It is about 4:00 in the afternoon so we realize that we need to eat with purpose so that we can get the dishes cleaned up before we leave. Our church is over a mile away and we know that it will take some time to walk to the other side of the village because we will likely stop and talk to at least half-a-dozen people along our route.
We pack our day-pack with our French Bibles, everyone’s water bottle except Hosanna’s, as she prefers to hold hers, a small flashlight, some tissues, and Ezra’s box with sugar and tea leaves, just in case he gets to make African tea later tonight. I think about making some powdered milk before we go because I know that there are some leftover cookies that Gayle made yesterday, but there is not enough time.
We leave our “neighborhood” of Tranquille bound for Carrefour along the dirt back road that leads to The Gambia, the country that is landlocked within Senegal. This is the road that the smugglers use to get goods from The Gambia to Senegal without having to stop and bribe the customs agents.
The pace of our walk is brisk and we stop periodically along the way for Hosanna to take a drink or to speak to someone. The afternoon is a bit hotter than usual and we choose to take the dirt lane after the military camp and we cross the ditch by walking over the two wooden planks that rest there.
The mosque on our right is the largest mosque in Diouloulou and is referred to as the “Grand Mosque,” but it is empty now. Their day of worship is Friday and we are passing by the mosque between calls to prayer. I walk in front holding Hosanna’s hand and Gayle walks just behind us. Ezra and Thea bring up the rear and are heavily involved in a discussion of “what if this happened” that causes them to break out into laughter every 30 yards or so. I lead us in prayer as we walk, stopping at least twice mid-prayer to wave and speak to someone that greets us from their yard. We pray that God would give Abdoulaye the words that we all need to hear and we pray that our hearts would be receptive to God’s Word. We pray that God would move in a powerful way in Diouloulou and that He would use the believers here to spread the Gospel.
We get to Carrefour and cut down another lane that leads to the house where Monique, one of the few Christians in Diouloulou, lives. Some family members, I think it may be her uncle and a friend, are sitting outside talking. Another man is laying on a wooden plank on the ground and he seems to be asleep. Some kids are roasting cashews in the backyard.
Though we are still 20 minutes early for our 5:30 worship, the believers are already sitting on the floor inside the “chapel.” The “chapel” is a very small renovated room on one side of the house that the believers use for Sunday worship and for their ministry to the neighborhood children on Saturday afternoons. Before the door to the chapel sits four pairs of flip-flops to which we add three pairs of flip-flops and two pairs of sandals. We great everyone with a handshake and a series of questions about their day and then we take our seat on the floor.
In a move that is rare in Africa, the worship service starts exactly on time as Abdoulaye, the pastor and leader of the small group of believers, prays in French. Aissatou, a 23 year old young lady from another village much further south who is in Diouloulou attending “private school” because she failed to pass her test in her village school, leads us in worship. She sings with a high, but incredibly pleasant voice, most of the time in French, but occasionally in Wolof. After the first song we all stand in somewhat of a circle and sing after her. There are no instruments or accompaniment CDs, just the sounds of ten people praising Jesus by singing and clapping and dancing.
We sing several songs; some that we have sung over the past few weeks and some that Aissatou seems to make up on the fly. One song sings of God giving His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Another sings of the fact that God can do anything. I catch myself looking around and wondering how God is going to use this group to reach southern Senegal with the Gospel. We sing for maybe 30 minutes or so.
Several neighborhood children join us, maybe eight or ten, and they clap along with us even though they do not understand the French songs. As usual, they also seem interested in the little white girl with the long, curly hair. Abdoulaye prays again, we sing another song, and then we all take our place on the floor.
Abdoulaye sits cross-legged next to me with his Bible in front of him. He holds a piece of notebook paper in his hand that contains his handwritten notes on the front and on the back. As he begins our study of Matthew chapter 6 and chapter 7, Hosanna lays her head in my lap and starts to suck her thumb. Everyone has a Bible in their hands and everyone is attentive to what Abdoulaye is saying. Hosanna is asleep. I sit facing the open door and can occasionally see people walking down the dirt road. They are oblivious to the fact that the King of kings and Lord of lords is being worshipped in the small room that they pass by.
Abdoulaye moves freely between French and Wolof so as to better explain the text. One of the believers reads the texts that Abdoulaye asks for and everyone is still and quiet. The room is hot and stuffy and I continually wipe the sweat from Hosanna’s forehead as she sleeps. I can feel the sweat from her face soaking through my pants. Most of the neighborhood children have left by this time and Abdoulaye teaches for another 30 minutes or so. He closes by reading again Matthew 6:33 and encouraging us all to live out the truth contained therein. We pray and we all shake hands again. Hosanna wakes up and goes for her water bottle.
Someone suggests that we all learn a new song, so Aissatou spends the next 40 or so minutes teaching us a new song that I am pretty sure she just made up. It is doctrinally sound, very repetitive, and she sings it with a smooth, flowing voice. She teaches us by singing it and then calling on each of us to repeat it. She is patient as we are not the best students.
After some laughs and some teasing about who has the best voice, we leave the chapel and stand out in the front yard of the house. We share a “cookie” that Aissatou brought back with her from her visit to her home village last week. It is a Jola dessert and is made from rice and sugar. It is round and hard and she breaks off small pieces and shares a little with everyone.
We stand in the yard and chit-chat for a while before saying our good-byes. Two believers walk with us part of the way home, while Abdoulaye comes back to our house to have some of Gayle’s left-over cookies. I make some powdered milk and pour it into an empty plastic water bottle and Hosanna gives everyone a cookie. Some neighbor friends come over and we all talk, laugh, and enjoy each others company until around 10:00 when everyone gets ready to go. We walk them to the road, tell them in Jola that we will see them tomorrow, shake their hands, and watch them disappear into the night.
Just another Sunday afternoon in Diouloulou.
Matt and Gayle Boyd serve as missionaries in Senegal, Africa. You can read more of their mission and ministry here at All Senegal for Christ.