Today’s story comes from the country of Senegal [SEHN-eh-gahl], on the far western coast of Africa. [Locate Senegal on the map.]
Jean [John] Paul lives in Dakar [dah-KAHR], the capital and largest city of Senegal.
Jean Paul was sad and lonely. He wanted to make friends, but other children avoided him or acted as if they didn’t see him. Recess time was the hardest for Jean Paul. The children often played soccer, his favorite game. But he wasn’t invited to play. You see, Jean Paul had a disease called polio that left his legs too weak to hold him, and now he’s unable to walk. He must use a wheelchair to get around.
Jean Paul’s parents were worried too. The school Jean Paul attended couldn’t meet Jean Paul’s needs. “We have stairs, and your son can’t climb them,” the principal said.
Jean Paul’s parents looked at several schools in the city, but the principals shook their heads. They couldn’t meet Jean Paul’s needs.
Then someone suggested a small Adventist school in the city. Perhaps Jean Paul could study there. His parents drove to the school. It wasn’t as nice as some of the other schools they had visited, but the principal welcomed them and showed them around the little three-room primary school.
When Jean Paul’s parents returned to the principal’s office, they looked at each other and then turned to the principal. “Our son is bright,” Jean Paul’s father said. “But he—he can’t walk. He had polio, and he must use a wheelchair.” The parents waited for the look of rejection on the principal’s face, but instead the principal smiled.
“Would you like to bring your son to the school to meet the children?” the principal asked. “I’m sure Jean Paul will like it here.”
On Monday morning Jean Paul’s parents drove to the little Adventist school. Jean Paul scooted into his wheelchair, and his parents pushed him toward the school.
The principal met the family and introduced Jean Paul to the students. The children greeted him, and the teacher showed him to his desk. “Welcome!” the children said.
At recess the children hurried to the door of the classroom. Jean Paul turned his wheelchair toward the door and found that one of the boys had put a piece of wood at the doorway to allow Jean Paul to ride outside. The children stood ready for kick off for a game soccer. But Jean Paul held back.
The teacher walked up beside Jean Paul and asked, “Do you like soccer?”
“Yes, sir,” Jean Paul said. “I play goalie.”
“Lucas! Omar!” the teacher called. Omar hurried over and looked at the teacher. “Jean Paul says he plays goalie,” the teacher said. “Do you think your team could use a goalie?”
Omar saw the teacher’s smile and said, “Sure!” Omar pushed Jean Paul’s wheelchair closer to the goal post, and Jean Paul slid out onto the ground. He couldn’t walk, but he could sure move fast! The game began, and Jean Paul managed to prevent several goals by grabbing the ball or by swinging his body to block it from entering the goal area.
From that day on Jean Paul has been the boys’ team goalie at the Adventist school in Dakar.
“I’m so glad to be in this school,” Jean Paul says. “The children here are kind to me. They let me play with them, and they include me in their work groups in class.”
Only a few children in Jean Paul’s school are from Adventist homes. Most are Muslim, for Senegal is a mostly Muslim country. But together the children are learning to serve God and respect one another.
The Thirteenth Sabbath Offering this quarter will help build more classrooms at the little Adventist school. And our children’s offering will help buy books to create a library so that all the children can read more about God.