We had a rough year in N'Djamena, but we didn't have to think very hard to count many blessings from the time we spent there. In this month's letter, we share some of the very positive outcomes of this experience.
18 months ago we left Chageen to assume administrative responsibilities which would have been challenging to the most capable of individuals in the best of circumstances. As it was, our capabilities were modest and we were not blessed with anything like ideal circumstances. It was a year marked by intrigue and discouragement as we ran down clues to convict our corrupt Chadian assistant and recover 10’s of thousands of dollars of embezzled mission money. We will remember it as a dark year.
One day as we despaired, feeling lost in this darkness, a mature missionary friend shared what the Lord had been showing her in His Word. “The darkness is not something to be feared or to run from,” she said, “in fact, there are treasures hidden even in the darkness - in secret places. God cannot give us these special treasures if we close our eyes to where they are found.”
In the Kingdom of God the Lord always has a very specific
and good intent for our tribulations, though often it seems we are left
in the dark as to this intent. In the darkness that was our year in N’Djamena,
however, we did see the hand of God in many ways, and so we would like to
share some of the treasures of darkness we found stored in the secret places of
FM 95.2 “Land of Peace”
An FM radio station broadcasting the Good News to the Kwong and 4 or 5 other languages was born because we were in N’Djamena to hear from another missionary that the government was favorably disposed to grant licenses, and we were there to make the application and then follow up on it. Furthermore, because we had daily email contact with the engineers in Canada who know how to set these things up, FM 95.2 “Land of Peace” is becoming a reality, and will hopefully be broadcasting next year. This never could have happened if we had spent this past year in Chageen.
Investing in relationships
It was a startling realization: as we took communion at the large Chadian church we attended this year, we realized that we knew over half of the twenty-four “big men” elders who were serving us. At the beginning of the year, we knew none of them. We knew them not because we attended potlucks and softball games together - such things don’t exist here - but because we ran the mission office and we transacted mission and national church business with them almost every day of the year. These men - and others of whom these men were representative - are the shakers and movers of the Chadian national church. Getting to know them personally this year was an investment in relationships which will pay dividends to our work among the Kwong for years to come. In fact, we have already cashed in on it. When we prepared a three-year plan (to be put into effect this November) of retraining all the Kwong pastors with the Kingdom of God materials we have developed over the last 5 years, it was these men who had the authority, which they exercised on our behalf, to make attendance mandatory on threat of being defrocked. All they asked - to our delight - was to be able to come to Chageen to inaugurate the program.
One of the men serving us communion that day was Dr. Mangdah - a tall lanky Chadian physician, responsible for supervising the 20 or so evangelical clinics scattered around the country, including the one at Chageen. The clinic at Chageen, which in the past had been a tremendous witness of the Gospel, had been a sorry case for some time - its finances were a mess; the head male nurse was incompetent; the Chadian staff of 4 was demoralized; it was held in contempt by the population; there were no medicines; and the clinic building was (and still is) falling down. Things finally got bad enough that we drew up a plan with the collaboration of Pastor Old Moses to redynamize the clinic, starting from the inside (administration, finances, staffing, etc) and working out to the reconstruction of the building. Dr Mangdah had the authority to make the necessary changes and assign the new staff we needed, so we presented our plan to him. Not only did he accept the plan in its entirety, and exercise his considerable authority in its favor, he also came to Chageen with us for a few days to talk to the interested parties (or uninterested, as the case was for the nurse getting the boot). The relationship with Dr. Mangdah that made all this possible could never have happened if we had spent this year in Chageen.
Oil Exploration in Kwongland
Change is coming to Kwongland - huge changes that will redefine forever the social fabric of Chageen and the surrounding villages. We have already seen it 150 miles to the south and it boils down to this: where oil is discovered, the two evil A’s are close behind: alcohol and AIDS. There is oil under Chageen - possibly lots of it. In a few weeks four huge drilling rigs will bore test holes to see just how much. To say that we are concerned would be an understatement. To say that it is providential that we are among the Kwong in this hour would be an even greater understatement. While we have no illusions about stopping the inevitable course of events, it has been a tremendous comfort to us to have made the friendship of the man who is directing the exploration and eventual exploitation of the reserves under Chageen, Ben Visser, and his wife Janet. This again is a relationship which we could never have made if we spent this past year in Chageen, and which will, we hope, allow us to anticipate, prepare for, and possibly even influence the changes which are in store for the Kwong.
The Kwong Church
The story is familiar to most of us - how the Chinese church bereft of its missionaries after 1949 blossomed on it’s own under the communist regime. Something similar seems to have happened this year in Chageen during our absence. While there have always been a few Kwong people really excited about the Kingdom of God discipleship and preaching materials we developed over the past 5 years, most of the sermons the Kwong pastors and elders preached up until recently were a home-brew concoction of dubious exegesis of a few pet verses taken out of context from the Bible of a language most of the congregation didn’t understand - exactly the kind of apathy that has often made us wonder why we go through the bother of living out here at all. But something has changed this year among the Kwong Christians - or so it seems. During our short visits to Chageen, we were flabbergasted to notice that virtually every sermon and devotional we heard was taken from the KoG materials. Would this have happened even if we were there? Hard to tell, but the fact is the Lord can and does do his work even without us.
Our own spiritual maturity
In concluding this short list of the good things that have happened during this difficult year we can do no better than humbly confess that we have seen the hand of God in far more ways than we would have or could have were it an easy year. To see his gracious hand is to learn to trust him more - a lesson we wouldn’t trade for all the comforts and ease of the world.
In that day (the last day) they will say: “Surely this is our God! We trusted in him and he saved us. This is the Lord!, We trusted in him; let us be glad in his salvation. (Is 25:9)
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