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Rescuing my Family in Wartime, Part 1: a faith based story from the Story Powerline
11/12/2019 6:00:00 AM by: Nodji (Néaouguen Nodjimbadem) as told to Becky Cerling Powers

When civil war erupted in Chad in February 1979, I was 29 years old, teaching in a Christian high school in the capitol city, N’Djamena. The central city was being bombed, and we heard gunfire all day, all night. There were dead bodies all over the neighborhood.

Figuring out how to flee…

We had to shut the school down, and the students and teachers had to flee for their lives. For me, fleeing was complicated because I had so many in my extended family to help move out.

…with my younger siblings and young cousins…

At that time in Chad, not many kids had the opportunity to go to high school, because all the secondary schools were in the big cities. Children from villages and small towns, like my younger siblings, had to leave their parents and live in the city with relatives. So I had my two brothers, my sister, and my cousins with me.

…with my brother in the hospital under a bombing attack…

One of my younger brothers was in the hospital at the time. He had a narrow escape. On Sunday he had exploratory surgery followed by an appendectomy. Monday morning the war started, and his part of the hospital building caught fire when a bomb exploded. He was transferred to the part of the building that wasn’t burned, but it was four days before we first knew that he was alive.

…with my older sister and her seven children trapped under fire

My older sister’s situation was bad, too. She had seven children, ranging in age from two to 17. Her husband was in Europe at that time, and the family lived a few yards away from the house of Hisseine Habré, the prime minister. The war traumatized her kids, especially the youngest ones, because the regular army targeted their neighborhood. The army even dropped bombs with airplanes.

For years a rebellion against the Chadian government had been simmering in the northern part of the country. Then Felix Malloum, the second president of Chad, signed a peace agreement with Habré, leader of the rebellion, and named him prime minister. Habré still wanted the power, however, and with the help of Western troops that were stationed in Chad, he started the civil war.

What could I do?

I could not sleep. What was happening to my sister and her children? What was happening to my brother and my aunt, who was staying with him in the hospital? With all the shooting, we could not travel to the hospital or to my sister’s house to help the family or find out if they were still alive. TO BE CONTINUED

What the psalm writer wrote about disaster

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
    for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
    until the disaster has passed.

I cry out to God Most High,
    to God, who vindicates me.
He sends from heaven and saves me,
    rebuking those who hotly pursue me—

    God sends forth his love and his faithfulness. (Psalm 57:1-3)

Today’s prayer

Merciful God, I pray for the families in Sudan, Uganda, Nigeria, Central African Republic and other African countries at war who are facing danger today.  Give them calm minds so they can think clearly. Amen.

Resources: Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=137g96x4xQQ

This story and others by Nodji (Néaouguen Nodjimbadem) as told to Becky Cerling Powers are told in My Roots Go Back to Loving and other stories from Year of the Family.

 


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