agreed wholeheartedly, but he had a special request. His elderly mother had just lost her son and her sister to illness that week. She was inside mourning and needed prayers. “He says he knows since you traveled so far to come here, your prayers must be true from the heart,” Abdulaye translated.

We left our shoes at the door and were led to a dark back room with grimy sandy tiles, where an elderly woman sat on a mat crying over her muslim prayer beads with a look of hopelessness in her eyes. We prayed over her, for Jesus the true healer to grant her comfort and blessings. As we left, the head of the household said he believes in Jesus, too. He said the Prophet Mohammed had great respect for Jesus, but Jesus was not the last prophet. As Abdulaye spoke more with the man, he realized the man had never even read the Koran, the Holy Book of his great Prophet Mohammed – probably because like many Senegalese, he couldn’t read at all. We left on good terms.

I just had a microcosm experience of what the career missionaries face every day of their lives. They meet new people every day who believe in the God of their fathers simply because someone told them to. They don’t even know what their Holy Book says, but they can’t abandon it for fear of complete social persecution. They’ve heard of Jesus, but they don’t know the whole story, and they can’t read it for themselves what He said, that He died and rose from the dead to let us live free from guilt. To give us hope when we mourn, and assurance of our place in heaven.

The Missionaries

I can’t begin to tell you how awesome these people are!
My heart really broke for them. Their stories are so amazing! It’s wild to see how they’ve lived in Africa for decades, most even raising kids in Africa.
I spent the whole week hanging out with these career missionaries, exploring the neighborhoods where they’ve lived for decades -- their harvest fields. We met their African friends and heard all their stories. They've become an accepted and endeared part of the villages and neighborhoods where they live. They work hard to learn the cultures, wear the proper clothing, and learn the obscure languages.

But that doesn’t mean their work has borne much fruit. They tell Bible stories to the mostly illiterate, verbal culture, but only a few accept Jesus. The Senegalese know if they abandon Islam, they lose everything – their jobs, their families, respect. The few who do realize Jesus is the way often do so in secret, scared to share. What they need is a support system, more believers in their lives to encourage them and show them it’s okay. More people to disciple them through the crisis of persecution. The workers are so few (Matt. 9:37). Too few. If I walked away from Africa with one main thought, it would be that.
There is a difference between hearing a missionary speak at your church in the U.S. and actually going to share with that missionary in the harvest field – experiencing the heat, the sporadic daily power surges, the never-ceasing cultural paradoxes, the stress of standing every day under the weight of spiritual darkness, the elated emotion of encountering another believer in the lost masses. It’s real. I felt it. I know now how to pray for them. I’ve learned how church bodies can help them from the pews.
On another note, I really grew in my confidence in the International Mission Board (IMB). I know this is kind of a sad statement, but as a journalist, I make a living as a skeptic of bureaucracy and administrations – especially when they’ve been plagued with so many politics as the Southern Baptists. But let me just say this skeptic has earned a new respect for the IMB. All the missionaries have comfortable, safe housing and great medical coverage -- so much more security than some of the missionaries we met with other organizations. I can tithe with full confidence that it’s all going to the Glory of God and utmost care of those missionaries that have sold out their entire lives to tell about Jesus.

Donny


After living 15 years and raising a family in Dakar, Donny truly is a city guy. With his fluent Wolof, he knows how to handle the sometimes pushy people. His driving skills are just as aggressive as the guy in the next lane who is also disregarding all traffic laws just to survive on the sandy streets. But his heart is truly to see the Wolof people know Jesus.
One of my favorite things about Donny is that he has formed a brotherhood with the other missionaries in town…even those with other organizations. It was beautiful to see that denominational lines are erased abroad….the true unity among believers that Jesus prayed for.


Karen



Karen was one of my favorite people I met. She’s a missionary among the Mandika people in rural southern Senegal, (they were actually featured in the movie “Roots.” I haven’t seen it…but now I want to…). Karen and her husband have raised three children in rural West Africa, who are all in college in the U.S. now. Karen told us about how some of the other ministries in West Africa have given up on the Mandinka because of their stronghold of Islam, but Karen and her husband remain, cultivating their long-term friendship with the tribe.
She showed us films she made of women getting sold as wives, older boys and girls getting circumcised in the bush, and children learning chants about how not to trust anyone – not even your parents or your spouse. She lives every day among all that. I realized she’s working among a people that have no concept of unconditional love, not even from their God. How crazy is that?? Karen hopes that just the love she shows these people will show them she has something different. She’s made good friends with so many of the women in the village and visits them often with her husband.

Karen, me and Florence Posted by Hello

PAT and ELLIOTT



This couple is from Chicago. After raising their children, they’ve just moved to a suburb of Dakar to work with the Wolof people. The fact that they are black has proven an invaluable tool for them to work their way in and become an accepted part of the neighborhoods. The Wolof people have told them they thought all Christians were white and they wonder why none of the other black missionaries will come. Through that, the IMB has realized the need to call out more black missionaries.
Pat has amazing stories about her new Wolof friends that gave me so much insight into the African culture. For instance, one aging woman was pregnant again and tiring of all the housework, so she confided in Pat that she was thinking about shopping for another wife for her husband – he can have up to four wives, after all. Why should she have to do all the work?
Pat and Elliot are reading Bible stories to the tribal leader of a nearby village. Pray that they may hear and believe.



Burt and Suzanne Schmitz

This couple lived in Togo for years. One of their dear African friends died giving birth, but the baby lived. The father said he couldn’t handle the children and asked the Schmitzes to adopt them. They’ve embraced the two beautiful children and will move to a new mission field with the Jola people of Senegal next summer.

Rodney Duttweiler

Rodney is also raising his family in Dakar with another mission organization. His group has recently bought a sort of camp retreat center on the coast of the city called the Beacon of Hope. He hopes to make it a place where burnt out missionaries can find respite. He also wants to use it as a place where Senegalese Christians and church leaders can meet and organize efforts to plant churches among their own people.

He knows those local Christian groups need to address the most pressing socialization issues, building a body that can support new believers through potential oppression. He had some interesting insight about how African Christians often feel like they have to absorb the western style of worship. He wants to show them they don’t have to have three sermon points and a choir. He wants them to do it in a way their own hearts compel them.


View of the ocean from Rodney's retreat center


Lighthouse looking over Rodney's "beacon of hope" retreat center

the rains came

About a week after we were in Senegal, the first rains of the season came...And they came hard!

It was the most amazing sight!
We drove through the city and saw children in the streets dancing for joy while shamelessly shedding their wet clothes. Shirtless boys opened their mouths to the sky to catch a taste of heavenly wetness. Mothers bathed their babies in the runoff from the roof drainpipes.

The very next day, the completely brown, sandy countryside was blanketed in soft sprouts of lush green groundcover. I could hardly believe it was possible for anything to grow out of that vast, void brownness. As my teammate KC pointed out, that just goes to show that anything is possible with our God. He can even grow a hearty harvest out of what we see as a vast void called Africa...

As we travelled through the countryside, this was one of my most treasured scenes of Senegal:

The whole community gathered around the valuable pond that wasn't there the day before. It suddenly became a place to bathe, water livestock, wash the vibrant fabrics and lay them to dry in the trees.
It became real why Jesus so often used the allegory of the living water. What a source of life for these people! It's not just drinking water to them.

Here is another picture of the fresh green groundcover under the early morning moon.

8.27.2004

ocean view Posted by Hello
Pierre

Sekhou Posted by Hello

8.22.2004

Photos: the People

huge pot of rice

boys looking out over the westernmost point of Africa

braiding hair even though malnutrition has left it very thin

bananas on her head

selling black bras on the street

church member in her chior robe

herding in the hood

this man sold me the best mangos ever

Patricia

kids playing outside in the first rains of the season

KC and street football

Holly with the nurse we met at the bus stop

happy children

carvers at the market

Senegalese drummers and dancers Posted by Hello