Feature

A Different Kind of Missionary

Building the Kingdom

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What do you think of when you hear the word “missionary”? Pith helmets, naked natives, making sacrifices, saying goodbye? In the traditional sense of the word, that is what comes to the minds of many of us. I, however, would like you to meet a different kind of missionary.

My name is Susie.* I live in Africa, where my parents have been missionaries for the past 20 years. Some of their ministries have included teaching at a Bible school, going to villages to tell people about Jesus, treating sick people and translating parts of the Bible into languages besides English. My parents have said many good-byes and made a lot of sacrifices to be here.

Being at boarding school in Dakar, Senegal, rather than in the remote village where my parents work allows me to get involved in drama, choir and sports with kids my own age. But one of the best things about being here at Dakar Academy (DA) is that I have become a “missionary” myself—not the same way as my parents, but a different kind of missionary.

Early Intervention

During the spring, about 90 high school kids and 10 staff members from DA sacrificed a good night’s sleep and a weekend of hot showers to go on what we call “outreach.” A caravan of 11 vehicles left DA at 5 a.m. That is really early for a teenager! We headed to the town of Kaffrine, about a five-hour drive from Dakar. An African pastor in that area had asked for help in building a church.

When we arrived in Kaffrine, we unloaded everything at our campsite. For a group of 100 people, there was a lot of stuff—food, tents, sleeping bags and more. Several people stayed at the campsite to set up the 18 tents, dig holes for outside toilets, rig up portable showers and get the food organized while the rest of us headed to the work site about a mile away.

In the place where we were to build the church, all we found was bare dirt. But we quickly started digging the foundation. Since we were in the desert, I thought it should be easy, but instead of loose sand, the ground was rock hard. A friend used a pickax to dig up the dirt in the trench; then I would shovel the dirt out of the hole. After a while, we would switch jobs. By the end of Friday we had finished digging the whole foundation. That was hard, hot work. Someone said it was 113 degrees in the shade. And we were not working in the shade.

Team Spirit

While I was digging, my brother was involved in something totally different. He is on our drama team, learning mime, puppetry and skit production. The team traveled to several villages, putting on skits and sharing the gospel all day Friday and Saturday. During those two days, that team told nearly 1,500 people in seven villages about God.

If I had not been on the work team, I would have wanted to be on the medical team. On Saturday, this group went to several villages, where they treated kids with scabies, gave worm medicine and cleaned up sores on people’s legs. Doing something like that really showed the villagers that God loves them. The team members treated more than 50 people, who now know about Jesus.

Another team went to two villages to run a Bible school program for the African children. The group taught Bible lessons, played games and helped the kids do crafts. In two days, that team told 500 kids about Jesus’ love. I pray that those kids will remember that love when they grow up. Perhaps they went back to their families that day and told them about Jesus.

Breakdown in Communication

On Friday night, after the day’s work was done and we had eaten a great meal of African food, all 100 of us went to a village about 45 minutes from our campsite. Well, it was supposed to be 45 minutes away. After driving around in the desert for about an hour, we finally got to the village where we were scheduled to have an evangelism campaign. At these campaigns, we always sing Christian songs in three African languages, the drama team does skits, we show movies about Jesus and one of the African pastors preaches.

That night, it did not go very well. The sound equipment malfunctioned, so we could not use the keyboards or drums. The music for the drama team did not work. After slaving all day in the heat, being lost in the desert for an hour and then having equipment failure, we were kind of discouraged. Still, we reminded ourselves that 300 people heard about Jesus that night.

No Rest for the Weary

By midnight, we were asleep in our tents, but we had to get up early on Saturday. The drama, medical and Bible school teams went to nearby villages, and the rest of us went back to the work site for another day of labor in the hot sun. That day we mixed enough cement to pour the foundation for the whole church and make about 1,600 bricks for the walls. Meanwhile, some other kids made 20 benches that would serve as pews. Each board had to be cut, sanded, nailed together, routed and treated for termites. And everything was done by hand.

Amazingly, we got all of that done by four o’clock. Then we went to the high school in Kaffrine, where we got to teach the English classes. After about an hour, we went to their soccer field, which was just a big sandy area with goal posts. But about 1,000 people were there. They had heard that their local soccer team had challenged some visitors to a match. Before the game started, the local pastor welcomed everyone and told them that we were there to show them about Jesus’ love. The soccer game ended in a tie, and it was a lot of fun for everyone.

After the game and another excellent supper of African food, we prepared to go on another evangelism campaign. This time we had worship and prayer before we went. God answered our prayers that evening because we did not get lost and all the equipment worked. More than 300 people got to hear about Jesus that night.

Because We Came

After another night of little sleep, we broke camp on Sunday and said good-bye to Kaffrine. On the way back to Dakar, we stopped at a village called Farabougou. I was with a group of kids a year ago who built a church there. We worshipped in that church with the group of Christians that we helped get started. As we looked around, we knew we had a part in bringing some of those people to the church because we had told them about Jesus.

When Pastor Felix preached that morning, he thanked all of us for coming. He told us that, in the religions practiced in that area, no one cares about the kids. They are nobodies. But, because of us, the people in those towns could tell that Christianity is different. If kids are people, too, then everyone has value. Pastor Felix made us feel special just because we were kids.

We got back to DA that evening. Everyone was tired and dirty but also pretty excited. We were able to do some of the same things our parents do, so now we can feel a bit like they do. That is really neat for me.

So that is Susie’s story. She may not be your typical adult missionary with a four-year term on the mission field. But Susie is not typical either. Like most of the students at DA, Susie is a “youth on a mission.” During this outreach event, eight villagers received Christ as their Savior.

*not real name

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