An American Visiting America

I sat on the floor in the middle of the mall, at one of those gathering places in the center with couches and tables. Mostly, it looked like people were just tiredly sitting and waiting, checking their watches, hoping for others in their group to finish up so they could finally go home. Until that moment, I’d never felt so at home in a mall. Surrounding me were my new friends – a man and woman from Zimbabwe who work for USAID, a white American man with E. Africa experience and an eco-friendly and anti-capitalism worldview, a young black American man who spent a semester in China and has powerful messages in the form of tattoos along his arms and shoulders, and a young S. Sudanese man living in the UK and taking the summer courses here in VA. We were all different, yet the same. None of us quite fit in. These are my people.

Though Eastern Mennonite University is quite diverse, once off the campus of EMU, it’s a smack in the face of white, middle and working class Americans. I guess I look like them…but, I don’t feel like them anymore. That’s pretty weird. I’ve gotten very used to being the ethnic minority, and enduring the inconvenience and frustration of being racially profiled. Now that I blend in again, I feel extremely out of place.

This morning I woke up and heard children playing. When I looked out the window, there were 3 kids out in their beautiful, thick lawn – one was swinging from a sturdy tree swing, another was gliding along the smooth driveway on her scooter, and the other was practicing his baseball swing with what looked like their dad. It was so American. It was so summer. It was so my childhood. It was so my children’s former life. But not anymore. We’ve changed. I felt a sense of loss – probably a loss of my identity.

I used to be the stroller pushing mom, ready for a shopping trip to Target. Today, though, the idea of Target scared me (having nothing at all to do with the restroom policy), so I hid away in the thrift store instead. Maybe I like thrift stores better because it’s such an eclectic mix of styles and colors, and everything there already has lived a life and has stories to tell. Maybe I feel a little bit at home amongst those already-been-out-in-the-world pieces of clothing, books and housewares.

A week after leaving Chad and I’m still jumping at the bangs and creaks I hear in the dorm walls. In a split second I can be convinced of gunshots or a low flying fighter jet, and then remember where I am. I haven’t seen any trucks full of camo-clad guys with automatic weapons, or even any single automatic weapon. I haven’t seen any polio-ridden children pulling themselves down the road by their hands. There haven’t been any beggars, and no police have picked me out of a crowd for being my color. I did see an ant on my sink, and I smiled at him happily…he made me feel at home, even though he didn’t bite me. I haven’t sweat once. My heart palpitations have stopped. I’m wearing yoga pants. I haven’t seen anyone pooping on the side of the road. There was one classmate wearing a Kaptani (the robe-like outfit that most Muslim men in Chad wear), and I knew I wanted to be his friend – and we were – he’s Nigerian, so we’re neighbors. There’s ridiculously amazing GRASS! At Starbucks, I’m not sure what to choose. I’m not sure that I’ve seen even a single piece of trash on the ground. I tried chatting with a black American woman in a store – she was having none of that with me. I miss my neighbors and my family. My feet are clean. My dorm room is cold. Things that come out of the fridge are actually cold. I heated up coffee in a microwave. I just put my clothes into a dryer.

I used to fit in here, but now I’m just a visitor. An American visiting America. That’s a really strange thing to be. I look American on the outside, but hardly feel it anymore on the inside. I should probably just go back to the thrift store…again…

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Enough of the Bullying, Racial Profiling, and Small-Scale Corruption Already!

I try. I really do. I try not to use the race card…the one where I say, “Did you pull me over just because I’m white?” So, mostly I don’t. But, it’s definitely true – there is major racial profiling happening in this capital city, and I’m so sick of dealing with it! I understand that black Chadians, and black non-Chadians get pulled over, too, but when I get picked out of a line of traffic from seven cars back and am told to pull over for no apparent reason, I know it’s because I’m a white non-Chadian (unless I have legitimately done something wrong).

I’m really feeling done with the shenanigans. After 3 years and 3 months of our family being here, I have learned how to stand up for myself, and not give into the police bullying. In our first months, we got pulled over so many times that we lost count. Each time, we didn’t know what was being said or asked of us, but we knew that the money they were asking for would make them go away, and we thought that’s the way the system worked…so we paid. Then we would go home and cry.

After a while, we decided to no longer pay bribes under any circumstance (at least any ‘normal’ police corruption circumstance), and that made things a bit better. Still, though, I would shake and fight back tears, and spend the 2 hours bickering back and forth until the officer either gave up, or we went to the police station and the guy in charge told me just to go home, and that I didn’t have to pay anything. So I would. I would go home. Then I’d cry.

I don’t really cry anymore – not really about anything. This place has thickened my outer shell in all regards. There’s not much that shakes me up anymore, which actually makes me (intellectually) sad…like the kid scooting himself along the sandy median by flip-flop-covered hands because he doesn’t have legs, or the vulnerable teenage boys who live under the bridge just waiting to be recruited by militants…those things break my heart, but I don’t actually *feel* anything anymore. I hate that.

What I don’t hate is that I’ve been toughened up enough to stand up for myself as a minority within my context. I’m so sick of dealing with this crap!

In the capital city where we live, there are only a handful of intersections that have stop lights. There are even fewer that actually work. There are none where everyone stops when their light is red. A couple intersections have improved, but there is one in particular that I go through 4 times a day (to and from school) that just no one seems to care about…it frustrates me like nothing else. I try to do my part and stop when the light is red…even when it’s yellow and I know the red is fast approaching. But this idea seems not to have caught on at this particular intersection. If only you could see this intersection. It makes a T at the Presidential Palace, and straight in front of you are half a dozen soldiers armed with ak-47s, and still people don’t stop. Grrrrrrr! I watch it happen 4 times a day; I roll my eyes at it 4 times a day; I still stop when I’m supposed to 4 times a day.

Here’s what happened last week:

I’m approaching the intersection to turn left, and I have a green light. As I’m about to turn, the green light starts to blink. I know this means after the green blinking, the light will turn yellow for a second, and then red. I turned (merging in with the cars who were running the red light coming from the other direction) while it was still blinking green. 3 motos cruising along with 2 policemen on each hurried through their red light heading somewhere, and one moto decided to pull me over.

Seriously?

I pull over, make sure my doors are locked, and when the two officers come to the window I roll it half way down. “Show me your driver’s license,” the more dominant officer said in French. As I reach in my bag for my license, I asked, “Is there a problem?” He replied, “Show me your driver’s license.” So, I stopped and I said no to him. I told him that I wouldn’t show him my license because he hadn’t told me what the problem was. He told me that I had run the red light. I was so not in the mood for this nonsense, so I argued with the guy. I confidently and with a stern voice told him that he was wrong, and the light was not red. I told him it was almost red (which he decided wasn’t possible), but that it had not yet turned red, and, in fact, hadn’t even turned yellow yet. He told me I was wrong, and I said the same of him. I refused to give in.

A very kind Chadian English speaking diplomat happened to drive by and see a poor damsel in distress (which I was kind of offended by, because I totally had this under control), and offered to help. It truly was so kind of him. I explained the situation, then he spoke to the officers in Arabic and came to me with this: “Just apologize to them, and then you can go.” I told him, “No. I will not apologize for something I did not do. If I apologize, then they win!” He told me, “No, no, no. I’m not telling you to pay a bribe – they are not winning. Just say you are sorry, and then you can go.” I refused again for the same reason. My new ally said, “This is Africa. This is just what you need to do.”

So, I may or may not have told them in a slightly elevated tone of voice that this is a joke. “There were 10 cars in front of you, and then your moto, who all went through a red light, and no one stopped them. But then I go through a green light, and you pull me over and accuse me of being the one to go through a red light? This is a joke!!” I didn’t get a response…but they talked together in Arabic for a minute, then the dominant officer looked at ME…and apologized to ME…in English! Wow, I couldn’t believe it! I thanked him, then we parted ways.

I was all fired up, and the adrenaline was coursing through me, but when I got home, I didn’t cry.

I love working for an organization like MCC that does not give into corruption (except for those first few months when we didn’t know what we were doing), and works to stand for peace and justice. It not only empowers me to stand up for my own human rights, but to help give a voice to others who have something to say about the way things are.

It was a small victory that day.

Life Lessons From Dead Kittens

Man, parenting is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do. Jon and I (and the village?) are responsible for the majority of the influence that our 4 kids will receive towards becoming adults with good character. SCARY! No pressure, right?

We’re raising our kids in a place where there are a heck of a lot of things that I would like to shelter them from…but that’s not possible here, and honestly, I don’t think that sheltering them is the healthiest option for them, anyway. But, would I like for them not to have experienced the death of a friend? An aggressive attack on our trapped vehicle? Harassment by the police? Kids touching them and pulling their hair? People pointing and laughing at them for being different? Seeing kids with missing limbs? Passing polio-ridden people dragging themselves along the road? Trucks full of soldiers with AK-47s as part of their regular scenery? Passing by the psychologically damaged man who looks us in the eye and pretends to shoot us in the head on the way to school? Multiple terrorist bombings in our city? Blind children begging at our car? The sounds of our guard scaring away the thief caught lurking around in our compound? Maybe part of me *would* like to shelter them…until I think about the life lessons that they (and I) are learning through this experience of growing up in Chad. (I’d like to add that I definitely do respect my kids’ wishes not to be petted by people, and I do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen.)

Recently, after the attack on the last kitten by a big neighborhood cat, I had the chance to pursue a real teaching moment with Johnny. This kitten had been his favorite, so he was really upset, and really angry with the big cat. He said, “Maybe we can put some food out for it, and when the cat comes to eat the food, we can stone him.” Now, he’s seen our house helper throw a stone at this cat before to scare it away…but this extreme reaction made me a bit nervous. So, I affirmed his feelings of anger and hurt, but then kind of ended the conversation with something like, “If you hurt that cat, then his mom will want to come hurt you. And then should we then go hurt that mom cat? If so, the cat’s owner may come after us…and the back and forth of violence will go on.” In the moment, I had no solution.

Later as I was doing dishes, and thinking about how sensitive and impressionable Johnny is, I realized this opportunity I had to teach him about peace and reconciliation. So, I turned off the water and dried my hands, and found Johnny lying in his bed. I sat down next to him and said “I’ve been wondering, Johnny, why the big cat might have attacked the kittens, and even eaten one of them… Nature is kind of crazy sometimes, and hard to understand for us humans, but, I wonder if the big cat did that because he’s hungry. There aren’t very many lizards around at all right now, and maybe the big cat was feeling so desperate to fill his belly that he saw the weak kittens as an easy target for food.” I told him I had an idea. “How about instead of trying to hurt the cat, we choose to show the cat love, and feed the cat instead. Maybe we can put some food out for the cat, and that way he’ll have a full belly, so he’ll be happy, AND he won’t have to kill smaller cats, so we’ll be happy. Then maybe we’ll even become friends with the big cat.” Johnny only thought about it for a moment, then his precious, adoring smile crept on to his face, and he said, “That’s a really nice idea.” He was proud to go share this idea with his siblings.

Phew! Crisis averted (for now), and the stoning to death of a cat avoided! Ok, so, we haven’t actually fed this cat yet – we haven’t seen him again (and it’s quite likely that he didn’t kill the kittens due to hunger, anyway…but that’s not the point, right?). What a chance this was, though, to turn anger and hatred into compassion and understanding.

Loving our enemy is a tough lesson to learn, especially when it seems like we’re sometimes completely surrounded by enemies. I suppose I do love our unsheltered life, because hopefully our kids won’t be afraid of reality – won’t be afraid of loss and pain and things that make us uncomfortable. Sure, these things are still difficult, but I love giving our kids the opportunity to learn healthy ways of experiencing these realities. For now, though, I just continue to hope that giving them these experiences aren’t completely traumatizing them for life…but I think that’s just my anxiety talking…

Overwhelmed to Silence

Well, we have successfully (whatever that means) made it past the half-way point of our 5-year term serving with MCC in Chad. It’s hard to believe, in many ways, that our remaining time in our current home is less than the time we’ve already spent there. In some ways it seems like it was a snap of the fingers and here we are. In other ways, I recognize HOW MUCH (and I emphasize that with a lot of weight behind it) has happened in such a short period of time. So much has happened, and we’ve done so much traveling, and we’ve seen so much, that it’s all become so overwhelming – too overwhelming.

When we started this adventure, I was certain I would blog regularly the whole time we were here. I wanted to be a window into this little known part of the world for any reader who would care to give a few minutes of their time. Chad is an incredibly unique, challenging, beautiful, dusty, mysterious, loving, intensely hot, difficult part of Africa, and I wanted to share our lives here with you there (wherever there is for you). But after about 5 months of writing about overcoming challenges, and having multiple new cultural experiences daily, the writing and posting dwindled to silence. I was overwhelmed and lost somewhere trying to balance how truly overwhelming life is here, with how truly normal everything had become.

We were advised to take pictures of everything around us in our first couple of months, because after that, everything would look normal. In my attempt at ‘just living’ in our new neighborhood, I didn’t want to further attract attention to my already-stand-out-ness by walking around with a camera around my neck, a safari hat on my head, and sporting a fanny pack sitting at the side of my hip (never mind those last two…but you get the idea, right?). This was my new neighborhood and my new life, and I wanted to fit in (as if that was possible). So, I didn’t really take pictures, and you know what? The advice was legit – things pretty quickly became normal. Not only did I stop seeing things daily that I was photographing in my mind, but I stopped feeling the need to process through writing all the now-normal things around me.

I tend to shut down a bit when things become overwhelming (which isn’t exactly ideal in our setting). Since our last post was 10 months ago, and it wasn’t even me who wrote it, it’s safe to say a good deal has happened, and a decent number of experiences have happened. We’ve seen a lot, smelled a lot, done a lot, cried a lot, laughed a lot – all so much that I’m so far behind on anything I could possibly write about that I hardly know where to start.

So, I’m starting here. In an attempt to be intentional about knowing my current state, and really being in the moment of my experiences and having an awareness of myself in relation to my surroundings, I’d like to start again. I make no promises of filling in all the gaps of the past 10 months (and way before that, really) of silence. But, I’d like to open that window again – to let you see into our world and our family a little bit, but also to let some of the cooped-up air that can sometimes be suffocating, flow back out into the world. I’ll call it part of Spring (actually, hot season) Cleaning. Welcome back to writing here, me. Welcome back to reading here, you.

Mysterious Illness One Year Later

On the 23rd of June last year (exactly one year ago), after 3 days of quickly increasing pain, I finally gave in and decided to go to the clinic. Unable to walk, my good friend Jeff carried me to the car, helped me to bend my swollen knees, and pretty much manipulated my body into the car. The wheel chair was waiting for me when we arrived. Pain turned into laughter for a few minutes as we realized that the parking lot was gravel – so instead of wheeling me in the chair, Jeff and the nurse had to carry me, in the wheel chair, into the clinic. This was the start of the medical journey.
For all who have followed this journey from a distance, you will know that after some months of pain that I can’t even describe, I was diagnosed with Reactive Arthritis. After 4 months, the pain was controlled enough on a high dose of drugs that I was released to come back to Chad.
From there, it has been a very slow healing process. There have been so many good days and bad days, even up through today, that it’s hard at times to know if I’m getting better at all. Some days I feel almost normal – some days I have a hard time standing due to pain in my feet and knees.
I’m writing now to give a brief update for friends and family who have supported me over the past year. There were times, especially before the diagnosis, when the pain was so bad, that I literally felt like giving up. I accepted the fact that the end might be near for me. During the first few months, when I couldn’t lie down because of the pain in my spine, I would sit awake for most of the night while my family slept. I spent time alone, with more tears than I thought my body could produce. It was during these times that I began to plan for my family’s future without me – preparing financially and writing letters for each of my kids to open on their 18th birthdays. I began to write the story of my life so that my kids could read about me after I was gone.
I look back on these times now, and see clearly the difference that community makes. Some of you have literally walked or sat beside me through these difficult weeks and months. Other have supported from a distance with encouraging emails, phone calls, Facebook messages, and prayers. It is this support that has gotten me this far.
Today, I am hopeful that the worst has past, and that I am heading towards full recovery. Most likely, in a month or two, I will be finished with the drugs. The rehab seems to be helping. Yet I know it will be years, if ever, until I am back to ‘normal’. These days I am noticing milestones, like being able to hold my children and being able to lift the drill long enough to drill holes into concrete. Last week I peppered (volleyball) with Ang (she was always better than me, but now she has to really take it easy on me 😉 A few days ago I was able to stand on my tiptoes without holding on to anything. It’s these small improvements that mean so much. Those of you who have, or currently suffer with chronic pain or long term illnesses will understand.
I am thankful for my wife and kids. Thankful for the opportunity to work in a field that I love. Thankful for life. Thankful for so much. As seems the case with all trials, I am convinced that I am being refined into something better than I was…and for that too, I am thankful.

Year One, Done.

Ang here.

Thinking back on the past year and all that it entailed, I’m not sure whether to cry or laugh or scream or squeal.  One thing I am sure of, though, is that it has been the most ridiculous roller coaster of a year – highs, lows, loopty-loops, speeding through dark tunnels, trudging slowly through muck and flying up to the tops of mountains.  What an experience.  What a year.

I remember the moment well.  The day we dropped off our supervisor at the airport in N’Djamena, said thanks and waved good-bye, just 10 days after arriving here.  We wondered…do we even remember how to get back to our house?  And if we don’t, how are we going to ask for directions – we don’t speak the language. 

When we did make it back, there wasn’t electricity or water, and our house helper, Jeanne, and I just looked at each other and smiled, unable to communicate with words. 

It was tough, but overall, we were happy.

The next months looked like French lessons, employee frustrations, friend making, school hunting, electricity questions, baguettes, roof-top relaxing, tears, belly sickness, road trips, parents visiting, report writing, sweaty chins (and everywhere else), lizard guts, new foods, hot Christmas, translating, house hunting, bottle caps, new cat, sand storms, water filters, dump baths, guest houses, sleeping like sardines, soccer with locals, camels, flat tires, partner visits, starry skies, street sandwiches…and so, so much more…

Before we knew it, we were 8 months into our contract, had just moved to our ridiculously relieving and relaxing new house, and were gearing up to leave Chad for a 2 week vacation in Scotland + 2 week orientation in Pennsylvania.  We were excited for the break.

Then there was that one morning where Jon couldn’t walk anymore.  It was at that point we knew his pain was more than just sore muscles from the move.  Our friend literally carried Jon into our clinic to be seen by emergency status by the doctor.  She ran some tests, gave him a prescription, and a note for the airports to allow him wheelchair access…and that night we were off (which is a good thing, ‘cause otherwise Jon would’ve had to have been medevac’d out of Chad to who knows where). 

The next 4 months looked like emergency rooms, wheelchairs, family vacation, husband unable to move, Scottish coast, hospital visits, self-made recliners, PA landscape, crutches, friends in Ohio, road trips, arguing, support, anniversary on different continents, tears, Rwanda, empowerment, apple picking, drugs, sleepless nights, death of 2 grandparents, flying alone, meetings, coffee, exhaustion, pumpkin carving, road trip with my brother, questions, birthday parties, thrift stores, blood tests, living out of suitcases, salad bars, ambulances, doubts, family, laughter…and so, so much more…

Never before in our marriage had Jon and I experienced such pendulum swings of feeling closer than ever, and more alone and separated than ever. 

Through it all, never once was I able to utter a prayer for ourselves.  We knew that people literally all over the world were in prayer for our family and for Jon’s health…and we believe it’s what gave us the strength to make it through each day and each sleepless night.  I took walks in the evenings and eventually, that’s when I spoke to God, “God please, tell me SOMETHING.  Show me SOMETHING.  I want to feel SOMETHING.”  He did.  He did tell me things and show me things and help me feel things…and they were beautiful, and meaningful and glorious. 

Never before in our marriage had Jon and I learned so much – about life, each other, God, family – than the trials, the ups and downs, the roller coaster of the last 12 months. 

We got the okay to come back to Chad – finally – hoping, praying that it would feel right and good.  And oh, did it ever!  God gifted us with the feeling of coming home, and it was better than we’d expected!

The last month has looked like air conditioning, partner visits, productive interviews, music in the car, worship leading, volleyball playing (not yet for Jon), less painful mornings, hosting teams, cooking for volunteers, feasting with friends, meeting new local friends, furniture shopping, sharing testimony, tons of driving, kids happy in school, mosquito bites, Yahtzee, French practice, market shopping, showers, power cuts, sweaty backs, road trips, aeropress coffee, curtains made…and so, so much more…

I don’t ever want to forget this year and all that we’ve learned.  It’s a strange feeling – that feeling like the time passed in the blink of an eye, yet it couldn’t have been longer or more exhausting.  Wow!  God has used this year to change me, to grow me, to mold, stretch and shape me, and to prepare me for His continued work through me here in Chad. 

While Jon’s road to recovery hasn’t quite come to an end, we are confident that this is just for a season.  We are ridiculously excited for all that God has in store for our time here in the next 12 months (though I must admit, I don’t love roller coasters, so I’d be ok to take this year a little slower).

P.S.  To those who supported us this past year through prayer, positive thoughts, encouragement, money, gift cards, housing, food, visits, babysitting and just plain love – THANK YOU for that gift!  Truly, truly, truly.

Why on earth would you want to live in Chad?!

Jon here.

We’ve been getting some questions recently about what we actually do in Chad.  The answer to that is too long for a blog post.  But, I figured I’d begin telling a little of what we do over a few posts to answer some of those questions for those who are interested. 

In a nutshell, we manage the country program for MCC (mcc.org) in Chad.  Our work supports Chadian organizations working in relief, peace, and development.  There are five main areas of focus:  Agriculture development, Peace building, Orphan care, AIDS/HIV patient care and Education.

I’ll spend some time over the next month going into a little detail, but for now, I wanted to highlight our peace building work in Chad.  This work is vital in our region which is experiencing such devastation from religiously charged violence.  I recently interviewed the director of one of our partner organizations which I think gives great insight into the value of this kind of work in Chad.  This post is a little longer than our usual posts but it’s absolutely worth a read.  I’ll let it speak for itself:

 

MCC Interview with Victor Dogos

Ethics, Peace, and Justice Coordinator for EEMET, Chad 

June 20th, 2013

 

JON

“Tell me a little about yourself.”

VICTOR

“My name is Victor Dogos and I am the coordinator for the ‘Ethics, Peace, and Justice’ (EPJ) department of the council of churches (EEMET) here in Chad.  I have held this position since April of 2012.  Previous to this current position, I worked for the church training pastors for AET (Assembly Evangelique au Tchad).  I am married and have 10 children.”

JON

“Tell me what you know about the current peace situation in Chad and the surrounding region.”

VICTOR

“Peace has been improving in Chad for the last 5 years.  EJP has begun peace talks as well as training in peace and conflict resolution.  We have also begun the work of conflict prevention by training young people.  Some years ago, there was much tension between the religious communities in Chad.  The Muslims considered Christians to be unbelievers.  And the Christians considered Muslim to be ignorant – even those Muslims with a PhD were considered ignorant.  These generalizations and lack of inter faith discussion caused much tension.

Even recently, the situation in Mali has affected Chad and the entire region.  Many Muslims in Chad are not happy about the Chadian government’s military intervention.  They think it is wrong to send Muslims to kill other Muslims.  There is great potential for a disruption in the peace here, yet we are finding that the leaders we have trained here are strong.  Their training is allowing them to see the bigger picture of peace in this region, and their presence in the population is bringing a sense of calm within communities.  I believe that Chad is the only country in our region where there is now a good peace relationship between Muslims and Christians.”

JON

“Where has your passion for peace training come from?”

VICTOR

“My education is in theology, law, and communication.  However, my passion for peace building has come from an MCC decision to send me to attend API (Africa Peace Institute) in Ghana.  It was here that I really learned the importance of peace.  There is now a fire in me, a great passion, to communicate the vision of peace.  For almost 45 years, Chad has been in and out of trouble from war and conflict.  Chad has a lot of influence in Africa because it touches many regions – north, east, west, and of course central Africa.  We hope that Chad can be the example for all of Africa – that interfaith peace is possible.  We look to strong examples of progress such as when the President of Chad was last re-elected.  Although he is in fact a Muslim man, he asked a Christian, a Muslim, and a Catholic leader to pray publicly for him.  Glory to God!  Also within our government, we now have a good mix of Christians and Muslims.  Our Prime Minister, and many of the other government Ministers are Christian – even attending our General Assembly this year.  Many people are now wondering about this peace building effort.”

JON

“Specifically, how is EPJ Peace responding to these issues of peace in Chad?”

VICTOR

“Our main goals for this year are to train religious leaders, youth, and women’s groups. 

There are currently 5 people working with EPJ peace.  3 of these are regular staff and we also have a couple of volunteers who help out at the bigger events.  Including women in these discussions and trainings is a new concept for many people in Chad.  We realize the need for women to be empowered and included in the peace process as they will play a large role in keeping the peace in Chad.”

“I hope that Muslim leaders will also soon begin to lead peace training.  Unfortunately, we find that many within Islam believe it will be spoiled by the interaction with Christians.  However, I now have contact with many Muslim leaders who understand the need for interfaith peace and education.”

JON

“What other organizations in Chad are addressing these issues of interfaith peace building?” 

VICTOR

“We are the only organization in Chad providing interfaith reconciliation and peace building training.  Currently, MCC is our only supporter.

“Up to this point, the Catholic church and the Muslims have not been leading training about peace.  Our department, made possible only through the support of MCC has done all of the peace building in Chad.  We are now finding that the government of Chad is very interested in our work.  Peace is in the best interest of our whole country.”

JON

“What do you consider the biggest challenges to your work with EPJ Peace?” 

VICTOR

“Our greatest challenges are financial.  As I said, MCC is the only organization that supports us.  My hope is that our program can grow to reach all of Chad.  However, Chad is a very large country.  Of the 23 regions in Chad, we currently touch only 4 with our work.  That leaves too many areas untouched.  The only thing holding us back from reaching more of these areas is the finance to support such a work.  For example, our vehicle is more than 10 years old.  We spend money for the upkeep of the vehicle, but there are also concerns of its reliability on the long journeys into the more remote parts of Chad.” 

JON

“What do you believe the Bible, or specifically the life Jesus, has to say about peace?”

VICTOR

“Actually, I believe that both the Koran and the Bible have a lot to say about peace.  Certainly, peace is a priority.  In Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7, Jesus teaches about peace.  Not only did Jesus teach about peace, He LIVED peace.  When Peter cut the soldiers ear, Jesus brought healing.  As Jesus modeled for us, we should try to overcome violence with peace – overcome evil with good.  You know, we never see violence in the life of Jesus.  He is always following the will of God, and we should try to do the same. How can we bring the gospel to people when there is no peace between us?  The gospel and peace cannot be separated.  Reconciliation is God’s mission, and so is also our mission.”

JON

“Victor, thank you so much for your time today and for the good work you are doing.  Blessings on you and the rest of your team as you continue to work for peace and reconciliation in Chad.”

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Feel free to shoot me an email if you want to know more specific information on this area of our work or how you can be involved.

(For those who made it to the end – a mini health update:  today was by far my best day of the last 9 weeks.  Yeah!)