The eleven year wait

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Scott and Susie had been waiting in Chad a long time. Over eleven years, in fact. Praying and waiting. Working and praying and waiting. Drilling wells, teaching hygiene, holding dental and medical clinics, sharing the Word…and waiting on God for that miracle when someone would choose to follow Jesus.

In a Muslim country like Chad, Scott and Susie knew that it could take a long time. They prepared themselves for the wait. They moved to the country in 2005 with their small family that grew to seven in total. They learned the language and lived in a place twelve to fifteen hour’s drive from the capital. They drilled over fifty wells across the nearby countryside, explaining clearly with each that the gift of water was a gift of love in obedience to their God to love their neighbours.

“The best way to love you,” Scott tells them, “is to bring clean water because you’ve told us you need that.” It’s clear that the message resonates when chiefs introduce the well-drilling team to a new village as followers of Jesus who are demonstrating God’s love for them.

Scott remembers a surprising moment with a prideful and boisterous chief. “One time we drilled a well and when we got done, we were flushing it out to get the water clean, and the chief said, ‘Scott, we’re jealous of you.’ It was really awkward. ‘Why are you jealous?’ He said, ‘The Koran tells us to love God and love our neighbour, but we don’t do it. Your book tells you the same. We’re jealous because you do what God says.’”

On another occasion, the Sultan’s uncle sat all day watching the drilling. Finally he spoke to Scott, making the accusation, “We know when you come here to do your work you’re teaching people God’s Word.” Then he added, “That’s okay because we know that you love us.”

“Little by little we’re showing God’s love,” Scott reflects. “I’m learning slowly. It’s not just a defensive mechanism. Love is a good tool for offence. They have all sorts of ideas on who we are and who Christians are and what we’re there for. When you attack, if you will, with love by doing clinics and caring for people’s physical needs and doing water, what can they say?”

Then it happened in 2016. Two sisters and two children chose to follow Jesus. “I’ve always believed that we would see something happen in our time here,” Susie said. “You’re always waiting and expecting it. But when it finally happened, it was just surreal. Like, this, just, happened, there are actually people believing!”

Two Sisters and the Ruthless Patriarch

It didn’t ‘just happen’ in the instantaneous sense. For years Susie had studied the Word with various women in the town. For years a few of the women said they were thinking of following Jesus. When the two sisters, ‘Ally’ and ‘Sally’ made their decision, both remained quiet about it. It’s a dangerous thing to be vocal. Sally’s husband had previously left her with five children. Two of them, age ten and twelve at the time, also became believers.

One night at a low point, Sally cried out to God, “If you’re not real, I can’t do this. You need to show me what’s right.” That evening she had a vision where Jesus clearly spoke to her, assuring her that “I am the way”. “When she woke up from that, she wasn’t going to keep quiet and hide her faith anymore,” Susie described. “She decided to get really bold with it, and it was then that the persecution came.” The ruthless patriarch rained down punishment and threats on Sally and the two children, yet they refused to recant.

The persecution included beatings and beratement, taking their bedding and clothes, denying food and water, burning the children’s uniforms, books, and notebooks, threatening to lock them in the house and burn it down. They refused to recant. Once, the day before final exams, the patriarch locked the twelve-year-old girl in her room for eleven hours without food, water, or schoolbooks on a hot day. She refused to recant.

The following day she took the exams and scored the highest of the class. With no punishment working to make Sally recant, the patriarch finally offered a truce with conditions: Stop talking about it, and the persecution will end. She responded, “I can’t.” Eyes are now more intently observing the foreigners living in the town, Scott says. “Everybody is watching everything - If somebody comes to our house, people are going to take note. It’s fine to come, but if you come more than the average person or there’s not an obvious reason for coming, people will start wondering why.” Which is why people like Sally are the key – someone in the culture sharing in a way foreigners never could.

Sally and Ally meet privately with other women to study the Word, and Sally publicly speaks out about her newfound faith. “We don’t feel like twelve years = two believers, so twenty-four years = four believers,” Scott said, and they both laugh at the math. “We’re a little more hopeful.”

More Answered Prayer

The year of 2017 was one of answered prayers following years of waiting. Fifteen years ago, before Scott and Susie even began their work in Chad, they had been praying that God would send someone to a nearby unreached people group. In September 2017, a single woman made that commitment following a MAF flight to visit the area.

The group population is over 360,000 spread across several countries. The area in Chad is often referred to as ‘the swamp’ due to the flooding that occurs for six months of the year, completely cutting the area off to land travel other than walking through water for eight days while hoping to find a dry place to sleep. “I honestly don’t know if she would have heard God’s call to come back and work with these people if MAF hadn’t flown us down there for the visit,” Scott reflects. “It’s impossible to drive there in the rainy season so we wouldn’t have been able to get her down there. That was her only window of opportunity. That rainy season it had to be MAF, or nothing.” 

MAF has supported this work for years by flying visiting dental and medical teams, short-term visitors, the team’s families, and medical emergencies. MAF welcomes the opportunity to support the new work in the south. It’s a long road ahead for the new recruit which includes finishing a Masters in Linguistics and learning French, Chadian Arabic, and the language of the people group in order to translate God’s Word, but she is ecstatic about the future.

The long wait and answered prayers will require more waiting, but the team is ready, patient and hopeful.