Field leadership and leadership training in Senegal. The Senegalese people are open and friendly. They freely talk about religion, sometimes asking us why we are not Muslims. But as soon as the conversation turns to the importance of Jesus and who he is, walls go up. In this Muslim society it is a very long road from curiosity to faith in Jesus Christ.
Balancing priorities is one challenge. Another is maintaining a heavenly perspective on the importance of consistent field leadership, because team administration can feel mundane and unimportant compared to more direct ministry with nationals. Also there is the problem of finding ways to present the gospel that are able to penetrate the culture.
Pray for the maturity and character of the Senegalese church, particularly for capable and visionary leaders. Pray also that the growing Senegalese church would catch the vision to reach the rest of the Muslim world!
Both Dan and Esther Penney had the privilege of growing up overseas in missionary families. As a result, both gave their lives to Jesus at a young age. Each saw firsthand the huge spiritual needs in Africa and the paucity of resources to meet those needs as compared to the abundance of spiritual and financial resources in the United States. This gave both of them an interest in overseas missions and a willingness to go where resources were few. But it still required a work of God in both their hearts.
As Esther became an adult, she struggled with the desire to remain in the U.S. and learn what it really meant to be American. “Being a missionary kid, there is this expectation from others that you will follow in your parents’ footsteps and become a missionary,” remarks Esther, “and I resisted that for a long time.”
Dan had a similar struggle but for different reasons. Although he enjoyed the wealth and comfort of the U.S., he felt a pull into missions but couldn’t see how his skills and gifts could fit in. Growing up in a Muslim context, Dan had seen mainly evangelism and church planting in an unresponsive culture. He felt strongly that he did not have the gifts for evangelism or church planting and wasn’t interested in spending 30 years of hard work to see at the end only a few believers, as his parents had. Thus Dan excluded the possibility of ministry in any Muslim context, Senegal in particular, since he’d “been there, done that.”
But God changed both their hearts. Esther realized she must be willing to go wherever God might ask and that it would be logical for her to go where the spiritual need was greatest. Dan became willing to go even to a Muslim context if his teaching skills would be useful, which ended up meaning ministry in Senegal, where he’d grown up.
Dan and Esther are excited about ministry in Senegal. Esther expresses this by saying, “Senegal is like Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. For centuries, it has been winter but never Christmas. But recently, we have begun to see the thaw beginning. Aslan is on the move, and the White Witch, while furious and trying everything to stop him, is being defeated. Everyone working for the Kingdom of Christ in Senegal feels that all Heaven is about to break loose. We just don’t know exactly when or how.”
Dan has had the tremendous privilege of seeing how the against-the-odds faithfulness of his parents is reaping huge dividends a generation later. “They did the backbreaking work of clearing the rocks. Now the missionaries and the national church are seeing a ripening harvest that we believe will soon spill over into other Muslim countries in West and North Africa,” adds Dan.