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Streams in the desert of Chad

19 Jun

Chad nomads

It is an ancient land, inhabited and fought over since time began. Lying deep in the heart of Africa, the nation of Chad is three times the size of California and entirely surrounded by six countries: Libya, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Sudan. Even after the latest five-year conflict with Sudan which ended in 2010, the land remains troubled by rebel groups.

Chad is also hugely impacted by the ever-expanding Sahara Desert. To the 80 per cent of residents who are subsistence farmers, water is precious. Few roads are paved. This is one of the poorest and most corrupt countries on the planet. The average life expectancy is only 49 years. Maternal death rates are as much as 1000 times higher than in high-income countries, according to the World Health Organisation. Chad is on Save the Children’s top 10 list of the world’s worst places to be a mother.

 Only a special kind of Christian worker can survive in Chad. Although freedom of religion is supposed to be official and up to 38 per cent of the population are at least nominal Christians, over half are Muslims: and Muslim influence is strong.

 “The further you get from the capital,” asserts “Paul,”* “the more radical it is.”

Paul moved from his own country to pioneer in Chad nine years ago, the last four of them under OM. He now speaks French and is learning Arabic. Last year he was finally joined by a second man. The pair teach English, conduct Bible studies, develop friendships with young people through football, and run a sewing project to assist some of Chad’s thousands of war widows, since the government offers little help.

 Paul has boldly chosen to live in the community he is trying to reach. “But even though I dress like everyone else,” he says, “people know I’m a foreigner and a Christian. Twice I was stoned. The first time it was by little children. So I challenged the adults who were playing cards nearby: ‘You say, “Peace be upon you!”–Is that just for Muslims or for anyone?’ Then they rebuked the kids for throwing stones.

 “The church in Chad is very weak,” continues Paul, “and Christians are fearful of going into Muslim areas. Churches are also divided among themselves and don’t work together. We want to change this situation through discipleship training. Our first two-month course, a pilot project, starts this May. The training will include practical evangelism experience in Nigeria. Pray that Christians from all the churches in the area will participate.”

 Paul and his co-worker have been encouraged that some believers are getting on board with the sewing project and also learning to share their faith. “When we talked to the women about God as our Father, I saw a Muslim woman cry. She said, ‘God sent you. We didn’t know we could call God Father’! Knowing they can talk to Him about their problems speaks volumes into their lives.”

 These two men are very anxious for your intercession. Chad’s climate is not a comfortable one, either spiritually or physically. Temperatures at this time of year can soar to over 45C or 110F. Their personal drinking supply is not safe and Paul struggles with stomach problems.

 Some have nicknamed Chad the “Dead Heart of Africa”. Fortunately, the God who gave His Son to die for the people of Chad is eager to show that no such place exists. He specialises in creating thirst-quenching streams in even the most barren of deserts.

 *Name changed

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No evil befall you

29 Jan

    I’ve learned that following God in Guatemala can lead to the unexpected! IMG_0210

A quarter of Guatemala’s population call themselves evangelicals and churches are as plentiful as tortillas. But for many of the indigenous population of this Central American country, ancient Mayan beliefs lie just below the surface. Jesus and Mary are equated to the Sun God and Moon Goddess. Shamans or witches wield great power as healers and casters of spells in rural communities, and it’s not uncommon to see individuals wearing protective amulets against the “evil eye”.

When four OM volunteers were assigned to work with the pastor of a tiny church in the mountains of Guatemala this past November, they had little idea of what they’d be up against.

God had led Pastor Noé Godoy to the town of Trapiche ten years before. He was aware that that the territory had already been claimed by the Prince of Darkness: Violence, drinking, sickness and death oppressed the residents. A number of young people were using insecticides to take their own lives. During his first years there, local witches performed supernatural “miracles” and incited people to attack the pastor with boiling water and machetes. Evangelism was forbidden. And even though the roof of the tiny building he used for a church was ready to collapse, it wasn’t until after his main opponent’s death that he was allowed to make repairs.  

“Yet,” affirmed Pastor Noé, who has elected to remain single rather than bring danger upon a wife and children, “our church has seen great miracles of healing and protection as well. And as our people shared the evidence of God’s power with other families, they too came to Christ.”

Although church members owned very little, they actively began to help some 200 widows and single mothers as well as 225 orphans. “We have the vision and even the plans for a dormitory, kitchen and dining room to help these women and children, but so far no way to make it a reality. Meanwhile, we do what we can in the midst of the difficulties and keep trusting that God will accomplish His purposes here.”

For OM’s four Love Guatemala volunteers, Trapiche provided a dramatic first exposure to spiritual warfare. At night villagers threw stones at the house where the girls were trying to sleep. And while going house to house during the day, one of the men, Otto, found himself in the home of two witches. What could he say to them? After silently asking God for help Otto opened his Bible. His eyes immediately fell on Revelation 22:14-15, a passage condemning those who practice magic arts. Otto boldly delivered God’s message.

The Lord had a very different message for the team: “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place –the Most High who is my refuge –No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent” (Psalm 91: 9, 10; ESV). Swiss team member Nathan Schmutz was one of the few non-Guatemalans to take part in the outreach. He admitted, “I wasn’t prepared for such a confrontation with evil! But I learned a lot about the power of prayer.”

Guatemala’s ten million people suffer the highest chronic malnutrition rate in Latin America and the fourth-highest rate in the world. On average, about one out of two residents are malnourished. Concerned by the obvious poverty of Trapiche church members, OM Guatemala staff made an extra trip to deliver used clothing, shoes, food parcels and even toys for Christmas. The pastor couldn’t hide his personal delight at finding a suit that fit. A young mother named Nora had given her life to the Lord through the team’s visit a few days before. She had five children and they were barely subsisting in a nearby hovel. The unexpected provision of food, clothing and toys gave the family new courage.

At the end of the outreach Pastor Noé voiced his gratitude. “Some unbelievers opened their doors to the OM team, and we hope they have helped to change the mind of this community. They have been a big blessing to us. We have no way to pay them back, but God will!”     IMG_0344