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Exploring the Land

 

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Prologue: Recently we told you about our upcoming month-long trip to the country of Dido.*

This was a pseudonym for the country of Chad. This large country, twice the size of Texas, contains over seventy unreached people groups. We researched and visited two dozen of them.

Chad is often called the "Dead Heart of Africa."
Chad is often called the “Dead Heart of Africa.”

As this story below shares, it was a wonderfully difficult trip. We’re currently sharing stories of the hospitality we met as well as the challenges ahead of those who will go to Chad.

Exploring the Land

Moses sent them . . . “go . . . see what the land is like, whether the people are strong or weak, few or many . . . whether the cities are like camps or fortified, whether the land is rich or poor.”
-Numbers Chapter 13

“What are you doing here?” The Chadian pastor, speaking French, asked through a translator.

I leaned in. “We’re exploring the land.”

He looked hard at me.

“Really. We’re like Joshua and Caleb. We’ve been sent to scout the land and report back.”

He nodded at the translation, and then smiled. “Well, have you found big grapes or huge giants?”

It was my turn to smile. “Both.”

It’s a favorite childhood story: Moses sending out the twelve men on a forty-day round trip. His instructions to bring some of the fruit of the land. I’ve never forgotten the childhood picture of two spies hoisting a pole holding a gigantic cluster of grapes.

BigGrapesSpies

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Our assignment in Chad wasn’t to bring back grapes, mangoes, or pineapples. It was to travel and see how personnel from our team could help reach the unreached.

This exploring of the land involved going to a place and trying to learn everything one can about the people, culture, geography, history, and the area’s openness to the Gospel.

We call it Ground-Truthing.
It can’t be completed on the Internet or with Wikipedia.
It’s a process where you must get dust in your nostrils and calluses on your feet.

I’m not foolish enough to think that two weeks or two months in a place makes one an expert on anything. But during that period the people you meet can become the experts for you.

We find it in men and women who’ve sacrificially left the comforts of the Western world to spend their lives reaching the unreached.

We find it in nationals who leave their own people to live in reproach among neighboring groups that have little interest in the Gospel of Jesus.

As explorers of the land, we’re looking for those big clusters of grapes:
The opportunities and breakthroughs that are taking place.
The fields that are ready for the harvest.
Even the hard cracked ground with only a tiny seed growing.
We are also responsible to give an honest report.

In this unforgettable chapter of Numbers 13 , all twelve returning men agree that the land is flowing with milk and honey.

However, the city walls are high and strong (Even our heroes Joshua and Caleb) don’t deny that.
The people are big.

The difference is that the majority report (i.e. the ten) see high walls, giants, and challenges but forget a Big God who has supplied their every need since leaving Egypt:

The parting of the Red Sea.
Shoes that don’t wear out.
A pillar of cloud by day
A pillar of fire by night.
Water from the rock.
Manna from the sky.
This list of God’s provision is long and reassuring.

But the doubting 10 choose to forget.
I’m reminded of the quote, “When the sin of forgetfulness holds hands with the sin of ingratitude, it’s never a pretty picture.”

Additionally, the ten prophets of doom had a twisted perception. “We seemed like grasshoppers before them.”

Joshua and Caleb, while not denying the challenges, emphasized God’s protection and providence. “We can do this because God is with us.”

I don’t know about you, but I always want to remember that God is with us. Even in a tough country called Chad.
AKA “The dead heart of Africa.”

During our month in Chad, we saw the high walls and the giants.
We also saw a land of opportunities.
A land of big grapes.
image010

These are perils.
It won’t be easy.
It will involve sacrifice.
Chad will be reached, as it should be, by Chadians.
However, Westerners can walk alongside these African believers as partners.

Kind of like holding one end of the big cluster of grapes.

Like our heroes Joshua and Caleb, we should tear our clothes at the thought of doing nothing.
Or turning back.
Or refusing to care about thousands, millions, even billions stepping into eternity without Jesus.

We must not focus only on the challenges and difficulties. That’s what the unbelieving ten  did. The problems of the Land of Canaan caused them to take their eyes off their Big God.

Sadly, their names are never heard again. Their death by plague follows their bad report. You won’t find children named after Ammiel, Palti, or Igal.

But I’ve known dozens of Calebs.
And hundreds of Joshuas.

Two courageous men who kept their eyes on their Big God.
Who brought back a truthful report seen through the lens of faith.

May the same be said of each of us.

The Chadian Veggie Man
The Chadian Veggie Man

If you’d like to begin praying for a specific group in Chad or South Sudan, email us at creekbank.stories@gmail.com.

We are sharing a host of stories from our Chadian sojourn. You can read them at The Creek Blog. www.creekbank.net

To learn more about our organization, the International Mission Board and its passion to the reach the world, visit www.imb.org

 

March 6-10 Pray: For a meeting this week of dozens of South Sudanese pastors gathering to share, learn, and be encouraged.

Please pray for Danny Akin and the team from Southeastern Seminary as they teach and share.

About Curt Iles

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

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