A hot wind blew across the empty terrain, swirling designs in the sands beneath my feet before it continued on its journey. As it approached, I closed my eyes in anticipation of the refreshing coolness it surely brought, an escape from the desert sun.
But no respite came. Instead, only more heat as it whipped past us. I felt beads of sweat break out on my brow and for a moment, I found myself longing for the familiar, moist heat of East Africa once more.
It was May and we were in the Middle East on term break — a trip we had planned long before we knew of our transition from East to West Africa, from the continent’s green belt to its arid top half. On this particular day, we were camping in a desert canyon just outside of Wadi Musa, Jordan with a group of Bedouins (nomadic Arabs), surrounded by miles upon miles of sand and rock.
While on paper it might sound as though the scenery was lacking, it was anything but. We marveled at the vastness of the landscape, where you could look in any direction and see nothing but sand and rock. Never before had I paid attention to the color variation of sand, or its beguiling beauty that distracted from what it was: a perilous terrain that could kill if the right precautions were not heeded, such as procuring enough water to last our desert excursion.
The heat index predicted a toasty 43ºC (110ºF) high, and despite it only being 8:30 am, the sun was rising to the challenge. I looked at the table in front of me where a beautiful but untouched cup of coffee steamed. I knew I needed to drink it or later deal with the consequences of a caffeine headache.
Gabriel noticed the brimming cup as well.
“Are you going to finish your coffee? It’s almost time to head out.”
“I want to. It’s just so… hot.”
“The coffee or the weather?”
“Well you better get used to it or give up coffee! Otherwise I’m not sure what you’ll do in Senegal.”
I froze (metaphorically speaking, as nothing could freeze in that heat). That week, we had received two offers to work in Senegal, West Africa. Feeling as though we were being led to transition out of East Africa, we spent hours talking and praying about if we should accept. We took into account the offered positions, the school’s mission, if we felt it was a place we could grow and invest in long term, etc…
And then, feeling peace about the decision we arrived at, we wrote back and officially accepted the offers. The peace continued and I felt myself genuinely laughing for the first time in awhile out of relief that God had given us direction in His perfect time, as usual.
The peace lasted 24 hours until I found myself staring at the untouched cup of coffee and realized that while we had explored the possibility of West Africa and prayed about and discussed the pros and cons to the offered positions, we had accepted them without knowing much about the destination.
“Gabe… is it… is it this hot in Senegal?”
“I don't have a forecast on hand, but... it is in the Sahel region and part of sub-Saharan Africa.”
"Haha... right. I guess it doesn't matter exactly how hot it will be. It will still be, well... as hot as Africa."
Questions started to flood my head because, as we’ve discovered over the years, preparation for a move to another country includes much more than seeing how much you can fit in your luggage. It requires research on the destination to know just what to pack — are power outages common? Throw in the solar gear. Is medicine readily available? Add First Aid Kits to the list. What voltage and receptacles do they use? Are there cultural sensitivities related to dress that we should consider?
One of the most obvious questions, but one I seemed to have overlooked, is what is the weather like?
Packing up your life and starting over in another country is not the glamorous adventure many think it is. It requires hard work and difficult decisions and mistakes to be made. Each time we move, we laugh at the things we thought we knew about a destination but later discover we were completely wrong about.
Now, we invite you to join us as we start this "packing up" process again — there are sure to be laughs as we dive into the Senegalese culture and make silly faux pas. Because no matter how much we read and research about Senegal, we know there’s no way to be fully prepared for all that lies ahead. If we could be fully prepared, what’s the fun in that?
In the meantime, here are some interesting tidbits on where we’re working in Senegal and what the destination is like (per our research).
So… what is the weather like?
Senegal has two seasons — a short rainy season and a lengthy dry season. Highs average from 26ºC (79ºF) to 30ºC (86ºF) depending on the season. Thankfully, because we’ll be located along in coast in Dakar, we will have slightly cooler temperatures than cities more inland.
What are you doing there?
We will be working at Dakar Academy, a Christian school that enrolls students from more than 30 countries around the world. The school’s vision is to serve missionary families by providing excellent educational services for their children, including the option to board. Over 70 percent of the students at Dakar Academy are missionary kids.
Over the years we have witnessed how missionary families are affected by the quality of education their children are receiving. If the children are receiving a good education in a safe environment, parents are able to better focus on their own ministries. But if children are not receiving a good education, it can become a stress for the entire family and not only affect their personal lives, but also their effectiveness within their ministries.
Gabriel will be teaching 5th Grade while Sarah will teach Journalism and Creative Writing to high school students. Sarah will also be working on communications/marketing for the school.
What is Dakar like?
Dakar, Senegal’s capital city, is located on the coast and is the farthest point west on the African continent. With a population of 2.47 million, it is the country’s largest city. Around 94 percent of its population is Muslim, while the remaining 6 percent practice Christianity or animism.
Because it was a French colony until 1960, European influence in the region remains strong. It means we’re brushing up on our French, since it’s the national language. But it also means we’re trading beans and posho for baguettes and cheese, so we won’t complain too much.
Do you still need financial partners?
Yes! Because we do not receive a salary at Dakar Academy, we will continue to rely on financial partners to sponsor our work. And because the cost of living in Dakar is higher than it was in Uganda, we are looking for new sponsors to partner with us.
Did you know that studies show up to 20 percent of missionary kids return to the field as adult missionaries? Because 70 percent of students enrolled at Dakar Academy are missionary kids, this gives us an opportunity to not only mentor the students in our classes, but hopefully have a lasting impact when they graduate and go out into the nations.
Please consider making a donation today. Or, if you are interested in hearing more about our work in Senegal, please send us an email. If you are already one of our financial partners, no changes are necessary as Dakar Academy is a partner of our funding agency, Resourcing Christian Education International (RCE).