from Doc Milroy…
My return to Senegal with a small team of six after a two-year hiatus was filled with both excitement and fear. It did not disappoint. The excitement to see the people I have grown to love and the joy of sharing their language, culture, and food in the name of Jesus was fulfilled. The fear in struggling through rusty greetings in French and two African languages and the challenges of third world medicine was equally realized.
After a long and uneventful day of travel to Dakar (including a ten-hour layover in Washington, DC and an amazing visit to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum), we arrived in Dakar at 5:45 a.m. local time. Customs went smoothly—thank you, Lord! We drove straight to Thies from the airport, approximately 90 minutes to our base camp at Hotel Massa Massa. We had breakfast, slept, and prepped overnight bags for the villages until team meetings at 3:00 p.m. Our meeting consisted mainly of language reviews and cultural training, especially for Dawn, the newbie. We exchanged money, had dinner and prayer time. It was surreal to hear the Muslim call to prayer playing loudly over the city from our roof top as we prayed to the one True God….Yesuh!
Sunday started with one of the best omelettes I’ve ever had with many/orange juice and strong Nescafé. We loaded in the “bus” and drove about two hours to our beloved village of Ndjemane for a day of worship in the church and relational time with our friends and namesakes. This time is best summarized by 1 Thess. 2:8:
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
The time of worship was lead by Pastor Benoit of Ndjemane, Pastor Antoine Diouf from Babak and Pastor Timothy who helped plant the church in Ndjemane with Benoit. Pastor Timothy brought the word in French and it was sequentially translated in Serere by Yassine (ex Muslim translator) and Charles (Woloff) in English. What a beautiful picture of Heaven as He was praised in three languages at a time and singing hadn’t even started! A highlight of the time was the prominence of the youth in the church. The worship in singing was led by 30 of the youths. Their voices and enthusiasm were infectious. Our Lord was praised that day! After a time of open testimony, the service ended and we went to the hut areas to greet, mingle and see our friends. I was able to connect with Ablye Kama my namesake and play a little soccer with him and friends.
Dinner in the village around 3:00 was the vegetables, fish, and couscous we have grown to love. We were graciously hosted. We returned to Massa Massa for a good and cool nights sleep before 48 hours of grueling medical clinics and sleeping in tents back in the village.
Days 3/4: Village medical clinic days
Yikes! As a doctor, I enter these days with fear and humility. No matter what my training and experience (very little in Africa, really) nothing fully prepares you for what you may see here. The roller coaster of patients—ranging from “I can help this,” to “I have no resources to help this,” to “I have no idea what this is”—was fast and furious. This year, thankfully, most things for me were pretty straightforward. However, there were definitely some kids that I saw that broke my heart in my helplessness. Please pray the steps we set in motion will yield some ultimate help for them. The clinics went smoothly with the great help of the team from Barthimee Hospital, where we get our supplies. and the awesome pharmacy team and nursing help from the veteran, Sheri! We saw about 140 on Monday (Market Day, so less busy) and 180 on Tuesday.
Fire in the Village. Talk about a clinic event! One of the grass huts caught on fire a few hundred yards away. Huge flames! It was amazing to see hundreds of villagers sprint to the scene from many compounds to assist. This type of fire can devastate a compound of 20 or more huts in no time and spread to adjacent compounds. In fact the fence did catch on fire in the next compound, but the fire was contained. Thank you, Lord!
After an exhausting but fulfilling second day of medical clinics, Dr Joe and I returned to Massa Massa with the Barthimee team to prep and rest and shower for a day of working at Barthimee Hospital with Dr. Adamson, the medical director/anesthesiologist, on Day 4. The rest of the team stayed in the village another night and were going to Ngascopp, another village similar to Ndjemane, which is early in the process of a growing relationship.
Multilingual prayer and worship time! Village nights often include an evangelistic “movie”, but the sound equipment and generator were messed up. Instead we had a time of prayer with our team, the Village church leaders, the youth, and many of the believers—more than 50 people. It was an awesome time and such a blessing. The night was pitch black; the only light was an amazingly bright moon. We were kneeling on braided mats in and among the huts with a fire close by us. It was like a back drop from a movie. The time of sharing and prayer was sweet. After topics of prayer were discussed the villagers simultaneously and spontaneously prayed out loud. The praying was done out loud both in Serere, Woloff, French and yes, English! The voices murmuring, praying and praising in the dark were like incense to our Savior! It is the custom in Ndjemane to be on your knees for prayer showing humility before our King!
The tents were hot, very dusty, and zippers didn’t zip, and but it’s part of the experience. Being close to the villagers is the key.
Dr. Joe and I met at Barthimee Hospital to do rounds on the inpatients with Dr. Adamson. Pray for him and Barthimee. They do amazing things with their resources. They share the gospel in some way with all the patients that come through. Operation Christmas Child boxes are given throughout the year when kids come in for their visits! After rounds, I spent some time in the immunization clinic and consulting on some babies. As an aside….there are NO VACCINE FEARS here as the Senegalese have seen first hand the miracles of modern day vaccines that our country takes for granted and is even hostile towards.
Dr Joe performed some ultrasounds on high risk OB patients and gave some impromptu lectures to the midwives at Barthimee. Other than an unexpected exposure to formalin gas—yikes—a story for another day—the time at Barthimee was productive.
Our team reunited Wednesday night at Massa Massa to catch up and share our day and eat good French cuisine again. Yay for escargot, frog legs and creme brûlée!
Beer-Sheba! What an amazing agricultural project and discipleship training ministry here. In partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, this is a project that teaches effective farming techniques to Serere villagers in an onsite, dormitory style facility on 250 acres of fenced-in farming land. They are disciples with daily classes and are trained to take the gospel back to their villages and both try and teach the farming principles as well as live out the Gospel to their Muslim family as men of integrity. The farming success is amazing as well as the dramatic results with simple fencing of land to keep animals and cattle from ravaging the foliage etc. See more about this project here.
Our team members, Gene and Cheryl Toomb’s son, Aaron, is one of the main directors for this project. They have horses, cattle, pigs, goats, chickens and a full garden that is sustaining the produce needs for the 50 or so residents. They dug a well in a location that the surveyors said no water existed based on a dream the director had and a permanent water source was tapped into at 90 meters. The drilling team were blown away as at first they ridiculed and said you are wasting your money drilling here. When water gushed forth they praised Yesuh!
This visit ended the main agenda for the week. The Toombs and Cheryl’s sister, Dawn, stayed with their kids and will spend another two weeks with family. Leo, Dr. Joe and I traveled two hours back to Dakar and had dinner with missionaries Ahmet and Alexia, who minister in Dakar full time. They hosted us for dinner, showers and allowed us a place of rest before our flight at 0130 on Friday.
Our travel, customs, security etc went well to the glory of our Heavenly Father!
Travel and return home. As I don’t sleep well on airplanes, it is often a good time to reflect, especially on these red eye flights when 90% of the travelers are asleep and it’s dark with the jet engines roaring. I was grateful for this time.
Our week was full and rewarding. God was faithful to our team and He clearly prepared our way and the hearts of those we encountered.
Please continue to pray for the believers in the villages of Ndjemane and Ngascopp and surrounding areas. Please pray for the bold pastors Timothy, Antione Diouf, Benoit, Antione Jione, Docor, and the staff at Mission Inter Senegal who coordinate all our trips on the ground in Senegal. Pray for the youth and the Ndjemane church leaders as they see the investment in raising up the youth to be disciples. They are the future of what God is doing in their village!
All praise be to our Lord and King Jesus! He is risen and alive indeed! Amen.