Following God's Work in Chad

2010 April 13

Greetings again from southern Chad.

Returning home to hot, dry, brown, dusty Chad from wet, green, luscious Congo was definitely an adjustment. For the first two or three days especially, the dusty smell caught my attention. Now, I hardly notice it unless conditions are really bad.

When I arrived in Chad again, I was eager to see our new container that arrived during my absence. Through Gary and Maranatha and others, God has blessed us with a container load full of material to build churches - One Day Churches. These can be constructed fairly rapidly. A skilled team can construct one in a day, but more realistically it takes a few days to a week. Soon we will be training people to construct these churches and sending them out to new church plants and places where people are meeting with no church structure.

Through our flying work, we were able to make another stop at the Zacouma National Game Park in eastern Chad. The schedule there was more relaxed and we were able to go out in the evenings and see some animals. The most exciting animals we saw were lions, cheetahs, and leopards. We also got to see a cobra.

Not long after that Gary and I flew to Abeche, a town in central-eastern Chad, not too far from Sudan. We were invited with Dr. James by some government officials to visit a possible site for a new hospital. Dr. James is considering building a new hospital in a small village there and we were there to look at the possibility of extending aviation support to that hospital and village and possibly forming an aviation base there. Currently there is no airstrip there so we explored the area first with a motorbike and then with the airplane. The terrain in eastern Chad is basically sandy desert with a few rocky mountains, much like southern California for those of you who have been there. I saw many animal skeletons - camels, donkeys, or horses who could not survive in the harsh climate.

From Abeche we flew to Ndjamena just in time to get engulfed in a massive sand storm descending from the Sahara desert. Visibility dropped to a reported 50 meters at one time at the airport. As we could not fly, we took the time to do some errands in Ndjamena. What an experience! Taxis drove slowly with their headlights on. The whole city was smothered in fine, brown dust simulating perpetual dusk. There was no way to avoid breathing the dust, even though many tried to filter out the dust with pieces of their clothing. Just when we thought we would be stranded for the weekend, the dust cleared up enough too allow us to head south to Bere. Arriving home, I found everything coated in a nice layer of dust - my bed, books, clothes - and I left footprints on the floor as I walked! The storm lingered in Bere, slowly dissipating before the sky returned to normal maybe a week later.

The market here is pretty grim most days. On Friday I found the normal rice, peanuts, onions, and garlic for sale. Really the only fresh things I saw were a few small tomatoes and some mangoes. Oh, how yummy the mangoes are! Fruit is scarce for most of the year in Chad, but during the months of March and April, mangoes are plentiful. I eat mangoes until I am full, and there are still more to eat.

God has been pouring out his blessings on us in more than just mangoes. Gary just arranged for us to receive a shipment of fuel and drums that will enable us to continue operating through the rainy season. Heavy trucks cannot operate in the rainy season due to the road conditions. While I was in Congo, Gary also installed some bigger tires for the airplane which will allow us to access more airstrips during the rainy season.

Last week we completed a tour of some small villages with a Chadian nurse and pastor. Some of the airstrips were short and in disrepair. We spent much of our time organizing and helping with airstrip maintenance while the nurse and pastor did their work in the village. It was a taste of the kind of work we plan to do more consistently once we finish more of the construction and groundwork - traveling from village to village bringing dental care and eye care and other medical help to those in need.

I want to thank God for His protection at one of our stops at a larger town. The airplane is a popular attraction, especially children. After we picked up two people and some luggage, we had started the airplane and were about ready to take off when the mob of children started pelting the airplane with rocks and brick pieces. This is extremely dangerous behavior, especially if a rock hit the propeller. A bunch of the rocks hit the airplane, but thankfully most of them were small. One larger rock punched a good-sized dent which will need repair, but the rest of the airplane seems to be spared significant damage.

Perhaps one of the most joyful things that has happened is the baptism of two of my Chadian friends, Frederick and Franko. Both have been attending my Bible study on Mondays and Thursdays. Recently the church sponsored a series of Bible meetings. Frederick and Franko both attended, and both decided to be baptized. With great joy I drove down to the river to be one of many observers of their baptism. I give God the glory for allowing me to be a part of a team to lead them to this decision.

You may remember that Frederick has been translating for my Bible studies. He has done an excellent job and has been dedicated to the work. When I thank him for his work, he tells me that he is gaining more from a knowledge of Scriptures than he is giving. Recently we hired him as a full-time assistant. His primary job now is to translate a series of Bible lessons from English into French. Lord willing, he will be our first Bible worker. A reasonable salary, considering his wife and two small children, is around $100 per month. Somebody has already pledged half of that amount, and we trust that God will provide the remainder.

In planning expansion for our Bible school and the nutrition center, we have been looking at purchasing a bit more land. Gary recently finished negotiations on one piece adjacent to our current property, and we are looking at one or two more pieces.

I believe that God answers prayer. For those of you who have been praying for our ministry here, thank you very much. The more we pray in Jesus' name, according to God's will, the more we can expect to happen. Please pray for:
* Those who were baptized.
* Current Bible work and the decisions being made by those attending.
* Rapid progress of the translation work.
* Plans for possible medical aviation work near Abeche in eastern Chad.
* Completion of our hanger before the rainy season begins.
* Personnel to help with nutrition center, agriculture, and Bible work.
* Personnel to help with One-Day-Church and other construction.
* God's wisdom as we continue discussing the future of this ministry.
* Courage, strength, and health for me, Gary, Wendy, and Cherise.

Thank you all for your interest and prayers and support for this project. I am encouraged as I hear how many are involved in prayer ministry for our project here.

In His service,

Jonathan Dietrich