By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
BELCAMP, Md.—During their fourth trip to West Africa, members from Susquehanna Association and The Church at Riverside in Belcamp, Md., finally got what they were yearning for—the very first Christian convert in the Muslim-dominated village they adopted five years ago.
In 2006, members from the Association ventured into Guinea, traveling hours across rough terrain into deep mountain villages to build relationships with the villagers and ultimately to share the Gospel with them.
Since this time, in three previous trips, the Association has built a well for clean water in the village; provided electronic devices with Old and New Testament books in the village’s native Pular language; and otherwise has patiently built a reputation with the village’s leaders.
Calling this “the climatic year,” team leader Dan Sheffield, the director of missions for the Susquehanna Association, shared that the 2010 team went to the adopted village with a deepened commitment to expose the villagers to the Gospel.
And their faith was met with great success!
A sole convert, accepting Christ in secret so as not to be endangered, agreed that Jesus Christ was the only way to God.
“I want to believe,” the person said. “I want to accept Jesus Christ.”
An International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, on a family mission trip and vacation from working with another African mission group, helped with translation in the village.
He was astounded by the continued openness of the villagers to the words of Christ. The convert was the first profession of faith that he had seen in five years.
“His whole family said it was the best weekend that they have had in ten years,” Sheffield said.
Team member Danny Beasley was excited to share the story of Jesus using a storying cloth from the IMB, which chronologically tells the story of creation to the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
It wasn’t until the end of the week that he actually had the opportunity. He started telling the story with a handful of children. Before he was finished, over 40 adults gathered to hear the story.
“It made him nervous, but since it was Friday, the Muslim day of worship, Danny ended up presenting the Gospel to more people than he originally planned,” Sheffield shared.
“God has his plans planned. It was a perfect set-up—the perfect day, the perfect place!”
Even with these tremendous occasions, Sheffield was saddened by what he saw at the village this year.
He could hardly recognize some of the villagers from past years because they had lost so much weight. Many looked like they were slowly starving to death.
Even the newest tribal leader seemed overwhelmed under the weight of the struggling villages he oversaw.
“We think about us having a hard economy, “ Sheffield noted, “but it is affecting the whole globe.”
When Sheffield and his team learned that the villagers only had rice to eat for the past year, they purchased spices and other food items to offset some of their struggles.
The team even left money, intended for food, but most likely will be used to build a new school for the children.
In a very moving speech on the team’s last day, the tribal leader expressed his gratitude to the team for their many expressions of love.
“There was no doubt that he knew that we loved him. He felt we were the only people from the outside world who showed interest and wanted to help them,” Sheffield shared.
“Where it goes from here, I have no idea. It’s so exciting,” he added. “When it finally sinks in that God is in control, and we’re just along for the ride, it’s a great sense of relief.”