I Can’t Just Go On Eating Dinner

This excerpt is from an article written by Matt Boyd, our Brother and friend serving in Senegal, Africa. You can read the entire post and learn more of his ministry at All Senegal for Christ.

I recently attended the CRAF Conference in Dakar where Christian leaders from French speaking Africa came together to exchange ideas and report on the status of missions in their respective countries. The morning that I attended we heard a report on the status of the church in the Central African Republic.

As our brother from the CAR stepped up to the podium to give his report, he said that he wanted to show a short five-minute video to begin his presentation. He then added that if anyone had a heart problem that they may want to excuse themselves during the video. This disclaimer was met with a few chuckles from the audience as some wondered aloud what could possibly be so disturbing as to affect those with a weak heart.

And then he started the video and we immediately understood his warning.

The video was taken by a Muslim man with his cell phone and it showed he and several others massacring about a half-dozen Christians in broad daylight in the market. And they did so with machetes. In an orgy of hatred and violence, this man had captured these brutal acts of murder as these Christians were literally beaten and hacked to their public deaths.

And this happened because they were known to be followers of Jesus.

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Journaling in Distant Lands; A Bowl Big Enough for All

IMG_1810“Grab a bite of something good,” Matt encouraged by phone during our layover in a U. S. airport, “It may be your last decent meal for a while.”

Praises be he was wrong. In fact, some of the meals we partook of in Senegal rated highly on my list of most-excellent meals, regardless where from.

IMG_1856Gayle, Matt’s wife, dined us like princes during our stay and never once could we recall of being hungry. As a matter of fact, we each carried all sorts of makeshift meals from America just in case (Ethan packed an entire minute market), but when it became time to depart; nearly all of our precautionary foods were left behind for our friends.

I’ve included the cool pictures of our meals for you to take note of, just in case you too travel there one day. Should you also fear the dietary provisions of the Senegalese I would advise to save the room in your bags for real luggage, but then, I think our hosts will enjoy what you leave behind… so pack to your heart’s content.

IMG_1812I wonder if anyone notices something peculiar about the photos; is there something missing maybe; such as plates?

If so, rest assured that your eyes aren’t deceiving you; there are no plates. I think there were only spoons to accommodate our dilettante-Dioula-dining-habits.

The meal was marvelous. We filled our stomachs, and then began with our escorts our journey back to our rooms for the evening.

We would learn a little more of Senegalese culture the next morning from Matt. His explanation for the way the people eat, and yes, nearly every meal is consumed from one large bowl by everyone, was illuminating. I suppose I will always remember Matt’s words, “The people here share what gives life.”

Did you catch that? The people share what gives life. Hence, food gives life so they share from one bowl.

I can only fathom where a good follower of Jesus will take that short seven word sentence. Not claiming anything of the sort here for this author, but I will still take a stab at it.

Masses of biblical overload coursed my mind with Matt’s descriptive of the Senegalese dining habits, such as:

“I Am the bread of life… that comes down from heaven… I came to give life; abundantly.” I also couldn’t help but ponder how neatly does this align with our observance of the Lord’s Supper? We share the One who gives life!

photoA most honorable mention here must go to… me. Feast your eyes on my personal rendition of Senegalese dining. Okay, my wife says not so much.

This will not by far be the last time Senegalese cultural practices remind me of biblical-like principles. In many ways, it seemed as though we were sent back in time to a place where biblical customs were the norm, but then, those will be for another day.

Any thoughts of your own on how the words, “The people here share what gives life” take meaning for us as believers in Jesus Christ?

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Journaling in Distant Lands; Reminiscing Gambia

I’ve rewritten this article about a dozen times. I’m not fully confident I’m on board with this version, but at some point, just as was true in our actual journey, we have to get beyond the Gambia.

It is difficult to write of this stage because in the Gambia we experienced something very foreign to our culture in the homeland; fear of the absolute unknown, or maybe better stated, fear of having to admit to myself and others that I can be afraid.

It’s not that the officers, stationed every five to ten miles apart it seemed, weren’t cordial, even friendly at times. It was our knowing that they held in their authority our ability to move forward to the next check station or not.

It is a land with many needs (note the lack of photos; we were warned to pocket the cameras), this place called the Gambia that divides northern Senegal from southern Senegal. Check points strategically placed along the road gives opportunity to help desperate Gambians, although wrongly so, meet those needs.

With each stop, the tiring rhetoric begins again. “You don’t have the proper stamp to go any further, so I must detain you, but… for X amount I can give you the right stamp.” His or her stamp will of course only be good until the next stop, just miles up the road.

Thankfully, Matt is both a great man of prayer… and he knows well the gaming system of the Gambia. Although we will stop many, many, (many, many, many, etc.) times to endure the same conversations with the armed hustlers, on occasion being led into dark rooms for would-be interrogations, in due course we passed safely back across the Senegal border into a much less aggressive culture.

Now I see clearly the advantage of God’s providential carrying us through this hard land. I wish I could say my trust was strong enough to have seen it during; it was not. So I learn… and set a stone of remembrance.

  1. It is God, and only God, who is always in control. He proves Himself again and again, and even had something much worse taken place in our crossing (those things we just knew were about to happen), we can fully trust that He never once lost that full control.
  2. Prayer is an amazing gift from our God that we don’t use nearly as we ought. Whether we were in Dakar, the Gambia, or Diouloulou, Matt never ceased to pray; he has come to a place in his life that I so want to be. No matter how things seem (emphasis on this word seem) to be going, he has learned “Whom” he has believed in and knows that He is able to keep that which he has committed unto Him against that day.
  3. Fear can have its proper place, so long as it does not distract and cripple our walk with Jesus. On the very next night, one of the men in a Bible study conducted by Matt asked, “Is it okay to still be afraid even when Jesus is in the boat?” (Mark 4:35-41)

My Pastor, in devotion, reminded us of Paul’s travels to Corinth and of his description of himself there:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

An honorable mention must go out here to another missionary we met on our return trip to Dakar. When we spoke of never going to the Gambia again, he kindly reminded us that someone must… for they need Jesus also. Another stone finds its place.

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