Day 8: Chad



It was 2010, James and I finished up our yurt faith adventure.  We had moved to a real house right after our youngest Gabriel was born in May.

When loss is fresh, life seems exposed and delicate.

July 21, 2010 my perspective on the fragility of life changed.  I lost my little brother.

It was a sudden death.  My brother had taken his own life.  Having that experience, the now he’s here and now he’s gone experience, made me tentative.  Everything about life felt unsettled.

So when James started planning a trip to the country of Chad in the middle of the Sahara desert, I wasn’t sure how to feel.

My first instincts of “trust God” spoke before my fears could silence the word “yes.”  He began planning his trip to accompany David Timm of Lost But Not Forgotten to visit villages in Chad.

I have this habit, or maybe it is a coping mechanism, to ignore things that aren’t on the forefront, not requiring my immediate attention.  I focus on what’s near.  Some might call that procrastination, and I wouldn’t disagree with them.

James would tell me details about his trip, and I would only half-listen.  It didn’t require action of me, and I didn’t want to have feelings of fear to bubble to the surface.

Here’s an example of such a time in our life back then.  We were on a date.  Spending alone time together is important to us, and when we don’t do it, our whole life seems more like a rushing commuter train rather than a loving relationship.

We were getting coffee and looking at books at the bookstore.  I’m not sure what I was looking at.  I love the kids’ section and the biographies, so I probably was browsing one of those.

James walked up holding a travel book and said, “Guess what is says about the country of Chad in this travel book?  It says ‘We recommend that you not travel there.  The infrastructure and security is very weak.  A trip to the country of Chad would ultimately be unsafe.’”

He said all of this in a nonchalant, bragging tone with a smile on his face.

I didn’t know how to respond.  He wasn’t suppose to bring that pot to the front burner.  I was busy pretending that he wasn’t going.  I didn’t want to think about the person I love the very most on this Earth being put at risk.

You can imagine that my ignoring technique caught up to me.  Time doesn’t like to cooperate in our mind games.

The weekend before his trip, we were having another date.  We got home from dinner and sat in our room and really talked.

I told him how terrified I was to let him go.  I had seen how death could sneak up on you when my brother died so suddenly.  It felt so out of my hands, and I wanted to hold onto it tightly.

James told me a sentence he had told me a dozen times before, “If you don’t want me to go, I will stay here.  I don’t want to go if you need me here.”

The truth was we had a dozen reasons why I would have been completely justified in keeping him home.  We had a 4 month old baby boy and two recent deaths in the family.  Not only had I lost my brother two months prior, but we had lost James’s dad 10 months earlier as well.  We were home schooling our other two kids; we had a busy schedule at church and home.  And grieving doesn’t follow schedules.  We were in the thick of it.

I searched my heart.

As much as I wanted him to stay home with me, even more, I didn’t want to disobey God.

I answered him this way, “I am so afraid letting you go, but I know God wants you to go.  I am more afraid to not let you go.  I know God will take care of me.  I know that even if you die on this trip, God has a plan.  You have to go because I know in my heart that God has called you to go.”

The night before his trip I made him an amazing dinner and dessert.  We put the kids to bed, and I didn’t help pack at all.  I just watched him move stuff around from bag to bag about a billion times while I fell into an emotionally exhausted sleep.

James was gone 18 days.


I would like to say that his phone calls calmed my nerves, but I don’t think one of them did.  Every call drove me to immediate prayer.

I’m pretty sure God was ok with that arrangement.

One afternoon he called me from Maiduguri, Nigeria to tell me they were in the city getting ready to drive across Cameroon the next day on their way to Chad.  As we were talking, James gave a nervous laugh.  I asked, “What?”  And James answered, “This man across the street from me is shaking his machine gun in the air and yelling at me, ...but it sounds friendly.  He’s smiling.”

Another time he called me while the kids and I were on the back porch reading a book for their school, he called to tell me to pray.  They were 4x4ing across the dessert, and some traffic piled up.  Someone ahead of them on the road had let them know that there is a bandit robbing travelers.  The trucks had to wait for it to be safe to continue driving.

My most prayer inducing call came after he had reached their first village in Chad.  I even recruited people to pray on my FaceBook page.

Pray for James. The Muslim people said they were over stepping their bounds, and the police threatened to arrest them. They were not able to go to two different villages that was on their plan. They are going to travel to the last village they had promised to visit and ask government permission to medically treat the people and show the video [Jesus film.] Pray they are allowed, and pray for James & David’s safety.
— FaceBook October 11, 2010
I talked to James again. Their drivers are Muslim too, and they are refusing to drive them. They said that they will drive them in the morning. I think their only plan is to waste time. They are mad because OVER 100 PEOPLE came to know the Lord last night! It is dark and someone offered a home to stay in. Pray he is safe and that the next village says yes. I know God will guide them and keep them safe!
— FaceBook October 11, 2010

Later that day I posted this, “Andrew's Bible lesson today was Daniel and the lion's den. I think I needed to hear that message too."

My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.
— Daniel 6:22 ESV

The next day I was able to let everyone know God had answered our prayers.

I just talked to James. The Lord answered our prayers, and they were well received in the next village. He also had a hippo adventure on Lake Chad.
— FaceBook October 12, 2010

The funny thing is that the only time I felt good about where James was at was the night he slept in Cameroon.  He called to let me know he was in a courtyard sleeping in a yurt.  I guess God had proven to me that he could keep us safe in a yurt.  Unconsciously I felt he was safe in that yurt, even if the yurt was sitting in the desert of Africa.

I had a week left until James would be home.  My plan was distraction.  My mother-in-law Diana and a few friends were going on a road trip to Austin, TX for the Texas Book Festival.  That little trip made the time go by much faster.

                              Three kids piled up in my bed the night before James got home.

                              Three kids piled up in my bed the night before James got home.

Once James got home safely, I saw that my faith in God had been tested.  I kind of imagine my faith being like a bit of pizza dough.  I had started out with a small ball of dough.  I had put it out on the counter and let it rise.  From time to time God had gotten me on my knees as he kneaded the dough.  At the end of those 18 days, my faith had risen.  The dough was bursting out of the bowl.

He told them another parable. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.’
— Matthew 13:33 ESV

I didn’t make the flour or the yeast or the chemical reaction that would cause it to rise.  All I had done was allowed God to work.  I hadn’t stopped Him from working, in Africa or in my heart.

Now I have the hindsight to see that James’s trip changed the course of our lives.  God had plans.  God always has plans.



I usually post a song with each of my blog posts.  Today I’m doing something different.  I’m posting this video from 4 years ago of my husband James giving a report of his trip to Chad.  It is amazing what God accomplished on this trip.