When God's Word Sounds Forth: A Look at Prayers Answered over the Decades
By Nathan Bramsen
One Friday evening in Saint Louis, Senegal, after another tough day with much resistance to the Gospel from Muslim contacts, friends, and neighbors, a missionary sensed God directing his heart to 1 Thessalonians 1:7–8. He read, “So that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” The day was November 18, 1983. The missionary was my father, Paul Bramsen.
At this point, more than two years had passed since he and my mother, Carol, (Missionary Prayer Handbook Day 28) had moved to Senegal as missionaries, and they had not yet seen any Senegalese turn from Islam to Christ. The passage became his heart’s cry for the work in northern Senegal and formed the basis of his specific prayer: Lord, may the church in Saint Louis be an example to all in Senegal who believe, and may Your Word sound forth from here in the surrounding regions and in every place.
Soon, the Enemy began to intensify his attacks of discouragement. On November 21, a young man who had shown interest in the Gospel and his friends showed up at the reading room my parents operated. He mocked the Gospel and my father, saying, “Just go back to America, because Saint Louis is the strongest Islamic town in Senegal, and no one will ever believe your message!” Later, he came back by himself and told my dad, “If I had some gasoline, I’d love to pour it on your books and light a match to it.”
The battle was well underway. Three-and-a-half more years would pass before my parents saw one soul come to true faith in Jesus Christ, yet their prayer remained the same. Though I wasn’t born at the time of that discouraging episode, their faith impacted my life and trajectory.
City of Saint Louis
Fast forward 37 years to January 13, 2021. With great anticipation, Priyanka, my wife, and I stepped off our Delta Airlines flight onto Senegalese soil carrying our one-year-old, Haven Rahab. We looked forward to seeing how the local church was doing and to having our daughter experience my birth country for the first time. After clearing the various airport procedures, we began our five-hour trip to Saint Louis—the major fishing port and former capital of French West Africa and the city of my birth. From my infancy until I was about 16, my family called Saint Louis “home.”
Though fishing the seas is a physical, economic blessing to many there, my soul’s encouragement lay in observing the Senegalese believers who fish for the souls of their people in this desertic West African nation. What a joy to see local Senegalese who had come to faith in Jesus Christ in my youth now mature in the faith, abiding in Christ, and walking in the light with a vision and passion for seeing their own people reached with the Gospel.
The local church that started in my family’s home now meets at a center in Saint Louis’s most populous neighborhood. Priyanka and I attended meetings at L’Assemblée Evangelique de St. Louis, shared the Word, and encouraged the believers—not only on Sunday but also in the church’s ministries in the city.
We visited a girl’s vocational training school with about 100 Muslim students, who receive quality professional training and Bible teaching; a medical clinic that ministers to the physically hurting; outreaches for street children where they eat well, get showers, and experience the Gospel’s love and truth; a boy’s vocational school; prison ministries; and more. The Lord is at work in Saint Louis.
But let’s move outside the city and see how “the Word is sounding forth”—as my father prayed many years ago and many times since.
Village of Boudiouck
Our first stop was Boudiouck, where Julien and Angele live with their three boys (and a daughter on the way). Julien grew up in Saint Louis alongside my family and was my basketball companion and closest friend. Though his parents were not Christians, he believed the Gospel and gave his life to Christ at an early age. In May 1994, we were baptized in the Senegal River on the same day.
Despite having a good job in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, Julien was burdened for the people of the North. About two years ago, after much prayer, he moved his family to Boudiouck, where my parents had lived off and on for a few years after my siblings and I graduated and left home. When God directed my parents to return to the States, the prayer of their hearts, and mine, was to see a Senegalese Christian family planted there.
Living in Boudiouck, Julien and Angele open their home to the community and serve as faithful Gospel witnesses. But God burdened Julien’s heart for the village’s youth. Over the past year, I have enjoyed encouraging the vision God placed in his heart. At a newly built basketball court, youth come daily to practice, train, and listen to a lesson from God’s Word. Julien went through official training with Fédération Sénégalaise de Basket-Ball and envisions seeing youth leagues started and coaches trained—all with a Gospel-centric approach. Pray for him and others working alongside him to see this vision come to pass, as the Lord wills.
Furthermore, we’re constructing a multipurpose building adjacent to the basketball court, with plans to hold classes, house visiting ministry teams, and serve as the office for Julien’s small business. We trust that, in God’s time, the business will be able to financially support the ministry activities.
God’s Word reminds us, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9) We trust God for a great harvest in Boudiouck, in His time.
Village of Mbarigo
The first Muslim-background believer our family saw come to Christ was a man named Malick. Firsthand, we watched him stand firm in the Gospel as he suffered persecution from his family and community. Later, God used Malick to be the voice of the original radio series in the Wolof language “The Way of Righteousness,” which sounds forth God’s Word across Senegal and in scores of other languages around the world today. (On a personal note, Malick, along with my dad, baptized me.)
Malick and his wife, Feluine, lived in Saint Louis, but after much prayer, they moved their family to Mbarigo (half an hour outside Saint Louis). Though they remain closely involved in the ministries in the city, and Malick is an elder in the church, they started a small farm and are building a discipleship center. Their plan is to ground new Muslim-background believers in their faith, prepare them for persecution and encourage them amid it, and ultimately, see the Gospel spread among other Islamic communities. Priyanka and I enjoyed not only observing how Malick and Feluine’s vision is moving forward but also seeing three young men from their village attending the church in town, Bible studies with women meeting in multiple villages, and neighbors listening to the gospel message because of these examples now living among them.
Village of Rao
For much of Julien’s life, his father, Henri, had been indifferent to the Gospel and in love with the world. After Julien’s adult twin brothers (both believers) died, Henri gave his life to Christ. Seeing Henri repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ was the last thing many people would have expected—but the transformation was evident. After his conversion, his new Muslim wife, Astou, also came to Christ, and a Christian family was born in Saint Louis.
Nearly 20 years ago, Henri moved to Rao, where his family became the only Christian witness in the village. Since the day in 1995 that he was saved, Henri has been passionate about one thing: Jesus Christ. He is never found without gospel resources, whether tracts, King of Glory DVDs, flash drives with gospel radio broadcasts, or a solar-powered MegaVoice audio device. As we delivered a suitcase filled with gospel resources into his hands, his overwhelming enthusiasm made me ask myself, Do I get this excited about the opportunities I have to share the Gospel in life and word?
What a privilege to work alongside Henri and Astou, helping to keep them stocked with resources to distribute. From prison cells to work with street children to the marketplace, they faithfully proclaim Christ crucified, risen, and coming again. As we shared a dinner of wild boar with the family, Henri reminded me, “Jesus is coming soon. Our time is limited here. We have to keep pressing on!”
Again and again on our trip, we witnessed the heart of the church in Saint Louis, Senegal: to plant themselves in communities, villages, and neighborhoods where Christ is not known and glorify God with their lives. In these few examples, the Gospel’s power is evident. Though God’s timing and ways are not ours, we can say, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5:24) ■
Nathan and Priyanka Bramsen are commended from Overbrook Gospel Chapel in Greenville, South Carolina, and Houston Brethren Assembly in Houston, Texas.