by Dawn Elliott
Dawn (Australia) served in Chad for many years and continues to aid in literature and the support of national workers in the Mbai speaking region of Chad.
Have you thought much about Proverbs 27:1? ‘Do not boast about tomorrow for you do not know what a day may bring forth.’ The full impact of it was brought home to me in 2015 and it happened like this…
Over a period of three years, Zacharie Ndo’tao, Eloi Mbaissanadje and I had worked on a revision of our Mbai Old Testament as we were soon to reprint the complete Bible. Mbai is the language spoken in the far south of the Chad Republic in Central Africa.
During my visit to Chad in early 2015, I felt so strongly that we needed to complete all the proofreading then. We worked eight hours a day. The men took it in turns to read while I concentrated on the spelling of every word plus punctuation, as that was my forte, having taught reading in the language for so many years. Some days I felt that my eyes would just drop out from the concentration! Zacharie is in a wheelchair as he was crippled from birth. The Bible Society of Chad sent him to Israel for some years where he learned Hebrew and the skills needed for translation. He was their fully fledged language consultant and we were just so fortunate that Mbai was his mother tongue.
As I was actually on the plane returning to Chad later in 2015, Zacharie was killed in a car crash. It was such a shock to us all. Had we not completed the Old Testament revision during that previous visit, the Bible Society would not have accepted our work without Zacharie’s confirmation. I arrived in time for his funeral, which was held in the capital, N’Djamena. Several thousand were present, so the service was conducted outside as the Mbai chapel there only holds 600 people. We most certainly do not know what a day may bring forth!
As I write this now in 2019, we rejoice that these Mbai Bibles have now been printed, have arrived safely in Chad and are being made available to the believers there. Health problems have meant that I have not returned since 2016, but the Lord’s work and that of literature distribution is being carried on by faithful Chadian men and women. Principal among these are Eloi Mbaissanadje, Obed Djimassade and Djimadoum Yossoloum: difficult names I know, but they all have a personal meaning in their own language!
Literature distribution over a vast area is not simple and can be costly. So, to make the best use of our vehicle, these brethren go to different areas every two weeks. They are all excellent Bible teachers and their programme typically runs as follows. They arrive in an area on Saturday afternoon and settle in. On Sunday morning, one of them, possibly Yossoloum, will take the early French Bible study – this is of special interest to older school children who have learnt French at school. This is then followed by the gospel or teaching meeting in Mbai by either Eloi or Obed, and then the Lord’s Table also in Mbai by the third speaker. Our men then stay on for a further two or three days having concentrated Bible studies to which those from neighbouring villages will come.
…the rapid spread of the gospel in Chad is the fruit of evangelism by the local believers.
Life in Chad
In Christian circles, Chad is not well known outside the French-speaking world; it was a French colony before independence in 1960. All education is in French although Arabic is now accepted along with French as the two official languages of the country. Chad is 1,000 miles from the sea at the nearest point and has no railway system or public transport as such. There are privately owned lorries on which somewhere to sit can be purchased, although this may be on top of sacks or one’s own baggage! Private buses run between the capital and several major centres.
People in the south of Chad are mainly subsistence farmers. They plant their delicious crops of maize, manioc, millet, peanuts, rice, sorghum and sweet potatoes, as the rains begin in May or June. In season we have wonderful mangoes too. Did you know that there are 365 varieties of mango, one for each day of the year? The farmers are totally dependent on these rains for the watering of their crops as the land is too flat for irrigation as we know it.
With the rains, the Arab cattle herders regularly drive their cattle south and, with impunity, send their animals into the standing grain of southern farmers as it is ripening. Your prayer would be valued, as grain is their staple diet and in one day, the herds can destroy the food of a southern family for a whole year!
The Early Days
The Lord’s work in Chad began in the early 1920s, when missionaries found themselves in an ‘apostolic’ situation, preaching to those who had never heard the name of Christ – this must have been both a challenge and a blessing. The indigenous people were animists. They worshipped the spirits of trees, rivers and rocks, so, when the Creator was presented to them, spiritual eyes were opened. Many believed, some risked their lives at the hands of witch doctors and local chiefs.
We have only ever been a handful of expatriate missionaries; the rapid spread of the gospel in Chad is the fruit of evangelism by the local believers. The early converts were encouraged to reach out to neighbouring villages and this they continue to do. Early believers were also encouraged to learn to read, although few had been to school. As
a result, we have a largely Bible-reading church, for which we praise the Lord.
It could be said that the Lord’s work in Chad is fairly recent when compared with other countries. However, in spite of a later start, it has forged ahead and grown in strength under the influence of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of godly Chadian brethren. The work is now almost entirely in their hands and we look expectantly to the Lord for His continued blessing.
The Lord has called me, prepared me through different stages of my life and is using me in His service – may His name be glorified!
‘I was born in 1955, the fourth son of Christian parents, in Bembaitada, Chad. Our village was blessed with an outreaching assembly and I trusted the Lord as my personal Saviour at a young age. After my baptism in 1971, I sensed the Lord calling me to serve Him and in 1984 the Bembaitada assembly commended me and I was enabled to study at the Bible Institute in Doba and then at the Theological College of the Evangelical Church of West Africa in Kagoro, Nigeria. Once these years of training were completed, I was appointed to lead two large Chadian assemblies before taking up my present role here with the assembly in Bebedjia.
‘My wife Rahab and I have had eight children, five of whom are still living. With the abundance of tropical diseases such as malaria, few, if any, Chadian families are spared the loss of children.
‘In the Lord’s goodness I was elected to serve as Vice President of the National Committee of Assemblies situated in N’Djamena from 1994 to 2004 and then again from 2008 to 2017. At present, in addition to my responsibilities in Bebedjia, I teach regularly in village assemblies with brothers Eloi Mbaissanadje and Yosolloum to edify the Christians. Brothers and sisters from other local churches participate with joy and insist that we come back and do it again! The Lord has called me, prepared me through different stages of my life and is using me in His service – may His name be glorified!’
- for the spread of the gospel in Chad, through local outreach, literature distribution and assembly work
- for tensions to ease between farmers and travelling cattle herders
- for the ongoing translation of the Bible and Christian literature into Mbai and other local languages
- for the raising up of indigenous leaders and the strengthening of their congregations.