4:45am darkness still covers the capital city of N’Djamena Chad, but dawn is less than an hour away. Out of the quiet night the first call to prayer from the mosque breaks the solitude. The imam sings/chants the opening to the first of 5 daily call to prayer “Allah Akbar” (God is the greatest) over the loud solar powered speaker at the nearby neighborhood mosque. It’s become a normal wakeup call-beautifully bewitching and a constant reminder of the lost that surround us in such magnitude. A cool breeze comes in through the window that will disappear with the sun but at this moment it’s refreshing and brings with it the smell of the bread that is baking at the local bakery. There is just one type of bread that is available here – it’s good but turns into a brick in a few hours. No worry about preservative rich and chemically enhanced foods here.
I get dressed and head outside to the separate kitchen to heat the water for the coffee. I have to remember to greet the guard. If I don’t he’ll think he has done something non-pleasing. I head to the kitchen to get the filtered water heating and when I go to turn on the faucet. Nothing. I head back out to tell the guard to pump the water to fill the tower on the top of our roof. I say a silent prayer, please God let there be city water right now to pump. I hear the reassuring sound of water circulating through the pump and know that today I will have plenty of water. I head back to the kitchen, the water is hot. I put some hand ground coffee into the press, grab the mugs and head back in for some time in the word before the day really gets going. As I read, I hear the guard sweeping the dirt in the courtyard outside. I wonder if I will ever fully grasp parts of this culture. I would never sweep dirt, but I guess we have grass in the states which we cut and leaves we rake. Here we have dirt and sand and sweeping it in the morning is a sign you take care of the immense blessing you have – dirt of your own to sweep.
Seven am and our house helper arrives. I go over with her the plan for the day. Today is laundry day. Thank you God again for the water. She will spend the next four hours or so washing a week of laundry by hand then making a simple Chadian meal we can share together. I’m so thankful for her, not just because her presence means I can use this morning to engage in my Arabic lesson with my husband instead of doing laundry but because she has become my friend. She teaches me about culture and cooking and persevering through hardship. I know she is thankful for the work so that she can send her children to school and I am thankful that out of the abundance the Lord has given us we can give her a job a few days a week.
Salam alekum! Our language nurturer arrives and Arabic lessons are underway. The next four hours will be a challenge for my brain. Every time I get discouraged with learning this language that is much harder for me than French, I am reminded of something one of the staff with our organization said to us. “how much is a soul worth?” I know this is an important investment of my time, my effort, and my perseverance. This country is full of least reached people. Some of whom don’t speak French, those that don’t, Arabic is still closer to their heart. French is the colonized language. Arabic is the language of their faith, their commerce, and is imbedded into the culture of the least reached people in the north 2/3 of the country. God give me the strength to keep going with it. As I silently pray I hear our house helper outside singing praise songs and I smile at her joy of the Lord.
Classes are wrapped up and I help with the final lunch preparations. We eat together with our guard and househelper. This was really weird for them at first. Women and men don’t typically eat together. Christians and Muslims definitely don’t eat together in a mixed gender group. But somehow God has allowed for this to be safe place for them to talk. We love these times. We learn so much more about the culture, the history, their thoughts on politics, and the things they value through these lunch talks.
The afternoon routine is a bit fluid. Sometimes its Arabic review, or meeting with a friend, or preparing for our work at the local missions hospital where I teach and my husband helps with the accounting. Sometimes it’s communication with those that write us, letting them know how to pray. We need so much prayer.
Today will be a prep day for our hospital work. So the next several hours will be spent putting together a power point. I’m sweaty. The predawn breeze is gone and it’s well over 100. The fans are helping to cool me off and then all goes silent. The power is turned off on the day I really need it to power the computer. Let’s be honest I ask myself why today? So I pray again. Father please have the power turn back on so I can get this work done I want to get done. Then I am reminded of what He has been showing me in his word lately. How to pray above all for his will to be done not mine. Ok Father if you have something else for me today I want to see and be faithful.
So we regroup. What are the options? Wait it out? Sometimes its only an hour, sometimes its ten hours. I still wrestle with my American mindset of productivity and efficiency in this call. As if my quantitative results in ministry determine my worth in Christ. I have come to realize these mindsets so ingrained in me have a name – self salvation strategies. As if the more I do for him the more justified I am before him. Ridiculous I know. He is always refining us thank goodness. I know the advancement of God’s kingdom isn’t always measurable by tidy statistical graphs. It’s still hard at the end of the day when the fruit is slow in coming or nonexistent and you feel like you accomplished nothing and wonder what in the world am I doing here anyway. This is why prayers for us matter, this is why intimacy with him matters, this is why knowing who I am in him matters most.
We decide to head down the road to a hotel for their “wifi” and electricity. We pay our $14 dollars for two coffees and get to work.
On returning home we find the power back on. I thank God. This is such a relief for me as the longer the power is out, the more I wonder if I am going to have to throw all the food out in our freezer.
We decide to take a walk before the sun goes down at 5:30 pm. It’s weird for us to do this together, man and woman but we are already weird because we are white and foreign. After some time our neighbors have gotten somewhat used to it. However, it doesn’t stop the neighborhood kids from chanting Nasara Nasara everytime they see us. (the word for stranger or foreigner) We notice an old man outside his gate and my husband greets him in Arabic. His smile is huge and beautiful; he greets us back. I’m reminded once again what it means to these people to be able to communicate in Arabic even if our knowledge is minimal. Sometimes people ask what we are doing or where we are going. Sometimes we get invited over to a mat to chat. Sometimes we get to talk a little about why we are here. All the time when I return home I am thankful I got out there in the heat, in a full head covering, full of dust while being heckled by small children because he alive here, he is doing things, he is giving us favor with people, he is opening the doors for his message. Whether it’s through us or someone else, whether we see with our own eyes or not, may the kingdom of heaven come to these people.