Finally we made it to Senegal (our last stop in Africa)!! We were met by Alexia and Amet Fall and their daughter Natalia. After a short drive, they settled us into the Far (Beacon of Hope) guest house, right on the Atlantic ocean. We had a nice time chatting and getting to know the Falls on the way. After a nice hot shower and a good nights rest, we headed to Thies to meet Matt and Elena Toombes. We didn't have a moment to lose since we lost a few precious days of our trip. We hit Dakar right smack dab in the middle of dry season so I really had to work at seeing Senegal through that lense. I have to admit, it wasn't much to look at, yet there was something so fascinating and exotic about it.
We enjoyed the hospitality and fellowship of Matt and Elena as we swapped first year missionary stories. Since they are still in their first year and a half, those first-year struggles were still so fresh. They showed us around Thies and the nearby beautiful beaches. WOW! I had no idea the beaches over there would be so beautiful! We visited a village ministry with MIS which was a great experience. There we sampled our first Senegalese tea which was quite a process! We then visited the Beersheba project which is an agricultural project doing amazing things with Farming God's Way in an arid and difficult land. Something we noticed was all the trash EVERYWHERE! Because of the Harmattan winds, trash (which is not properly disposed of) is strewn about in all directions.
Senegal redeemed itself though with it's lovely people and missionaries that now have my full respect. It's a harsh climate to work in, both physically and spiritually (being 95% Muslim). We visited a delightful young Senegalese church where the sermon was presented both in French and Wolof. I was surprised at how we could follow along with the French because so many words are similar to Spanish.
Amet came and retrieved us from Thies so we could spend a couple of days with him and Alexia. We visited the Banlieu (slums) of Dakar where Amet grew up and now has ministry there. Something about the Banlieu touched me deep in my soul. I connected with it on a different level. It was so old-world and somehow charming despite the obvious "uglies" typical to impoverished areas. We visited a ministry of a friend who started a school, church and a vocational training program teaching sewing and shoe making, a radio station where Amet has a couple of weekly programs and a Muslim school where Amet has been invited to teach the Bible, values and morals (God works in mysterious and wonderful ways!!). To hear the kids chanting his name upon arrival with obvious affection and love was priceless! I LOVED being in that crazy, chaotic, way over crowded school. It made me so alive and aware of the great need and opportunities there in the Banlieu.
Our very favorite cultural experience in Senegal was eating at the Fall home.