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The stark Gajara region of Chad.

. . . Was Blind, But Now I See

I could tell you all of the reasons I want our new book, As the Crow Flies, to be in Braille. Instead, I’ll share this story from our time in Chad, Africa:

 

“Pastor, will you please read Acts 1:8 for us?”

The white-haired Mzee picked up his Bible and began thumbing through it.

I’d never seen someone read from Braille.

He held the open Bible in his left hand and ran his right hand along the text until he found his spot.

 

Our focus: Building relationships to equip African and American Believers to reach the Least Reached in South Sudan and Chad.
Our focus: Building relationships to equip African and American Believers to reach their people.

A word from Curt

Wow.  It’s a word I’m presently prone to overuse.

I cannot help it.  We see and experience amazing things daily.

Many are amazing.

Others are shocking.

Regardless, they elicit a wow.  The story below is worth a mouthful of “Wows.”

Be curious.

Be wowed.

Tell a story about it.

 

Braille Bible Chad

 Pastor “reading” Acts 1:8

I once was blind,

but now I see  

Pastor found his place in the large Braille Bible and began in French,

“Mais vous recvrez une puissance, let Saint Esprit survenant sure vous, et vous serez mes temoins a Jerusalme, dans tout la Judee, dans la Samarie, et jusqu’ aux extremites de la terre.”

Our translator, Arabi, followed (more or less) in broken English,

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Pastor lifted the finger off the page and smiled.

Listen to the actual recording of Pastor reading in French Braille.

 

I’d never heard this Mt. Everest of Bible promises read better.

Pastor’s eyes had been sightless since an illness at age thirteen, but the short time I spent with him enlightened me to his great vision for people to know Jesus.

I looked around at the bare tall mountains of this Sahel town.

For me, it was extremites de la terre.

The ends of the earth.

For Pastor and the other Bible translators in the room, this was their Jerusalem.

It was their Dry Creek.  Their homeland.

 

The Sahel is the region of Africa where the Sahara Desert meets the Green Tropics.
The Sahel is the region of Africa where the Sahara Desert meets the Green Tropics.

 

Pastor has a wonderful story of how he came to Faith.

As you read below, he’ll tell his own story. It’s taken from a new friend’s dissertation.

Both have graciously allowed me to share this story:

 

Pastor’s Story 

I was born in a Muslim village. At seven years of age, all of the boys in our village were send to qur’anic school to learn to read the Qur’an. I attended the qur’anic school with my brothers for a couple years, but then the government began requiring that each village begin sending children to the government school.

I was one of the children chosen. I went to live with my uncle in a village about ten kilometers away where there was a government school. I continued to attend this school until I was thirteen years old.

At the age of thirteen I got sick. As a result of the sickness, I became blind and had to drop out of school.

Sometime later, I went to visit an uncle who lived in the city. He was a veteran, having fought with French during WWII. As a result he received a regular pension, drove a car, etc. One day my uncle told me that he knew of a school in the city that was run by Christians where they taught people to read and write even if they were blind. I was amazed. When I returned to the village, I told my mother about this school, but she didn’t believe it.

She said, “Your uncle was just wants to snatch you up to go live with him. There is no way that blind people can learn to read!”

My mother continued to look for a healer who could restore my sight. She brought me to one Marabout after another. We tried traditional medicine. Nothing worked. Finally she gave up and said that my uncle could take me to the school to learn to read if he wanted to.

I went to the school and my uncle introduced me to the director of the school. His name was Abudahoud. He was also blind, but had learned to read using his hands. He agreed to give me a place at the school so I could learn to read and write in braille.

The first time someone at the school talked me about the Gospel, I was very hostile. I didn’t want to hear anything about it. I told them, “No, my people are all Muslims. We don’t have any need this Gospel. That’s for pagans. We have been taught not to have anything to do with your Gospel.”

After that, no one said anything to me about the Gospel for some time. However, there was a daily meditation that we were required to attend. I saw that there were many other children attending who were from Muslim villages as well, so I didn’t see any problem in attending.

After one year, the Lord began to work in my heart. We were doing a study from the Old Testament—how Moses had received the law, etc. They talked about Adam and Eve and how they had fallen into sin. I had heard some of these stories before, but I didn’t really know the details. I began to get interested in what we were learning.

One day, I was visiting my uncle and I told him that I was becoming interested in the stories from the Bible. To my surprise, my uncle told me, “Me too!” He said, “You know, I’m afraid, but I am very interested as well. I even bought a Bible in Rome while I was in the military.” He then showed me the Bible he had purchased in Rome.

Chadian Free French Soldier
Chadian Free French Soldier

This encouraged me and I continued to study. I started to really understand the Gospel and fall in love with God’s Word. Every time there was something I didn’t understand I would ask the school director Abdahoud.

I found that he had been raised as a Muslim as well and he was fluent in Arabic, which made it easy to talk to him. He knew how to answer my questions. After two years at the school, I became convinced that the Gospel was the way to life and I made a step of faith. By that point, I had really come to love the Lord.

I continued to study and two years after I first believed I was baptized. I continued at the school, four, five, six, seven years. All the time I was learning more from the Bible.

One day I told my friends at the school that I wanted to return to my village to share the Gospel. They all said, “You’d better be careful. If you preach the Gospel in your village they’re going to kill you. You know that well enough!” Others said, “If you go to the village, you will not be able to defend yourself. There are many Muslim teachers in the village who know a lot more than you do. You cannot reason with them. You are going to be the first cadaver!”

At first I was afraid.

After a year or so, however, I decided that whatever happened, I had to go to my village to tell people about the Gospel. When I arrived in the village I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t feel like I was capable of confronting the religious leaders. Every time I tried to say something, they would talk circles around me, so I just kept quiet. I began to learn to read the Qu’ran with them and I listened as they talked about different issues. Sometimes I entered into the discussion, but most of the time I just kept quiet. I acted as if I was one of them.

The second year, I started to talk to other young people in the village about the Gospel. In a short time, a dozen young people had decided to become Christians. At this point, the village religious leaders became very upset. They said, “Now we understand what he wants to do.”

There was a group of rebels living some distance from our village. The village religious leaders were so upset they went to the rebel camp and told them, “There is a young man in our village who has brought a different religious. He wants to destroy our village. If you would come and kill him for us you would be doing us a great favor.”

The rebels said, “We’ll come all right. We’ll come and threaten him. That will make him afraid and he will stop talking about this other religion.”

So one day the rebels came and they took me and the other twelve young men who had believed. They tied me up and beat us. They took us to a location outside the village. They told me, “This religion that you are talking about, it doesn’t belong here. If you want to be a Christian, go far away where there are Christians.”

I told them, “Look, I am from this village. I am from the clan of the village chief. I’m not from this other place you talk about. Why do you say I should go there? The religion that the Marabouts are preaching came from another place as well. I’m not a politician. I don’t want to harm anyone. But I have my faith and I’m going to stick with it. I’m not going to stop talking about it.”

They said, “Stop talking about your religion or else! If you don’t stop, you’ll learn the consequences.” Then they left.

The Book of Acts in French Braille.
The Book of Acts in French Braille.

Three months later, however, the group of young believers had grown from twelve to twenty-eight. The village religious leaders were furious. My own uncle, one of my mother’s brother came to me and said, “For you, it’s too late. There’s no more room for discussion. You’ll see, very soon, people are going to stop talking about you altogether!”

Then my uncle went and told the rebels, “Just kill him, he’s never going to stop talking about this Gospel.”

The rebels came and they tied us up and took us out into the bush again. They beat us and threatened us. They finally let us go at 4 o’clock in the morning. When morning came, my uncle thought I was dead. He wanted to console my mother so he bought a quantity of sugar and a sheep in order to perform a sacrifice. When he arrived at my mother’s compound, he offered my mother the sugar and the sheep.

He said, “He was too stubborn and now there is nothing to do but perform the sacrifice.” What my uncle didn’t know, however, was that I was resting in the house nearby and had overheard everything he was saying. At that point I came out of the house and said, “Uncle, may peace be upon you!”

My uncle said, “Ah! You’re here? You’re not dead?”

Later, all of the village elders came. They told me, “Really, you need to stop what you are doing! If you don’t stop you are going to die.”

I said, “To live is to live and to die is to die, but this concerns the Word of God and I can’t just leave it. If someone told you to leave your Islam, what would you say?”

They said, “How could we ever leave our Islam?”

I told them, “The Word of God, the Word that God is teaching me is stronger that what you have received.”

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. -Paul's Letter to the Romans
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. -Paul’s Letter to the Romans

 

Soon there were fifty people who were coming to hear the Word of God. At one point the rebels came and surrounded the shelter where we had the habit of meeting. They accused us of being linked with the government. They said they had heard we wanted to kill all Muslims. They took our Bibles from us and threatened to burn them.

However, one member of their group said, “No, if we burn their Bibles, one day we’re going to die and then what is going to happen. Leave their Bibles alone.”

But they continued to threaten us. They said, “We don’t want to hear another word about this religion!”

The group of Christians continued to pray and fast, pray and fast. Sixteen times the rebels came and tied me up and threatened to kill me. But the Lord was with us. The more they persecuted us the more the group of Christians grew. The last time the rebels came, we talked together over a period of four hours. The rebels didn’t like what we were saying, but they were impressed nonetheless.

At one point, one of the rebel leaders turned to the village religious leaders and said, “You there, you Marabouts, you say, ‘The Prophet said…’, ‘Allah says….’ You pretend to be learned. If so, than why don’t you have any use for an educated person like these? If we kill this one, how many years will it take to train up another person like this? We’re not going to kill him and from not on, we aren’t going to discuss religion anymore. Our rebellion is politically motivated, it is not about religion. These people are free to practice their religion. You’re free as well. From now on, no one touches anyone on the other side!”

Then the rebel leaders fined the village Imam $100.

From that time on they began to leave us alone.

 

Listen to audio clip of Pastor reading Acts 1:8 in French.

 

Pastor's area is flat semi-desert interspered with majestic mountains.
Pastor’s area is flat semi-desert interspersed with majestic mountains.

I want to thank Pastor for allowing us story to be told on this blog.  Also, thank you to our colleague who wrote this story so well in English.

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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