Today was a ministry day that I've been waiting on for a year and a half. Before I get to tell all about it, I pause to give God the praise, glory, and honor for his patience. And I praise him that I was, for once, open enough to be led.
In February, a group of Hispanic pastors (American citizens) visited Senegal on a vision trip, hoping to find ways they can be used in ministry here in spreading the Gospel to the people of Senegal. I have stayed in contact with one of them, who returned for his third trip to Senegal just last week.
This morning, out of the blue, he gave me a call to say that he was in Theis, and if I had time would I come over to visit and greet his new friends? I said, of course! Just give me an hour and I'll be there. This is West Africa for you, you tentatively keep your schedule open for plans like this. I typically go out in the mornings and in the afternoons, though I never know exactly where I'm going when I go out. This turned out to be my 'afternoon' trip for the day.
When I got to Theis, I greeted his new friends. The men and women are Spanish-speaking Christian ministers living here and ministering to the people. They have translators that they are discipling as new believers-translators who speak fluent Spanish, English, French, Wolof, and probably some other ethnic languages of the people groups here in Senegal. This group is also ministering to people through computer classes, and also reaching out to Talibe boys-boys that follow the teachings of a Muslim religious leader. These boys learn Arabic lessons during the mornings, beg for alms for much of the day, and sit at the feet of their teacher as he tells them stories from the Koran. They start teaching these boys at a very young age. The group of Hispanic pastors also brought some items to share in ministry-music to share songs, and medicines for the people, and I'm sure other things, too.
Already I was blown away by meeting so many Christian believers. To think, I am speaking to a Wolof speaker who tells me that he wants to be an evangelist-in his words-a preacher of the Word of God! Praise the Lord!! You have to understand, I have never, never met a Senegalese man with Christian faith! And I wanted to pick his brain, to sit and talk with him, ask about his past, his family, and when he came to know Christ. I hope for that day in the next couple of weeks, but today time did not allow. I also think I was shocked at what I was seeing.
This afternoon we all loaded up in 2 vehicles to visit a village this team has been working in every day this week. After greeting the people of the village, we all sat under a tree in chairs and on mats, and began to sing praise songs in Wolof and Spanish. I knew 2 of these Wolof songs, but of course did not know the Spanish that we were singing, nor the other 5-10 songs they played. But I'd clap my hands and praise God while they were singing their hearts out.
It was about then that my friend called me over and said, "Brother Roy, do you think you can share with this group what God has on your heart for 10-15 minutes?" Translation-Roy, do you think you can preach God's Word in Wolof for 10-15 minutes? Preach? In Wolof? Go back to that part where I've never met a Wolof speaker who professed to be a Christian. I've gone 18 months without giving a formal message before a group of people, much less in a foreign language.
God is so good, so perfect in his timing. And he has been preparing me for this moment for 18 months. It just so happens that I am carrying my Wolof Bible with me in my car for times that I have the opportunity to share during my afternoon visits. And I did have a thought that I wanted to share. It didn't have 3 points and a poem/joke, but I did take one point (worry) and applied it to our lives. I read Matt. 6:25-34 to them, and talked about how God does not want us to worry. He feeds the birds, and think how much more he will give to us, whom he created to be just like him. He knows the hairs on our head, of course he knows what we think and what is on our heart and in our mind. And I went further to say that for us as followers of Jesus, we know that we don't have to worry. We know there is coming a day when Jesus returns. When he returns, he's going to take us with him to live in heaven with his Father. God does not want us to worry. He wants to give to us daily. Let him know what you need, and talk to him daily from your heart.
I was overwhelmed. Those simple thoughts flowed so well together. Looking back I regret not saying a few things-this is why I prepare sermons/thoughts on paper in order to remember the points I wish to articulate. Next time I get to share this with people, I'll bring out a few of those illustrations that came to mind later. But wow! I shared a devotional thought (I wouldn't call it a formal sermon) in Wolof!!! Also, I wasn't the only one who shared, another member of this group shared another devotional thought, and a third member wrapped up both our thoughts in his closing and prayer time.
Now God is telling me, "see, wasn't that easy? Now do this every afternoon in your village visits." It was surprisingly easy. It did not bother me that I was speaking before a group of strangers. I even had the presence of mind to ask if they were understanding my Wolof clearly. They said they were, and they must have been for the translator commented shortly after that my Wolof was clear.
Actually, since the translator made that comment, the Hispanic team that visits this village invited me back to share more with the people. I will pray about that opportunity. It will be so nice to be around a fellowship of believers more often than I currently am. However, and maybe this is Satan casting doubts in my mind, it is out of my ministry zone. I think 2-3 times a month is not a problem, and promised the group that I would stay in touch with them, and share God's Word with our friends.
We ended the visit by sharing a very late (5pm) meal together, and closed in singing some of the same praise songs before we departed. The people danced and played drums as we praised one last time, and we joined together to pray before leaving. This is my vision for what a Wolof Christian church would look like: Believers together, joining in singing praise songs in their heart language, and 2-3 of their own people presenting the Word of God for them to apply to their lives. I would have loved seeing more open dialogue after the devotional thoughts were shared as the third person spoke. To me that would have enforced the thought that they did understand God's Word to their lives for today. But for today let me escape my Western, Baptist worship mindset and allow God to speak to their hearts as he speaks.
This was a very rewarding day! Thank you, Lord, for using me as your tool today! Thank you, Lord, for letting me see your Wolof people worship you!