ProChristo Global Mission played an important role in the missions mobilizing and awareness movement in the 90’s in South Africa. They were instrumental in organizing and hosting several Love Southern Africa Conferences all over the country.
When I arrived in 2005 they have just adopted a strategy to take responsibility for 30 unreached people groups. It was the “Minus 30” project devoted to research and practical implementation to reach 30 unreached people groups with the Gospel.
The Abu Sharib people group of Northern Chad was high on their list of priorities. During the last missions conference held at the ProChristo base in Kabwe, Zambia, two trained Zambian missionaries were dedicated to go and work amongst the Abu Sharib.
One of my main duties was to put everything in place to make it possible for the two men to go. This involved a partnership agreement with an organization already working in Chad as well as the necessary immediate and long-term financial support.
It took time to get all of this in place and during one of the meetings with the two men they expressed their frustration: “If we can’t fly there, we will start walking because we have to go!” Their commitment to the cause was admirable and inspired me to work even harder at the task at hand.
Eventually, around August 2005 we were ready to send the two men to Chad. It was decided that I would accompany them and help them to settle in their new environment. This was my first exposure to Northern Africa. We had a lot of information on the country and the people group, but nothing could prepare me for what I experienced on that trip.
We flew with Ethiopian Airways because we had to apply for our visas at the Chadian Embassy in Addis Ababa. The layover in this beautiful East African city was an experience in its own right. We stayed in a very old and cheap hotel close to the embassy to save money. It was noisy, but the people were friendly. At the embassy the application form had a question about our reason for the visit. We all wrote “Tourism” but our forms were handed back with the instruction to write “visiting friends” because there is no tourism in Chad!
Within three days the visas were approved and we were on our way to Chad. The capitol city N’djamena had around 800,000 inhabitants in 2004. Most of the city homes have big walls and large court yards and many of the Government buildings stem from its French dominated colonial past. Electricity was a scarce commodity and only kicked in during the early morning hours if you do not have a generator. I only became aware of this because of the noise the ceiling fan made when it started moving for an hour or two, early in the morning. One report claimed that there were about 300 kilometers of tarmac roads in Chad. After a few days in the country I realized that most of that roads must be part of the runways at the airport, because most of the city streets were long ago covered by a thick layer of sand from the desert in the North.
Chad is a poor country with very limited infra-structure. Littering was at the order of the day. I never saw a rubbish bin and many parts of the city looked like a dump site with all the litter. The homes had open channels to the sidewalk for the sewerage that connect with a deeper channel that ran parallel with the road side. These channels were filled with sand and litter and the sewerage water just seeped into the sand. The municipality was responsible to clean the channels but it was never done. Once a year, during the rainy season these channels will flood and flushed open until the litter and sand builds up again.
The preferred mode of travel was with small motor-cycles when you had to travel far. Fuel were sold by the liter at small stalls next to the road. Some also sold bread and when we bought bread for an evening meal we could hardly eat it because of the strong smell of the fuel that clung to the bread. The taxis were old dilapidated Peugeot 504 sedans with very little interior upholstery or instruments and were expensive unless you agreed to have three other passengers with you on the remains of the back seat.
Apart from the staple food that include millet, sorghum and rice, with the common vegetables like okra and the leaf of the cassava plant, choices were limited and very expensive.
The two Zambian men were visibly shaken by the new surroundings. It was very different from their home country, but they were very brave and determined. We stayed at the WEC Guesthouse for the first few days as we made arrangements for them to find new homes in the city. I had long discussions with them helping them to process their thoughts and feelings as they settled into the new environment.
When I left the Chad after a week, they had places to stay and were settling in well. They were in the capable hands of experienced missionaries working with the organization we were partnering with. It was difficult to leave them but I felt satisfied that they can make it work.
On a personal level I could not bare the circumstances longer and were longing to get home. After my arrival back home, it took me two weeks to process my thoughts and feelings before I was able to share about my experience!