Chad is a country with very little urban development outside its capital, N'Djamena. In the Guera, a central region known for its mountainous terrain, rural exodus to bigger centres is increasing due to the harsh living conditions. Those who remain in the rural areas mainly rely on subsistence farming.
- Country: Chad
- Speakers: actively working with at least 100,000 people speaking 11 languages
- Start date: 2009
- Projected end date: ongoing, to be reviewed in 2021
In the Guera, people live in numerous small villages. The languages of trade and government are French and Arabic, and nomadic traders form the main contact with the wider world for many settled villagers. Schools and medical facilities are not easily accessible because of the distances involved in getting to them, and the literacy rate is very low. There is a mix of Christianity, Islam and traditional religion, with some language groups having small churches and others no known Christian believers.
How can we make Scriptures accessible to people who don’t understand what is already translated into French or Arabic? How can we reach our non-Christian neighbours? These are two questions which face the churches, and which led them to engage in this work.
When one man who had not had much contact with Christianity before heard the Joseph story in a listening circle, he said it was a beautiful story, and it was the first time in his life he’d heard such a story. At a local tribunal, another person testified, ‘Me, I tell the truth, like the Christians who told me the story of Joseph.’
One woman heard the story of Noah and believed it, saying that she did not want to be surprised by the arrival of Jesus like the people were surprised by the flood in Noah’s time.
In another area, 17 people come to faith in Christ in just one village, and another church has welcomed two young men who have recently started coming to church. One church leader said that the Scripture-use workshop he attended had really helped him. Now he feels capable of giving a good sermon, and of leading a Bible study for people who don’t read.
- to translate the New Testament into five languages where there is a small group of believers
- to produce Bible portions and oral Bible stories in 11 languages, to be used by national evangelists to reach unreached groups
- to do all the above under the leadership of our national partner organisation.
Please pray for:
- perseverance for the translation teams, as it’s a long haul. Especially, please pray that translators who have been trained as teachers will be posted in places where they can still help with translation
- the storytellers in the Guera – that they will see fruit from their ministry
- church leaders in the Guera to be enthusiastic about using the local-language Scriptures
- all involved in adult literacy and children’s preschool programmes – for stamina to keep going in the heat
- encouragement for everyone in seeing the results of lives transformed through faith in Christ.
From the paper to the heart
A strong oral culture exists in the Guera, so oral storytelling is key to engaging communities. For almost ten years, oral storying coordinator H* has been training local facilitators in how to memorise stories and set up local groups.
This has led to groups multiplying in a variety of languages. Oral storying is a powerful tool for evangelism as it gives people the chance to hear the Scriptures, often for the first time, and to ask questions. For H*, who has been blind since the age of 13, storying has been an important part of his own faith journey. He shares the impact of hearing and memorising stories:
The word of God needs to be in your heart and not just on a piece of paper.
Witness through translation
In the Guera region, people who follow different religions live and work side by side. Translation can often act as a way to share the gospel. The local Bidiya team, who have been working on translation for the last two years, all follow a religion other than Christianity, but shared how much they value the work. Communities also have the chance to engage with the gospel during community testing. In January, the Bidiya team spent time in several villages, reading aloud the first draft of translated chapters of Genesis. Although there are only a few Christians, these sessions lead to lively discussions and an increased interest in the work that is being done with the Bidiya language.
Reaching out to all
In the Migaama village of Baro, where Christians remain in the minority, Bible translation is having an impact on young and old alike. Children have been learning Bible stories in Migaama through regular Sunday school lessons. The oral storytelling in the village is led by a group of older women, who shared their joy at being able to help people understand that Jesus is the true way:
When people read the Bible in French, it is like God is speaking in parables and people don’t understand. When people read the Bible in Migaama, even the little ones can understand.
There are many technological tools which greatly aid translation, from computer translation software to emails reporting progress. To keep these going, the regional Guera office requires a dependable source of electricity. This is difficult, however, in a town which has a limited electrical supply. The team relies on a solar powered electrical system which was fitted over 15 years ago, but this is nearing the end of its life. To ensure teams can stay connected and keep working, options for a replacement are being explored. The team is praying for few interruptions to the work as they wait, and praising God that funding has just been secured for this.
Pausing to listen
A door to hearing the gospel has been opened for many through listening circles. These allow groups to gather around a radio or audio device to listen to recordings of Scripture in their own language and share thoughts.
Although these are mostly attended by Christians, helping them to grow in their faith, people of other religions also listen from a distance. One non-Christian Dangaleat listener shared:
Now, thanks to listening to this, the wall which separates us is starting to break down. We ask you to find us radios so that we can listen to this more at home. However, sometimes we are afraid of our religious leaders.
Teams have been encouraged to see more and more people of other religions coming forward to request SD cards and radios so they can continue to listen.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the work of oral storying groups and the openness of many communities to these
- being able to share the gospel with an increasing number of non-Christians
- the progress being made in translation by teams of faithful workers
- safety of teams over the last year and ongoing peace in the region.
Please pray for:
- more opportunities for evangelists to share the gospel with groups across the Guera
- the ongoing safety of teams as they often travel long distances across the country
- people to be ready to receive the word of God in their own language
- few interuptions to work in the regional Guera office as they await a new electrical system.
*name changed for security reasons
God’s word is alive and active!
We were encouraged by some lovely testimonies from people who have been impacted by the work in the Guera region. One of the translators declared,
‘This work is certainly my work. It is this work which will leave something important behind when I pass.’
This translator has also shared that as he has been working on the book of Romans he can now say that he has assurance of salvation: ‘If I die today, no problem!’
A participant in a listening circle said,
‘While we listen to the radio all the evil thoughts are blocked because we are centred on the listening. It’s truly a tool of awakening.’
One Muslim man became a follower of Jesus because every time there was a listening circle, he came to listen and learn, and finally decided to put his faith in Jesus.
During the testing of the stories from Acts, two Arab women understood who the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are. They understood that Jesus was not sent only for the Jews, as other Muslims believe. Another woman said,
‘God does not abandon a people, even the pagan Cornelius and his household; God gave them the power of the Holy Spirit.’
Two women were touched by God’s power, which he gave to Peter in order for him to heal the paralytic. They responded by saying ‘Allah akbar’, an expression meaning ‘God is great.’
While some Muslims were listening to recordings of the Bible, they discussed what they heard. After listening for a long time, they were astonished. They said these words are the word of life, and what they had heard comes from God. Some of them asked where they could buy the SD memory card so they could keep on listening.
One man who tells Bible stories said,
‘I began this work a year ago with the Muslims. I was convinced that this work would give me a lot of courage. One day, I went to see my tailor friend, and I turned on the radio just a little bit. My friend asked me to turn up the volume. After I did so, he listened and he said to me, “God is for all the world. Your Bible is very important, and there are many things in it that are similar to our Qur'an.”’
Another storyteller said,
‘I am happy because since I began this work, five people have put their faith in Christ. I am also encouraged in my own faith because of the work with the storytelling circles.’
One of the local evangelists reported,
‘I’ve been meeting with two people in a small oral Bible storytelling group, and also having regular conversations about God’s word with the local shaman. In the coming months, I hope to start a baptism class, and to spend more time in prayer for these people.’
Give thanks for:
- good progress being made in translation
- the impact that God’s word is having on individuals and whole communities.
Please pray for:
- strength, perseverance and protection for the translation teams and their families
- more fruit to come from oral Bible storytelling and discussions about God’s word
- the Guera churches to continue to grow as people respond to God’s message of love.
A Christian leader in the area commented that many people have come to faith in Christ through the work of the evangelists and translators, including a local leader of the majority religion and his family.
A man who was nominally a Christian but who lived a life of violence and quarrelling heard God speaking directly to him through the story about Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. He said to the story-teller: ‘Today you have spoken to me – pray for me!’ Now people in his village testify that he is a changed man.
During testing in one village, the team met a woman they hadn’t met before and who helped them. It was the first time this woman heard the expression ‘Waas ka Diyam’, meaning ‘the eternal God’. Her first reaction was, ‘So this is the God of our ancestors’. This reaction was encouraging for the team, because the expression is new to most speakers of this language.
As if Paul knew me personally
One of the translation teams had been working on Paul’s epistles, and wanted to choose some of them to distribute among the believers. They discussed the needs and challenges in the churches so they could choose letters that addressed some of the root issues, such as lack of trust in the leadership, or a lack of a desire to work together. They were astonished to find that the epistles spoke directly to each of the difficulties they had identified. The translators then took one of the epistles each and wrote a summary of it. One translator chose 1 Timothy, which he had not yet read in his language. At the end of the week, he said to the rest of the team, ‘I cannot write what lessons other people should draw from this book. It’s as if Paul knew me personally and was giving me advice for my personal situation, showing me my faults and how to change.’
Please pray for:
- God’s protection and good health for everyone involved in this work
- many people’s lives to be touched as they hear God speak to them in their own language.