Ina-Kwana (good morning).
Yaya- Gajiya (how is your tiredness?)
Congratulations! You now speak the language of Hausa and you know much more about the people of West Africa than I did when I felt God’s call to go. But I am living proof that our awesome God can use literally anyone for His purpose.
It’s hard to describe what we saw to people. We saw extreme poverty. Desert as far as the eye could see. Heat in the 90’s in their cold season. Markets selling thrift store throw-a ways. A chicken on a bus. Eight goats on top of a car. The air of Matameye was saturated with campfire smoke. Plastic and other trash blew around like tumbleweeds on sandy streets. Huts made of mud bricks were common, which I imagine must have been rebuilt after each rainy season. The women working hard pounding millet all day. The older men sitting and making mats out of straw. Even harder to describe was the darkness we felt. The whole world seemed to stop for the Islamic call to prayers. All over town, loud speakers rang out every morning before sunrise, reminding us we were not in the Bible-belt anymore.
Our North Side team had two primary functions: medical clinics and village mapping. The medical clinics were priceless. Imagine not having access to Neosporin, soap, glasses, or even a tooth brush. Because of your missions giving, North Side was able to bring these crucial supplies to those in need. Our team set up in different stations, praying and sharing the gospel with everyone who attended. Dr. Mike Turner and the missionary Laura handled medical issues such as gangrene, cleft pallet, cerebral palsy, and many malnourished children. We learned quickly that the hierarchy in there culture was, that in times of need, fathers were taken care of first, then women, and children only if there was enough. The idea of sacrificing your life for your wife or child is really a Western idea founded in Christianity and not a part of their culture. So hearing that Jesus gave His life for us was an odd concept.
Our other role while we were there was village mapping. On our third day there, we split into teams of two plus a translator and began hiking toward villages. Armed with just our backpack and a GPS, we plodded through the soft sand and headed out to places that the gospel had never reached before! My partner was Ken Montjoy. We both headed out in clothes that were on their third day being worn. Our translator was Greg, the missionary, and our destination was a GPS dot 5 miles away called Maguirami. As it turns out we would not make Maguirami that day. God had other plans!
Earlier that morning, before we began our trek, Greg silenced our jovial group with this question – “Is it possible for six men to buy a plane ticket, fly to Africa, give out medicine, share some Bible stories, and actually accomplish nothing???”
Whew! That hit me straight in the chest. What a powerful reminder that we can do nothing apart from the Spirit of God. Just to make sure I heard Him that day, God used a devotion card from home with the verse of Psalms 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. Sure enough, God was about to give us a guided tour into His amazing and creative ways that trip. During our hike, God brought one man after another into our path in the desert. We shared the gospel, prayed for a dying woman and a new family, and much more. He continually opened doors into people’s lives and hearts so he could show them that He loved them.
Of all the stories I could share that happened while village mapping, one sticks out for me. We had just finished some lunch under a shade tree (tuna fish, pepperoni, and dry frosted flakes) and began our hiking again. From behind us, a young man appeared out of nowhere like a ghost. He called out and began chasing us down. His name was Eric, and he must have been in his late twenties. He had apparently lived in different parts of Africa and was curious why we were there. We told him we were Christians from America visiting different villages. He said he had approached us because he had heard about Christians and wanted to know what we believed. (Tell me that’s not a God thing!) Eric, like everyone else we came across, understood very well what sin is, and he admitted he was afraid to die. Islam is based on doing good works and pleasing Allah. Muslims believe if you follow the five pillars of Islam that when you die, if you’ve done enough to please Allah, he will let you go to heaven. But no one is ever certain so they never have peace and die in fear. We told Eric we had some good news. Yes, God is holy, but He also loves us more than we love ourselves. We asked him what would happen if he could give his sin to someone else. He said, “heaven.” We told him Jesus provided this free gift to him. He died for us and took our sin. We could never do enough or offer enough to earn our way to heaven. But praise God, he wants a relationship with us and loves us. By the end, Eric seemed like a new man. He was clapping and thanking us over and over. I pray for Eric everyday and have a feeling we will meet again as brothers one day.
We never made it to our destination that day. We spent the night in Kirgo, a different village than we had planned. Thankfully the chief accepted us into the village after telling him we were Christians and were there to share stories and pray for their people. Even though they were poor, they offered us the best of what they had. A hut to sleep in, peanuts, some unidentified foods, and a bag of the best oranges I’ve ever eaten. Except for one teacher, the villagers had never seen an American before. They gave us mats to sit on and we were literally on display for all to see. Crowds of children followed us around as we prayed and shared with anyone who would listen. Oh Lord, they have so many voices they hear…. Please let them hear Yours!
Yes, the journey was hard at times, but the reward was so great. I hope you will consider joining this ministry any way you can. The door right now is open for seeds to be sown and for the people to hear about Jesus. It may not always be that way, so the moment is now. Way to go North Side! Keep Greg and Laura Sharpe and the people of West Africa in your prayers.