Following is a communique from Matthew Rogness, Executive Director of Lutheran Brethren World Missions, written at 5:00 PM on Wednesday, February 13th, updating us on the situation in Chad that is directly impacting our missionary efforts in that country. Continue to pray about this situation. As a point of interest, Community of Joy will be participating in the February 27th “Day of Prayer and Fasting” for Chad and will be providing information on how to give to “Chad Crisis,” the humanitarian aid effort in that region. -MAJ
What happened in Chad?
During the last days of January, rebel forces from eastern Chad started making their way across Chad toward the capital of Ndjamena. On Friday, February 1st, they were near the city and the fighting had become a concern for all living in Ndjamena. Over the next several days fighting continued in Ndjamena for control of the city and the government. Government forces eventually prevailed but not until 165 were killed, over one thousand injured and 30,000+ had fled across the border into Cameroon and thousands more south in Chad.
View Larger Map
During these days, our missionaries in Chad were evacuated – two families to France (evacuated from Ndjamena where there was fighting) and three families to Cameroon from Bokoro, Doh and Gounou Gaya. They are all safe and taking time to decompress from the stress of those days and will await news of how the country is moving back to stability.
Why did this happen?
We don’t have a final answer to that question, however, there are reasons given by the rebels who attacked and by governments with interests in Chad. On Chad’s eastern border is Sudan. Years of strife between the Sudan government, the “Christian-south”, and the “Darfur-west” have been in the news. There are 300,000+ refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic in refugee camps in eastern Chad. The United Nations and various sub-groups of nations have been trying to negotiate and stabilize the region for years. The UN and other non-governmental organizations have been trying to feed and house these displaced peoples in eastern Chad. Security for these camps has been difficult for the Chad government to maintain with their own need to protect their own government interests. A European Union Force was to come in the week that the rebels attacked to give security to those camps. It is believed that the rebels made this attempt to take over the government of Chad before the EU Force was deployed, because that Force would make a coup more difficult to pull off because Chad forces could then be used to protect their own governmental interests. The rebels are three main factions that united for this attempted coup and they each had their own reasons including “democracy”, wanting an Islamic State, and despising the President from within his own tribe (not exactly a harmonious group). The current government has been in power for more than 15 years and of course has many detractors. Relatively speaking, these years have been good for our ministry in Chad because there has been a certain order. As of February 12th, the EU Force has started to be deployed in eastern Chad.
What is the future?
Certainly, God only knows. The French government has indicated that they will act to maintain the status quo in order to see a stable enough environment so that the European Union Force will fully deploy in the refugee camps of eastern Chad. If this does in fact happen it could mean that the capital and most of the country will be secure enough for ministry to continue to go forward. If that is the case, our missionaries would return to their places of ministry and we would seek to fulfill the mandate of the North American Church to plant churches among these unreached people groups and to do so in partnership with our sister Church in Chad.
What is our response?
First of all, we need to be praying as a North American Church for the people of Chad who do not know Jesus as their Savior. We need to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Chad that God would protect them and lead them into ministry that brings their neighbors near and far into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray for those who have lost everything in the fighting and flight from danger. Pray for the Cameroon Church and especially for the four congregations in Kouserri that are in the middle of helping to address the humanitarian needs of Chadians who fled the fighting. Pray also for our missionaries – they need to be rested, renewed and restored. They need to rest in God’s plan and timing. We need God’s wisdom in the days ahead for the decisions that need to be made for ministry in Chad.
We would like to suggest a Day of Prayer. One of our sister congregations has already done this. Others have had prayer times or vigils. There was an excellent suggestion made to have “A Day” of prayer, denomination-wide and we have set that date as February 27, 2008.
We would also suggest that if you as a congregation or as individuals want to be a part of helping the Church in Cameroon respond to the humanitarian need of those who fled to Cameroon, we have set up an account called “Chad Crisis” and we will pass those monies to the development committee of the Lutheran Brethren Church in Cameroon to be used to supply water, food and shelter to those displaced. There will also be costs as the result of the evacuation of our missionaries, including their time outside of Chad.
Thank you for focusing on this need as a congregation! – Matthew Rogness