During the month of August, a team of seven people from our staff and volunteers, including a family with two young boys, travelled from Hong Kong to Senegal, West Africa to participate in the Planting Together campaign. This is the fourth year we, Gateway, are involved and we are overwhelmingly amazed by all the things the Lord did during this outreach… there are so many stories to tell and to be thankful to the Lord for!
This is an extract of the report by Curtis Clewett, from Spain, who is leading the Planting Together initiative.
A Matter of Apostolic Passion…
By Curtis Clewett
Planting Together began as a three-year project to take young leaders to a hard, untamed frontier, a place where they could test their faith and leadership skills, “not building on the foundations of others.” The fruit has been so astonishing, we haven’t been able to stop!
It seems we have stumbled into something God wants to do. We have been invited to be part of something outside our plans, catching a bit of what Floyd McClung, a former Youth With A Mission leader, called, “Apostolic Passion,” a willingness to suffer in order to go to places where Jesus is not yet known or worshipped. Hold on tight as we take you out with us on the latest chapter of this amazing journey.
Even the Best Laid Plans
Our veteran preparation team had just finished arranging transport, housing, food, government meetings and other logistics in record time. During our final meal together, we got a phone call that we didn’t expect: our venue for the orientation camp had cancelled! Not too difficult except that more than 80 people from 19 nations would start arriving the next day! Oh, and the school we had reserved for early arrivers wasn’t available, either!
So began our 2017 outreach to Senegal. The list of challenges became so long at one point: important medicines were confiscated at the airport; the Beijing embassy stalled visas for Hong Kong team until literally the day before their flights, food problems, transport delays, and then Dr. Soh, our Senegalese doctor who normally manages all aspects of the medical team, was not able to come. We knew that either we were way off track or really good things must be in store for the outreach.
Another camp venue was found, customs official became our friend and released medicines as we talked about football, visas were granted just on time, our doctors and nurses increased their responsibilities, and prayers were being answered almost as fast as we could formulate them.
The Orientation Camp
We gathered in our new venue: a residence hotel south of Dakar, close to the beach, with air conditioning and a pool! Only one of three air cons actually worked so some people got early practice for the heat and sweat of the planting zone. A highlight was the participation of 20 Senegalese teenagers. For years we have been praying that somehow our presence in this nation would spur the development of local ministry expressions. Gislain Bora, a recent graduate of a KKI leadership school in Mali had gathered a gang of teenagers who came marching into the hotel gardens, chanting by African drumbeat, an unforgettable moment.
Their energetic dancing and singing would inspire all of us for the remainder of the outreach.
We had some incredibly memorable moments: Africa Day, always a highlight as the African teams demonstrate their amazing cultures to the rest of us. 10-year-old Grace from Togo brought tears to the eyes of Arjan, our tough customs officer from Holland when she thanked him for pumping so much filtered water and “saving our lives.”
After hearing a message about Apostolic Passion and understanding that passion means suffering which seems to always precede breakthrough, young Julian piped up, “I’m ready to suffer!”
The Passion Begins…
It took five hours by bus, three hours waiting for 4x4s to shuttle us by dirt tracks to the planting zone and another couple hours to make the trips back and forth to the end of the pavement. Our last group rolled into Mbar Toubab at sunset. We enjoyed a nice Senegalese dinner and then it was time to prepare for bed. Mosquito nets sagged and a fresh hatch of moths made sleep scarce for many the first night, but nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of this crew!
The next morning, armed with cutters and gloves we were out in the field by 8:30 am. 1,500 trees later, everyone had their first taste of “Apostolic Passion”. They would plant nearly 10,000 trees before heading back to Dakar.
The next day our medical clinic was up and running. Our team of three doctors and seven nurses eventually attended a thousand patients over the following three days.
Playgrounds Open the Heart of the Village
Meanwhile, Andreas from KKI Germany patiently searched out local officials to approve plans for new play equipment for their school. His speciality is constructing playgrounds in primitive zones of the world using available materials. He knew the importance of getting everyone involved to truly have ownership of the project. At last, permissions from School Secretary, Mayor and Chef du Village were received. They found some unused telephone poles and the mayor even donated the cement.
With only 3 days to dig holes, pour concrete and erect posts in searing heat, it would take a real team effort and a little more suffering to get it done. Everyone pitched in, including the kids.
After speeches and congratulations, we seated the Chef du Village and another local dignitary on the swingset for the first swing. You should have seen the smile on their faces! Another incredible step into the heart of these people whose verbal language we may never speak, but who understand well the vocabulary of sacrificial service.
Dinner at the house of Cornelius
Many know the story of Cornelius in the book of Acts. Peter, divinely encouraged by a dream, accepted an invitation to the Roman Centurion’s home, off-limits for any Jew. When he arrived, Cornelius had gathered his entire household to hear the Apostle’s message.
Last year, we met a young marabout (pronounced “MAR-a-boo”), basically a Muslim witch doctor and spiritual leader over the area. We engaged in a truly unique conversation with him, presenting the basics of the Gospel and sensing that God was speaking in a remarkable way to this young man’s heart.
He showed up again this year with another marabout and later invited us to dinner at his house. All the Africans were very uncomfortable about accepting this invitation. After all, marabouts do secret rites with monkey bones and accept payment for their services, often manipulating the populace fearful of their spiritual powers. True, yet it appeared to be a divinely opened door into the centre of village spirituality.
After a welcome drink of partially fermented milk with mint spice (it was actually pretty good!), we got down to business. “This is my father, over there are my two brothers, and here are my cousin and my sister’s husband,” he began. “I have brought them all here because I want them to hear the things you told me last year. Can we please continue that conversation?” Shades of Cornelius! They pulled out their mobile phones to record every word. Surreal!
Nearly 10,000 trees planted, 1,000 patients attended, 90 kids coming to our special children’s program and a swingset, seesaw, soccer goals and volleyball court left behind. All in all, another amazing year.
Just to see the joy on the faces of these young Fulani children and know that we are bringing a little bit of light into an area that has never heard the Gospel, is an enormous privilege. It takes Apostolic Passion to get there, but all of us involved receive a much greater Apostolic Blessing when we’re through. The Gospel preached clearly by word to key leaders and even more clearly by deed to everyone.
With thanks for everything that was done in 2017, and special thanks to Diego Servant for the spectacular pictures, we are looking forward to the next Planting Together Outreach in 2019. We will spend a year to inspect infrastructure improvements and recruit for teams to go to up to three different areas! Why not start planning now to come and experience the Apostolic Passion and Blessing in Planting Together 2019? We have a place for you!