The sun-weary sheets lazed in the breeze as we removed our shoes and entered the tent. It was the heat of the day and we had been invited to a wedding, a wedding unlike any we had previously attended. We waited with the other men on mats in anticipation of the bride. We shared tripe, chicken, and boule (a kind of millet or rice paste) from a communal platter, gradually becoming more comfortable, to the point of joking about our tattoos, piercings, and dress. Slowly, as is common to the Fulbe, the conversation shifted from life’s trivialities to Jesus, Mohammed, and Scripture.
We had been in the village for days, but the man who now spoke up was one we had not yet met. He had recently returned from Koranic school and quickly made his presence known. He was charismatic and well spoken, and the people listened to him as he countered Dan, our guide and former missionary. The man adamantly stated that Christians believed in three gods and that Jesus was not divine, and had not been crucified or resurrected.
Dan had brought with him a copy of the Injil Al Massih, “The Gospel of the Messiah,” which is the Chadian Arabic translation of the New Testament. The men passed it around eagerly as Dan began to share Jesus as the Word of God from the first chapter of John. We discussed the “We” of God in the book of Genesis, and why we believe Jesus was the final revelation from God.
As the men listened, they were nodding and making the quiet clicking sounds in the back of their throats that indicated attentive listening and agreement. While the one man kept up his opposition to Dan’s words, the impact of Dan’s long presence in the village became apparent. The men around him began to speak up on his behalf. They defended Dan and even began to explain his points from Scripture. Many of them had heard Dan speak before and had begun to understand the message of who Jesus is and why he had to die and rise from the dead. Eventually the conversation ended when the chief, an amicable man in his thirties, defended Dan and simultaneously commented with a smile that it was all too heavy of a conversation for a wedding day.
As far as we know, no one was converted that day. But those men heard the gospel. You could see it in their eyes as they listened, as they scanned the pages of Scripture in their own language.
When this trip was announced at the CLB Biennial Convention last summer, I did not think I would be able to go. However, through the support of the Church, by God’s provision, we were able to consider the message of the convention further; what it means to “lift our eyes” to the coming King and consider how he is moving in and through his people.
For the group that visited Chad, comprised of future pastors and missionaries, the experience was invaluable.
While I cannot speak for everyone, I can say that experiences like these began to open my eyes to what mission truly is; what the long painful process of loving the people for whom Jesus died really looks like.
While Dan and our other missionaries are laboring among these people, we are called to support them as the body of Christ. Our prayers and efforts such as the well-drilling projects and the construction of a granary have changed the way people live. Now the presence of the gospel is changing the way people think and hope.
It is a different world in Africa, but the same Jesus. It is my hope that we place our eyes on him, lifting them to the coming King to know his glory; both here and to the ends of the earth.
Jordan Spina attended Bethesda LBC in Eau Claire, WI and is a student at Lutheran Brethren Seminary in Fergus Falls, MN.