Cultivating Hope: Planting Seeds of Change in Chad
Ali Angobona takes listeners on a journey deep into the heart of north-central Africa to his home country of Chad, where Sahel Desert temperatures can reach 120 degrees and people struggle to sustain life and livelihoods. But there is reason to hope.
Check out photos, videos, and behind-the-scenes stories from our guests on the podcast. You won’t want to miss these exclusive extras!
Join Ali Angobona as he takes us on a virtual journey to his home country of Chad, deep in the heart of north-central Africa, where Sahel temperatures can reach over 120 degrees and people have faced conflict, war, and extreme poverty for generations. But there is reason to hope. Listen as Ali shares how he is seeing seeds of change spring to life in one remote village, where women, children, and men are charting a new a course of transformation.
Cultivating Hope: Planting Seeds of Change in Chad
Cathy: Welcome to the End of the Road podcast. My name is Cathy and I'm your host and tour guide as we journey together to some of the most remote, challenging places on the planet. I'm so excited to have you along for the ride, so buckle up, we're going to the end of the road.
I'm joined today by Ali Esaie Angobona. That's a tough one for me, but Ali is World Concern's project coordinator in Chad and he's going to be sharing with us today as we take a little journey to this landlocked country that's in North Central Africa and is home to about 16 million people. We've talked a little bit about Chad on the podcast before. I know it can get very hot there. I know it's kind of in the Sahel desert region in Africa. It's mostly a Muslim country, but also some parts of the country have Christian population as well. But that's about all I know about Chad and so Ali's going to fill us in with some more information about Chad and also just take us on a journey and tell us some stories from this place that he has called home for his entire life. So Ali, welcome and thank you for joining us.
Ali Angobona: Thank you. Thank you very much for this opportunity you've given to me. We speak also two official languages in Chad, which are Arabic and French, and yes, we have about 23 provinces in the country and yeah, the country is going through a transition period since April '21.
Cathy: Thank you, Ali. Just take us on a little bit of a visual journey to Chad. Describe for us what it's like in Chad, the climate, the people, the culture, the lifestyle. If you had to describe what it's like in Chad to somebody that has never been there before, how would you describe it?
Ali Angobona: Yeah, Chad, we have about 218 different languages spoken around the country and Chad has two season; rain season and dry season. When it is dry, it's very hot. It goes up to 45 degrees under the shade sometimes. People are very friendly, but sometimes not open to a stranger. When you ask a question and people don't know you, it's not easy to give you the answer. But in the south, from the center to the south, people are mostly Christian and from the center to the northeast, northwest and extreme north, people are mostly Christian.
Cathy: Okay. So I'm not very quick at translating Celsius temperature to Fahrenheit, but I think 45 degrees I think is well over 100. I know I've heard that it can get up to like 120 degrees of Fahrenheit there. So just for our listeners that have the same struggle I do with translating Celsius to Fahrenheit, it's very, very hot there. It can get very, very hot there. So tell us a little bit about your life, Ali. What was it like growing up in Chad? Tell us a little bit about your family and how you came to faith growing up in a country that is mostly Muslim.
Ali Angobona: Good. Thank you. I've been born in my village in a family of seven children, I am the fifth. My father and my mother are living in the village. So from the village I came to N’djamena for studies. This is the main reason, and since from the village we have ... in my father's home, some brothers are Muslim and we are as a Christian. Life was good as we were growing up. We know that these two religions are known in the country. There is no problem with in the family you are Muslim and Christian. We are from the same family. There is no problem. So yeah, growing in Chad, this is what we know. As I'm from coming from the south, we have Muslims, we have Christians living together. My mother was at this moment Christian, but my father at the time we were growing was not going to the church and later on, he will join us to the church with my mother.
From seven children, we are five to go to the church and the two ones were Muslim. So then when I came to N’djamena, I continually going to church with my elder brother who was also a pastor and in 2018, this is the time when I realize exactly that I was born again because after listening to the word from the missionaries, that day I came to realize that, yes, I was born from Adam. I don't deserve for salvation and it is because of that that Christ has come. He died in the cross for me. By dying, he's taken all my sins, he went to the cross with my sins. He died, his blood has washed all my life and what was waiting for me is to listen, understand and believe in that act on the cross. So when I realized it, I was so happy. Since from that time I committed myself in his hand and I know that wherever I go, whenever I am, I am in his hand as a John 10:28 say, so I know that my life is entirely in his life.
Cathy: That's beautiful. As you can hear, Ali's very passionate about his faith and I love that description. We got to hear a little bit from him recently in our staff devotions and Ali, this morning, you said something that really struck me and I think it will probably lead us into a little bit of a conversation about some of the challenges that people face living in Chad. The phrase that you said that really struck me was, "I come from a country where war is our music." Explain what you meant by that and tell us a little bit about what makes life difficult in Chad.
Ali Angobona: So this sentence is really what is happening in Chad. We've grown up in a war climate. War in Chad is the main known possibility to get into the power. That's why all our presence have been militaries and the power has been transferred to one to another through guns. This is how life is in Chad. In addition to the climate in war, we have also security issues. We have conflicts, community conflicts, mostly the one happening between breeders and farmers in all around the country. This made the climate in the country very difficult, mostly for mothers because fathers can run away from the village, but mothers are not able to run away because they have children, they have to feed them and they don't know where to go to find food for children. This is the first thing.
Also, we have in some places robbers in Chad. They are also people that are looking the ways of taking care of themself. They can rob someone to get money in exchange and then to free him. Now this is life in Chad and that's why ... when we come across with the intervention, we realize that life is extremely difficult in the villages because people don't know where to go and get something and sometimes, for example, last year where the rainfall was completely bad so no one has harvested from his farm. Then this has completely changed the living conditions.
Cathy: That's a good explanation of what some of those challenges are. There are climate challenges. There is conflict. There's insecurity, things like that. Also extreme poverty. People living just on maybe a dollar day, equivalent of a U.S. dollar a day and trying to survive on that and also living season to season. If the rain fails, there are no crops, there is no food, there is no backup plan, there's nothing that they can do. So just a really tenuous and challenging situation, for sure. I want to kind of take a little detour on our tour of Chad today and I want to focus in on one area in particular and it's the area where World Concern is working. We're very excited to be serving some villages in Chad again. We did years ago when I first started at World Concern, there were some villages near the Goz Beida area and it was fascinating to watch those villages really go from barely surviving to absolutely thriving villages.
We're really excited that there are some new villages now that we're partnering with. One of those villages, you told me the other day, it's really gotten you quite excited because this particular village is really sort of taking ownership of their own transformation and it's a village called Allaguei and there are about 118 families living in Allaguei. It's 95% Muslim. What I'd love for you to do is sort of describe Allaguei village and what it was like before World Concern started partnering there and then share a little bit about what you're excited about, what you're seeing happening in that village.
Ali Angobona: Actually, World Concern is serving in Mani. In Mani, we have three villages where we are working. One of them is Allaguei. Allaguei is in Mani and it is about 12 kilometers from Mani away. When we live in N’djamena, we first go to Mani about a hundred kilometers and from Mani, then we go to Allaguei. Yes, what is really encouraging in Allaguei is Allaguei before World Concern entered the village, according to the testimonies that we have recorded, Allaguei community were not united. Everyone is just counting on himself or herself. There is no meeting as community members to discuss about the issues from the village to solve the problems of the village. When we started our partnership with the village and through the different sessions of training in community leadership, the community came to be united.
Now they are able to say that they become one mind, one person, one heart, they're able to meet women, man to discuss about their own development, what are the problems of the village, how to get local solutions. This is the first thing that is really amazing. Now when you come to Allaguei, you will meet people. Meeting men and women, laughing. They're really happy. They're really happy. From these different sessions of trainings, when we take the community leaders through the trainings, the focus of the trainings goes on helping the community first to discover what are the resources that the community have? What are the competencies that the community has? What are the different resources that God has given to the community?
After this step, the community comes to dream about how they see the feature of the community. From the dream step, then they goes on designing the dream as small community projects and then they pass to the action for implementing. When we finish with the community leaders' training, the community came up with a dream. When they look at the community school, children are receiving education in a very bad classrooms, so the community were able to say, "To build a good classroom, what do we need? First, we need water. We have water in the community. Second, we need the land, clay for making bricks. We have the land. Third, we need people to make bricks. We have also the human resources in the community. What do we lack? Nothing."
So as we have the volunteer to do it, then they started making the bricks. At this moment, the community of Allaguei has more than 10,000 bricks that they have also fired, ready to build sustainable classrooms. This is something very encouraging because the community came to realize that they have resources, they're able to start with their own development alone without external support. This is something very great.
Cathy: I love that. That's just a great picture of how World Concern works. It's so important that the community from the very beginning sort of takes charge of their own change and that they come at it not from a perspective of what they lack or what their problems are, but what their resources are, what gifts, as you said, that God has already given them and to come at it from a perspective of, "We already have some things in our hands that we can use." So it's really a model of empowerment and it really works and I've seen it and I've excited to see these villages go through this too, but eventually they don't need the training, the guidance from World Concern anymore. They're able to do this on their own. Other villages in the area start to see what's happening in that village over there and they say, "How is that happening? I want to do that. We want to do that." It's very replicable as well, so that's really exciting.
We want to thank our listeners for joining us at the End of the Road and we hope you're enjoying hearing the incredible stories of what God is doing in the world's most remote, challenging places. We also want to invite you to prayerfully consider taking the next step and getting involved. You can support the life changing work of World Concern and help reach more people with God's love and meet critical needs by making a donation at www.worldconcern.org/road. That's www.worldconcern.org/road. Your support is critical to keeping this ministry going and growing. So thank you and now let's get back to our conversation.
I want to back up just a little bit. When World Concern first came to this village and began conversations about partnering with the village, what was life like or what is life like for a family in the village? How did they earn their income? How did the women spend their day? The children, the men? Describe a typical day in the life of a family in Allaguei village.
Ali Angobona: So the typical life of Allaguei village members is income. Let's say that there is no means, there's no possibility apart from going to fish. Currently even fishing is not a solution because part of the water is considered red zone because of the Boko Haram attacks so people are prevented from fishing in that zone. People, they were fishermen before, but at this moment, fishing is not really, really an activity from where they can get income. So women all the time go to the bush to collect firewood and then they bring firewood to Mani to maybe get half of dollar or $1 and then they come to look for food for children. Men sometimes move. They go to Cameroon in the other side of the river, or they go to [inaudible 00:19:03] where they can find some small jobs for two, three month, they come back if they get something for children and so on.
This is how life seems in Allaguei. I met people. Among those people there is a woman called Ashe. It is a young lady of 26 years old, a widow because her husband passed away and he left her with six children. Ashe was struggling in the issue of how to bring her children to school, how to feed them, how to buy them some clothes. Listening to Ashe, I felt like why life is like that? Ashe was able to tell me that since her husband passed away, she stayed alone and all men that came to her to get married to her, when they see her children, they just refused. They want her as a woman, a wife, but they don't want to take care of her children. Her condition was if a man wants to get married to her, he has also to take care of her children. Otherwise she doesn't want to get married yet.
Then since that day, she doesn't receive any support from her husband's family, any support from her own parents, because her father also passed away. Her mother has got married to another man who is not in the village, so Ashe's life is really an image of the very extreme poverty. As last year, rainfall was completely bad. She didn't have anything from her farm. Then she was struggling on how to get seeds for this current rent season. At the beginning, she was very engaged with the community leaders' training and after finishing these trainings, she came up to understand that she is the only person to take care of herself. She's the only person to do everything for herself. She doesn't have to wait for any person else to take care of herself.
Then the project of partnering with the community on how to provide seeds for the community come up from the community leaders and World Concern has partnered with the community leaders. We've been able to provide some seeds for the communities and Ashe that day, when she received the seed, she told me that she did not sleep the whole night just because she was very happy. When she looked at the seeds, she directed looked at how her life is changing. Then from despair, hope started coming and taking place into her heart. Then she started praying that may God help her to plant all the seeds and then she was able to plant all the three different seeds that she has received and now when you go to Ashe's farm and you see Ashe in her farm, you can read hope and love because she said from this farm, her children will be able to eat and she'll also be able to at least take her children to school without any difficulty this year.
This is a story that really, really gives me hope and my hope for the community, I think taking into consideration how the community understands her own development in the future, Allaguei is going to be really transform and will be an example for the villages around so that other villages can copy this example.
Cathy: Wow. That is amazing. I can't imagine being a 26 year old single mother of six children. I think I remember her story and I think her husband died from a snake bite.
Ali Angobona: Yes.
Cathy: Yeah. I mean, what a horrible experience and then to feel so alone, to not have anyone, extended family or anyone, to help you, and then something as simple as some training and some seeds. It's interesting, the seed is such a symbol of hope because it's not what it's going to become when you get the seed. You have to plant it, you have to nurture it, you have to water it and then it grows into something useful and something amazing and it just sounds like that's such a picture of hope for Ashe's life. I'm excited too to follow her story along in the journey. I also think it's really neat that she realized that she was the only one that could change her circumstances, that she was unwilling to marry somebody that didn't want her children, even though I'm sure culturally that that happens at times, but her children are important to her and she loves them and cares for them and so they're her priorities.
So that's just a really incredible story and one also that I think really just exemplifies what some of those challenges are in Chad for families living in that village, that if you lose your spouse, you're starting over from nothing. Now a few minutes ago, you mentioned Boko Haram. I want to just kind of go back to that for a few minutes, because a lot of people will have heard of Boko Haram mostly from a major incident that happened a few years ago. I think there was a group of school girls that were kidnapped and so Boko Haram was on the news quite a bit. But they are a present force in Chad. In fact, there was an incident just recently near Allaguei village, so tell us what happened.
Ali Angobona: As I've I've said, Mani is just at the border of Cameroon and the border of Lake Chad, which is a zone shared by Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger and Chad. Boko Haram are terrorists who are mostly in Cameroon and in the northern part of Nigeria alongside the Lake Chad River. In the past, people were not able to even travel across these places because it's difficult. Even in the border, when you go up the other side of the river, you can be killed because it is where they are. The soldiers are just in this side of the river and it is prevented for people to cross. There are some days that people can cross. There are other days that people cannot cross. Three days ago, these terrorists have attacked some villages around [inaudible 00:26:32], which is a [inaudible 00:26:35] near Mani in the same department. So they have attacked some villages. Many people from these villages have moved from the villages to Kara because Kara is where ... it is a town where there are many people, to be safe because when you stay in the village, they can come and kill you.
They can come and even arrest or rape you, go with you and use you because no one is able to do something against them. Soldiers are there, by the time they come, maybe ... because they are also part of the community, they know that this side soldiers are there, that side soldiers have moved so they can attack where they are able, and when. So this is what also makes life very, very difficult. People from Mani used to go to Lake Chad to fish because it is where there are a lot of fish, but now even fishing in Lake Chad becomes very difficult and even going to farm in Lake Chad becomes very, very difficult because it is not all the zone in Lake Chad that is allowed to people to move around.
Cathy: So there's not only some of the challenges that we were just talking about, but it also sounds like it can be very dangerous. So again, imagining women who are walking to get water or going to fish or things like that and then there's these kinds of dangers out there that they have to be living under the stress of that constant threat to their safety makes it really, really difficult there. I want to hear a little bit about what gives you hope when you think about these villages. We talk a lot about we can only really make a difference in our little corner of the world and so this is where God has placed you right now in Mani and serving these villages in these communities, and so when you think about the future and when you pray for Allaguei village and the other villages in that area, what do you pray for? What are your hopes for them in the future?
Ali Angobona: My hope for the future for Mani villages and villages around is the fact the community has been able to understand what is their feature and how they're able to contribute to transform this future. This is the first thing that gives me hope and lets me say that yes, the future of this communities will be different from what is happening now. The second thing, in my prayer, I say that God gives this understanding of the transformation to the community so that at least this generation can at least live a different life from their parents. When you listen to the communities, they say that, yes, now we understand, we understood that we are the owner of our development, but there are some things that we are not able to provide at this moment. This one, we know that if we have partners, they can help us to at least achieve this goal. My prayer also is that this communities can be supported so that the development that has been launched can be achieved. This is my prayer.
Cathy: I love that. Thank you for sharing your hopes and your prayers and there's no doubt in my mind and in a lot of people's minds that know you that you are in this place, that you are serving these communities for such a time as this. There's no accident that you're there right now and so what a gift you are to them to be praying for them, to be helping train them, lead them and communicate that hope to them that change is possible and good things are coming. I absolutely love that. Thank you, Ali, for taking us on a little journey through Chad today, giving us a glimpse into what life is like in a part of the world that most of us will probably never be able to go to or see, and yet through your stories, through your experiences, through your life there and your description of it, we get to take a glimpse into the country of Chad. I'm really grateful for that.
I want to finish today by asking you to do us a favor, do me a favor. It's a little bit different than how we normally end an interview like this, but I've had the privilege to hear you pray in French. As Ali mentioned, there are two national languages in Chad, French and Arabic, but what you probably don't know is that Ali speaks nine languages. He told me yesterday, nine languages. So I wish we could hear all of them, but for the people that might be listening to this interview and learning a little bit about what God is doing around the world, I'm going to ask you to just close us with a short prayer for the listeners today, for the people that are listening to this. Would you pray for them briefly in French for us?
Ali Angobona: [Prays in French]. Amen.
Cathy: Amen. Such a beautiful thing to hear someone pray in another language. Thank you, Ali. Thank you so much for sharing with us today. I really appreciate you being here.
Ali Angobona: Thank you. Thank you very much, Cathy.
Cathy: I want to thank our listeners for joining us today. I hope your mind has been expanded and your heart has been touched by what God is doing around the world. If you like what you're hearing on the End of the Road, please give us a five star rating and review us on Apple Podcasts or hit the bell symbol on Spotify to be notified when there's a new episode released. Stay in the know and never miss an episode by texting the word podcast to 34444. I want to thank CRISTA Ministries, World Concern's parent organization for making this podcast possible and I also want to thank Casey Helmick and the whole team at Terra Firma for their production and editing and consulting expertise, for helping us bring these stories to life and bring them to you. Thanks again for joining us today. We look forward to more stories at the End of the Road next time.