God blessed our trip, this was how we experienced it. In Gambia and Senegal there is a small but growing group of brothers and sisters, a congregation that wants to endeavour in faith. They wish to have more services and they want to hear the gospel.
Jukka Kolmonen and I left for a mission trip to Gambia and Senegal on 3rd December 2015.
On Saturday morning we got up after a good night’s sleep. Our afternoon program included services in Kerser, which were organized by a brother named Yusuf. His grandfather is the head imam of the Muslims in Gambia. We sang an opening song from the American songbook. Then I kept a sermon from the Shepherd’s Psalm 23.
God is our refuge in all situations of life. We felt that the listeners had a hunger for the Holy Word. After Jukka’s sermon we had a discussion on the fundamental questions of righteousness of faith. The services had a warm atmosphere.
On Sunday morning we woke up at around 7. I remembered that the Independence Day was being celebrated in our home country. Three home services were included in the afternoon program. At the first services, which were held at brother Alfons’ home in the village of Busumbala, there were fifteen children and six adults present.
I read a text from Chapter 6 (verses 5–13) of the Gospel of St Matthew, which includes the Lord’s Prayer. The hosting couple asked me to serve in French because the wife understood it better than English. And I did so. The service guests listened attentively. Most of them also asked to hear the gospel for themselves.
Jukka’s sermon was from the Gospel of St John (3:1–16). It dealt with Nicodemus’ visit to Jesus at night. Only a person who has been born again can understand what the Spirit reveals. Our temporal wisdom will not reach that understanding.
The following services were kept in the village of Gunkujama Jataja, where we visited the village chief Algalo’s home. The yard was full of playing children who welcomed us cheerfully. When the children began to make too much noise, the village chief, who was sitting on the porch, scolded them. Immediately there was complete silence. The authority of the chief was absolute. We held services on the porch of his house.
I served in English and Alagie translated the sermon into the local language. In my speech I discussed God’s plan for the salvation of mankind (John 3:16).
Sunday's third service was also held in Gunkujama Jataja. We gathered at the home of a sister named Tress Gomez. Her husband Francis Gomez was not at home. He works far away, being separated from his large family for months at a time, which requires a lot of effort from the family members. The home and the yard were fenced by a stone wall, which protected the family’s sheep, pigs and chickens that walked around the yard during the service.
Jukka served, addressing especially to the mother of the family. His text was Psalm 139, where the writer admires the miraculousness of God's creation and also points out that the Father sees the distress of His child and knows his or her everyday needs. The mother was moved by our visit and was thankful for the comforting words.
On Monday we went to the home of Alagie's mother, where his three little sisters were present. The youngest sister also came home from school with her backpack. One of the older girls worked hard around the clock selling items at the market for their income, as other big girls also did.
Alagie's mother brought an aluminum platter full of food: rice and fried catfish, which was really tasty. We ate sitting on the floor. All the men took food from the platter with their right hand, while Jukka and I used a spoon.
On Tuesday we visited Wally Mbenga in his house. This 40-year-old man, a former Muslim, told us of his faith, which is of great importance to him. Wally joined us when, later in the cooling afternoon, we went to Jabangi to Mendy’s home, which is located in a rural environment. Chickens, pigs and ducks also walked on this yard.
Jukka started the service and spoke from the Book of Isaiah (40:5–8). The sermon explained about the shortness and fragility of human life and instructed us to be always ready and to remember that God's word is everlasting.
My text (Matthew 5:1–13) was from the Sermon on the Mount. The main themes of the speech were: “blessed are the poor in the spirit, for they will be comforted” and “righteousness of faith teaches us to keep a good and clean conscience”.
The English language issue of Siionin Lähetyslehti for African mission work aroused a lot of interest after the services. Schoolgirls were skillfully drawing pictures on the smooth sand.
On Thursday morning Jukka went jogging and met a Muslim man. At first they discussed business, but then they moved on to matters of faith. The man gave his name and phone number and said he would be like to hear more.
During the same round of jogging Jukka met a woman and also discussed faith with her. She was a Muslim, and Jukka explained to her how profoundly merciful God is. Finally Jukka asked if she wanted to believe her sins forgiven. She promised to do so. She gave her phone number, which Jukka then gave to Alagie.
When going to the third place for services we had a problem: the visiting president’s driving route crossed ours and many of the bigger streets were closed. When darkness was already falling, we finally arrived at Mendy’s home in Lamas. Jukka spoke first from St. John (10:1–4) about the Good Shepherd and about the example of a child’s faith.
My speech was from St. John (3:16). I explained about the essence of the triune God, the reconciliation by the Son and the work of the Spirit in the congregation, which calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies people to become children of God everywhere.
There were about twenty local guests plus those who had come in our car. Approximately half of them were children. The services, which had a nice atmosphere, ended when it was already dark.
On Friday the mobile phone woke us up at six o’clock. We were to go to Mbour. We headed to the riverside, where the ferries departed. The ferry crossed the river in less than an hour and we arrived in Barra. After a while we were at the border of Senegal and our passports were stamped. We continued our travel to Mbour, and in the afternoon we crossed the river one more time.
While waiting, we watched the draught of a seine net close to the shore. The effort was successful: five big and a couple of smaller containers were filled up. The catch included all sorts of fish, as in the parable in the Bible.
Saturday morning dawned quite cool, which meant +20 degrees Celsius. In the afternoon, the temperature rose to over +33 degrees. We left for the service place, which had been rented from a local school. Philip Sene greeted us in the school yard. The large number of service guests consisted mainly of school-aged children. There were about 10 to 15 adults.
In the services, Jukka read his text from the Acts (2:1–3), which tells of the miracle of the first Pentecost. God shed his Holy Spirit in a visible way and the gospel was heard in many languages. Also in these services we preached and interpreted in three languages.
When leaving the school, a young man sat down on the front seat of our car for a moment. Alagie told us that he was interested in our faith and asked me to explain things to him in French. After our short conversation, I asked if he wanted to believe his sins forgiven: “Veux tu croire tes pechés pardonnés?” He wanted to believe and we blessed him. Alagie promised to take down his contact details so that he could become a member of the congregation.
On Sunday, 13th December, we left around noon towards Dakar. As the distance was only about 75 kilometers, we soon reached our destination. For our dinner we got a delicious homemade meal of chicken and rice.
In the early evening, we began the services on a roof terrace, from which we had a beautiful view over the city. There were about 25 service guests gathered, mostly young adults. I served in French from the 5th chapter of the Galatians, which speaks of the fruits of the Spirit and, on the other hand, the works of the flesh. Even after receiving the gift of faith, we constantly struggle with our old portion and grace is our teacher.
Jukka spoke briefly about the life of Moses (Hebr. 11:13–16). Moses’ choice was to follow the flock of God instead of striving for temporal credit. I translated the sermon into French, as this was the language most of the listeners understood.
We continued to discuss for a moment and the young men asked us some questions. Many of them had their own Bibles, and I noticed that some of them seemed know the scriptures well. The locals hoped that they would get more services to Dakar. They had a hunger for God’s Word.
When leaving for the airport, we thanked the host family for their hospitality. We were accompanied to the airport by a carload of people: the father, a little sister and a brother. The farewell was like for state visitors – yet we are members of the same Kingdom. Not as masters but as servants.
Text and photos: Ilkka Hakulinen
Translation: English group of the SRK Mission Language Project / M.A., A.H., K.H., T.S., S-L.L.
The text was published in Finnish in online Päivämies on 18 Dec. 2015
Poikkeusolojen vuoksi radion ja netin välityksellä lähetetyt Suviseurat saivat kuulijoiden palautteen perusteella positiivisen vastaanoton. Historiallisten Suviseurojen järjestelyt sujuivat suunnitelmien mukaisesti, eikä suurempia häiriöitä ilmennyt. Seurojen keskeinen sanoma välittyi kaikkialle maailmaan ja seurapuheet käännettiin yhdeksälle kielelle.