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.
Word of life
Making the decision to follow Christ can for some bring with it a real danger of being persecuted. However, through the Bible people find real hope and life, as one local Imam has been discovering.
Local Imam Tobias* has a Christian wife, and was threatened by his brothers who wanted to make him abandon her, but he refused. His wife then decided to be baptised; he went to witness her baptism, and it was there that Tobias was welcomed with open arms by the church. Tobias listened to Scripture available in his language and continued to meet with the church leaders; he shared his testimony with them:
‘I am convinced that this word which I hear in my language is a word of life. I am willing to believe in it but I will continue to go to the mosque for my protection; if I die my Muslim brothers can bury me as they wish, but I am convinced my soul will be saved because inside I believe in the word of the gospel.’
We pray that Tobias’s faith will continue to grow and that the Guera teams will find ways to reach out to the many other Muslim groups.
*name changed for security reasons
The Guerguiko people are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their completed New Testament which has, unfortunately, had to overcome hurdles on its way to the community.
The New Testaments arrived in the port of Douala in Cameroon but were blocked a number of times and incurred extra fees. Progress has, however, now been made and they are finally on the move. No arrival date has yet been confirmed.
In the meantime the local community has been busy preparing. The translation and dedication committee are organising a beautiful celebration and the church has been helping collect funds for this, as well as preparing outfits.
Whilst one team await the arrival of their completed New Testament, other teams continue to press on with translation. Highlights of the last few months have been:
- testing of Luke 1, 2 and 18–22 in the Sokoro community
- the Bidiyo team audio recording Luke 1–11
- translation of 1 and 2 Timothy into the Dadjo language
- progress made by the Migaama team on the introduction to the New Testament.
Help us to hear
Having access to audio Bible stories on SD cards is a vital part of outreach for the Guera teams and many have seen demand for these growing.
The Dadjo team have seen the importance of going out to where people gather, with the evangelists taking the audio Scriptures to the busy market and playing them aloud. People have been hearing the stories in their language and as a result calling out for their own copy. They have even come to the evangelist’s house to ask for more, and in the last few months 30 SD cards have been sold.
The Dadjo team are greatly encouraged that local people are actively approaching them for Scripture and have faith that the stories will work in people’s hearts and lead them to Christ.
Churches coming together
There are a number of different church demoninations across the Guera who have increasingly been coming together to help expand the reach of the Gospel.
The local translation committee has most recently run training sessions which have brought together over 40 church leaders from local evangelical and Catholic churches across four of the Guera languages. During these, key issues were discussed and leaders were equipped with the resources to enable them to run listening groups.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- local churches showing an interest in translation and working together
- those eagerly buying and listening to audio Scriptures on SD cards
- the new and continuing local listening groups
- God’s provision and wisdom enabling teams to progress with translation.
Please pray for:
- wisdom as teams work out how to reach the many isolated Muslim communities
- the provision of a four wheel drive vehicle to aid teams’ travel
- the Guerguiko New Testament to arrive soon in the community
- protection for the new believers who face potential persecution, and continued growth in their faith.
A Guerguiko milestone!
After many years of translation, we are overjoyed to be able to share the news that the Guerguiko New Testament is officially complete and with the printers! The hope is that the New Testament will soon be in the community, with a launch planned for December. We praise God for this marvellous milestone!
In preparation for the arrival of the New Testament, churches have been building enthusiasm for Scripture. They have, for example, been hosting reading competitions and sharing translated portions of Scripture, in Guerguiko, during services.
A message for everyone
The Mawa team has been busy community testing. This gives them a wonderful opportunity to hear from local people, who have the chance to give feedback on translated Scripture.
On a recent visit, after sharing translations of some of Jesus’ teachings, the team asked questions. They shared one answer that brought them particular encouragement. In response to ‘Is this teaching only for one group of people, or is it for all?’ an elderly man answered:
‘Surely it is for everyone; one shares wisdom with the whole world!’
This was also met with enthusiasm from the whole group listening – everyone agreed that the message is for all.
Barriers breaking down
Across the Guera, Christians and non-Christians often live side by side in the same street, or even in the same family. This provides many opportunities for Christians to witness through living out their faith.
Although the Church remains a minority in the region, respect for Christianity is growing and finding its way into the hearts of many non-Christians. This is seen through the sharing of audio recordings of Scripture between Christians and those of another faith. People gather together in groups to listen, or non-Christians take the recordings away on phones to listen to with their families. Most recently, one of the evangelists reaching out to the Moré people shared that people listen while gathering to drink tea together.
Over recent months, if you had been listening to some of the workshops Guera teams ran for local churches to help people engage with Scripture, you might have heard some new sounds rising up.
A number of songwriting workshops have been taking place, in which local people are encouraged to compose songs in their language based on Scripture. This helps them to understand and express the messages they hear and to gain confidence worshipping in their own language.
During a recent workshop with some of the Migaama community, participants wrote songs based on Jesus’ life. The messages were then shared further, with one participant testifying about the impact this had on her church life:
‘I got up during the feast of Easter to tell everyone openly to be happy – all of you who suffer now for the cause of Christ – because you will be rewarded’
Finally, here is is a snapshot of some of the progress teams across the Guera have made in the last few months:
- revisions made to 2 Corinthians and translation begun on 1 Thessalonians in Dadjo
- audio recording of all translated Old Testament books completed in Sokoro
- community testing of Luke in a Mawa village
- progress on Genesis and Exodus in Bidiya as part of their ‘Lives of the Prophets’ series
- storying workshop facilitated for Kenga church leaders
- regular gathering of 34 Dangeleat listening groups.
Perseverance through suffering
During times of trouble, many people seek counsel in the pages of their Bible. Without access to the Bible, or with a limited understanding due to language barriers, these messages of comfort can, however, be missed.
This is changing in the Guera as more Christians are able to read or listen to Scripture in their own language. Following a recent Bible study, one lady shared its impact on her life:
‘Luke 6 spoke about the poor and persecuted people. This encourages me. We are in a context where it is difficult to endure and our church is small.’
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the completion of the Guerguiko New Testament
- the sacrificial attitude of those who give themselves to translating the word of God – even the team members who follow another faith have a strong commitment to the work
- the growing number of Christians and non-Christians gathering together to read and listen to Scripture together.
Please pray for:
- Guera churches to be strong in their faith and able to witness and proclaim the word of God
- people in training to flourish and be able to serve the Guera in giving access to the Bible
- safety for teams as they travel across the Guera by motorbike and the provision of a four-wheel drive to increase safety
- activities in the region to be able to increase so many more people can hear the word of God.
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.