Imagine a place where ruggedness meets beauty, where poverty reaps wealth, and where suffering yields to peace. There is such a place, and it is among the Arabs of Chad, Africa. This Muslim people group, numbering about 2 million, spans from Nigeria, across Chad, and into Sudan. They live in a harsh and desolate region that for centuries has deterred those who would bring the Gospel. But now, in our day, we are seeing the first fruits of those pioneers who labored before us.
Arabs first migrated to the Chad region approximately 600 years ago. Today about 50 % still live a nomadic lifestyle. Their lives are extremely difficult and are primarily focused on survival. For some communities reaching the nearest water source alone requires a 2 to 3 mile journey. They are hard laboring for even the most basic essentials.
Because of their nomadic lifestyle, the Chadian Arabs have to journey to market towns in order to sell their milk, wood, or other goods. While children in the developed world spend their days learning in schools or playing, a large percentage of Chad’s children labor away in the fields to help their families make ends meet. A boy can become a shepherd for the family’s flock or herd as early as age six. This requires traversing the desert lands in search of grass for the herds to graze. Babies and toddlers often spend their days strapped to their mothers’ backs as they chop wood, prepare the family’s meal, and draw water from the wells.
The nature of life and the influence of Islam have placed a grand chasm between the men and women of this society. Women and men eat and sleep separate, and there is little to no social interaction between the two sexes. The pressure for a man to provide for his family is oftentimes insurmountable, as the average Chadian with a job will make $300/ year. Thus, these Arab communities are filled with corruption as debt is accrued, lies are told, and empty promises of reimbursement are made among friends and family.
The harshness of Chad has caused death in great numbers. Whether it is a plague wiping out herds, disease that claims the lives of young and old, or wars that erupt over water wells; the bitterness of death blows over Chad like an unstoppable wind. The Chadian Arabs face death with such frequency that they have surrendered themselves to fate, living in fear of both God and Satan.
“I will see you tomorrow.” “Yes, my friend, if I don’t die first.”
Oh, how dark is the darkness in which they live! May it be as Isaiah prophesied over Israel, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Is 43:19).