The afternoon was sunny and the Jesus Film Harvest Partners were ready to relax. After a busy week of visiting homes, prayer walks, installing the ARK shelter as a tabernacle for the village church, and long hot days of travel, everyone was ready to enjoy the western shores of Senegal. I pushed the surfboard out beyond the wake as wave after wave crashed over and around us. To feel the surge of the wave crest and then slam the board forward as we propelled just above the froth, gave us all a lot of fun and exhilaration. One of the teens on the trip was ready for the challenge and I helped him on the board ready to catch the next wave. I lined him up and waited for just the right wave to send him catapulting to the shore.
At the time I should have noticed, but suddenly I felt a cross wave of water. In an instant the tide had changed. Suddenly, what had been a fun time in the surf, turned into a formidable force against us. Though the waves crashed towards the shore, the current was pulling us away. My young counterpart felt the change in momentum and shouted he had had enough and was going in to shore. I had a body board and was staying right beside him. I shouted, “Stay on the Board!” With strong arms thrashing in the wake we inched forward little by little. We would surge forward with the crashing waves and then slide back but each time we gained a little ground. The temptation was to jump ship and try to walk or swim back to shore but the tide was too strong. To panic and descend into the deep water could have been disastrous. Patiently and with great encouragement from each other we made it back to the beach, tired but safe. What a thrill and yet what a challenge!
Our return back to the field this summer has left me with similar feelings. The Jesus Film Ark team brought to us a tent that will help us in the development of the work. Through encouraging words and support this team composed of both young and old encouraged our people here in Senegal. They walked the streets of the city and the paths of the village, showing the film, and simply being apart of demonstrating love to others. On the last night the team was here we invited them to our home for a celebration dinner and a debriefing. After the team left and my wife and I collapsed in bed, well after 2 am as we prepared for our last day with the team, the unthinkable happened.
While we were asleep, thieves walked into our house through a roof access door, into our room where we slept, and stole our laptop computers and cash. The ministry money was taken at great loss including our own personal funds. The following Monday after the team left they broke in again and took our sons PSP, which he had saved his money for a year to buy. We took some drastic measures to secure our home, even getting a watchdog to help. By Friday night we had a third attempt but this time the dog met the thieves and they ran. It was a sudden blow to our spirits. As though the tide had changed and we were now drifting out to sea. Information gone, tools for ministry lost, operational funds missing. What to do?
A week later I was in Lagos, Nigeria. We were preparing to host the first ever Work and Witness team to Nigeria. What a thrill as the Tennessee district team arrived at our district center in Lagos and helped us to complete the extension of our building to include new classroom space. They worked what seemed like day and night, as our Nigerian partners worked side by side with our team; each learning from the other, and each contributing in one way or another. The guesthouse was upgraded with completed kitchen, painted walls, and tiled floors. The worship center had columns poured and walls built to complete the outdoor chapel. A shower/bathroom block was installed and the foundation of the new training center is beginning to take shape. During the week leaders were trained, pastor’s wives were taught baking skills by my mother on the team; and life long relationships were established. What a thrill as the Lagos Nazarenes gathered on our last night with a great feast and celebration of how God had answered their prayers and sent a team to Nigeria after 20 years of waiting.
I returned home to Dakar with the team and had several great days of relaxation with our friends as they experienced wild game life in the park and shopping for curios in the market. We gathered together for worship in our Senegalese church and praised God for what He is doing all across West Africa. Our spirits soured as we heard reports of eight that would be baptized the following Sunday; those who have been bound by Satan’s curses, yet Jesus has now set them free. They gave praise and testimony and the Spirit of God moved among us. We rejoiced with them and felt a kindred spirit with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Throughout this year I have marveled at how God has blessed my family. Though our things were taken, God sent loving friends and family who have restored my laptop and given our son a PSP again. I have great news that my oldest son Chris who married this last year is expecting twins in December. A grandpa at 43 years of age! My daughter Heather is back in school at Olivet Nazarene University and doing well in her studies. She got a job and loves life in the windy city. Amber and Jonathan are doing well in school and Michelle has found her place between ministry, school involvement, and her responsibilities as the treasurer for the field.
As I think about our work here in West Africa, it seems we ride a tide of sorts. At times we feel the exhilaration of God’s hand pushing us forward through victory after victory. We see breakthroughs, testimonies of miracles, and rapid church growth. At other times it feels like it is taking everything within us to simply stay a float. Sickness, discouragement, disappointment from those you had great hope in, and set backs both financially and physically. We see the needs and realize we don’t have the resources to meet those needs. We feel the thrill and then the challenge.
As in the tide, I have to remind myself, “Stay on the Board!” It would be easy to jump ship and try to do it on my own strength, but the tide is too strong. Staying the course, taking both the good and the bad, but ever pressing forward. Paul from the first century church must have understood this struggle. Keep in prayer with us as we attempt to do as Paul did, “I press on toward the goal keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus.” Pray for our strategic meetings this week being held in Accra, Ghana as we seek the face of God for His vision for the work of the Church of the Nazarene in West Africa. We cherish your prayers for our family; that we would be kept safe, healthy, and effective in ministry. Thanks for being our partners in the midst of both good and bad. It is the encouragement that we shout to each other that brings us back to the safety of His arms and gives us strength to take on again both the thrill and challenge of ministry in West Africa.
For the sake of the Cross,
Tim and Michelle Eby
Amber and Jonathan
Africa West Field
Church of the Nazarene