Feature

A God-Sized Dream

Two continents, two schools, one mission

By and

“Wouldn’t it be cool if your students joined our students in Senegal for a missions trip?”

During a coffee break at a conference in Germany last year, Eric DeHaan, principal of the Evangelical Christian Academy (ECA) in Spain, and I (chaplain and dorm administrator at Dakar Academy [DA] in Senegal), began talking about the importance of establishing a missions heart in our students.

I casually threw out the question, and that’s all it took for Eric. After the conference, the e-mails began flying, and we began to dream dreams that could be fulfilled only through God’s power. When students at both schools got wind of plans for a joint missions trip, the interest level was high. The project had financial and logistical challenges, and both schools began praying that God would work beyond what we could ask or imagine. In e-mail after e-mail, Eric shared how God was meeting the students’ financial needs and preparing hearts for ministry.

Seven short months after the conference, the dream became a reality. The first meeting between the ECA and DA students took place on the rooftop of one of the DA dorms. The two groups hit it off instantly as the kids joined together for a Senegalese tradition of sharing attaya (tea) around small hibachis. During the next few days, students from ECA ministered at a local deaf school and with the Dakar street kids and did some work projects while the DA students were attending school.

Off to the Bush

After a Thanksgiving feast at various missionary homes around the city, 130 students and staff from both schools regrouped early the next morning in the DA parking lot for the three-hour drive to Sass, a bush village northeast of Dakar in which the Serer tribal people live. We transported the group in 12 vehicles and even took two local buses that held about 35 passengers each. In Sass we were joined by the national church president and 10 of his fellow pastors, who ate, lodged and ministered with us. Trying to coordinate 140 people for a weekend in the bush can be quite an undertaking. We praise the Lord for the way all the logistics fell into place.

The ECA students had raised $5,000 to build a church in the village, so while one team was digging and pouring a foundation, another group of kids roofed the pastor’s home. Others dug the septic system, built 14 benches and repaired 5 more, made a pulpit and painted a church in a nearby village.

The medical team treated 157 people, a new record. Dan Mulay, DA’s assistant director who is also an EMT, provided training and first-aid certification for our students. The medical team was blessed to have two of our missionary nurses along to help them triage.

The drama team shared the gospel through music, skits, mime and puppets with about 1,200 people in 13 villages. Both adults and children came to the drama presentations. The vacation Bible school team members ministered to more than 800 children, and the workers were still smiling at the end of the day. Another group at the campsite coordinated meals and hand pumped gallons and gallons of water through filters. You can imagine how much 140 people can drink while working all day in the hot sun.

Just the Beginning

At night we did evangelism in three villages with Senegalese pastors, who ministered with each team. It was a blessing to work hand in hand with the local pastors and believers. Of about 2,400 people who heard the gospel, nearly 200 prayed for salvation. We finished off the weekend by worshiping in Sass with our Senegalese brothers and sisters. We were humbled when the president of the national church asked our staff and students to surround the local believers and pray for them. The battle has just begun, and we need to pray that they will be faithful in sharing the gospel with their neighbors and building God’s Kingdom in that area.

When we returned to DA Sunday night, we celebrated with the ECA group and heard testimonies from both schools of God’s goodness and the impact this outreach weekend had on students and teachers. After the service, the ECA group lined up outside the chapel for a tearful farewell. Third-culture kids hate to say good-bye. But in this case, we were able to say, “See you next time!” because we think we may have started a tradition.

All of this was possible because we dreamed a God-sized dream and trusted Him to make it a reality.

We were privileged to return to Sass the weekend before Christmas to roof and white-wash the church, as well as build more benches. It was a wonderful testimony to the community to be able to worship with about 80 believers that Christmas Sunday morning. One of the missionaries ministering in that area has been out to Sass several times, and he has seen as many as 20 women meeting for Bible study. On another occasion, the missionary witnessed a large group of children meeting for a Bible club. God continues to advance His Kingdom, and we are privileged that He allows us to join Him in His work.

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