The Sahara desert is advancing to the South—some say by two to three kilometers a year. The Pani people (for reasons of confidentiality, this is not their real name) live on the edge of this reality.

Two generations ago these people raised vegetables and millet. They dug shallow wells and had enough water for themselves and their small plots of land. Then the desert came. The wells no longer give water. The Pani have adjusted to the fact that they live on the edge of a desert. No one remembers how to grow food. During every dry season they must depend on government help.

The Pani people practice a form of folk Islam. Their fear of the supernatural exerts a great deal of control in their lives. While many in the West have banished God and the supernatural from daily life, in the world of the Pani, the supernatural is part of, and influences, every activity.

Watering The Desert

A relief-and-development agency, moved by the worsening condition of the Pani, began a well-digging operation. A sophisticated well-drilling rig, 18-wheel trucks, a well-drilling expert, and other technical staff appeared on the edge of the advancing Sahara.

Wells were drilled. Clean water was once again available. An agriculturalist helped the Pani rediscover how to grow vegetables around the wells. A primary health-care specialist worked alongside the government to bring a child-survival program. Children were immunized.

Since the project was in a Muslim setting, open proclamation of the gospel was not permitted. The project staff, however, were openly Christian. They held regular devotions together. They were known by the villagers and the government to be Christians.

No one could argue the Christian agency is doing anything other than the work of ...

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