Welcome to Maramara, Chad
A FORGOTTEN LAND
Name a country in Africa. Chances are good, you did NOT name Chad. The nation as a whole is largely forgotten. It rarely makes the international news cycle and most of the humanitarian relief that arrives is in response to situations originating in nearby nations (the Darfur crisis in neighboring Sudan is the best example).
The country as a whole is in a desperate state. Despite being twice the size of Texas, there are fewer than 500 total miles of paved roads, and most of these are in the capital, N'djamena. This lack of infrastructure makes it nearly impossible to address the chronic and widespread poverty and disease that is typical in remote regions. Chad is constantly on international watch lists as one of the most unstable and corrupt nations in the world. In fact, in just the last few months, alleged corruption by Chad's President, Idriss Deby, has led to massive budget deficits and a lack of funding for public services and offices. Widespread protests by unpaid workers have largely shut the capitol down.
A HOPELESS LAND
In the late 1970s, violence and sectarian conflict erupted into a civil war. The war resulted in thousands of deaths and ultimately separated the nation along religious lines into the Christian South and the Muslim North. The tension between Christianity and Islam still exists decades later. All a result of this, there is little intentional Christian influence outside of the South. You can find Christians here and there throughout the Muslim regions, but these are almost exclusively Southern Chadians who are in those regions as teachers and medical professionals hired and transferred by the government; they rarely want to be there and often don't recognize any need to share and live out the Gospel of Jesus.
To add even more tension to the situation, Eastern Chad is home to thousands of refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan (the neighboring country to the East). The addition of all of these refugee camps has severely taxed the already limited resources and escalated the destabilization.
For the last four years, Northridge Church has partnered with World Concern, a Gospel-focused humanitarian organization. The goal is to bring lasting change to the village of Maramara, located in Eastern Chad.
Five years ago, the village identified water as their top concern. The women of the village would walk hours and hours every day just to haul water home for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. The water was filthy and because of this disease was common. But because of the generosity of Northridge Church, life is very different today. The village has a functioning well that is a source of life for Maramara and neighboring villages. They practice more modern farming techniques and have access to crops that grow better in the long dry season. This produces a surplus of goods that can be sold weekly to people from the entire region at their new market. The village has installed a new oil press that allows them to produce oil from sesame and peanuts, creating a new product that is available to sell and use as they see fit. The village also has two school buildings, with three teachers, who are teaching the students French, the official language of Chad. Fluency in French, not just their local tribal tongues and Chadian Arabic, is critical to breaking out of the cycle of poverty and being a part of the global economy. Instead of living season to season, one drought or fire away from starvation, the village can now save money and begin investing in new projects in ways they never have before!
And these are not simply handouts. The leadership in the village has been involved and vocal throughout this entire process. They identified their own needs for clean water and education and they took an active role in developing these projects. To build the school, a mason was hired to train Maramara in brick making and building, but the village was responsible for the actual construction. Using these new skills, the village has been slowly rebuilding their homes using brick instead of grass to make them more resistant to potential fires (like the one that wiped out the village in 2014). Each family is also responsible for paying a portion of the teacher salaries, to encourage involvement and buy-in with this process. The goal with these projects is to help Maramara become self-sufficient and self-sustaining so that chronic poverty becomes a thing of the past.
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
We don't invest in Eastern Chad simply to develop their economy and stimulate growth. We are following the example of Jesus, who recognized and met physical needs while also meeting spiritual needs. Our hope and prayer is that the people of Maramara and the surrounding villages would come to know and love the God who made them and that lives would be changed because of the Gospel. We believe that true transformation doesn't come just because poverty is eliminated, but by knowing Jesus!
Because of the investment of Northridge Church, the Gospel is beginning to take hold. The World Concern team is praying for and investing deeply in the leadership of Maramara and engaging in deep, spiritual conversations. They are teaching leadership principles found directly in the parables of Jesus and inviting the village to embrace these teachings. And a local church composed of Southern Chadians is becoming more and more passionate about sharing Jesus with the villages in this region.
Maramara is no longer forgotten. God is at work and He is using the investment of Northridge attendees to reap eternal rewards.
TIMELINE OF MARAMARA PARTNERSHIP
June 2013 - Partnership began
January 2014 - Water well installed
March 2014 - Fire destroyed village, Northridge responds
July 2014 - School built
October 2014 - Desks purchased and school began
March 2015 - Market established
October 2015 - Oil press purchased and installed
September 2016 - Second school building finished
October 2016 - Solar pump installed over the well
Summer 2017 - Third teacher hired