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Bringing hope to the desert

by: CLIFF NEWELL - One example of Lake Grove Presbyterian Church's affinity with Senegal is a replica of a village hut in the church. Pictured are Alan Shiffer, Susie Graham and the Rev. Bob Sanders.The Rev. Bob Sanders set his sights too low when Lake Grove Presbyterian Church first sought to help a native village in Senegal, Africa, in 1995. He has not made that mistake since.

"We sought enough money to support one well," Sanders said. "We got enough money for 12 wells."

This proved to be a transformative experience for the church. Since that first experience, Lake Grove Presbyterian has channeled $1 million to Senegalese villagers. Not only that, this first mission was the root of other mission programs that started in the church, including the successful WaterAfrica, founded by Bill and Diane Savage. Only a few weeks ago the organization's Walk4Water6 attracted a record 460 water walkers. by: SUBMITTED - Bob Sanders gives a hearty handshake to his friend Cheik Fall, the chief of a village in Senegal. Sanders has built many friendships in his 15 trips to Africa.

This partnership with World Vision will be recognized when LGPC hosts Senegal Celebration the weekend of May 18 and 19. The public is invited to come and see what has been going on for the past two decades.

It all started with Sanders and some of his church members attended a missions conference sponsored by World Vision in 1994, and one of the speakers challenged them to pray for the people of Senegal.

"We sent a team to investigate," Sanders said. "We saw the bore holes and saw the difference clean water makes in the lives of these people. Their lives were transformed through water. Before, drought had spread across the country, and people had to walk five or six miles to fill a bucket with filthy water."

"Senegal was a land almost without hope," said Alan Shiffer, a senior director of World Vision and a member of Lake Grove Presbyterian. "There was so much trouble happening in West Africa. Our church has been working to bring holistic and sustainable development. It has put crops into the desert and brought hope for the future."

While the church has given water and money, in return its members have received awareness.

"We have had many children involved in this project," said Susie Graham, director of children's ministries at LGPC. "I've seen our children's eyes open to the world. They have made Senegal a focus of their prayers and giving. When you talk about food and water, these are things kids really get."

While the Senegalese people were extremely grateful, they wanted something more.

"The villagers wanted to meet us," said Sanders. "Our congregation arose to say, 'Yes, we want to be part of this.'"

"We've had 20 years of trips," Shiffer said. "We have mutual respect and engagement. They are friends."

The weekend celebration begins at 9:45 a.m. on May 18 with the program "Behind the Headlines: What God Is doing in West Africa." It will feature guest speakers Torrey Olsen of World Vision, Adama Diouf, Leopold Diouf and Feluine Fall. A worship service is scheduled at 5 p.m.

Guest speakers from Senegal will be featured at all three worship services on May 19 at 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m.

Lake Grove Presbyterian Church is located at 4040 Sunset Drive in Lake Grove. For more information, call Susie Graham at 503-210-6081.