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Chillicothe Baptist Church members attend a Wolof language class
February 10, 2017 : Ohio University Chillicothe helps to bridge language barrier for local church


Ohio University Chillicothe helps to bridge language barrier for local church


It’s not every day that an organization is in need of a course in a Western African language in rural Southeastern Ohio. That is, until the Chillicothe Baptist Church reached out to OUC’S Office of Continuing Education for this exact reason – to help their church prepare for an upcoming mission trip to Senegal.


The nation of Senegal is located on the western coast of Africa and is home to more than 14 million people of which nearly 40 percent speak Wolof.


Because of the language barrier posed to the church’s missionaries, Pastor Tim Cline began searching online for a way to help his church members better understand the language and possibly get training.


“I lived in Senegal for more than five years and was looking for somewhere that I could get some help for my people to learn this language,” Cline explained. “I was searching on the internet and found Dr. Steve Howard with the African studies department at Ohio University, and he helped us put together the idea and bring it to Chillicothe.”


Once Tim made contact at the African studies department at Ohio University, he and Dr. Howard were able to make a connection with student Macodou Fall, a Senegalese native working towards his master of arts degree in African studies. Macodou was then brought on as an instructor for the Wolof course teaching his native language to the CBC missionaries. 


“The students were excited and scared at the same time,” said Cline, referencing their first class. “Since Wolof is unlike many other languages, it’s overwhelming at first, but they are catching on and enjoying it.”


Fourteen students ranging in age from a sixth grader to a 60 plus adult attended the first session taught through the Ohio University Learning Network. OULN allows an individual or group of people to connect with others from a long distance through an interactive video network. CBC students meet once a week on the Chillicothe campus and link in to Macodou’s class in Athens. They’ll continue the class for 10 sessions over the next couple of months.


Pastor Cline explained that CBC takes a holistic approach to their ministry, offering insight on the mind, body and soul as well as teaching the Bible on their missionary trips.


“We don’t always want to work through translators,” he noted. “We’d like to get to know the people and learn from them, and knowing their language will allow us an opportunity to get back from their culture.”


Dr. Brenda Phillips, Associate Dean of OUC and director of Continuing Education and Workforce Development explained that this was a community specific need and that’s what we’re here for, to serve the community. The  Wolof class is being taught through the Continuing Education program at OUC.


“What you guys are offering is more training in the language than what I had when I went into the field in 1994,” said Pastor Cline. “We’re just thankful that OUC was able to help us with this endeavor.”


The church plans on making numerous trips throughout the year to Senegal for their missions and may add more Wolof classes for their members, or other churches, in the future.


The Continuing Education and Workforce Development program at OUC provides flexible and affordable education programs, seminars, workshops and training programs that meet the demands for the community they serve. For more information on the program, visit