March 14, 2013

Chad: The Spirit Tree

Missionaries bringing the Gospel to Chad in the 1920s faced many obstacles, including a spirit tree that was feared by the local people.

  • Enduring Symbol

    The spirit tree, so feared by the local people in the 1920s, still stands as a testament to the persistence and good work of missionaries through the years in Chad.

Traveling to the interior of Chad was not easy back in 1927. Starting off the coast of Nigeria, missionary Victor Veary used a dugout canoe to paddle along waterways and walk his way into Chad. He was one of the first Sudan United Mission workers in the country, joining missionary Herbert Wilkinson in Koutou, a Ngambai village just outside the town of Moundou.

As Veary and his wife Florence were exploring the area looking for land to purchase so they could establish a mission station, they came to a place with an old, large tree. When Veary asked about buying this piece of land, the local people told him, "Oh you can't live there – that's a spirit tree." "Then this is exactly where we will build our station," Veary responded; and that’s what they did.

People watched to see what evil would befall these strange foreigners. Even the French authorities were amazed to find white people deep in the bush, and castigated them for being there without "protection" and warned them the "people are still savages." Yet the Vearys stayed, learned Chadian Arabic and Ngambai, and lived among the people. Victor translated the New Testament into the Ngambai language, and their ministry grew as they shared the Gospel.

The work in Chad continued to flourish, and Sudan United Mission merged into TEAM in 1969. At that time, the average attendance in the Evangelical Churches of Chad was about 62,000. Today, that number is more than 200,000 and growing. God has blessed the work of pioneers like the Vearys. It took faith to sit under a spirit tree and learn two languages and share the Gospel. When you drive into the Koutou mission station today, you have to drive around that spirit tree, a reminder of the persistence of the Vearys and of all those who followed that helped establish the church in Chad.

-Written by Dave Davis, TEAM Placement Coordinator
-Photo provided by Dave Davis