Our first week in Dakar, I saw something I hope to never see again.
We were traveling by foot along a busy road. All four of us had set out on the twenty minute walk from our apartment, to the apartment of our friend and fellow NTM missionary. Our first week was going great, and we were thrilled to be out in the town, surrounded by so many unfamiliar sights and sounds.
Cars, taxis, buses, horse drawn carts, motorcycles, bicycles, even people on roller blades, careened down the narrow street. Pedestrians carefully and expertly navigated their way through the constant traffic, weaving between each other and the vehicles without ever pushing or jostling. It felt like we were attempting to travel through a very crowded and chaotic bee hive where everyone else instinctively knows the rules, but we had missed the how-to course.
I was amazed at how all of this seeming craziness was able to function without incident or accident.
But then it happened…
Right in front of us, from the packed sidewalk on the other side of the street, a young boy darted out into traffic and a brown Mercedes slammed square into him. His small body doubled over the grill and hood with a dull thud and he bounced backwards, arms and legs tumbling. He clattered to the pavement about five feet in front of the car.
I ran the few steps over to the child, and instantly a crowd formed around him. I desperately wanted to help, to do something, anything! Before I knew it, they had picked up the boy, who looked to be about seven or eight years old, and carried him crying and howling out of the street. Much to my surprise, the boy didn’t seem to have any major injuries, and several men knelt down with him and started talking to him, and getting him to move his limbs. The crowd steadily grew and traffic slowed. The boy, with tears streaming down his cheeks, seemed to be indicating to the men in the crowd where he lived.
A man in a military uniform appeared and began taking control of the situation. He talked to the boy and then talked to the driver of the car that had hit him. The crowd began to disperse as the man in the uniform loaded the boy into the Mercedes, and accompanied him away from the site of the accident. My hope was that they were traveling to a hospital.
This entire incident lasted about fifteen minutes, from the moment the boy was hit until he was driven away in the car that hit him. All during this, I was right there, and I was unable to do anything. The crowd formed so quickly I never could get close, and if I had, I couldn’t have said anything, I don’t know how to call an ambulance or if there even are ambulances. Not only do I not speak French yet, but I couldn’t even follow what the crowd or the boy was saying because they were all speaking Wolof.
All I was able to do was passively observe.
It was a very helpless feeling.
A feeling of being useless.
A feeling of being worthless even.
These descriptions fairly accurately summarize our overall state here at the beginning of our time in Senegal. We truly are helpless here. We don’t yet speak the language, and even more importantly, we don’t yet understand how things work here. We are completely dependent on others to show us the how, when, where, and what of almost everything.
It many ways, it is like becoming a child again. Everything around us is new and often confusing. We need the guidance and care of others to take us by the hand and introduce us to this new world. Language plays a huge role in this growing process, but it is really only one segment of the whole picture.
And as children again, we must learn to be humble, and not seek out ways to lift ourselves up. God has graciously given this opportunity for humbling, and we can embrace it for what it is. God wants to break down our false sense of independence and self-sufficiency, and draw us to Himself. God wants to use other believers in our lives as they guide us through this painful process. God wants to use experiences to remind us of who He is.
We are excited and honored to be on this journey with Him. We look forward to what He has to teach us through our Senegalese brothers and sisters in Christ, as they graciously allow us into their lives. We are thankful for their generosity and kindness to reach down to us and help us through this time of weakness.