We Are the Sort Who Have Faith
Sharing the Christian Hope in Senegal
FISH has been a staple food since ancient times. For thousands of years, people have fished the earth’s seas, lakes, and rivers. Some of Jesus Christ’s apostles were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. To them, however, Jesus introduced another kind of fishing. This was spiritual fishing that would benefit not only the fishermen but also the fish.
In this regard, Jesus told the fisherman Peter: “From now on you will be catching men alive.” (Luke 5:10) This kind of fishing is being carried on today in more than 230 lands, including Senegal. (Matthew 24:14) Here modern-day “fishers of men” courageously share their Christian hope with others.—Matthew 4:19.
Senegal is located on the most westerly tip of Africa. It stretches from sandy desert areas bordering the Sahara in the north to humid forests of the Casamance region in the south. Senegal is a land swept by the parching winds of the desert as well as by the cool, refreshing breezes of the Atlantic. Here live more than nine million people. Inhabitants of Senegal are known for their hospitality. Most do not profess to be Christians. Many are shepherds, while others are herdsmen of cattle, camels, and goats. There are also farmers, cultivating peanuts, cotton, and rice. Yes, and there are fishermen, bringing in nets full of fish from the Atlantic Ocean and from several large rivers that wind through the country. The fishing industry plays a vital role in the economy of Senegal. In fact, the famous national dish is ceebu jën, a tasty meal of rice, fish, and vegetables.
“Fishers of Men”
There are 863 zealous preachers of God’s Kingdom in Senegal. Spiritual fishing began here in the early 1950’s. A branch office of the Watch Tower Society was opened in Dakar, the capital, in 1965. Missionary “fishers” began to arrive from many faraway countries. “Fishing” operations started, and the sharing of the Christian hope in Senegal steadily moved ahead. Eventually, new branch facilities were built at Almadies, on the outskirts of Dakar, and were dedicated to Jehovah in June 1999. What a time of rejoicing!
The Challenge of Accepting the Truth
People from a great diversity of backgrounds are regularly being contacted, and some have responded favorably to the message of hope found in God’s Word. Although many have no knowledge of the Bible, they rejoice to learn that the promises Jehovah God made to the faithful prophets of old are soon to be fulfilled.
Often it takes courage to take a firm stand for Christian principles, especially when family traditions and customs are involved. For example, polygamy is widely practiced in Senegal. Consider the case of a man who had two wives when he began to study the Bible. Would he have the courage to accept Christian truth and conform to the Scriptural requirement to be the husband of only one wife? (1 Timothy 3:2) And would he keep the wife of his youth, the woman he married first? That is what he did, and he now serves as a zealous elder in one of the larger congregations in the Dakar area. His first wife has also accepted the truth along with all of his 12 children, 10 from his first wife and 2 from his former second wife.
Another obstacle to accepting the Christian hope may be illiteracy. Does this mean that an illiterate person cannot accept and practice the truth? Not at all. Consider the example of Marie, a hardworking mother of eight young children. She quickly saw the importance of discussing a Bible text with her young ones each day before they left for school and she went to work. But how could she do this, since she could not read? Early every morning, she took the booklet Examining the Scriptures Daily and stood on the sandy street in front of her house. As people passed by, she asked them if they could read. When she found someone who could, she handed over the booklet and earnestly said: “I cannot read, so would you please read this section to me today?” She listened attentively to the reading. Next she thanked the passerby and quickly entered her house to have a lively discussion of the text with her children before they left for school!
People of All Sorts Respond
In Senegal, people can be found sitting in the streets selling fish, vegetables, or fruit at the market or reclining under a majestic baobab tree drinking ataya, a somewhat bitter green tea. Determined to share the good news with all whom they met, two brothers spoke with a disabled man who was begging in the street. After greeting him, they said: “Many people give you money but do not stop to talk. We have come by to talk to you about something very important that concerns your future.” The beggar was surprised. “We would like to ask you a question,” the brothers continued. “Why do you think there is so much suffering in the world?” “It’s God’s will,” replied the beggar.
The brothers then reasoned with him from the Scriptures and explained Revelation 21:4. The beggar was deeply touched by this message of hope and by the fact that someone was interested enough in him to stop and discuss the Bible. Tears filled his eyes. Instead of asking for money, he implored the brothers to take all the coins that he had in his begging can! He was so insistent that this attracted the attention of everyone passing by. Only with great difficulty did the brothers persuade him to keep the money. He finally agreed but insisted that they visit him again.
The large university in Dakar is also adding to the catch in the spiritual fishing net. There a medical student named Jean-Louis began to study the Bible. He accepted the truth quickly, dedicated his life to Jehovah, and was baptized. His desire was to serve God in the full-time pioneer service, but he also enjoyed his study of medicine. Because of a contract with his home country, he was obliged to complete his studies. Yet, he began serving as an auxiliary pioneer at the same time. Shortly after receiving his diploma as a qualified physician, he was invited to serve in a large Bethel home in Africa as the family doctor. Another young man contacted at Dakar University is also now serving with the Bethel family in his home country.
Spiritual fishing in Senegal certainly is rewarding. The Bible literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses is greatly appreciated and is now being produced in the local Wolof language. Hearing the good news in their mother tongue has encouraged many honesthearted people to respond gratefully. With Jehovah’s blessing, no doubt many more symbolic fish will be caught, as Senegal’s zealous “fishers of men” continue to share the Christian hope faithfully and courageously.
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Sharing the Christian hope in Senegal
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