In a city where the electricity supplies are cut more often than not, the rare apparition of a lineman on the pylon outside your house is due cause for alarm and careful observation - will he yet further screw up an already dubious electrical supply system? So it was that late one afternoon a couple months ago I was standing in the quagmire that passes for a street in front of our house in N'Djamena craning my neck to watch the man 40 feet up perform his bubble-gum and baling-wire routine. It seems that the substation which supplies our house as well as our neighbors had blown a fuse. As replacing the fuse would mean money - something the electric company as a matter of policy does not keep - the "free" solution was to switch all the cables going to our neighbors (who had called in their complaint) over to another circuit also attached to the pylon in question. Of course this would overload yet another substation and blow yet another fuse, but that is the way they do things in Africa.
Since the guys were already up on the pylon, I asked them if while they were at it, they would move the cables going to our house over to the other circuit as well, which they duly started to do. Three of the four wires had been moved and the sun was setting when out comes yet another neighbor, an army officer who I had never met. He came waving his pistol in the air and then pointing it at the poor chap dangling from the top of the pylon, all the time screaming in Arabic to disconnect all the wires which had just been moved. He then proceeded to upbraid me in French as a thief stealing "his" electricity from the second circuit. Of course the fact that I pay a hefty monthly bill for the privilege of having sporadic electrical service, and he pays nothing for somewhat better service was immaterial. I was a thief, and he was prepared to shoot anyone who encroached on his precious electric supply. With that, the lineman began to laboriously undo all he had done during the preceding hour. I sent Diane off to buy cokes for the poor chaps while the irate army officer returned satisfied to his home.
The next day someone managed to find a fuse (or more likely a piece of plain wire) and our electricity came back on again. As it turned out to my immense satisfaction, that lineman got the last laugh - I noticed in the following days that the electric company had shut down the army officer's line all together. How I would have loved to have heard the discussion between that poor lineman and his buddies who flip the switches at the generating station!
You will recall that for the past three years we helped sponsor François, a young Kwong fellow, through seminary in N'djamena. Now the normal expectation, which we've been trying to get away from, is that a guy like him has the right to claim a more or less unlimited, life-long salary from someone - that someone most often being the missionary who originally sponsored him. Things are different with François. he came back to the rural village of Chageen (already a huge step since most of these guys stay in the big cities) and instead of a life-long gravy train, we got him set up with the essentials of life necessary to be pastor-farmer. The essentials in Chad are pretty basic: 7 sacks of grain to keep him until next harvest time, a pair of oxen, and a tin roof on your house. Heritage Fellowship in Springfield Ohio bought the oxen, and the tin roof awaits purchase (and about $300, if anyone is interested) pending a house to put it on. François will be the main teacher in the 3 year program of retraining Kwong pastors (see above).
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