hen I met Nguerabaye, I was struck by the ritual cuts heavily scarred into his face, a reminder of his heritage and former life. Beads of perspiration lubricated his skin, made leathery by the hot African sun. A Global Mission pioneer, Nguerabaye was working in Moissala, a town in southern Chad. He was on a mission to share with the people of this town the good news about a Man named Jesus who could bring them peace, joy, and salvation.
In tough, unwelcoming conditions, Nguerabaye—a married man with four children—was planting a new group of believers. He had already led nearly 50 people to baptism. Among those new believers, I met former prostitutes and alcoholics who had found new lives through Jesus.
Nguerabaye told me how he and his Global Mission partner had been treated as if they were animals. Mistaken for an occult group, they weren’t even permitted to buy produce at the market. But they just kept praying.
A boy in town had severe mental health challenges and was tied down with chains. The two pioneers came and prayed for him. After three days, he came to his senses and asked to be released. “I’m not sick, I’m healed,” he said. After his full recovery, the people of Moissala decided the pioneers were magicians.
I then discovered that through some glitch in the system, Nguerabaye had not received his modest living stipend for more than 12 months. I was shocked. Global Mission pioneers sacrifice enough without this type of neglect. But at no stage did he complain to me about his situation.
Finally I asked him how he and his family were surviving, and he simply said, “It is hard.”
“Why have you kept working?”
“I want to free people from guilt by telling them about the blood of Jesus.”
On Sabbath morning, hundreds of townspeople gathered to hear the gospel preached. Nguerabaye, leading from the front, was a proud parent looking out at his new children in the faith.
It was inspiring for me to meet Nguerabaye and several other pioneers working on the frontlines of mission in Chad. But they weren’t there by accident. They were serving because of the way you and millions of other church members around the world have sacrificially given through the years.
Off the Beaten Path
When I first flew to N’djamena, Chad’s capital, more than 20 years ago, I didn’t really know what to expect. Of course I knew that Chad was, in a sense, one of the world’s “forgotten” countries. The only people who seemed interested in the country were those exploiting its rich oil reserves.
Kind church leaders and members welcomed me like a long-lost family member. Leaders told me I was the first person from the General Conference to visit them. I don’t know if that was true, but it was easy to believe. In the middle of Africa, Chad isn’t often a logical stop-over destination; you have to make a deliberate decision to go there. Everywhere I went, people expressed joy that their church hadn’t forgotten them.
I quickly saw that although Chad may have been rich in resources, the country’s people weren’t benefiting. It has one of the lowest per-capita incomes in the world, and the Adventist Church was operating with meager resources. The Chad Mission had one old vehicle, and the secretary treasurer didn’t even own a bicycle, yet the Seventh-day Adventist Church was alive and witnessing. They had programs and projects. They were reaching out to the community. People were finding hope in Jesus. There was a humble office for the Chad Mission, and there were churches, schools, and even a hospital. Throughout the country there were nearly 1,500 baptized Adventists, and a large team of Global Mission pioneers were planting new groups of believers.
How had that happened? I would suggest that it was through the work of the Holy Spirit and faithful church members around the world who had been systematically giving their tithes and offerings through the years, not knowing exactly where each dollar would end up. I think it’s fair to say that Chad still doesn’t loom large on the world church’s radar, and the average Seventh-day Adventist probably doesn’t give much thought to Chad or the church there. Many would have trouble finding it on a world map. And yet, thanks to the Adventist Church’s system of tithes and offerings, mission in Chad was funded by faithful church members who know nothing about mission in Chad!
Through our giving, we’re helping the church grow not only locally but also in areas we may not have heard of. We’re helping missionaries we may never meet. We’re building schools and clinics we’ll probably never visit. We’re helping plant churches we may never worship in. We’re bringing life to the church’s mission.
After that first visit, I began thinking about the old expression “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Roughly translated it means that whoever makes the most noise gets the most funding. Today in the church some wheels squeak loudly and with great skill. And often it’s the big-wheel organizations that have the most interesting pictures, the most compelling videos, the most heart-touching stories that get the big donations—“the grease,” so to speak.
But what do we do about those parts of the world and those people groups that can’t or don’t “squeak”? Those that have no way to share heart-gripping pictures and stories with us? Do we just ignore them?
One of the beauties of the Adventist Church’s system of regular and systematic tithes and offerings, which Stewardship Ministries calls “Promise,” is that funds are pooled together to make sure the church also cares for areas of the world, such as Chad, that may not seem so “glamorous” or have the visibility of other areas. It’s like we’re adding life-giving water to a mission river that flows through parched lands around the world. We’re making sure that wheels that can’t squeak get attention.
Every time we return our tithes and give mission offerings, we’re helping support schools, hospitals, publishing houses, media outreach, church planting, and so much more. We’re helping the church stay alive in areas where many church members earn less than a dollar a day. We’re making sure that wheels that can’t squeak also get some grease.
A Worldwide Commitment
The Seventh-day Adventist Church finds its strength in mission. Through the years, Seventh-day Adventists have generously supported mission through their tithes and mission offerings because they’ve believed the Gospel Commission. They believe we’re called to help the less fortunate, the poor, the sick, and those who don’t know about Jesus.
For decades now Adventists have talked longingly of “finishing the work.” But declining mission offerings prevent the church from starting new work in new areas, reduce the number of missionaries, and restrict our mission.
In recent years, millions of people from challenging areas of the world have found salvation in Jesus and have joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Thousands of new congregations have been established in new areas. How are these new believers nurtured? How do they receive resources, materials, and programs to strengthen their new faith? How do they receive ongoing pastoral care?
Life-giving mission offerings, given regularly and systematically, help sustain and grow new work around the world. And that is what the church is for!
Reprinted with permission from Dynamic Steward magazine, vol. 24, no. 1.