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Friday, January 9, 2015

TRAVEL TEAM HOMEWARD BOUND

Around 3:30 pm this afternoon (PST), 11:30 pm Senegal time, our Travel Team boards a flight in Dakar for home. They're expected to arrive at Sea-Tac Airport a little before 12:30 pm tomorrow (Saturday), after a brief layover in Paris--a journey of more than 21 hours and 6,000 miles. Talk about jet lag!

SENEGAL15 has also been a journey of faith, love and God's presence, as members of our Team will share with us once they're back home and rested.

Here are a few highlights from yesterday and earlier today:

Thursday, 01/08
Our Travel Team drove about 20 minutes from their guest house in Thies (Chess), where they've been staying this week, and visited the Monastery of Keur Moussa (House of Moses). The monastery is known for its outstanding music (producing CDs). "And the Benedictine brothers raise all kinds of fruit and produce juices, preserves and other things (goat cheese, West African kora harps) to sell in a gift shop (on site)," says Team Member John Mason.

Since 1961 when the monastery was founded by French monks, Keur Moussa has been providing health care to the local Muslim population and distributing food to the needy. Today, almost half of the monastery's community is Senegalese. Click here for Gregorian chants by the brothers, YouTube.com.

After the morning visit to the monastery, our Team had free time. "After lunch, I went for a five-mile walk!" says John. Others rested and relaxed,  some went shopping.

Friday, 01/09
Today, our Travel Team packed up and drove to Dakar after lunch. There, they met with representatives of the ministry that handles child sponsorships for the George Flattery Christian School, located in Kaolack (see map, bottom of page), not far from Kaffrine. Then, it was off to dinner--the final meal in Senegal . . . until next trip!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

MINISTRY PARTNERS RENEW COMMITMENT

Our Travel Team has been in Thies (Chess) since Monday (01/05). It has been a time of review, refinement and renewed commitment by the ministry partnership that includes Mountain View, Adventure of Faith,  Evangelical Baptist Church of Thies (EEBT) and A.F, our local Wolof missionary.

Here's Pastor John Mason's summary of the planned meetings that occurred this past Tuesday and Wednesday (01/06 - 01/07).

 From John

John Mason, Pastor at Mountain View

I haven't written very much for a couple of days because we have been quite busy here in Thies in meetings with our ministry partners. Besides, there wasn't much to report until the meetings were completed.

The meetings ended yesterday, and I'm happy to let you know that we are all very pleased with the outcomes. The best way to summarize is to say that we candidly evaluated the past two years of ministry partnership. While we are all looking for improvements in our ministry work in Diagle (Jog-a-lay), Sorokogne (Soro-kone) and Kaffrine, everyone at the table not only took responsibility for the short-comings, but also committed to improvements that all of us agreed need to happen.
 
It has always amazed me how committee meetings, board meetings and session meetings can be moving along nicely until the conversation turns to something involving dollars and cents. It's a little like the difference between driving on a freeway and negotiating a muddy bog. While there may be progress through the bog, it's very, very slow. So we saw progress in our meetings this week, but the sessions were kind of long and ended rather late. 

And, oh yes, it was all complicated by the matter of language--two languages to be exact. The meetings were conducted simultaneously in English and French. French is the national language of Senegal (although Wolof is spoken in the villages).

This would be a good time to sing the praises of Travel Team Member Lynn Lockwood. Without her help, our meetings might have needed an additional night or two to complete. Lynn's ability to deftly move in and out of English and French was nothing short of amazing! There were other really good interpreters at the table, but Lynn's fluent French and her grasp of the intricacies of the subject matter were especially helpful in bringing our conversations to consensus.

Ministry partners meet in Thies (Chess) to plan another year of bringing God's message of hope to the Wolof people of Senegal.

Also worthy of note is the fact that our friend Corey Garrett  joined us for these meetings. He and his wife Katie work with SIM in Kaffrine and have been in Senegal since 2000 (SIM is an international Christian mission organization serving Africa, Asia and South America). Corey and Katie visited Mountain View twice in 2012-13. Corey did a fair amount of interpreting toward the end of the meetings, and he was indispensable in the whole process.  
 
To conclude, our three churches (Mountain View, Adventure of Faith and EEBT) have committed to another 12-month ministry relationship with A.F. to continue serving Kaffrine and the villages of Diagle and Sorokogne. We have also committed to better communication, and are seeking to solve some other issues (i.e., transportation to ministry locations).   

All the partners are hopeful, optimistic and grateful for the privilege of working together to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Wolof people of Senegal. Thanks be to God!

John

Monday, January 5, 2015

FARMING, LOANS AND PARABLES



 From John

 

 

John Mason, Pastor at Mountain View
One of our hopes for our relationship with the Wolof villages is to be able to help them in sustainable ways related to their business endeavors. We have experimented with micro-loans with the farmers of Diagle (Jog-a-lay) and Sorokogne (Soro-kone). But (to be frank), we have not had good results with follow up on our part, nor responsibility on the part of the farmers.

However, this week it seems something is shifting. The Mountain View Travel Team that came to Diagle a year ago made a loan of five bags of peanut seeds to the village chief. Upon our arrival this week, the chief took Todd and me aside to tell us he had good results with the loan.   

We congratulated him and asked about the possibility of reinvesting the increase with another man in the chief's family. The chief thought that was a good idea. So the original loan, which was managed well by the chief and brought a good harvest, will now be passed on to help someone else.  

Diagle Chief with Team Member Todd Leighton
In contrast, there was a second farmer last year who received a similar loan, but there was no evidence that the seeds were used by that farmer for their intended purpose. They may have been sold. We don't know. We couldn't help but think of the similarities between this real-life situation and the Parables of Jesus (Matthew 25:14 - 30, for example).

Todd and I had one final meeting with A.F. (our Wolof missionary), Adama Sene (our Wolof interpreter), the village chief and the second farmer. The chief asked if we would be willing to make another loan to this second farmer if he (the chief) guaranteed the loan. In other words, if the farmer was not able to repay the loan, the chief would repay. And once this loan was repaid, it would again be rolled over and reinvested next year with yet another interested individual.

There are a couple things about the chief's proposal that we really appreciate. First, the risk of failure (or default) will be greatly reduced by the oversight the chief is offering to provide. Not only will we follow up with the second farmer, but someone (the chief or other villager) who lives near the farmer will be aware and watching as the growing season progresses.

In addition, the proposal provides a second chance for this farmer. Rather than "get on his case" for his failure, we said we hoped this works better for him, and that he is now equipped to try again. 

This feels like an excellent mixture of grace and responsibility. Perhaps it's the start of something God will bless with increasing success.  

At the end of our meeting, I brought up the way Jesus fed 5,000 people with just two fish and fives loaves of bread. This is how God works when we are following His lead! 

John
 


Sunday, January 4, 2015

IT'S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIP

Lynn Lockwood
Finally over jet lag and feeling in the flow of life in Senegal, Travel Team Member Lynn Lockwood shares some of her impressions so far. This is her fourth trip to the area in the past seven years as a representative of Mountain View. One thing seems clear. Building relationships is at the core of these missions and at the center of Lynn's heart.

Here are some thoughts from Lynn:

Today I had a couple of great conversations with one of our interpreters, Charles Ndiaye. It made me realize how well I've come to know him and several of our friends here.

Four short trips in seven years don't seem like they would give much time to spend with others. But each trip has involved many hours of van travel, problem solving, sharing (faith) testimonies, sharing meals and worshiping together. God has granted us amazing continuity in our relationships--the relationships that have formed throughout the full eleven years Mountain View has been coming here. These local ministry partners have become good friends of mine. I love catching up on people's lives and learning from them about Senegalese life and culture.

Being in our sister village of Diagle (Jog-a-lay) has also given me a chance to see children I first met seven years ago. Today, they are teenagers! Some are even married. Every trip I recognize more faces and learn a few more names. I thank God for each piece of relationship that other Mountain View Teams have developed here, that we can build upon. This all flows over me now.

This week I tried to pick up on the seeds of friendship planted three years ago when I was last here in the village. It was exciting to see one girl I had photographed back then. We hung out every day and pledged our friendship to each other. How fun it would be, I thought, to give my young friend the photo I took of her on my last trip to the village. But when I pulled out the 3-year-old photo, we were both disappointed to see that she was barely visible, crowded out by other kids in the picture.

Happily, the story doesn't end there. Corey Garrett, friend and SIM mission worker in Kaffrine, took photos of many village residents on New Year's Day, my young friend included. Today (01/03), we got to hand a brand new portrait to this wonderful girl--no other kids in the shot, just she in full view!

I thank God for the tiny hands that shook mine today. For the voices that said my name and their own, then asked, "Friend?"

I thank God for the opportunity today to challenge a teen I've watched grow up--challenging her to continue her education and maybe teach someday. For a village elder who tutored me on the technique of peanut (a prominent village crop) shelling. She was patient and encouraging.

Most of all, I thank God for one photo and my precious young friend. May she glimpse my love. I am certainly reminded of His.

Yalla baxna! (God is good!)



Saturday, January 3, 2015

MEETING A SPONSORED CHILD

BFFs in Kaffrine
Travel Team Member Debbie Jones from Port Orchard, Washington, took time to share this touching encounter from a couple of days ago. Amazing what a small world it is, even 6,000 miles away.

I'm in Kaffrine sitting in the living room of Katie and Corey Garrett, my missionary friends. They have the best Wi-Fi around, so I'm catching up on a few work items via my laptop.

The Garrett's youngest daughter walks in with a couple of her friends. They are giggling, as girls will do when they get together, and playing some sort of game that includes singing and jumping. "These are two close friends of my daughter. They're always together," Katie tells me.  Katie points toward the smallest girl and explains that she goes to Bethesda School (a Christian school in Kaffrine). The girl was small enough that it was hard for me to believe she was 12 years old. "Very small because of malnutrition," says Katie. "Her family is one of the poorest in the area."

I watch the girls play, and even though the littlest one is skinnier and her hair color is not as it should be (a sign of deficient diet), she has a twinkle. I also see a sadness in her eyes, a small window into how hard life can be for her.

Katie tells the girls that part of my job is to take care of (child) sponsorships for Bethesda School. We ask the young girl if, by any chance, she has a sponsor. Her face brightens. She nods. Yes, indeed she is sponsored! She tells us that her sponsors send her very nice things. "They are fine, very fine gifts," she says. It is clear to me that she's quite grateful.

Back to my laptop, I start checking my database to find the name of her sponsor. I'm wondering if I know them. "Would you like for me to take your picture to give to your sponsor?" I ask her. She's pleased about the idea, but wants her two playmates to join in the fun.

I find the sponsor's name. And although I don't know them personally, I look forward to the joy of sharing the photo with them. The added blessing is that it's a family from Mountain View.

Katie adds that her daughter told this little friend the Christmas story. It's my prayer that through the influence of the Garrett family and the close bond with the Garrett's daughter, who shared the Gospel, that this young student one day will accept Christ as her personal savior.

Debbie Jones
Debbie says she will also be bringing back letters for sponsors from their respective Bethesda students. Debbie is the Sponsorship Director at GO on the Mission and the Outreach Director at Adventure of Faith Church, our local Senegal ministry partners.

Individuals and families from Mountain View sponsor 26 Bethesda students. If you are part of Mountain View and would like more details, contact the church office (360-659-7777) or stephanie@mtvpc.org.

For more information in general on child sponsorships in Senegal (and other countries), visit www.goonthemission.com.





TWO NEW PRAYER REQUESTS

14-month-old Aida needs your prayers.
Meet Aida. She's 14 months old, she lives in the village of Sorokogne (Soro-kone), and she's experiencing malnourishment to the point that she will be hospitalized on Monday (01/05).

A doctor (provided by our Travel Team) saw her today. So it looks like she will get the care she needs. But she also needs your prayers. Please pray for Aida and her family. Pray that Aida begins to eat well and flourish.

Also, Sunday night (01/04) our Team will again show the evangelistic movie, "The Solution." This time the audience will be residents of Sorokogne. Please pray that this ministry tool is well attended and stirs hearts. (Read Outdoor Movie Night in yesterday's post to learn more about the film.)

Click here to see all prayer requests.

Friday, January 2, 2015

WALKING, PRAYING AND RED LICORICE

Lynn Lockwood (l) and Kris Mason (r) take turns snuggling one of Diagle's younger residents.
As 2014 came to a close and the new year began, our Travel Team was busy. They walked from home to home in our sister village of Diagle (Jog-a-lay) to pray with each family. They showed an evangelistic film New Year's night to a crowd of more than 125. And they felt deep gratitude for the skill and insight of their interpreters.

Licorice: fun to say, even more fun to eat!
Fun and Bible stories for Wolof children were also part of the mix. "We spent the day teaching kids through fun and games about Adam and Eve," says Team Member Kristin Serniotti. "We handed out licorice, and I taught the kids how to say the word in English. They loved saying it and eating it!"





Here's how John describes the past couple of days:

 

 

 From John

John Mason, Pastor at Mountain View
Prayer Walk
Our Team began the day with prayer and a group devotional, as is our custom. Then we left for Diagle to begin a prayer walk/soap distribution project. This is something we've done on several past trips. It involves giving a gift of laundry detergent and bars of all-natural soap to each woman in the village. As we are handing the women this small gift, we ask if we may pray for them, and we ask for their specific prayer requests. Then one Team Member prays and one of our interpreters (Charles Ndiaye or Adama Sene) repeats the prayer in the Wolof language.

There are a few things I want to mention as I reflect on the prayer walks:

First, I want to emphasize how wonderful it is to have excellent interpreters as part of our Team. Both Charles and Adama are nothing short of amazing. They not only interpret for us but also help convey our mission, and they have a deep grasp of our vision for Diagle. I can't over emphasize how important this is. Of course, it would be much better if our Team could communicate directly in Wolof, but because this is not yet possible, we are continually grateful for our remarkable interpreters.

Second, even in the moderate temperatures of this season, I am aware that the prayer walk process is some of the most taxing work we do here. It's easy to get exhausted and dehydrated, even though we are merely walking through the village and praying.

After about an hour, I saw the weariness on the faces of our Team. And even though I was trying to drink enough water, I was beginning to get a little "fuzzy" in my thinking as well. As Todd (Leighton) and I were talking about this experience, I was thanking God for those of you who are constantly praying for us. I felt strengthened by this to keep going, in spite of the fuzziness!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we were hearing from some of the families in Diagle about how deeply they appreciate the relationship they have with us. One man said that he was aware that we bring a specific spiritual message that he hopes the children of Diagle grasp so that they can continue a relationship with us when they are adults.

This is an amazing openness to the Gospel. In addition, several of the women we prayed with wanted to pray for us as well--another instance of the mutuality of our relationship with the village. They're open to receiving what we have to give, and they want to give something in return.

Of course, it's likely we're still a distance from a spiritual breakthrough in Diagle. We continue to pray for the day when we see a church in the village. However, the presence of our Wolof missionary A.F. is hopefully bearing fruit as he continues to visit the village and sow seeds of the Gospel.

Outdoor Movie Night
Because of the generosity of SIM mission workers (and our friends), Corey and Katie Garrett, we were able to show an evangelistic film last night (New Year's) in Diagle. The Garrett's shared their time and equipment with us. We estimate more than 125 people saw the movie.

Before the movie began, Corey showed photos that he had taken earlier that day of Diagle folks. So, while quality Senegalese Christian music was playing in the background, those who gatherd for the movie got to see versions of themselves on the BIG SCREEN. You can imagine the delight and laughter of this remarkable, shared experience!

The main feature was "The Solution," and it is set in the country of Ivory Coast. The plot involves a family who bases their security, peace and happiness in giving sacrifices to Maribou (Islamic holy man/charlatan). When the family's life begins to fall apart, they need a new way to find what they seek. Through the testimony of some Christian friends, they find Christ and eventually lead their whole village to Christ.

While the film is set in a different African country than Senegal, the similarities to the Wolof culture are striking. And although the movie is in French, it was interpreted live by Awa N. (child evangelism worker for our ministry partner Evangelical Baptist Church of Thies), who is traveling with our Team. She was so good that we assumed her voice was part of the movie's soundtrack. She was amazing!

After the movie A.F. told everyone that we would be very happy to talk to anyone who had questions or comments. Several people were deeply affected by the story. One woman in the audience said, "I felt like I was watching my own life on the screen." 

Our Team felt that although there were not ample opportunities to talk more with everyone who saw the movie, the Gospel message was presented very clearly. We see each experience like this as another step toward the day when folks in Diagle will find it very natural and logical to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. May it be so!  Amen!

John

Schedule Change
The Travel Team has made the decision to change its itinerary a bit. They will stay one more day in Kaffrine and return to Thies (Chess) on Monday 01/05 rather than Sunday (click to see full itinerary). This gives them more time to complete their work in both Diagle and Sorokogne villages.