Of Burqas and Caramel Lattes.

Christy and Fatou Ba.Fatou Ba, Miriam, and Fatou Gueye took a desperately-needed break from studying for their exams and came over for lunch four days ago. And by “came over for lunch”, clearly I mean Christy and I took them to a little Senegalese shack for $1.50 plates of surprisingly delicious Senegalese food! Over endless mounds of rice and fish [fish, I might add, that were the unlucky most recent victims of the fish-genocide presently being waged in Dakar, hauntingly staring back at us with glazed eyeballs from their delicate perch atop our rice], the girls animatedly talked about Senegalese culture, their boyfriends, exams, and hopes for life post-graduation. [A terrifying prospect that is still several years in the distance for each of them.]

Back at the Ritz, we sat around our little table together. It was a rather peculiar clash of extraordinarily different worlds- Christy and I in our jeans and Carolina National Championship t-shirts [Go HEELS!], sweet Miriam with her sedate head covering, Fatou Ba showing more skin than the rest of us combined, and Fatou Gueye representing the

Miriam and I.

median between them that is common among Senegalese Muslim university students. It was burqas meet the grande skinny iced caramel latte-three girls staring very curiously at the peanut butter friends that this year, have disrupted their rice-and-fish world. Miriam started talking about the way we were all dressed, and why she chooses to cover her head unlike many of the Muslim women her age at the university. As she began to talk about the critical importance of “following the rules” in Islam so that your heart will be clean and Allah might allow you into Paradise, Fatou Ba began to visibly wilt in her chair. Her deafening silence echoed throughout the room, as a blithely unaware Miriam nervously chattered on about heaven and hell, head coverings, praying five times a day, and all a whole list of “do’s” that Muslims believe increase your chances of going to Paradise.

As Miriam paused to catch her breath, I quickly asked Fatou Ba what she thought of everything that was being discussed. As the call to prayer wailed from a nearby mosque, Fatou timidly paused, and then said something that ranks as one of the bravest, most honest things I have ever heard in my life:

“If there is a heaven, and there is a hell, I know that I’m going to hell.’”

Stunned, I stared at that sweet girl consumed by fear and guilt, and the crushing weight that she experiences every second of every day suddenly overwhelmed me. Fatou is a nominal Muslim woman that looked at the list of rules that she was expected to follow, and somehow understood from deep within her soul that she would never, never be able to stand before Allah with a clean heart. And so she simply surrendered in a war that she was confident she was destined to lose.

Christy and I are studying the Bible with each of those sweet girls, and we are begging God to cause them to understand that that fear that they cannot clean their own hearts is rooted in truth-but that Jesus desperately longs to clean their hearts for them. Islam commands fearful people to “do”-the gospel proclaims with joyful finality, “done!”

Last year, girls like Fatou Ba were statistics to me. 1.8 billion people that don’t know Jesus. 14 million people in Senegal. 60,000+ students at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop. 96% Muslim. 88% of those Muslims have never even met a Christ-follower.

Now, nine months later, those statistics have faces.

From left to right: Mama, Sophie Bop and Sophie about ten minutes after they each decided to follow Jesus!

When I met Sophie, she was one of the 1.8 billion people that don’t know Jesus. Five minutes before that precious Muslim girl decided to give her life to Jesus and walk with Him for a lifetime, she looked at me with wonder-filled eyes and said: “Before, I did not believe, because I did not know. Now I know, and I believe!”

I dearly love being a part of that! I love going to war on the statistics that have long kept people from Jesus in Senegal, and watching the gospel set exhausted people free.

I am in the process of raising the financial support I need to return to Senegal in the fall. It’s a daunting, difficult thing-if you pray, would you pray with me that God does it quickly? As of right now, 3.2% of the financial support that I need for next year has been committed-and I have no idea how the rest is going to happen. I am indescribably thankful for the many of you that have trusted God for the hearts and lives of Muslim students with me this year! For those of you that would like to become involved in reaching Muslim students in Senegal with the gospel,  there are several different ways that you can do that. You can check out the new “Get Involved!” tab on my blog for details-or you can contact me.

I’m off for some rice and fish with Christy! …or maybe, just maybe, today will be a pizza day. :)

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  1. […] from becoming shark bait, I wouldn’t have met Miriam. Or Bineta. Or Aya. Or Fatou Ba. Or 1,000 other girls that have names and faces and stories too-stories that have drastically […]

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