Lars Keplinger | The Voice of Zion September 2020 --
My trip to Africa was an enjoyable experience. I traveled there on a January 2020 mission trip with Brian Johnson and his son Richard. We were picked up by hosts who made the experience of meeting the believers in The Gambia relaxing. A nice surprise was that the believers understood and spoke English. We could communicate easily, and they were able to continually share different things with us along the way.
One of the most memorable things was our visit with the service guests and children at each stop along the way. At first we felt a bashfulness to speak or communicate about ourselves or our lives. In each new location, our visit began with a service as soon as things were set up and service guests arrived. The host would gather the congregation and pass out sheets of paper with words for prerecorded songs of Zion, then we would play congregational singing from a cell phone to lead our singing. A sermon would be preached, and a closing song came after the sermon.
Generally, after the service there would be a time of questions and answers. As we discussed questions that arose, the bashfulness seemed to disappear as we realized that God’s kingdom spoke and that we were dear brothers and sisters in faith.
The children in Africa were very special to me. I missed my own children on the trip, and my longing helped me communicate with African children. I was very curious how their daily lives compared to what I was used to seeing at home. They were attentive to my questions and answered clearly. They seemed to be interested in seeing pictures from my phone and sharing stories and activities from their own lives. The most important bond we shared was the same faith.
We were able to visit a school for an hour or two on one stop. We participated in a little soccer game at one of the houses. We were given an impromptu tour swimming and crabbing in The Gambia River. We were able to have many enjoyable conversations with the young believers in The Gambia. To me, each stop felt too short. I could have easily visited for longer at each stop, but it was necessary to get going to the next location for services.
I encourage all to visit mission fields in Africa. Believers there are anxiously waiting for you to come. I enjoyed meeting the believers on the other side of the world. I hope God continues to bless them and us all on our mutual journey to heaven.
Did you know?
The first Gambian believers repented after getting to know believing Finnish tourists.
Mission services were first held in 2009.
There were six mission trips there in 2019 and one so far in 2020.
Nowadays Gambian believers have their own organization, The Gambia Laestadian Lutheran Association.
They have their own speakers, and they arrange services and Sunday school regularly. At big services in November 2019 for example, there were 168 participants.
The official language is English. Services are held in English, French and in local languages.
It is the smallest country in mainland Africa, about the same size as the state of Connecticut here in the U.S.
The Gambia’s borders align with the Gambia River.
Other than the coastline, the country is surrounded by Senegal.