At the 2016 CLB Biennial Convention LBIM Mission Mobilizer and Recruiter Dan V. sat down with David and Sonja N. to discuss their call to Chad.
Dan V.: Dave… You and Sonja moved to Fergus Falls, Minnesota from Washington state three years ago, to attend seminary. It was not in your plans then that you would be here today, commissioned as international missionaries of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, on your way to Chad. Can you tell us what transpired to bring you to where you are today?
Dave N.: The simple easy answer to that question is God. I came to seminary with no thoughts or intentions of going to Africa as a missionary. I planned on being a pastor, hopefully in some small community in the Midwest. When Sonja and I talked about where we might end up, I always said, “Anywhere but Florida, because it’s too hot down there.” But then, Dan, I heard you speak at the Seminary J-term of the need for missionaries in Chad. Sonja, who had always had an interest in missions, asked me what I had thought about your message. I had this sense of not being able to say no (which she thoroughly expected) and from there our calling to Chad grew as we continued to walk through the open doors.
Dan V.: Sonja… You and Dave and your four beautiful children (Nate, Eva, Boeden and Ivan) are now called and commissioned to serve with Lutheran Brethren International Mission in Chad. Chad is a place very far away from family and friends; Chad can be a challenging place to live. You will need to learn new language and culture. Chad is one of the least developed countries of the world. This is a big sacrifice for your family. Why Chad?
Sonja N.: Why Chad? Both Dave and I grew up in the CLB and I believe God was working long before we knew he was in calling us to Chad through the Church. I remember a mission service where the whole church fellowship hall was transformed and I experienced a piece of Africa there. I also remember playing with the children of seminary students who came from Africa, and in later years attending Hillcrest with several former missionaries to Africa. But in recent years God has been cementing the purpose of his Word. In many nursing situations I have had the privilege of being a part of the end-of-life process. I realized early on that my words brought nothing. But through God’s Word, not only is comfort found, but also peace, freedom, restoration, salvation, hope and life. In those moments of deep pain God spoke his words through me to others. When I took the time to think about what life would be like without his Word, it was dark and empty. This is life in Chad. Many people there have never heard, don’t have a Bible to read, and most don’t even know how to read in their own language. How will they know if there is no one to tell them? Yes, going to Chad is a sacrifice, and to be honest there are times I don’t want to go. There are a lot of unknowns and “what ifs” that play through my mind, but God has called us to be obedient. So I will follow and obey, praying that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven, so that all will see and hear and know in their hearts that Jesus is Lord. God sometimes calls us to do hard things. He never promised life on earth to be easy; he tells us that we will have trouble. It’s easy for me to get stuck on the first part of that verse and try to figure out what the trouble or hardship will be, in order to try to avoid it or make it easier. But then I miss the second part of the verse in which Jesus says, “BUT take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Dan V.: You both traveled to Chad in January of 2015. Can you tell us a little bit about how that fit into your process of being called to Chad as missionaries?
Dave N.: We were already pretty certain of our calling, and were really curious to see what Chad was like. Many things from that trip helped me continue to process our calling, but I think what stood out to me the most was the receptiveness of the people in Chad. In the village where you lived for 10 years, the people said they hoped new missionaries would come and live among them again. They were a people who wanted to hear more about Jesus and his gospel. I did not expect to find such open willingness to receive missionaries. In fact wherever we went we were received with open arms. It was that openness that helped make it clear to me that these were a people that needed to hear the Word about Jesus for their lives.
Dan V.: The CLB/LBIM has a vision of sending more people to Chad to join you in the mission work among unreached people groups. What would you say to those in the audience who might be asking themselves this question, “How can I be a part of this?”
Sonja N.: The biggest thing to remember is that this is not just a calling of us to Chad, but of the larger church sending us to the unreached of Africa. Forgetting that you are a part of this as well really leaves us out there on our own, and we would not last long if that was the case. To have an entire body of churches that together send us is a blessing a lot of missionaries don’t have. If you or your church want to be a part of this you can do so in a number of ways, the first being prayer—we need lots of prayer. Another thing your church could do is to adopt a people group. By adopting a people group your church is committing to supporting the proclamation of the gospel to them. You also get to support the ministry of the missionaries sent to those people, being a blessing to them as they minister among the people in Chad.