With its diverse population of hundreds of ethnic groups speaking 120 languages and dialects, it’s no surprise that Chad is sometimes called the “Babel Tower of the World”.
It also has more unreached people than any other African nation and why for the past six months, Sam has been learning Daju — the language spoken by many people in the remote area where he’s living — enabling him to make friends so he can tell them about Jesus.
Sent by South Parade Baptist Church, Leeds, Sam lives in Goz Beida, which in Arabic means “the white sand dune”, 125 miles south of eastern Chad’s capital Abéche ́, with his wife Katie and two young sons.
The couple, who grew up as Missionary Kids (MKs), have a passion to share the good news with those who’ve never heard it, but as Sam explains: “There are lots of people willing to do this in Europe, but not willing to do it in places like Goz Beida.”
There are many challenges for the family living in this impoverished region, which gets just four months of rain a year and daytime temperatures regularly above 30⁰C.
Although the family live in a reasonably western-style house (home for most people in Goz Beida is a mud-brick house with a tin roof, or a straw hut) they only get an average of about 30 minutes of running water a day.
It’s enough time to fill up a water tank, but when the pipes are out of service, Sam has to resort to filtering precious rainwater.
“The most obvious challenge living in Chad is that it’s quite remote and hard to get from here to the rest of the world,” he adds. “We also have a terrible internet connection, which sometimes makes it very difficult to communicate with the outside and from a health perspective, we have to travel hundreds of miles just to get an X-ray, for example.”
With Chad’s proximity to Sudan’s Darfur region, Sam is also mindful of the potential threats of national instability, the kidnapping of foreigners and carjacking.
“We try to use common sense, not take unnecessary risks and get advice from others alongside entrusting ourselves to God’s protection,” he says.
As part of his ministry with SIM UK, Sam travels to rural villages with at least one Chadian because they have a deeper understanding of what’s going on and can vouch for him. “Sometimes it’s really useful to be partnering with a local who knows what’s going on more than we do,” he explains.
However, driving in Chad is inherently dangerous because of the poor state of the roads.
“We always have a reasonably high risk of car accidents because there’s no tarmac and the roads are horrendously bad with rock, sand and gravel. Last year, we had a car accident while heading to our ministry location. We were driving off-road and a cow walked into the road and I swerved,” he recalls.
“The car rolled over, which can easily happen with four-wheel drives and as were about to tip over, I was afraid of what might happen.”
But despite knowing that he is serving in a very high-risk, low-safety environment, Sam has no fear.
“God sent us here and is providing for us as we face the challenges of bringing the gospel to people who live in a place where it’s really difficult. Also, SIM has the resources to help us when things go wrong, ensuring we have insurance to deal with evacuation and medical expenditure.”
The couple have spent most of the past 18 months learning Chadian Arabic and becoming part of the community by helping them in practical ways.
“That’s an easy one for Katie because she’s a vet and there are lots of people here who own camels, sheep and goats,” says Sam.
“We’ve been building relationships with one village treating the animals for parasites and we want to develop this work to allow conversations about Christ to flow more naturally.”
For Sam, who describes himself as an “old-school missionary”, he spends as much time as possible building relationships and visiting friends, contacts and dignitaries.
“I make friends with people; talk about Jesus and what’s in the Bible and respond to any questions.”
He will soon take on a new role leading SIM’s Faithful Witness team to serve among eastern Chad’s desert people and to eventually establish a local church.
“Faithful Witness is all about sending people to places where there’s not been a missionary presence and we fit that bill because we’re in a totally unreached area with a brand new team,” he says.
“Getting mission workers is difficult as Chad is not an easy location, so SIM’s capacity to send people has really strengthened what’s going on here and it does that by supporting other organisations,” he adds.
“We have this challenge before us — to bring the gospel to people who live in a place where it’s really difficult and there are few mission workers — but we trust in God and we’re confident that if we’re faithful to what God wants, then fruit will happen.
“In the long term, it’s amazing that we get to be part of establishing a local church here. It will have lots of ups and downs and we may even not be here by the time that church gets started, but fruit will happen and it will be partly because of what we do and that’s really exciting.”
For more workers to be raised up who are eager to share the gospel in Chad.
For the Lord’s protection on Sam and his family.
For the Faithful Witness initiative that seeks to take the gospel to communities where there is no Christian witness, or very little Christian witness.
By Kerry Allan