What’s ministry like in Chad?

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Catherine, who has been serving as part of a team in an Arabic area of Chad, shares a bit more about what the country is like and challenges to ministry.

In the town in eastern Chad where I live, men and women don’t greet each other in the street.  Men will eat, speak, socialise and sit with other men. Women only speak to other women. The centre where I teach English for two afternoons a week, and a few workplaces, are exceptions to this, though the women who work in mixed workplaces are mostly from the south of Chad.

“I feel greatly privileged to share my life with these women…”

An open invitation

Women are found mostly at home and are very welcoming. No invitation is needed to visit someone in Chad. Friend or stranger, you simply call out a greeting as you enter the yard and join the women sitting on a mat. They often serve hot spicy coffee in small glasses, with peanuts and dates to eat. Topics of conversation range from the price of material at the market to social problems, but they will also comment on the weather! It has been an interesting challenge to learn to steer these conversations in spiritual directions, so I’ve been studying some cultural questions to open up discussions along these lines. Some women like listening to Bible stories, but the conversations rarely enter into apologetics. Men will prefer to debate, asking questions like, “Was it really Jesus who died on the cross or did God replace him?” or, “Are the Scriptures corrupted?” Many women do not know much about these issues and will have no formal or informal religious teaching.

A God-given encounter

My English classes, unusually, are mixed, so I teach both men and women. One of those men is a rickshaw driver. 

One day I was taking a friend to the part of town from which the buses leave and I called Mahamat A to drive us there in the rickshaw.  On arriving, the pickup was still loading and my friend was chatting to some other passengers, so Mahamat A encouraged me to wait in the back of the rickshaw to stay out of the wind. We got chatting and he said that he doesn’t believe that it was Jesus who died on the cross, but God replaced him with someone else and didn’t let him die. I had been reading in the book of Isaiah that morning and had my Kindle with me, so I opened it to the book of Isaiah and read a few verses in English that talk of why Jesus died. We translated it into Chadian Arabic together and then discussed the times that Jesus himself predicted his death. Please pray that Mahamat will continue to discuss these issues with the other English teachers.

Many ethnicities are present in the town, but the language of choice for the majority of people that I visit is Chadian Arabic. I have been studying Chadian Arabic for 20 months, but when the women get together and are talking fast it is still a challenge to understand the direction that the conversation is taking. The feasts and parties are a good chance to meet new people and extend my circle of friends. Many women ask what I do here and I answer, “I teach English, and I’m learning to read the gospels in Chadian Arabic.” This sometimes leads to interesting conversations. I am starting to learn more Bible stories in Chadian Arabic to tell to the women. 

Changing religion

My language helper meets with me three or four mornings a week and we discuss local events, chat a bit about our families, look at picture story books and read some Bible stories. Unusually, she is literate in Arabic script and is religiously educated as well. However she does not believe that it is possible to change religion, believing that we are all predestined by birth to believe what our family follows. I feel greatly privileged to share my life with these women. Most have had no contact with other women who can share the gospel with them.

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