On a clear and almost crisp Monday morning in January, I started my second road trip down south to Doumougou. We were a team of three. An American Wycliffe volunteer, an employee, and myself. It all started weeks ago researching equipment needed to install a cell phone range extender for our team in Doumougou. It’s not something available here in Chad so it came in from Europe. Around that time we also received a request to do a facilities maintenance inspection at an SIL associate organisation called Ataltrab, in Moundou about a five hour drive from Doumougou. Its best done by someone who is a visitor as they can see things that a resident has already gotten use to and no longer sees as an issue.
It was an eleven hour drive. One reason for the employee joining us was to help him get some driving experience. It was excellent for him, scary for me! He’s not a bad driver, just doesn’t have much experience. After he made a couple of swerves to miss errant chickens, I had to explain that we don’t endanger a car full of people and a $40,000 vehicle to save a chickens life. Its OK to slow down fast, but we do not turn to avoid it. A few days latter I was driving about 60 mph when a goat got confused right in front of me. I hit the brakes hard and honked but I did not swerve. The goat did not survive the encounter. His sacrifice was a good teaching moment.
The last hour of the day, it was dark and I was driving just outside of Moundou. A group of fast cars were on my tail. I was watching them in my rear view mirror thinking, “How can I help them pass me on an unlit road, full of pot holes and no shoulder.” All of a sudden I saw a fast approaching police check point in front of me with cone barriers. Slamming on the brakes, I skid right on through catching a traffic cone under the front wheel. I totally destroyed it. I was 30 feet past the check point off to one side and the three cars following me went flying past. I paused thinking, “Should I stay or should I go?” Right about then the police were running towards me, yelling and blowing their whistles. I couldn’t see them in the dark, but I could hear them. I took my foot off the brake and the yelling drastically increased. I knew I had to go back, so I shifted into reverse and met them in the dark.
I apologized profusely and offered to pay for the traffic cone. Somewhat out of breath, he excitedly, but politely, requested my drivers license and all of the vehicles paperwork, then abruptly left, walking back to his unlit and now damaged check point. In the dark, it got silent. I’m thinking, “That could have gone much worse.” Thank you Jesus! After ten minutes, the police did not return and my Chadian employee offered to go and see how he could help. He was gone about ten minutes and came back saying they were keeping the paperwork and I could pick it up at the police station in Moundou tomorrow. I shot up an arrow prayer, “What should I do now Jesus?” I wanted to pay for the cone, so I gave my employee 5,000 cfa ($10) asking him to go back and pay the police for the traffic cone I destroyed. I know I owed them at least that. He came back in ten minutes with all of the paperwork and my drivers license. Thank you, Jesus!
Our three nights at Ataltrab went fast. Stan and I did a detailed inspection of their facility which will give me the data needed to write a report for future required maintenance. This report will help them apply for funding needed to get the maintenance completed and possibly help them find volunteers to come do the work.
Thursday we hit the road again right at day break. The following letter is by Stan S. the Wycliffe volunteer who came to help me for five weeks. I’m using it with his permission.
One of the more exciting bridges we drove over.
The fourth evening found us sitting outside a missionary’s home, at a small table, eating a small supper by the light of two solar powered lamps. We had carried out the geographical instruction of Acts 1:8, having traveled that day about 5 hours on dirt roads to reach what qualifies as “the uttermost part of the earth.” The roads to get here that day went from paved roads, to really bad paved roads, to elevated dirt roads, to dirt roads with sand and dust, and the last miles were on what is called a “two track” road because the wheels wear down the grass and leave two tracks.
For four days, I had only seen one other vehicle with white occupants in it. Other than that one sighting, and the Catholic nun in Lai, there were no white persons to be seen. If you are white, you are a rarity as you pass through all the little towns and villages. Most of the little children excitedly point and call out, “Nasara, Nasara” emphasis on the sa, which roughly means “followers of the Man from Nazareth” possibly because many of the white people coming through are missionaries, talking about Jesus.
In recent years fired brick making has become popular. read more about it…
The savanna in this region of Chad is basically flat, and the grass is dry. There is no running water, no electricity, and no 7-11 stores in which to purchase anything in this village. If you want water, you go to the community well and use the foot or hand pump to get it. If you want privacy from all of the little children that have little else to do but to watch you all day, then you simply go inside and shut the door of your thatched roof dwelling.
Kids and adults are curious about the happenings going on at the Nasara’s house
Mosquito nets are used to help protect you from getting eaten alive at night, and some of those mosquitoes can easily be carrying malaria. It is the dry season now, so mosquitoes are not as prolific, but some are still alive and let you know it. It is also the coolest month of the year, regardless of the fact that it has been around 95 degrees most every day since I have been here. The fact that “A” & “E,” two young white single missionary women (from Switzerland and the US) have taken up the mantle to do literacy and Bible translation here is rather astounding. At this moment, “E” is actually off doing literacy work in another nearby (6 hour drive) but remote village. Normal people would never vacation here, and neither of these women are on vacation.
A typical kitchen, here a daughter is preparing the evening meal. Often they only eat one cooked meal a day. That is the kitchen hut behind her. There is another for sleeping.
The stars are really bright out here because there are no city lights—no electricity—anywhere, for miles and miles. As I ate some good food that was prepared on a propane stove by “A,” I pondered again at what had compelled me to volunteer for this assignment. “No one volunteers to come here” I have been told more than once. The hippos and the camels that I had seen earlier in the week only reinforced the fact that I have never been anywhere like this before. I didn’t stay cerebral for very long, as for the second time in as many minutes I asked myself, “What is that, crawling up my leg, under my pants?”
After I was done eating and listening to the many evening noises of the settling village, I went into my thatched roof hut and turned in for the night. The following day we were to install the antenna that we had brought in and assembled just before dark.
One reason for our coming was to install a signal booster antenna in hopes of picking up a signal from a cell phone tower that is quite distant from here. There is no other way for the missionary partners that live here to communicate with the outside world unless they get in their vehicle and drive a long distance to where they can get a faint signal.
If they could get a good signal at their home, then they could also use the Internet on their smart phone, and this would not only assist them in doing their work here but reinforce the fact that they are actually still living in the 21st century.
Jim and Moussa on the roof goofing around a bit while installing the system.
Another reason we came here was to figure out why the solar panels on the roof weren’t recharging the batteries to provide the 12 volt power that is used to run the fridge (cooler box) and laptops that could be used here. A third reason we came was to make minor repairs and to change all of the locks that were either not functioning or were compromised because the caretaker’s home was broken into and all of the keys were stolen. Look familiar? I had to chisel out that door assembly last time here in 2016. Thankfully we just had to change the lock assembly.
Stan Swank, just finished repairing a door. It was fun experiencing African life through his “new to Chad” eyes.
We were extremely successful at accomplishing our third reason for coming, but we were unsuccessful regarding our two major goals. The cell tower was too far away for the booster antenna to work, and a broken controller in the solar wiring made it impossible to operate the solar system. It will be a while before another attempt will be made by Jim’s crew to come fix this situation. “A” or “E” can easily replace the controller, which A did the following week, but they are still waiting on another possible cell phone extender. Pray one can arrive with some visitors from the states this month.
Above the house and above the trees you can see the antenna we installed.
“A” has been physically sick and has waited weeks for someone to come make this place more livable. It was heartbreaking and conditions were such that she elected to return with us to the SIL Center in N’Djamena. It took us around 11 hours on Saturday to make that journey in the Toyota Land Cruiser. Much, if not most, of that travel was on unpaved roads. The ruts, rocks and pot holes were amazing to behold. A thorough shaking was had by all.
It is now Sunday, and I have enjoyed a little R & R this day. I am in good health and am now looking forward to working this week around the SIL center here in N’Djamena. (Often pronounced “Jamayna.”) Thank you so much for your prayers and support. I saw a lot of poverty this week and realize how greatly I have been blessed.
Boys helping out by gathering palm stocks. I have no idea how they will be used. A local blacksmith built those wheels.The tack is all home made from local materials.
I would ask that you add the missionaries here to your prayer list. Their tasks are overwhelming at times, and there have been a lot of hindrances to the work.
End of Stan’s letter.
The following are some more good photos from this trip I just didn’t want to leave off.
The women of Africa are incredibly hard workers
They are very industrious, using whatever means available. She is selling fresh camel milk in recycled water bottles.
Water melons rice, millet or other grains for sale. No idea what the little girl was selling.
Everybody helps in whatever way they can for the family to survive and prosper.
A happy donkey and hard working hungry cattle. Life is not easy.
Thanks for your prayers. We hope you feel a bit closer to what you are investing time, money and prayers in. Jim and Judy McCabe