the great humbling

We all need a good humbling now and again.

Recently I’ve been walking through the life of Job (and man, if that doesn’t knock the wind out of you!). His friends were no help as he struggled to keep his head above water. He was isolated and alone.

I think we’ve all probably felt like that at one point or another. Living at the speed of life can be overwhelming. For Elise, the kids and I its been amazing and overwhelming to be back in Senegal, slowly catching our rhythm. At times it feels like we’re jumping onto a treadmill set to full-speed!

In the last few weeks since we’ve landed back in Senegal, we’ve moved into a new house, started reconstruction on the apartment to host short term teams, and even wrestled with the rain. We’ve also visited several pastors and friends, scheduled a few courses to teach at the Bible school, preached a few times, and come up for air once or twice too.

The other morning I sent an email to check on the status of getting our container out of the port and then received a surprising phone call two seconds later saying it was on its way to the house! Praise the Lord! The workmen at the guesthouse as well as a few co-workers helped us unload all 20 square feet of furniture, family books and belongings, as well as the amazing Africa’s Hope resources for the Bible school!

At times like these when life is rushing at me I like to slow down, to set my present into the continuum with the past and the future. To the humbling times of prayer and worship where the Father spent aligning our spirits with His.

Back in college, as Elise and I were studying for ministry, I loved to sit right behind an elder missionary who had lost his wife and children in Iran. What a humbling experience to worship with that brother who sacrificed all in pursuit of His calling. Every time we sang It is Well with My Soul his arms would slowly rise and I would have to stop singing. I couldn’t catch my breath.

Just before we left the states a few weeks ago, Elise and I worshiped with dear friends of ours from Northeastern Africa. Not long ago he spent a month in prison in our former hometown. We celebrated the goodness of God together! How do you classify experiences like that? How do you quantify the joy of embracing dear friends and extolling the name of the Lord together?

Last year, Elise, the kids and I, had the humbling privilege of worshiping with brothers and sisters across the United States! We lifted our hands and voices together with untold thousands walking through all kinds of experiences, good, bad and ugly. In all, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, we surrounded ourselves in that great cloud of witnesses and trusted in the love of the Father. What a privilege to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” together (Hebrew 12.1)!

If we had the opportunity to worship with you this year, thank you! Thank you for the privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with you before our great and awesome King! And now, we are back in Senegal, with our family here. We humbly rejoice that we are your personal link from the local church to the unreached. We celebrate that in the years to come we will see new men, women and children meet with Christ and join the chorus.

in the flood

What an incredible feeling to be back in Senegal! After a whirlwind tour of the States this past year, getting to see so many beloved family and dear friends, we were literally counting the days to be back home in Dakar.

Our welcome home was a continuous flood of excitement. We flew out of DC with our friends working in the North of Senegal, sharing one last round of Starbucks before boarding. We were greeted by all of our luggage upon landing (a genuine miracle) and another friendly face waiting for us in the parking lot ready to drive us to our new home.

Honestly, the first few days are a hazy blur of driving the kids to school, unpacking boxes and trying to stay awake while dusting.

And then the deluge.

In the middle of the night, innocently making my way to the restroom, my foot sank into

ankle-deep water. The steady rain outside decided it much preferred to take up occupancy in our guesthouse kitchenette and bathroom. Elise and I spent the next midnight hours mopping and expelling the flood.

Isn’t it amazing how the mundane gets mixed in with the marvelous. One moment, loaded with the miraculous, is followed by the ordinary, even frustrating. The rain we’ve been praying would come to Senegal to feed the fields and diminishing rivers arrived. Amen! But the rain also arrived through an invisible crack in the ceiling onto our pillows. Amen?

In each moment is a new golden moment of choice, an opportunity to fix our eyes. Elise and I rejoiced as we heard the rain begin to beat on the rooftop. But as our feet waded “Lake Surprise” we were faced with the same opportunity to praise. Tired and sweaty, and more than a little annoyed, we sat down after driving out the zero-hour flood, put on some worship music and thanked God for allowing us to be back in Senegal, no matter what may lie ahead.

This is the beginning of a new term, a new thousand days starting. There will be great days! Like holding Pastor Benoit and Sophie’s newborn son, Emmanuel Matthew, for the first time. Watching him open his eyes and look into mine. There will be hard times! Like driving in the unpredictable chaos that is Dakar traffic (“driving” might be an overly generous term). In every moment, a renewed opportunity to trust our Lord, who is our refuge (Psalm 62.8).

It is no wonder the Spirit of God inspired the author of Genesis to begin all time demonstrating His sovereignty over chaos (Genesis 1.1-2). There is no contest, no equality between the momentary chaos of this world and the eternal omnipotence of Christ! In the flood, God reveals His everlasting power. In the overwhelming darkness, He speaks, “Let there be light.” Among the unreached nations He proclaims, “This good news of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a witness to all peoples, and then the end will come,” (Matthew 24.14). In all times, good and bad, exciting and challenging, He is in control and He is not surprised. What a great opportunity to rejoice!

the hollow ones

We are the hollow men…

Shape without form, shade without color,

Paralyzed force, gesture without motion…

Have you ever witnessed a life unravel? It is one of the most painful things to watch as a soul, once confident and bold, wrestles with purpose, meaning and existence. All the so-called realities and assumed opinions sowed together begin to collapse as one loose thread is pulled out.

At 35, Thomas felt like he was lost. His soul ached as he wandered through a shadowland, blind and cold. The facile answers and broad assumptions no longer gave his life meaning. From the darkness he cried,

There are no eyes here

In this valley of dying stars

In this hollow valley…

The hollowness of his soul was calling out for more. The emptiness of his prayers lifted to broken stone could no longer carry him. His friends mocked his confusion as they would soon mock his decision, but Thomas continued to press through the fog toward faith. What would he choose?

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Two years after he penned those words, Thomas gave his life to Jesus and was publicly baptized. Between the ideas of his generation and his reality, he met Jesus. Although his life would be scarred by difficulties, the derision of past friends and failures, his life was now rooted in Christ. Thomas, more commonly known as T.S. Eliot, had found the truth to fill his hollow chest.

If you’ve ever asked why anyone would uproot their lives and move to another country, to live in another culture and language the answer is found between where the shadow falls and the kingdom of God reigns (Isaiah 66.19). It is where the divine touches earth, where Jesus steps into our lives and His Spirit imbues us with faith. It is in obedience to God’s calling and the belief that the nations are waiting (Acts 8.26-40).

This is why Elise and I live in faraway places. We set sail to distant shores because we know there are men, women and children like Thomas wandering and lost in a shadowland. They feel the hollowness of their souls and long for more.

This is why our sending agencies send men, women and their families across the globe like a sower scattering seed into every furrow across the field. Day by day we stand on the precipice of faith and pray as they make their eternal decision (Psalm 22.27). We wait with the lost and rejoice with them as they become new creations in Christ (Isaiah 2.2-4)!

In a few days, Elise, Daphne, Ava, Henry, Fiona and I will make our transatlantic flight once more landing in Senegal as the sun rises on a new day and a new thousand dawns. We go obedient to Christ’s calling and believing for men, women and children like Thomas once on the verge of faith, now rapt in redemption.

Italic quotations from T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” (1925).

wheels on the bus

It’s hard to believe that we’re looking at another school in the rearview mirror. It feels like we just arrived in the States for this year of itineration, but the boxes and bins scattered across the apartment signal another transition is coming.

In the course of all our freewheeling American adventures, visiting the wide network of churches that sustain our work in Africa, we’ve been able to mark out special time with our kids. We walked in the cherry blossoms in DC and rode to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. We took silly pictures wearing top hats at a small shop in Indianapolis and booked it (ironically I might add) from a torrential rainstorm while we played at a waterpark with friends in downtown Oklahoma City.

My guess is, if you asked the kids, they’d say we've taken pictures in front of every mural in Richmond. They’d probably be right! This has been our year about time, 365 days of intentional time, a season made and lived with purpose.

Every parent wants their children to look back and think fondly of their childhood, but that’s easier said than done. The hours slip away into decades and we miss out on the moments that make things special.

Driving to Tennessee the other day we needed to tank up. The gas tank on our beloved minivan, Winston, was running low. More than that, the caffeine levels on the driver were running low too! Just off the highway was a chain coffee shop and a gas station too. But a few miles off Interstate 81 is the city of Bristol with her main street straddling the State line between Virginia and Tennessee. As if on a whim, we left the main road and took the road less traveled. We cruised main street. We walked back and forth between the States. We took pictures with a giant guitar and explored a few stores. We found great coffee and cheap gas and in less than an hour we were back on the road again, but we took with us a whole host of new memories.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. We didn’t stumble upon Bristol. Our side-trip was planned; our little diversions and odd possibilities all mapped out in my notebook. Sometimes we do accidentally trip into success, but often we find success only through intentional pursuit. I am pursuing to make great memories for my children, to remember our itinerate life fondly, but also to keep their eyes open to the incredible possibilities of lives well lived.

During this school year the kids did great. They achieved great grades, even with the uncomfortable task of transitioning into a public school, knowing that they wouldn’t be there next year. They made new friends. They rode the bus every day to school. Some of the stories from the bus were hard to hear (yes, drama still happens on the bus). But one of my favorite stories from this year happened on that bus too. Several immigrants lived in our apartment complex on the Southside of Richmond, many from Arabic-speaking countries. Henry became friends with a little boy I’ll call Amir. Every day Henry and Amir would talk and play on the bus on their way to and from school.

Day by day, Henry shared his life and his love with Amir. They shared the places they’d been and things they’d seen around the world. They shared stories and adventures. Henry shared Jesus with Amir.

Amir accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in a public school bus with his friend. Henry gave him his Bible. After a while Amir’s parents made him give it back. Amir is on a journey now. It will be riddled with adventures and difficulties, challenges and beauty. I would like to ask you to pray for Amir, and his family. Would you take time to lift up every man, woman and child who has decided to make an intentional step toward Jesus today? Take that minute now, I’ll wait.

Life flies by fast, but the time we take and the witness we share will stay with us forever. Don’t miss the adventures off the wide paths. Don’t miss the Amirs waiting. The wheels on the bus go round and round. Make the most of the journey.

Family.jpg

God of the Blue Sky

Out of nothing, everything.

Can you imagine floating in the vacuum of space, before space and time were formed in the Creator’s words? In a moment, in a flash of creation, the sound of the eternal God’s voice shattered the void. The sun, moon and stars. The planets and plants. The waters and all kinds of life. All these realities bound in space and time burst into existence from the voice of God (Genesis 1-2).

He spoke and out of nothing, everything.

Through Jesus “all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him,” (Colossians 1.16). God set His everlasting self toward honoring His nature and He created us. He made us in His image, blessing us with capability of knowing Him and making Him known to others (Gen. 1.27).

He blessed and out of nothing, everything.

Can you imagine living in the full blessings that God has made for you? The God who made the blue sky is ready to show us dreams and visions beyond our wildest imaginations. Truly, because He is the God who made the blue sky, He is the God of Blue Sky thinking. That is where He is calling you! That is where He is calling us as His people, to meet Him in the blue sky of today’s impossibilities. He is calling us beyond the fetters of fears and prejudices of our broken humanity.

We see the unreached nations and say, “How?” all the while our God of the Blue Sky is saying, “Now.”

We see the false beliefs and oppressive forces at work in this world and we say to ourselves, “Jesus, this world needs you!” and He gently reminds us, all authority in heaven and on earth have been given to Him and He is with us always! (Matthew 28.18, 20b). We rejoice in His presence and power, but forget the commission at the heart of His proclamation. His omnipotence and omnipresence over all things encase His commission for us to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

He commissioned and out of nothing, everything.

We watch as Jesus ascends into the heavens, shoulder to shoulder with the disciples of old. The heroes of the faith who risked all to proclaim the good news of the conquering Christ ready to redeem all from sin.

This is where we meet with our God of the Blue Sky: staring up at the sky shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Christ and believing that out of nothing, everything; believing the unreached peoples waiting under the same sky today will stand with us rejoicing among the everlasting redeemed, worshiping before God’s throne tomorrow (Revelation 7.9)

What is the blue sky vision God is calling you to cast? Where are the lost among the nations Jesus is drawing you to dream about? Where are the people under God’s blue sky He is calling you to live among; believing that although no souls know Him today, tomorrow they will be reconciled to Him through the blood of His cross and the word of our testimony (Colossians 1.20; Revelation 12.11).

fullsizeoutput_5a78.jpeg

more than a hashtag

Sitting around the table she asked, “Why do you use the hashtag #forathousandsons on Instagram when you post pictures from Africa?” She’d noticed that when we post pictures from around Dakar and across Africa we add that simple phrase.

for a thousand sons

It took me back to the early months of 2008, as Elise and I were worshiping in Northern Virginia at Chapel Springs. Elise was pregnant with our second and I was hoping for a son. As I stood there praying for a healthy pregnancy and a namesake I felt the Lord offer a trade: If we would give him the dream of having a son He would give us a thousand sons. A thousand sons, a thousand trailblazing apostolic disciples that would transform the world for His kingdom. It was an easy decision. We gave God our simple dream in exchange for His prophetic promise.

This is why every image I post of men, women and children in Africa is married with that short phrase. Elise and I serve as links from the local church to the unreached of Africa for a thousand sons. This promise empowers us to share the good news of Jesus’ victory on the cross. We know that not all will respond to the gospel, but among the millions are orphaned souls waiting for adoption as sons and daughters into relationship with Christ and His people, the church (Romans 8.23, Ephesians 1.5). May the weight of this pastoral responsibility draw us to our knees!

Every day is heavy with the possibility of adoption! For a thousand sons moves beyond evangelism into discipleship (Galatian 4.5). It refuses to leave people on the doorstep of relationship with Christ grasping at a nominal faith. It spurs us to see each new believer as a brother and sister that need the fellowship of the Church to guide them to maturity, to care for them through this life and journey with them as they bring their walk into balance with their calling (Ephesians 4.1).

for a hundred new churches

It is for a thousand sons that we plant new churches among the unreached. It drives our goal to plant one hundred new churches in Dakar that plant another two hundred churches throughout Senegal. Why? Because churches must be born through making disciples. Can we even begin to imagine a Christ-centered, disciple-making church in every neighborhood, community and village in Senegal? For a thousand sons, who today are coming to Christ one by one, our mission is creating space to grow a church planting movement.

This month, a booklet came in the mail from Chapel Springs. Hundreds of people took the time to write or draw prayers over our family. They were hard to read through tear-saturated eyes. So many brothers and sisters who wrote heartfelt encouragements and sincere prayers. So many boys and girls drew their prayers. Like the image of a hundred churches seen above.

for an increasingly redeemed and transformed Africa

Today these future realities are just a vision, aspirations in search of fulfillment; but dream with us for a moment. One by one we will continue to see men, women and children decide to choose Jesus above all else. Into these fellowships of believers we will see communities transformed across Dakar and the country through local churches. These newborn churches will mature and plant others and what started as a vision will become an increasingly redeemed and transformed Africa!

What more could we do for His namesake?

angels in the architecture

There is something wonderful about the ancient houses of worship that stand across Europe. I find myself drawn to prayer and reflection when I step across the threshold, beneath the vaulted ceilings, and into their cross-shape sanctuaries. Stained into the windows and carved into the stones is the history of God meeting with His people. These places of praise stand anachronistic to the world around them, microcosms of artistic evangelism, dislodged from space and time.

Last year, I knelt in a Belgian cathedral founded in 1147 A.D. encompassed by crumbling rocks and the clear blue sky above and I was surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses rippling out in waves the message of Jesus across the globe for a thousand years (Hebrews 12.1). In its wings, men and women knelt, prayed, and sought the presence of the Lord knowing that He had something better for them than even the greatest heroes of faith had experienced (Hebrews 11.32-40)! In that place they met with God, redeemed in the blood of Jesus and transformed in the power of His Spirit.

How could we stand in a place like that and not worship God? Can you hear the hymn of Bernard de Clairvaux, “What language shall I borrow to thank You, dearest friend, for this Your dying sorrow, Your compassion without end? O make me Yours forever. And Lord, should I begin to faint let me never, never outlive my love for You.” The empty cathedrals of Europe are echoing his refrain. Windows and walls overwhelmed with the images of Christ but the people have all departed. Who will go and bring them in?

We stand saturated in prismatic light flooding through the redemptive stories displayed, but are we washed in the transformational truth they convey? Do we still come to the walls of these cathedrals or their message rooted in Scripture with arms raised and voices singing, “Praise the Lord!” and “Let it be!”? Do we see the angels in the architecture?

As a child I remember hearing Africa’s influence on Paul Simon. It was like he stepped into my life and gave music and lyrics to my third culture experience. In one Graceland song he wrote:

A man walks down the street.

It's a street in a strange world,

Maybe it's the Third World,

Maybe it's his first time around.

He doesn't speak the language.

He holds no currency.

He is a foreign man.

He is surrounded by the sound,

The sound,

Cattle in the marketplace,

Scatterlings and orphanages.

He looks around and around,

He sees angels in the architecture

Spinning in infinity

He says Amen! and Hallelujah!

In that simple song, Simon translated all the grandeur of the colossal cathedrals into the language of my youth, the rhythms of the market and the colors of my world. With each improvised chord, every syncopated beat, Christ creates space to sing Amen! and Hallelujah!

Every cathedral, every church, every house is built by someone, yet the true builder of all things is God (Hebrews 3.3). Moses met with God in a tent, and the Spirit of God would descend as a pillar of cloud calling all the people to rise up and worship (Exodus 33.9-10). Joash met with God in his childhood spent hidden within the walls of Solomon’s Temple and later led his people in repairing their house of worship (2 Kings 11.3; 12.6-16). Lydia met with God beside a river, then opened her home to all the followers of Jesus in Philippi creating the first church in Europe (Acts 16:11-15, 40).

Where did you first meet with God? Who created space for you to meet with Jesus? Are you willing to invite others into that sacred space? Are you ready to go out as God’s people, living stones in His eternal cathedral (Hebrews 3.6, 1 Peter 2.5), creating simple places of true communion with our Creator among the scatterlings and orphanages as you sing, “Let it be!” and “Hallelujah!”? Are you ready to be the personal link from the local church to the unreached?

If so, let’s go.

IMG_2145.jpg

transplanting starlings

I look at the United States from the far side of the ocean.

My first memories aren’t from St. Louis or Missouri where I was born but from San Jose, Costa Rica. I remember drinking soda from a plastic bag walking through vast banana plantations.

From there we moved to Equatorial Guinea, the heart of the African rainforest, and my childhood began. The island was my hometown. I walked and played and lived.

I lived the stories of adventurers cutting through the bush walking through the cocoa fields with my friends. I climbed up on the rooftops where we trapped birds in carefully propped up boxes with sticks and string.

I watched from the rooftops of my island home as the fruit bats and white egrets soared and cast shadows. It seemed everywhere I went pied crows, with their monochromatic feathers like pressed tuxedos, were dancing on rusty metal roofs.

It was my world and I knew it well.

And then we came back to America. We got on a plane for the United States and I watched my island paradise disappear beneath the clouds and I cried.

America was different. America is different. I don’t know anyone in the States who owned an African grey parrot or played with gorillas. America was “other” to me. In many ways, it still is.

And then one day I saw a bird unlike any other my African eyes had seen before. It’s black frame was iridescent. As it moved its black speckled feathers sang out in green, purple and blue tones. The starling became my favorite American bird.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the starling was not native to America! In 1890, according to Noah Strycker, an eccentric pharmacist from New York introduced several European birds to the United States. One by one the other birds died out, except the starling. They took to their new culture, skillfully adapting to their new environment, even learning to mimic the sounds of twenty native birds. Today there are over 120 million starlings in North America from those original transplanted few.

No wonder I was drawn to these birds! They are third culture birds just as I was a third culture kid! They came from a different place but rooted themselves in a new country, adapting to their sights and sounds to be like their new home.

In a way my parents, and other pioneer church planters, were like the first starlings carried into a strange land. In their transplanted hearts they translated the blessing that must be sung in every tongue among every tribe and people (Genesis 12.1-3). They left their homes, their cultures and their worlds behind. Today, countless sons and daughters have grown to maturity in Equatorial Guinea and across the continent, singing the gospel in languages like Fang, Kikuyu and Serer. And from that small island the good news is spreading out as a new generation is migrating across Africa and Europe.

Today, a new generation of church planters are being born in Senegal. In our lives, moved by the same rhythm, arm and arm toward the vision of an increasingly redeemed and transformed Africa. Our dream to see these two fledging churches in Dakar produce one hundred new churches in the capital city, and another two hundred churches throughout the country, seems impossible! But it only seems impossible because it’s never been done before. 120 million starlings in America seemed impossible in 1890. A thriving indigenous church in Equatorial Guinea seemed impossible 1980.

Churches filled with redeemed and transformed Wolof, Pulaar and Jola followers of Jesus only seems impossible today because they do not exist today. Today, we can only believe! We can only open ourselves to the lordship of the One who transplants us into the lives and lostness of unreached peoples between the house of God and the ruins of this spiritually lost world, believing that as we worship Him among them He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it (Genesis 12.8, Philippians 1.5-6, 12).

Thank you for sending our family, as your personal link from the local church to the unreached, like transplanted starlings into new countries, languages and cultures. Thank you for exercising eternal influence praying for our family, our African brothers and sisters, and the lost.

articulating arrhythmias

There it is, my racing heart. It’s that slightly up-ticking beat tapping a metronome in my throat as I maneuver my way across an airport. It’s the reminder that in the center of my chest is an ever-pumping, never-ceasing machine driving me forward, propelling me onward.

How often do we remember our hearts?

Day and night our hearts work and rest, through all the ups and downs of life, the joys and pains, sufferings and celebrations, pulsing and pushing. Too often we only become aware of our hearts when they skip a beat or alter their well-worn rhythms. Slowly over time our hearts can shift out of sync, rush too fast, pace too slow or burst into traumatic and terrifying action.

What do our hearts beat for?

In the early days of this new year, my heart quickens once again in the words of Thomas à Kempis as he challenges me to emulate Christ. He says, “Every day we should renew our resolve to live a holy life, and every day we should kindle ourselves to a burning love, just as if today were the first day of our new life in Christ.” In those short and simple words I am undone. He articulates the arrhythmias of my heart and I long to be once again in the first days of new life with Jesus.

What a wonderful thought! To be at the altars of long forgotten days where we met with Jesus. To feel the burning in our chests as we hear His voice speaking life and truth (Luke 24.32). To feel again His redeeming and transforming power coursing through out veins. And how glorious it is that as we fix our eyes on Jesus above the waves of our chaotic waters we see Him there! He is standing in all power calling us to Himself, calling us to re-embrace our first love for truly He is the Son of God (Matthew 14:22-33; Revelation 2.4).

As we find Jesus there and the animation of His truth, we see on the horizon the thousands yet lost in darkness, the millions who have yet to hear His name or know His love…

What do our hearts beat for?

While the pulse in our veins keep time we must steel our finite and frail resolve to ever fan into the flame Christ’s love. Jesus sees our arrhythmias. He hears the skipped beats and missed opportunities. And though our flesh and hearts may fail, we rejoice together with those who find Christ in our witness that He is our strength and portion forever (Psalm 73.26).

fullsizeoutput_47a.jpeg

a drumbeat legacy

Has your heart ever burned with a sense of urgency? An urgency like a drum beating an ever increasing rhythm, a timpani reverberating deeper and deeper in your soul? Even from a great distance, even from the far side of the horizon, you can hear the repeating beat pulling at your heart. Three young American missionaries sensed that kind of soul-deep burning as they set foot in Senegal for the first time.

In the early days of January 1949 H.B. Garlock (serving as the director over Assemblies of God World Missions in Africa), along with Harold Jones and Henry Dahlberg set out from the desert heat of Koudougou, Upper Volta (the country that would become Burkina Faso) with a fixed aim to arrive in Dakar, the capital of French West Africa.

In Dakar, their hearts burned as they looked out on the lostness of the men, women and children of Senegal, like sheep without a shepherd, a people on the verge of eternity with no hope beyond the sunset. Long discussions with various officials placed unfamiliar new names of people groups and places in their hands, cities like Kaolack, Tambacounda and Kedougou, peoples like the Wolof, Serer and Pulaar. In every name they found unreached cities filled with people unaware of the good news.

In prayer these young missionaries sent word back to the United States with a simple message, a beating rhythm: “We must act now.” Urgency gripped their souls as they looked at the lost people around them with no access to the gospel. Deeper and deeper the missionary call of God stirred within them: “Let us enter now, NOW. Tomorrow may be too late.”

But the door to Senegal was not open yet. These men left Dakar praying that the Lord would open the way for Assemblies of God missionaries to enter the country, but no access was granted. The door seemed closed and for a time the drumbeat seemed to disappear. What others could not see was that the Lord was stirring deep within the heart of another young missionary couple, learning beside Jones and Dahlberg in Burkina Faso. Although the door remained shut, Charles and Mary Greenaway continued to pray, interceding for the lost people and cities of Senegal, patiently listening to the rhythm of the Holy Spirit as they served the Lord in the heart of the West African desert.

Waiting for an Open Door

After 7 years the day came in 1956 when Greenaway was called to make a hurried journey across West Africa to meet with the French High Commissioner to receive a temporary two-year visa to begin a new work in Senegal. The missionary couple was also restricted from the capital city of Dakar or Koalack, which was the most populous region of the country at that time. In spite of the limitations and ticking clock Charles and Mary were overjoyed and hurriedly packed up their family and set to work in pace with the urgency the Lord had built in their hearts over their many years of intercession.

The compassionate ministry of early Assemblies of God missionaries had softened the heart of the government officials. Charles and Mary sought to serve whole people loving lepers, praying for broken bodies and establishing schools. The sincere expression of faith and compassion in the lives of the Greenaways and a small growing community of missionaries turned the temporary visa into a long term invitation.

The Greenaways captured how important it was to work arm in arm with the growing national churches that God was raising up in Africa. Along with their children they brought two young energetic pastors from the Mossi people group of Burkina Faso, Kenga Zongo and Etienne Miningou, to share the good news of Jesus to the unreached peoples of Senegal.

Within three years, other young American missionaries were able to join the multinational church planting team growing from the first church in Tambacounda where the first followers of Jesus were baptized to another church planted in Kedougou. The growing spirit-led community rejoiced as the restrictions were lifted and a new church plant began in the populous city of Kaolack. Following the rhythm of the Holy Spirit the American and Mossi missionaries saw the Lord bring a new Senegalese church to life.

A Long Preparation

Since July 1956 when the Greenaways moved to Senegal, numerous Assemblies of God missionaries have responded to the call to see the unreached peoples of the small, influential country reached with the gospel. Like the Moravian missionaries before William Carey heard the call and labored for decades with little results in India, these generations of Assemblies of God missionaries toiled in Senegal believing a great awakening would come. They faithfully cleared the field, piece by piece, rock by rock, slowly paving the way for the way of the Lord. One by one men, women and children have slowly planted 70 churches across the country.

Compassionate ministries to lepers and infirm peoples have led to confessions of faith. Power encounters where spirits of disease and oppression cast out have led to redeemed and transformed lives. American missionaries working arm and arm with other African missionaries and the Senegalese national church have led to the greater presence of God among the lost. Out of the small villages and towns of Tambacounda and Kedougou the Lord was raising up men and women passionate for the Lordship of Christ to be made known in the lostness of their people.

Today, Assemblies of God World Missions has a handful of missionaries working alongside the national church in multiple ways to reach the unreached with the good news of Jesus Christ and to plant churches in every city and village. For over twenty years, Bryan and Laura Davis have compassionately served the Senegalese establishing new schools in far off places so that a new generation can find success in life and, more importantly, find Jesus. Jeremy and Jenilee Goodwin also work with children, equipping and training the national church to reach whole families with the good news of Jesus Christ.

As your personal link from the local church to the unreached Elise and I are working with the national church to plant churches with a vision to see 100 new churches among the millions of men, women and children in the capital city of Dakar that will plant another 200 new churches throughout the country. The national church has also been emboldened by the Spirit of Christ, stepping out in faith, to set an inspired goal of planting 200 new churches in the next five years.

The missionary team of Senegal today is catching the beat of God’s missionary soul-rhythm; the deep reverberations that Garlock and Greenaway felt, believing for a great awakening in Senegal, for tomorrow may be too late.

Awaiting an Awakening

But how do you wait for a great awakening? How do you count time in the intervals waiting for the great outpouring from heaven?

You wait in prayer, interceding for the witnesses laboring in the field and the lost still unreached with the good news. Never underestimate the truth that you have eternal impact when you pray for missionaries and the lost. Keep praying. Keep praying for the unreached peoples like the Wolof and the Pulaar. Keep praying for the great cities like Dakar and Koalack.

You wait in work, witnessing to the men, women and families that God has placed around you. He may be calling a child to serve among the unreached giving her life as a missionary moved forward through your obedience. He may be calling you.

You wait in giving, generously joining what He speaks to you with the time and treasure of countless other Christians, seeing that little is much when God is in it. Missionaries are able to buy plots of land to plant churches, drill wells and compassionately serve the lost through your sacrificial giving.

The task is yet unfinished. Millions in Senegal who are still waiting to hear for the first time there is freedom from sin and shame and eternal life in the love of Jesus Christ. Every day, every drumbeat brings us a little closer to revival, a little closer to heaven.

fullsizeoutput_3153.jpeg