Having Eyes To See, So Others May Hear

How Holistic Ministry and Church Planting is Impacting Senegal

Mission Inter Senegal (MIS) is a Senegalese church planting agency that partners with United World Mission. MIS uses a holistic approach to plant churches in resistant communities, showing God’s love, building relationships and earning the right to present an alternative to a hopeless life. Senegal is a Muslim country with 95% of the population following Islam; therefore, it is crucial to build bridges before any serious communication of the Gospel can take place.


The story of Mission Inter Senegal started with an eye opening incident. In 1986 an evangelism team was sent from the church I was pastoring in Dakar to minister in a small Muslim village in the interior of the country. After greeting the chief of the village and other local authorities, the team proceeded to share the good news with the people. The reaction was harsh in this usually hospitable country; people threw rocks at them and forbid them to talk about Jesus. They started praying for a different strategy and God laid on their heart to return to the chief and offer to treat an ugly boil they noticed on his leg when they went to greet him. On the team it so happened that there was a medical student and a pharmacist who had a medical kit. The news spread rapidly in the village that the team was a medical team, and people started to flock to get help. The team used up their supply of medicine and more medicine was sent their way. The people became more responsive to their message in such a way that by the time they left the village a handful of new believers were being discipled.

Prior to launching Mission Inter Senegal, we realized that our church planting efforts were hardly reaching the Senegalese population. With the exception of a few Senegalese young people, we were reaching mainly foreigners from other African countries who were more familiar with Christianity. In addition the church was always considered marginal in the society.

These considerations led to the launching of Mission Inter Senegal in 1997, a local sending agency with a Holistic approach to church planting.

The approach of caring for people’s physical needs has given MIS credibility among the Muslim-majority population and has helped the ministry gain recognition by the government. MIS is registered by the government as a Christian NGO working for the well-being of the Senegalese people, regardless of their religious background.

A Completed Water project

It’s great when the multidisciplinary team can bring drinking water and spiritual water for this population. Wells or piped water are provided where the water was not available; health huts are built where there was previously no access to health. School supplies and textbooks are provided to students. MIS provides grain mills, establishes cereal banks, village bakeries, initiates vegetable gardens, sports programs, nutrition programs, child sponsorship, micro loans and many other support programs. All this is always followed by a Christian witness to provide eternal hope, which remains at the heart of MIS mission.

The Barthimee Hospital opened by Mission Inter Senegal in 2004 in the city of Thies brings great relief to those who suffer physically. Thousands of patients are treated every year in its various departments: surgery, pediatrics, dental, maternity, etc. From the hospital, mobile medical teams travel to the villages to break the ground, touch hearts and to open the door to the proclaiming of the Word of God.

Surgery Ward

This compassionate work touches people’s lives in a very real way: people are grateful to be treated medically, prayed for, empowered and introduced to the God of grace and love. As a result the Lord draws many Senegalese to Himself.

Every year many short-term groups from churches in the West visit to serve alongside the MIS team under the “Adopt A Village” program. This program emphasizes building relationships with the village community and praying for the needs that the village deems important. Using cultural clues such as “the naming ceremony” they become like family, earning the right to speak the truth of the Gospel into the life of their namesakes.

The concept of “planting a pregnant church” (a legacy from Dwight Smith former UWM president), which summarizes MIS saturation church planting approach, was introduced in one of the pilot villages targeted by MIS. The church in that village was challenged and equipped with training and community services to reach out to the other 36 villages that form their “county” (called Rural Community in Senegal). In 6 years the first generation of believers had given birth to 10 communities of believers out of the 36 villages, 3 of these groups were large enough to be organized into churches with their own worship place and leaders. In those 6 years the Christian population of that predominantly Muslim “county” had grown from less than 1% to 5% of the population.

The same approach was introduced to other strategic villages in other counties with encouraging results.

The church is no longer marginalized but rather it is viewed as an integral part of the village community because it is one of the primary agents for positive transformation.

One of MIS sayings over the years continues to be true: “If we do not have eyes to see the needs of those who suffer in this 95% Muslim country, we should not be surprised if they do not have ears to hear the only message that can make a difference in their lives: the Good News of Jesus Christ, who died for their sin to give them an eternal hope”.

By: Jose, Serving in Senegal
Co-founder of Mission Inter Senegal
UWM Regional Leader