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Crazy Love

Good Samaritans in Senegal

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I smelled him before I spotted him. A man was lying on the sidewalk covered in his own feces and no one was helping. I came into our apartment after jogging and told my wife, Jewel, to come help me. She grabbed a bottle of water and an apple and out the door we went. We asked people how long the man had been there. “Three days,” we were told. People were just passing him by as if he were a piece of trash. Jewel started giving him water and fanning him with a piece of cardboard to shoo away the flies.

A curious crowd gathered. Someone called an ambulance, which would not come unless someone at the scene promised payment. We told them we would pay whatever it cost to get this man to a hospital. We were joined by a Nigerian pastor who just “happened” to be passing by. He was a great help as a translator and cultural bridge when we were sent back and forth between various hospitals and needed someone to translate medical jargon. We were taken to a mental hospital first and then to a state-run hospital on the other side of town.

The man was delirious and near death’s door. He had a high fever but barely a pulse. We had to buy 12 medicines at two all-night pharmacies and a lab. We were told to go to the police station to have a paper stamped saying we were taking responsibility for the man’s expenses since he was incoherent and couldn’t say where he was from or even his name. We were bounced around from place to place, caught up in a lot of red tape when all we wanted to do was get this man some medical attention. We finally crawled into bed at 3 a.m.

Throughout the ordeal, people looked at us like we were crazy. “Why are you doing this for this man you don’t know?” they kept asking us. “He will never be able to give you anything in return.” But we were reminded of what Francis Chan said in his book Crazy Love: “Having faith often means doing what others see as crazy. Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.” We told people that the love of Jesus compelled us to help the man, plain and simple.

One fellow shook his head. “I am so ashamed,” he said. “Our own people walked by our brother, but you foreigners stopped to help. And I heard you say you would pay his expenses, and you don’t even know him.We have much to learn from you Americans.”

The ambulance driver sat with us at the mental hospital while attendants were washing the man and putting a diaper on him. The driver finally said, “You are the Good Samaritan. The religious man passed by. The Levite passed by. But the foreigner stopped to help that hurting man in the Bible. That’s you. You foreigners are the Good Samaritan for this unknown man.” And he shook his head.

We were floored to hear a Bible story come out of the mouth of a Senegalese person! A few minutes later, we heard his cell phone ring tone—a Catholic choir! No one can convince us that these things were just “coincidences.” Less than 1 percent of the people in Senegal are Christians. How likely is it that two Alliance workers are going to bend over a dying man on a sidewalk at the same time a Nigerian pastor is passing by while a Catholic ambulance driver was being dispatched to the scene?

The driver stuck with us the whole evening. At the end of the eight-hour ordeal, he said, “My name is Albert. There are men like this on every street corner in Dakar tonight. We have stopped noticing. It took seeing you foreigners helping one of our brothers to wake me up. I would like to stay in touch. May I call you to see if he lives?”

We provided food and money for the homeless man’s medicines each day he was in the hospital. The man was never able to tell us much except his name: Souleyman Ndaye (the equivalent of “John Smith”). From the wounds on his back, it appears that he was beaten. Soon after he was released from the hospital, he disappeared.

We know for certain that God was with us every step of the way. We don’t know the end of the story, but we are confident that greater things are yet to come. God opened doors to allow us to clearly explain to all who asked the reason we helped a stranger—because God loves all of us so much that He sent His only Son to save us.

Please pray that God will bring much glory to His Name through the events of that evening. Although we do not know what happened to the man we helped, since that night, our friendship with Samuel, the Nigerian pastor, has grown strong. We would love to see this situation be used by God to bring precious Senegalese people into His Kingdom, and through Pastor Samuel’s church, we can point people to a place they can go to be discipled.

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