Lives transformed by
The Word of God
"Like the blind man in the Bible, ‘I was blind but now I see!’” These are the words of Dieynaba, a young Christian mother in Senegal, as she described how literacy classes funded by Barnabas have transformed her life by enabling her to read the Bible.
“Now I understand everything Jesus has done for me and what He expects of me,” she said.
“Before, I refused to give tithes and offerings because I believed the pastor wanted to take money from us when we are poor. Now I know that it is God Himself who asks us to do this and He blesses those who give faithfully.”
Senegal is dominated by Islam with the population at least 95% Muslim. The small but growing Christian community accounts for about 4%.
Dieynaba is one of 267 Christians from an impoverished – and strongly Islamic – rural area of central Senegal who completed the 14-month programme of adult literacy and numeracy classes.
The lessons, launched by our church partners with support from Barnabas, were held for three hours every week at eight village churches, which serve Christians from three different ethnic groups. Participants studied from textbooks based on Bible stories. Of the 278 who started the course only 11 failed to complete it – six because they succumbed to Covid and five for other reasons.
“Like new converts, they are discovering the Holy Scriptures themselves”
Before the classes began, pastors said their congregants had difficulty understanding the Bible and church sermons because they could not read the Word of God.
Since learning to read the Bible in their own languages, Christians have become spiritually invigorated. “Like new converts, they are discovering the Holy Scriptures themselves and are more involved in the activities of the church,” said Pastor “Paul”. “Everyone is engaged in evangelism and the church is growing.”
In one of the participating churches, membership has risen from 63 to 105 Christians.
Pastors feel more rewarded
Another benefit of the programme is that it has reduced the seasonal departure of villagers during Senegal’s nine-month dry season. Previously most would leave to find work in towns. Now villagers are choosing to stay at home to manage their livestock or set up market gardening projects, while maintaining their church activities, because the training has given them a greater commitment to their home village.
Pastors feel more rewarded as well because they are no longer faced with churches empty of all but the oldest of their congregants for months on end, a situation that had led some to feel discouraged in their ministry.
Dieynaba, who used to join the annual exodus to town to work as a domestic servant, explained that her eyes were opened when she read Judges 6:14 where God says to Gideon, “Go in the strength you have.”
“From then on I decided to stay in the village and started to take care of my chickens and sheep,” she said. “With the help of the village veterinarian I know how to raise, care for and fatten my animals and this allows me to earn a living. With the little I earn, I take care of my family.”
She added, “Thanks to Barnabas we are worthy and free men and women. May God be praised!”
“Today everything has changed in my life”
Waly never had the opportunity of going to school and didn’t immediately see the point of learning to read, write and calculate when his pastor told him about the adult literacy classes. He acknowledges that his faith was superficial. He only went to church because his friends did and he “lived like a non-Christian”. Waly thanks God that he decided to take the classes.
“It was when I started reading the Bible that I really understood what Jesus did for me and what it is to be a Christian,” said Waly.
“Today everything has changed in my life. I am faithful to the Lord and I participate in all church activities. I share my faith with non-Christians and I sing in the worship group.”
Waly has also stopped going to town to seek work in the dry season. Instead he tends his cows – previously he did not know how to look after them properly, and he had not appreciated the value they could bring to his family.
“With my current education, I know how to maintain and care for them [the cows],” he said proudly. “Thanks to this, not only do they increase in number, but I feed my family milk and earn money when I sell one.”
Literacy causes spiritual awakening
Pastor “Simon” said the literacy project “is one of the best things that has happened to me in my pastoral ministry”.
He was discouraged and considered leaving the village, because the faith of his congregation was not strong, there were few new converts and he experienced persecution from Muslims.
“But praise the Lord! Literacy changed the whole situation and caused a spiritual awakening in the church,” said Pastor Simon. “Literacy has opened their eyes and they have direct access to the Word of God and it has transformed them.”
His words are echoed by Pastor Paul. “Barnabas Aid’s support in our very Islamised region has produced very visible results,” he said. “We now realise that ignorance is a formidable weapon of the devil because it prevents people from fully understanding the Word of God.”