December 2002

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Living and working in Chad forces us as missionaries to come to grips with the more unpleasant, but very Biblical realities of the Kingdom of God which life in America conveniently obscures. In this issue, we consider one of these realities - the remnant principle, or, if you prefer, the "blessed are the meek" principle.  On the back page, we bring you up to date on some recent news - from N'Djamena and Chageen. 

Blessed are the meek - 
for they shall inherit the earth

Reflections on the onslaught of Islam in north-central Africa 

All they needed was $30,000. Would we be willing to contribute? The four impeccably dressed Chadian gentlemen sitting in my office hardly looked the warrior types. But a war was indeed their business. The letter they presented me bore the masthead “Operation Canaan” followed by a one-page missive which made repeated references to certain “enemies”. The byline under the masthead was “Trusting God for the Impossible,” which, as their plight unfolded, seemed a fair description of it. It appeared from these gentlemen’s story that short of those $30,000 the defeat of the Church Victorious was imminent and indeed certain.

It seems that the property adjacent to the most prestigious church in southern Chad had come up for sale after the death of its owner. The Muslims, the story went, intended to purchase the land for $40,000 and build yet another mosque (in addition to the one on the other side of the church) on the property with the intent of driving the church from that neighborhood. The family of the deceased demurred and offered the property to the church at the still grossly inflated price of $30,000, which is what brought the four elders scurrying to my office.

They had made the unforgivable tactical blunder of letting their enemies choose the field of battle. 

I chose my words carefully as I gently reprimanded these earnest warriors, since I shared their distaste of Islam. They were, I reminded them, fighting a battle that need not be fought, and moreover, they had made the unforgivable tactical blunder of letting their enemies choose the field of battle. The real battle, I explained, was not on the fields of high finance - which was a battle they neither needed to win nor ever could win. The battle, I told them, was in the field of souls. Like it or not, human souls are the only thing in the universe that really matter. An alternative, I suggested, was to arrange for all 700 people in that church to covenant to share the gospel with at least one Muslim kid every day. By the end of the first week, I predicted, the property would be a moot point. That would be a battle worth fighting, and what is more, Christians, and not the Muslims, possessed the weapons to fight this battle. I reminded them of Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV)

Why does God always seem so manifestly disinterested in the temporal welfare of his Kingdom? 

As the men took their leave, I found myself struggling with my own doubts: Why does God always seem so manifestly disinterested in the temporal welfare of his Kingdom?  Why did he let the Romans torture and scatter the early believers? Why was the Pope able to crush the flower of Protestantism in France in the 17th century? Why did the true hope of humanity wither under the heavy hand for Communism for much of the 20th century? And why is Islam able to continue it’s relentless march across Africa by murder, extortion, and economic hegemony backed by a limitless supply of oil dollars?

The hard answer to these questions - an answer that I do not easily embrace as it offends my only too human sense of justice - is God’s insistence that in this age his people should be a remnant and not the majority; underdogs and not overlords; vanquished and not victorious - at least not in any conventional sense of the term. I long for the satisfaction of seeing the Church vanquish her enemies. But such a satisfaction is not ours to have. It is a satisfaction kept in reserve for her Master alone - lest the smugness bred by societal dominance should suffocate the faith and hope born in desperation and oppression. The Church’s lot is to be the poor of spirit, the mourners, and the meek as we patiently await a kingdom “not of this world.” Then, and only then, will we have the satisfaction of seeing “the first become last, and the last, first”. For:

God has chosen the weak things of this world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things  - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one can boast before him. - (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NIV)


The Flip Side

The church compound with the minaret of the existing mosque in the background

Did they get the $30,000?

They managed to collect about half of it and make a down payment on the property. To do this, they had to exhaust virtually every last penny of liquidity from among the church members and it is doubtful therefore that they will be able to make good on the other half of the purchase price any time soon. While we were in principle opposed to the whole idea of the purchase, there was another factor which dictated that we give them a token of a couple hundred dollars - namely that in Africa, a concrete declaration of fraternity with a brother who is in a jam is always appreciated, and indeed appropriate, even if the merits of his case are somewhat dubious.

Our work in N’Djamena

Since we took over the management of the Team guest and business facility in N’Djamena 5 months ago, we have handled a quarter million dollars in cash, done a couple million dollars worth of accounting transfers, welcomed over 200 guests at our guesthouse from 10 different mission agencies, made over 40 trips to the airport and purchased everything from car springs to rabies vaccine for missionaries in remote parts of Chad.  It is a stressful, tiring job which we will be glad to relinquish when the “regulars” for this job, Carl and Sandy Hodges, return in mid 2003. Nevertheless, doing this job has given us a deepened sense of gratitude for an oft neglected and unappreciated facet of the missionary endeavor.

We take this opportunity to remind all our readers that in 4 year’s time Carl and Sandy will be eligible for a well- earned retirement after nearly 40 years of service in Chad. It is imperative that we find a replacement for them - failing which it is quite likely that we will once again fill this job in N’Djamena to the detriment of the work in Chageen. If you have a little experience in management, and maybe have retired yourself, and are looking to make an impact on the world in a very mundane but critical way, do get in touch with us.

Meanwhile in Chageen...

Another village already "mosqued"

The big news from Chageen is that the Islamic committee of Chad is intent on building two new mosques - in Chageen and the other large Kwong town, Ngam. As is their habit, they are riding rough-shod through the village to build these edifices with Kuwaiti oil money. They will be more expensive and more beautiful than any other structure for 50 miles around - and this in spite of the fact that there are not more than a dozen or so indigenous Kwong Muslims in each of these villages. The entire population of these villages is opposed to the construction of these buildings, but unfortunately the chiefs of these villages have reputations for not having much backbone in such matters even though they are the only individuals with the power to stop the construction. Pray that the Lord would intervene to stop the construction of these buildings. Pray that the threat posed by the spread of Islam would spur Kwong Christians to more zealously spread the Gospel.



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