Now that we are into April, our time of formal language study has ended and we have entered into the next chapter and remainder of our time here. We have finally begun our work with the youth, which we are finding will keep us quite busy. We are currently meeting with four different fellowships in four different villages on four different days. This, combined with our weekly grocery shopping trip, leaves us with two days a week where we don't have to do any traveling, which has certainly changed the pace of life for us. During language study we were at home almost every day for class. We had our weekly shopping trip in the city and we usually traveled to Kiti or Pirang for church on Sunday. We also tried to go to Pirang and Kiti to visit the people once a week or every other week. Now, however, we spend our days preparing Bible studies, taking public transportation or riding our bicycles to the villages, which is much more tiring than it sounds since even to take public we have to walk 15 minutes to the bus park and then another 10-20 minutes to our destination after we get off.
For those of you who don't get our newsletters, our main focus will be on youth work during our time here. Our vision for the next eight months is to hold weekly Bible studies with the youth of the different fellowships, while training one or two of the older youth to take our place as leaders. Right now we are doing most of the leading and preparing, but we want to slowly move out of that position into a participatory position where we can lend guidance and provide input, but leave the leadership up to the youth. Our purpose in doing this is so that the youth do not depend on us to lead them, leaving them without a leader once we leave. Rather we want them to take ownership of their Bible study and continue meeting after we leave. We realize that ultimately it will be up to the youth to decide if they find this time to be valuable enough to continue on on their own, but we want God to use us to bring them to a place where they can sustain the group on their own if they have desire. Hopefully they will not only be able to keep meeting weekly, but we hope that they do find these times to be valuable and meaningful so that they desire to continue meeting.
We are also hoping this time will allow us to develop deep and meaningful relationships with the youth that will open doors to deeper discussions on a personal and spiritual level, which is not common in relationships here. We are excited to see what the Lord has prepared to teach us throughout these next eight months.
On a different note, now that we are busier and I find myself to be tired more often, I find that it has been a bit easier to get discouraged, probably part spiritual attack, part lesson from God. The other day I was thinking about how much we had to sacrifice to take this time off and serve the Lord. We had to put a year of our lives in the States on hold to come to here to Gambia where I sometimes wonder what we are doing. As I was praying and telling this to the Lord, He reminded me of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. I felt like one year of my life was pretty insignificant in comparison, and thought about all of the unreached peoples in the world who have never, and would never, have a chance to hear the gospel if we (as Christians) weren't willing to make sacrifices sometimes. I desperately want to avoid seeking the life of the "American dream", but as my high school classmates finish college I find myself thinking of where I "could" be. Instead, I need to remember where I am. Living in the present is not easy for me, and I tend to always be looking to the future rather than being content with where I am. I have dreams and plans, and I know God respects that, but I also know that His plans are bigger than anything I can imagine, if I just take the time to pay attention, listen and live them out. So as I think about those plans, and about the sacrifices I may have to make in the future, I am challenged to think about whether I am willing to make the sacrifice or not, regardless of the cost. I hope that I can walk in obedience no matter what I/we are called to do.
-We have begun our work with the youth!
-Drivers licenses are finally being processed
-Lisa Landis from WJTL, a Christian radio station in Lancaster, PA, has arrived safely and will be here in West Africa for a week raising money for schools here in Gambia and Guinea-Bissau
-That Darrel Hostetter, HR rep at EMM, will also arrive safely later this week
-That we will be able to develop deep, meaningful relationships with the youth that cross cultural barriers
-That we will be open to the Lord and His path for us during the remainder of our time here and after we go home