During the month of August, a small team of 3 single people and a family with two young boys travelled from Hong Kong to Senegal, West Africa to participate in the Planting Together campaign. This is their story.
After battling for weeks to get a couple Mainland Chinese people join our team, dealing with visas and finances, none of them were able to come. So it was a difficult thing to deal with as we were convinced this year was the year we would bring Mainland Chinese with us to Africa. But God had something else in mind.
We also thought this year would see a larger number of people going, from HK and other places, but we ended up being only 3 singles and a family with two young boys from Hong Kong, joining a total of about 30 people from Spain, England, Germany, Mali, Gambia and Senegal.
Another challenge that happened right before the trip is the sudden excitement of the media towards Ebola, spreading fear in the families of some of our team members, and we had to contend very strongly, trusting God that He would be our protector and our guide.
When we arrived in Senegal, we realized the other teams from Europe and Africa and encountered the same challenge and that our total numbers were 1/3 of last year’s. We were confronted by many challenges, which resulted in many schedule changes, pushing us to be more spontaneous and more flexible.
After a really meaningful orientation camp in Thies, our departure to the planting zone was delayed by 4 days because the rains didn’t come yet at that point. Without rain, you can’t plant.
However, we saw God’s hand behind that as we have some real meaningful opportunities to do outreach in the city of Thies.
What impressed me the most has to be the teaching during our training camp. I truly learned more about God (and myself), in a more biblical and personal way. Things have been different for me since I came back from AfricaRebekah – Hong Kong
The highlight for our team was during the extra days we stayed in Thies.
We had a day where teams were able to pray and ask God what we should do during the day. God spoke to us about the street kids (Talibés) who beg for their food and to provide income to the local religious leaders.
So we went to buy some good food and God led us toward 4 boys (8-12 years-old) to whom we gave the food. We were so shocked when we saw what they did… The first thing they did, was to call their friends (also Talibés) and shared the food with them. It was a great lesson for our little team!- Yohann, Hong Kong Team
With no rain to plant, we sent off the medical team ahead to the village of Mbar Toubab, where for three days they provided free basic medical attention to the villagers.
The last day, over 350 people lined up in their “Sunday best” clothing, two hours before starting time, to be the first to receive attention. For 10 hours, they stood, sat and squatted in whatever shade they could find. Probably only one in 20 had any treatable sickness, but they all got pills, the valued prize worth their wait. An unforgettable experience living among the color and chaos of West Africa, receiving hundreds of gestures of genuine appreciation, despite not speaking anything near their mother tongues.
This area of Senegal is a true frontier; most if not all of the villagers smiling and clasping our hands, have never heard of Jesus. To the north… the nearest mission station is a hundred kilometers distant. Turning to the east, 200 km, to the west 75 and the closest missionaries have come to the south is another 100 km. Yet we are here and we are friends with sheepherders and elders whose weather-beaten faces peek through shiny tunics and swirling turbans.
They belong to the Fulani tribe, a people group of 40 million stretching from here to the far reaches of Sudan. The traditionally nomadic Fulanis were the first to take the zeal of Islam from Arabia and extend it’s domination across Northern Africa. Today, they are still awaiting the translation of the Old Testament into their language.- Dr. Soh, Medical Team. (He is a born again Fulani and a missionary doctor)
Finally it rained and the rest of the team arrived in Mbar Toubab. For 5 days we planted together with the villagers over 11,500 trees. Despite of all the challenges and the extreme weather, we saw how worth all the effort was in the amazing times we were able to share life together with the villagers.
The same villagers and army staff that last year were very shy when interacting with us, looking closely at us like second guessing our intentions and only loosening up a bit the very last day, where totally the opposite from the first second we stepped back into their village this time. They received us in such a warm way! They remembered our names, tried to talk to us using the few words they know in English, big smiles all the time, like if we were life-long friends.
But, when they saw our 9 and 5 year old boys… they hearts melted. Our kids from day one helped planting trees, work hard side by side with the adults, where tender to them, hugged them, played with their children, pretended to speak their local language, wore their costumes… they had so much fun. So many barriers and prejudices where broken. It’s difficult to measure the impact in the heart of this community. We will only find out when we are in Heaven…- Diego, Dad of the family from Hong Kong
Is it worth it? On my last night in Mbar Toubab we showed videos to the Senegalese staff and explained just a little more of why people would fly from Spain, Hong Kong and wherever to serve in their fields. Long conversations went far into the night and several curious fulani asked to receive prayer. One of the nurses, a Muslim, asked our team leader how to confess Christ and later did so while planting trees. We were told about a young women and her daughter from near Mbar Toubab who apparently observed our crazy international camaraderie last year. The daughter contracted a mysterious illness that paralyzed both her legs. They travelled to a Christian hospital 5 hours south where the attending physician said that her only hope was prayer. After four sessions of calling on the Name above all Names, the daughter was completely healed. Both she and her mother have become followers of Jesus. We’re tracking them down to encourage these first fruits of the investment of the nations in an end-of-a-desert-track place called Mbar Toubab.- Curtis Clewett – Spain. Planting Together Executive Team
So, now we’re looking forward to next year, praying again about who should go…
For more pictures of this amazing outreach, head over to Facebook.