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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.