The Church of the Lutheran Brethren has been sharing the Good News about Jesus Christ in the countries of Chad and Cameroon since 1920. Have all the personnel, the finances, the prayers been worth it? Since the work began, communicant membership in the churches in those two countries has grown to more than 75,000, with an average of some 190,000 people attending church each Sunday (compared to 8,600 communicant members and around 12,000 average attendance in the US and Canada, the sending church).
When Helen and I arrived and began to minister among the Peve people in southern Chad in 1966, our first task was to begin to learn their language, which was only spoken and had never been reduced to writing. As we learned more and more of their language, we also began to learn about their culture and belief system. Though they had never had a missionary living among them, they had belief in a god who had created the earth and all that lived in it. They also spoke of the fact that one day, when god was down visiting his creation, a woman accidently struck him while pounding corn. That god became angry and returned to his home, and they no longer were able to get in contact with him. As a result, over time, they created a system of priests and sacrifices. They believed that the spirits of their ancestors hovered near the graves and, as each generation passed on, the spirits moved closer and closer to god. So they sacrificed to the ancestors in hope that the ancestors would be pleased and ask god to bless them with large families and good crops.
We began to share with them the message of the book of Hebrews, that there was someone living next to God who was the High Priest who had sacrificed himself to pay the penalty for their sins. This was like the missing piece of the puzzle—they now had a person who could communicate with God on their behalf. Jesus Christ was the answer to their quest. Their lives took on new meaning and assurance that God indeed did hear their prayers.
One day I was preaching in a bush village about Jesus, the High Priest who offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins and is now at God’s right hand interceding for us. An old man in the audience—upon hearing these words—his eyes just lit up and sparkled! “How could this be? Did he really do this for me? Can he speak to God on my behalf?” When the man was assured that indeed this was true, what a sense of relief and joy this good news brought to him! He had a smile from ear to ear and a radiant countenance that had not been there earlier.
Yes, my friends, what we have invested in people and finances and prayers has certainly been worth it!
Rev. Rodney Venberg and his wife Helen served on the mission field in Africa for 30 years. During that time Rodney translated the New Testament into the Peve language while teaching seminary in Djidoma, Cameroon and Gounou Gaya, Chad.
Rodney Venberg is the author of In the Heart of Africa, Volume II, A Brief History of the Lutheran Brethren mission in Chad and Cameroon, Africa 1950-2000. To purchase, visit: www.CLBA.org/shop