After church on a Sunday afternoon, Grace Brinsfield is found hunched over a bucket of soapy water. An hour into her laundry, a pile of dirty clothes still sits beside her. She is only about halfway done with her load. Nearby, a group of middle school girls wander around, bored, looking for something to do. They spot Grace glancing over her shoulder at her never-ending pile.
Without saying a word, they walk over to her, place their hands in the bucket of soapy water, and begin doing Grace’s laundry beside her. In 10 minutes, all of her clothes are washed.
This is just one of many examples of “Teranga” that Grace experienced while in Senegal during her extended field experience – a cultural norm of abundant hospitality and accommodation, as Grace explains it — something she was not used to but is grateful for.
A Personal Faith
Grace’s faith became more personal when she went to college and was confronted with personal convictions. Growing up involved in the church, Grace struggled with sin because she knew it was wrong. She found it easy to go astray in the college environment.
After joining Baptist College Ministries, Grace went on her first immersive cross-cultural experience in Cambodia where she taught English to high school students. That was where she learned that church planting is a long-term commitment.
“Just after the one-month mark we were already halfway through, but they were just starting to trust us and open up to us,” Grace said.
Grace left Cambodia considering international missions as something she would want to pursue long-term. After graduating college in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, she was left with one big question; How do ministry and agriculture go together?
Growth While at ECHO
After getting a recommendation, Grace applied to the ECHO Internship for the summer of 2022. Grace was assigned to take care of the Monsoon garden, acquiring knowledge, techniques, and relationships that would eventually be of support to her in Senegal.
About a month after the conclusion of her
internship in Fort Myers, Grace took the opportunity to go on the extended ECHO field experience which supports interns to apply what they learned in Florida in the developing world with partners. This brought her to Senegal, West Africa, where she worked on the BeerSheba Project for six months.
On the farm, Grace spent her time breeding a Senegalese chicken that is well-suited for the climate, testing various plant-based and farm-made pesticides as overnight seed soaks to prevent millipedes from eating young plants, and woodworking a winnower for seed banks using a design she learned about while in Florida.
Senegal is made up of about 95% Muslims, 5% Catholics, and is 100% animistic. Grace quickly realized there were a number of unreached people in Senegal, meaning certain ethnolinguistic groups do not have the people or resources to share the gospel with them. This is why outsiders were often needed – to help mobilize locals to go to other unreached contexts.
Grace was invited to a local Christian’s house for Bible discussion and Ataya, a Senegalese tea. The conversations that took place had to be translated three times (English, Pular, and Wolof) for everyone to get the message. Despite the language barrier, the group had warm fellowship and prayer.
“One of my worries when coming to Senegal was if I would find close Christian relationships here, and the Lord has blessed me abundantly with the spiritual family I have found,” Grace said.
The next four years
While in Senegal, Grace met an American couple receiving training at Beersheba that has been in Senegal for 20 years. The family welcomed Grace right away, and as she spent more time with them, she decided she wanted to be mentored by them long-term. Upon arriving back home to Maryland, Grace was hired as an apprentice for their new agriculture training project in Eastern Senegal to work to improve farmers’ standard of living.
She will also be joining their sending organization, which has seen spiritual growth in Senegal over the years. Her focus will be on indigenous church planting.
Grace completed her training in August and will begin her 2-year apprenticeship in early 2024.
“I’m grateful that ECHO led to this connection,” she said. “I was especially feeling like I needed to have what’s next figured out and the Lord answered my prayers by providing a connection and people who I really respect and have a similar heart and mindset related to holistic missions and agriculture.”