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Stories of Senegal


Posted by Shannon Colwin on


People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Above is a photo of some of my favorite people in the village - Alphonse (the older boy) and his mom, Ami.

Alphonse came to our attention on one of the early trips due to the story his mom told us.  I am sure I have some of the details mixed up but it goes something like this...  Alphonse was born blind.  After his mom became a Christian she and others prayed that God would heal him, and Alphonse recovered his sight.  

Several years ago Alphonse's mom told me he was again losing his sight.  He had lost it entirely in one of his eyes and was losing it in the other.  As a result, Ami had to take him out of school.  Alphonse's physical appearance had changed - the size of his head had grown enormously.  Near the end of that trip I asked Alphonse's dad if we could take Alphonse and Ami to the city to get Alphonse's eyesight checked.  He considered that but ultimately decided against it.  I was told the reason the father refused is because he believed I would run away with Ami.  

Sometime after returning to the states, I called our mutual friend, Docor, who lives in Senegal and spends time with us and translates when we visit. I asked if he could follow up and check with the father about whether he would allow Docor to take him and Alphonse to Dakar to have Alphonse checked out.  The father agreed.  Over a matter of months Docor took them to Dakar for multiple exams, scans, etc.  Finally, Alphonse was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a diagnosis that in retrospect should have been made months earlier.  Nevertheless,  we were told there was hope - a shunt could be placed in Alphonse's brain to drain the fluid from it.  We agreed to pay for the surgery. (The total of all of the exams, scans and surgery, etc., was less than $1,500.)  The surgery was successful.  Although Alphonse did not recover the sight in one of his eyes, the deterioration in the other eye stopped.  

The following year I was drinking a cup of coffee on the steps of the church when Alphonse's dad walked up with a big smile, gave me a warm embrace and thanked me for what we had done for Alphonse.  Alphonse's dad had transformed from a jealous and untrusting man to one who has welcomed me with open arms.

Shortly after making a commitment to Jesus, I was pumped up about my faith and shared it with all kinds of people - regardless of whether they wanted to hear my story or not. Over the years I have backed off on that after being persuaded that "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  Today my "evangelism" is far different than in the early years of my faith - it is more about loving than talking.  Please understand I am not saying I hold myself out as a warm, kind, loving man. I still struggle with some of the same sins I did when I first committed my life to Jesus, including anger and pride and a whole host of other sins. But over the years I have come to believe that speaking can be cheap unless it is accompanied by love - time, relationship, practical help. I can think of no better testament to the value of loving people than Alphonse's dad.

There is a time and place for sharing our faith and "the gospel" verbally.  Ultimately, no one comes to Jesus without having heard the Good News.  But before we speak we need to love in whatever form is most appropriate.  You don't need to be able to speak eloquently on these trips as our love is most often demonstrated by simply being there and spending time with the people, entering into relationships.  There are opportunities to do more such as providing health care when desperately needed or providing funds for a project, but we can't forget that our simple presence in the village is what speaks the loudest.


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