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A Little Like Heaven

From Spain to Senegal, students unite in missions

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The land was parched and cracked, and dust filled my nostrils and mouth with every breath. Sweat glistened on my sun-baked arms and streamed down my nose to form salty droplets at the tip.

I lifted up my long, dirt-caked skirt at the base, hoping to find some relief from the heat, but none came. I gave up and resumed my task, wielding my shovel with pride as I struck the hard ground.

Dry as a Bone

A young man from the village spotted me. I eyed him as he came closer, taking in his flared jeans and torn “Broncos” jersey. He had pulled out his “American wardrobe” for today.

Holding out his hand, he motioned for my shovel. Having already forfeited my pick ax earlier to another well-intentioned national, I flashed him a grin, thanked him in French while I shook my head no and continued to dig. I meant no offense, but I was a woman with a purpose—bent on completing my task not by brute strength but by sheer will and supernatural endurance.

Click. Click. Click. I glanced up to see my husband, his face hidden behind a digital camera. He was the official photographer for this outreach trip, taking photos of more than130 people divided into teams ranging from medical to kids’ outreach to drama to construction. Even the building site had many branches, including brick making, carpentry, roofing and digging. This was a big job, but we were a big crew. We stood out like the mass number of toubabs (white people) that we were, scurrying around like ants in the remote Senegalese village of Sass.

At last, a breeze floated in from the north, strong enough to rustle the pods dangling from the branches of the enormous baobab trees. I shielded my eyes from the mid-day sun and welcomed the cool gust of wind. Hard work though it was, there was nothing I would rather have been doing and no place I would rather have been. Surrounded by fields of millet, bleating goats and straw-thatched huts, I felt a sense of peace and tranquility, the kind only brought about by a slow-paced African village.

Kingdom Come

Resting my chin against the handle of my shovel, I soaked in the site of my comrades from Dakar Academy working side by side with the villagers of Sass to advance the Kingdom of God by building this cement-walled, tin-roofed church. Red faces and arms bobbed up and down in the toiling crowd, indicative of the students from Evangelical Christian Academy in Madrid, Spain, who were spread throughout the swarms of people. This partnership between Dakar Academy and Evangelical Christian Academy, along with the national pastors of Senegal and the hard working villagers of Sass, offered a strikingly diverse image—the salt and pepper crowd, covered in dust and sweat, mingled together. We were different in the way we thought, acted and looked but were focused on one common goal. It was a beautiful, like a glimpse of heaven right there in the middle of the sandy village.

Over the two day event, while the construction team laid the church’s foundation and the pastor’s roof was repaired, our medical team—an EMT, two missionary nurses and a handful of students—treated 157 people, a new outreach medical team record. The drama team was shared the gospel with 1,200 people (adults and children alike) in 13 villages through music, skits, mime and puppets. The children’s team ministered to more than 800 children.

In the evening evangelism campaigns, which took place in three villages simultaneously, around 2,400 people heard the gospel. And most exciting of all, between 180 and 200 people prayed for salvation, a number unheard of in this predominantly Muslim country. Our continuing prayer is that follow up and discipleship will be provided for those who made this significant choice.

We Gather Together

Our last day in Sass, we gathered together to worship with the small community of believers from the village. Since the building wasn’t finished, we crowded under a simple canopy of tarp strung tight on the sides by thick tree limbs under which sat plain, backless wooden benches. And yet there was something exquisite about the unity and joy in our worship.

After a powerful sermon intended for the new converts, the national pastor asked our group to surround the local believers and pray for them. I prayed for a young girl with a headful of braids and large brown-black eyes staring back at me, a face that has forever been imprinted in my memory. It was a poignant moment, reminding us that while our work may have left a lasting impression on Sass, it is the believers there who will play the vital role of sharing the gospel with their neighbors and building God’s Kingdom in that area. People from neighboring villages are flocking to Sass even now to learn more about what they’ve heard. Our ongoing prayer is that follow up and discipleship will be provided for those who made this significant choice. We pray also that Christ’s good news continues to spread like wildfire through Sass and the surrounding area.

This worship service with our African brothers and sisters was the perfect way to end the outreach weekend. I love this remarkable tradition, together reveling in Christ’s superb and incredibly wonderful message of hope and salvation . . . now that’s something worth celebrating.

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