Christmas is upon us and with it come many memories. The Christmas songs tell us that it is a time of snow, a time for Santa to climb down the chimney, a time of mistletoes, and a time of gift giving. Most of my childhood memories of Christmas are of trees covered with snow and gifts under a tree. I have memories of family gathering and times of joy. On my recent trip to Chad, Christmas memories again flooded into my mind. As I walked across the church compound that we used to call home in Mongo, I recalled how Christmas is celebrated by the church in Mongo. Mongo is about a 7 hours drive east of N’Djamena, the capital. It is dry and dusty at Christmas time, and the average temperature at this cooler time of year is 95F/ 35C. There is no snow, there is no talk of Santa, no mistletoe and no gift giving. It all sounds rather bleak until you realize that, at the time of Christ’s birth, life was not too much different than what Mongo is like today, and the church in Mongo has its own way of celebrating the coming of our Savior, a celebration that the town is invited to come and join in on. The dreary looking church compound is strung with lights. Seiko (grass fencing) is put up to partition the area and chairs are set up outside for visitors to relax and enjoy the festivities. Food is brought by members of the large congregation. Donations are given to help cover the costs of drinks for the guests. Children from the local blind school and Christian school do skits. Dignitaries, including the governor are invited. Music is played, and the neighborhood sees how Christ’s birth is celebrated. It is a great testimony to the people of Mongo and a wonderful encouragement to the church. So, the next time we think that Christmas needs to be celebrated in a specific way, let’s remember the church in Mongo. They celebrate Christmas in a very different way, but Christ’s birth is still the reason for the season. We wish you all a very Merry/Happy Christmas as you too remember and celebrate Christ’s birth.
Driving in Chad this past November, one thing that stood out to me was the road from the capital to where we lived in Mongo. That is a distance of around 500 kilometers, a little over 300 miles.
When we first arrived in Chad in 2001, this trip took us almost 9 hours on very rough roads that were best suited to off-road trucks. Over time, Chad and outside entities invested in infrastructure and built roads between the two cities. The trip is now down to around 6-1/2 hours.
While this is an amazing change, what is still needed in this landlocked country is a cost-effective way to import goods and a way of transporting these goods across a country that is over twice the size of Texas.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that discussions were already underway to build a railroad line in Chad. This rail line would connect to the neighboring country of Cameroon, which already has a track that extends to the Atlantic Ocean. A vote was taken in June, and the World Bank is providing funds to research the feasibility. A private firm has also committed to funding the project.
Just 4 short months after this vote, Sudan reached an agreement with two Chinese companies to do a feasibility study on constructing a railroad from the Red Sea to the Chad border. This railway would connect with the proposed Chad railway and result in a transport system that goes from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
These proposed railways would be fantastic for Chad’s economy and reduce the price of goods for the people of Chad. It looks like it won’t be too long before Chad has its own railroad, and with it, a means to improve a standard of living that remains one of the very worst in the world.
It is the end of rainy season.
The rain brought cool weather and a much-needed crops. There was no rain in the month of October, and some of the crops may not survive. The mango trees that are growing in some areas lack the water needed to produce their delicious fruit. The same can be said about guavas and lemons.
When Art arrived in Chad on October 26th, he was not sure what to weather to expect. It turned out that the average temperature in Mongo was around 97 degrees Fahrenheit. With a bad cold, Art had trouble sleeping most nights. Thankfully, there would come an occasional gentle breeze that would blow through the dusty windows of the room he stayed in.
I’m reminded that God sometimes works through a still small whisper, a gentle breeze, as he did in the time of Elijah. The heat tends to drain us, but God’s gentle breeze refreshes. As Elijah stood on the mountain there was a strong wind, then an earthquake, and finally a fire. The Bible says that God was not in the strong wind. He was not in the earthquake, and He was not in the Fire. He was in that still small voice that whispered to Elijah, a gentle breeze that rushed across his face.
During Art’s time in Chad, he did not see miracles occur among the Dadjo. He did not see God reveal himself in a supernatural way. What he did see is Dadjo sitting in small groups listening as he read God’s Word to them. He was able to share the simple, yet powerful message of salvation through faith in Christ. That’s really all we can do. We can proclaim Jesus. God needs to do the rest. He may not do it in the timing we wish, and He may not do it by the numbers we wish, but He will accomplish His purpose through His Word (Isaiah 55:11).
After all, it may be just a still small voice with which He speaks and makes himself known to the Dadjo.
Please join us in praying for the Dadjo people of Chad, Africa. Pray that God will break our hearts for the unreached people. Pray that He will provide for their everyday needs. Pray that they will thirst for living water in the dry desert land, a thirst that only Jesus can satisfy.
As Art traveled to Chad once again, he saw changes from his last visit, but along with the changes were the signs of things that never seem to change. Last year, when Art arrived, the country was in financial crisis. It was a crisis unlike any seen in at least the last two decades. The shops were almost bare. The markets were empty. People could not pay their rents. Teachers, hospital workers and anyone else working for the government were mostly on strike. If you were sick, there was little option but to pray. One year later, most of these things seem to have improved. The government began paying partial salaries. The shops now have goods to sell. The hospital is open, and children are going to school. A closer look however tells you that outward appearances can be somewhat deceptive. When you begin talking to the people of Chad, you realize that Chad’s biggest employer, the government, has frozen a good part of its hiring. People who planned on being teachers are now on a waiting list that is years long. The same is likely true for most other government posts, including nurses and doctors.
On top of all that, livestock prices remain at around 50 percent of their value from two years ago. That means that the people of Chad who rely on livestock to live, now have 50 percent less to live on. This decrease in livestock value is possibly related to terrorism on the western borders of the country. Nigeria was once a major consumer/purchaser of livestock from Chad. With terrorism, trading across borders is now much more dangerous, and therefore not really an option.
During our many years in Chad, we have seen lots of improvements. More roads in the capital have been paved, gas stations have been built and access to fuel has become more stable. In many ways however, Chad is still the same as it was when we arrived over 15 years ago. With all the changes over the years, there are some changes that never seem to happen.
After a couple of days in the capital, Art made the all-day bus ride to Mongo. He didn’t get the bus he was hoping for. This one had no air conditioning in 100 f temperatures. But he made it and was able to meet some key people. He and the translation team finished two days of translation work so far in trying to get the book of Galatians ready for testing in other villages.
On another note, please pray for Art’s health. He’s not feeling well today.
Art is on his way to Chad. Everything has gone fairly smooth so far. As his plane to leave France is delayed, we’re reminded of last year when he was stuck in Paris a full 24 hours with a flight delay/cancellation. We hope that is not the case this time.
The translation checking time of Galatians and Acts ran out. Galatians was finished, but only a couple of chapters of Acts was done, so a few chapters still remain. So although we are disappointed with how slow the time of checking went, we are, at the same time, amazed that the consultant was able to get as far as she did considering the problems with the replacement back-translator. We are thankful for the prayers that went up concerning this, and trust that God has His reasons for who is involved and what is accomplished.
We began consultant checking (the last phase before publishing) last Monday.
Unfortunately we were very disappointed to find out that the “back translator” was unable to help this time, so the team ended up with a replacement who has been rather frustrating in the past. We were hoping that someone else could be found, but here we are at the end of week one, and we are still trudging through the process with the replacement. Knowing that we’re stuck with this situation, we keep praying that God would open the eyes of understanding for this man as he back translates the book of Galatians from Dadjo into French so the consultant can ensure the translation is done well.
We are thankful that they have been making some progress, although very slow, and Art has been working every day via computer and phone to keep up with the comments and suggestions that the consultant has been making. After five days, they have finished up to the beginning of Galatians 4.
We were expecting that the team would have started with the book of Acts because there are only five more chapters left to complete the book, but the new consultant decided instead to begin with Galatians. Because of the time Galatians is taking to complete, we have little hope of making it through Acts next week before our time of checking is over.
As a result, we will likely have to wait another year before Acts can be finished.
This is very disappointing for us, but we trust that God knows what is going on and has chosen to allow it for His own purposes. So we try not to be discouraged, and keep on with the work as God gives it to us!