Pastoral care in Senegal

It takes a whole village to raise a child. This African proverb also exists in Senegal. Following are some experiences from this West African country which the Chief Apostle will be visiting this coming Sunday.

Sometimes it is a small moment that really touches one. This is what Bishop Pascal Strobel has experienced. He has been doing pastoral care in Senegal since the year 2001. One of his tasks is training ministers.

Living with the loss of a child

During a seminar recently he experienced a very touching moment. They were talking about how funerals should be conducted and the ministers were able to ask questions. One asked whether the names of all of the deceased person’s children should be read. So far so good. But then: only the names of the living or also of the dead children?

“That touched me deeply,” the Bishop says. One must remember that child mortality in Senegal is very high. Expressed in numbers: 5 out of 100 children die before they reach the age of five. That is ten times more than in North America.

“There is hardly a family who has not lost a child,” Pascal Strobel says. “Unfortunately, such painful experiences are part of people’s lives here. The parents are always very touched when we preach about the connection we have with our loved ones in the beyond and talk about our hope for the future of seeing them again.”

With a song on their lips

The Bishop experienced the brothers and sisters in Senegal as happy and easy-going. “As they file out of the church they sing a song,” he says. The upcoming visit of the Chief Apostle is already the second visit of a Chief Apostle in the country. In December 2007, Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber visited the city of Ziguinchor.

The divine service this time, with Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider, will take place in the far smaller city of Sédhiou. There are three reasons for this: for one, it is central and can be reached more easily by the people. Secondly, the Church here has the support from the authorities. And, finally, there is an experienced team who already organised the 2017 Day of the Youth in Senegal.

Bush fire!

How important children are here is also described by Apostle Gert Opdenplatz. The scene was a village in the middle of the bush. An area had been marked on the ground and staked out with wooden poles and covered with leaves to create a makeshift church under a mango tree. The congregation is comprised of almost all the inhabitants of the village.

“We were in the middle of celebrating Holy Sealing and Holy Communion when we heard a kind of crackling and sizzling. Then the sky turned dark,” the Apostle remembers. “A huge cloud of smoke was moving towards us, and Apostle Gomis asked me to quickly say the closing prayer and the benediction. A bush fire was approaching. He told me that the members would have rush home immediately and save their houses from the flames as best they could.”

“We prayed, and I told the brothers and sisters that we would not say goodbye by shaking hands this time, but that they should go home quickly,” Apostle Opdenplatz reports. “But the mothers crowded around me with their children, and each mother wanted me to take the hands of her little ones. These were very moving moments.”

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