COVID-19: Sharing the Gospel message in Senegal
Young Lutheran entrepreneurs create media production group
(LWI) - Young Lutheran entrepreneurs in Senegal believe the best way to share the Gospel during the exceptional times of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is “through the production of online biblical content.”
On a winter weekend in 2017, five young Lutheran adults met on Gorée Island for a retreat. From that getaway an outreach media project called “Team Relax” was born. By 2019, Team Relax, had grown into a video production group of 13 men and women. The young professionals are active members of the Lutheran Church of Senegal (ELS), a Lutheran World Federation member church. They describe themselves as entrepreneurs and an association of “free” young people.
Initially, their aim was to provide opportunities and jobs for young people and “to help others strengthen their faith in Christ” through video production. This is important in a country where the youth unemployment rate is between 7 and 9 percent.
People who do not normally come to church could now hear the Gospel with their loved ones.
The “Team Relax” members have trained as teachers, engineers, business managers, accountants, marketing and communications officers, geographers, interpreters, musicians, medical personnel, biologists and pastors. No matter how diverse the individual mastery, the team holds a common passion for video production and editing images.
Responding to a changed context
The COVID-19 pandemic stopped many of the original gatherings and events that Team Relax serviced, such as weddings and other life events. Church buildings also closed. Team Relax refocused and recorded a series of videos titled, “Sharing the World” in collaboration with the pastors of the Lutheran church “to enable the faithful to remain in prayer.”
“In the beginning, some pastors were reluctant to make videos via social networks because it was new to them,” said Team Relax member Pascal Kama, outgoing General Secretary of ELS and former member of the LWF Global Young Reformers Network.
In a country where 95 percent of the population practices Islam according to the Pew Research Center, Team Relax offers a way for the Christian minority to stay connected to the church. The Lutheran church collaborates with other faith groups in initiatives that foster community development.
“Sharing the Word”
Pastor Jean Noel Faye, president of the Lutheran Youth Movement of Senegal and youth representative on the Islamic-Christian Relations in Africa executive committee, gave the team its first break. Faye asked the team to produce his sermon online when the state closed all places of worship to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Realizing that the Lutheran church did not have other technology like radio or TV broadcast stations to reach its now shut-in congregation with “sufficiently and real-time methods,” Faye wanted to work with the team.
First, they organized WhatsApp segments for the youth group, the pastors and a larger group of members from Senegal and Benin.
After recording Faye, Team Relax was invited to record worship services of other ELS pastors. The ability to share the Word of God with parishioners was Faye’s first motivation but noted evangelism as a bonus to having a recorded message available on mobile.
“People who do not normally come to church could now hear the Gospel with their loved ones. We cannot even measure the impact of this,” Faye added.
Presently, Team Relax does not charge ELS pastors a fee, stating that “these videos are a contribution to the work of the church which is currently without any possibility to gather.”
“Sharing the Word” series is filmed and edited on mobile devices, which they use to deliver mass communications or “mass spreading the Gospel,” the team wrote.