A Mission Reflection: Senegal

In this season of Easter, I have been reflecting upon the way God is breathing resurrection power into the lives of those who live in Senegal. It was awe-inspiring to live amongst our Senegalese brothers and sisters for two weeks; here are some of their stories.

Here is the Baobob tree and Francois, our translator, sharing the "monkey fruit" with us.

The first is a couple. They are our hosts. Although Senegal is a completely open country for spreading the gospel, I will refrain from using their names because their history is so difficult. The husband was a brilliant military leader in his youth. He was invited to another nation to train troupes and stage a coupe against the reigning president. But after serving for a while, he realized that the troupes he was training were not just preparing for the coupe, but where killing civilians from rival people groups. He became disillusioned and wanted to leave, and met some Christians who likewise were realizing that this was not the way of the Lord. But you don’t just “quit” leading a rebel army. He was tortured. And only by the grace of God was he able to flee, with his wife and children to Senegal. There, he learned about the Lord, mostly through the faith of his believing wife, and now both of them lead the church.The wife is now a powerful teacher and preacher. Her husband is also a pastor now, and he speaks to the President of Senegal when matters concerning people of faith arise. God took the natural gifts that God had born in our host - gifts of charisma and an ability to lead people – and turned these gifts from training for violence to training up in the way of the Lord Jesus on a national level. That is the power of resurrection.

Story telling in the villages. We acted out the stories of Lazarus and Bartimaeus.

The second story is about a local village pastor. The work God is doing through him is a tangible manifestation of resurrection power. Pastor Malek lives in the bush, where most people live day-to-day. The land is extremely dry and with the exception of three months out of the year, it is difficult to cultivate plants. But Pastor Malek knows the Lord Jesus and has hope in difficult situations. He has started a farm to feed not only his wife and eight children, but to provide income for his village and for his church. Although he has to walk two miles to get to the garden and then carry buckets up the hill over and over again to water the plants, he is giving new hope to his people by showing that the land can produce. The Lord is enabling this pastor to live in the power of the resurrection in a tangible way, literally turning uninhabitable land into a paradise.

The team

Yet another place where we encountered God’s resurrection power in the life of His people was through the testimony of Suza. She is not from Senegal, but from the Congo. And she paid a large sum of money to a man who told her he would get her to France by boat if she could get herself to Senegal. We heard many, many stories of people like her, trying to escape impoverished situations in their home countries. Families putting all they had on the line for the sake of one family member making it to another country where there might be hope for work. But it is a rouse. When she arrived in Senegal, she knew no one. She did not speak the language. She had no family. She had no home. Nothing. If anyone has a right to be bitter and angry, to turn away from God, it’s Suza. But the church took her in. They pay her a very small salary for odd jobs  And they allow her to take classes at the Theological Seminary where we were teaching. Suza is a woman of deep joy and passion. She said to me, “KJ, if that man had never deceived me, I would have never learned about the Lord. How can I be angry with him? The Lord will provide for me. I will find a way forward.” Suza has not experienced resurrection, newness of life, in a way that I am use to seeing it. She is still a poor woman, living day-to-day in a foreign land.  And yet, she knows the power of resurrection.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to have met our brothers and sisters in Senegal and hope that their stories inspire you on this day as we remember Christ’s resurrection in this Easter Season.

By KJ Norris-Wilke, M.Div. student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

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