Missions / offering for global missions

Why long-term presence matters

By Nell Green

This year’s theme for the Offering for Global Missions is “A Place at the Table for Everyone.” In a recent sermon, I spoke about the Senegalese cultural characteristic, teranga. Teranga, an integral part of Senegalese culture, is an extravagant welcoming hospitality that is expressed eloquently in the Senegalese proverb: “There is always room at the bowl for one more.” I told the story of how I learned that proverb from my language instructor who is to this day my dearest friend.

Nell Green

It was the end of my story—until. After the service, as we prepared to go to lunch, our host introduced us to a friend who would be joining us.

The lady told us she had served in Senegal with United World Mission (UWM) in the 70’s. She said that as soon as she heard the word “Teranga,” she knew the sermon was meant for her.

We told her we knew UWM well because of a center that was at first an orphanage and then a retreat center. She had been a dorm parent at the orphanage. Shocked, I told her that the story I had related in my sermon was of a woman who had spent her adolescent years at the orphanage.

When I told her the name of my dearest friend, guess what?! It was one of her girls. I was able to tell this saint how her work had led this amazing friend of mine to faith; how she had gone on to teach missionaries, myself included; how she had become a minister herself; how she became my soul mate and how she had ended up in the states married to a Methodist minister. Her  children and my children are bound together still.

I explained to her how my precious friend’s formative years at the orphanage in the Muslim culture of Senegal had led her to step out in faith and follow Christ regardless of the consequences. (And I was there to witness many of them.) I told her how her children and my children were bound together and were leading in the body of Christ in their respective communities. I told her how my friend worked for her GED and then her undergrad and then a graduate degree. I shared with her how my friend, one of her former children at an orphanage in Senegal, was at my children’s weddings and my family at her children’s celebrations of marriage.

OH, MY WORD! IT WAS JOYOUS!

She cried. She said that she had spent years in Senegal but never knew what had happened to the children she loved. (The government had shut down their work.) She hugged me repeatedly saying I would never know what this day had meant to her.

Why do I write this? Because I am humbled. LONG TERM PRESENCE! We may never know what it means in the kingdom. But God does and sometimes we are given a glimpse.  I was just one small stitch in the tapestry. I too had tears after the experience.

#BecausePresenceMatters #APlaceattheTableforEveryone

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