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.