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News Update from Mark and Diane Vanderkooi

September 29, 2018

Dear family, friends, and supporters;

Writing this letter is a little like the good folks of North Carolina trying to tell the people of Illinois or Indiana what living through Hurricane Florence was like. If you weren't there, well, you're just going to have a hard time understanding it. The last month or so of our lives are such an amalgam of disjoined yet simultaneous events we hardly know where to start. We'll try, but forgive us if it doesn't all make sense or if you have that "so what's the big deal?" feeling when you're done reading it.

Your fellow servants, Mark and Diane

The backdrop of our lives
In jazz bands there always seems to be one guy plunking the same 3 notes over and over again on an enormous string base. Everyone else's tune is just a layer on top of that bored guy in the back. The new string base of our lives is the Kwong women coming to our front door with sick babies tied to their backs. 8 or 10 of them come every day, and sometimes 3 or more of them are at the door at one time, each claiming they have nothing with which to pay the clinic next door. They've all heard that Diane takes care of malnourished babies, and they make the not unreasonable extrapolation that she takes care of any and every hard-luck case that comes along. Most of the kids have malaria and need proper treatment in a matter of hours or face certain death as the plasmodium chews up their hemoglobin. Some of the ladies are genuinely destitute and at their wit’s end while others are merely opportunists who don't want to pay the 2 or 3 dollars it costs to get their child treatment. The dynamics of dealing with them would be a newsletter in its own right. The bizarre things that they say and do would be another sad and hilarious missive. We only mention them as a sort of poignant, if exhausting backdrop against which you may place the remainder of our letter in relief.

Some obstacles along the way
The Kwong school of discipleship and pastoral training a.k.a. "the Bible school" has, in the designs of Providence, become the most significant part of our daily routine, and promises to be such for the next 3 years (until this class graduates, after which the staff we are training will take over). Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 12 noon, we are in class with our students - Mark with the men and Diane with the wives. As we write we have finished the fourth week of this our second year, and we are pleased with the smooth operation of the school and good attitudes of the students and staff.

It was, however, by no means a foregone conclusion a month ago as to what shape, if any, the school was going to take. Beginning last year, the "bishop" of our Kwong church district took it upon himself to paint the school in just about the worst possible light, likening it to a children's' Sunday school class. As best as we can tell, this was his retaliation for our rebuff of his attempts to seize control of the school. It is amazing what jealousy can do to otherwise pious people. In the end, two students left the school because of the bad press. They were the best-educated, and in an echo of the bishop, they wanted "academics", not "mere discipleship". 

Working within the framework of an ecclesiastical hierarchy, as we do in Chad, has its fair share of frustrations, but the silver lining is that there are people over you who can solve the problems you can't. In our case, that was and is Pastor Onesimus Kalaye who is the coordinator of the dozen or so vernacular Bible schools in Chad, including our own. So we made arrangements for MAF to fly Pastor Onesimus from N'Djamena to Chageen for the opening of the school year. That may have been the best $500 we ever spent. Over the course of 24 hours, he put all the nay-sayers in their place with a finality we could only dream of, gave his unqualified approval to our vision of making disciples first, and pastors second, and enjoined the local ecclesiastical committee to give the school it's full and unstinted support. He also forbade the two dissatisfied students from transferring schools, and thus humiliated, they gave up their pastoral ambitions. (The bishop, who was not a Kwong guy, had been transferred elsewhere and replaced by our own Joseph some months ago.) Thus vindicated, we began the second year of the school - while the women and babies accumulated at the door.

Doing a little of what we love to do
In the midst of all this, we were thrilled to welcome to Chageen our friend of many years and experienced translation consultant with Wycliffe, Jackie Hainaut. She went over our translation of 2 Timothy, Titus, Ephesians, and a few chapters of Hebrews in a final check before publication. During 9 days she went over every word of every verse, and cross examined us and our guys on those passages where she wanted to be sure we got it right. With Jackie's help, the guys and us were able to make those final tweaks which made the difference between a merely adequate translation and a really good one. Having, as we do, a healthy respect for just how difficult it is to make a good translation of the Bible in an African language, it gives us added confidence to know that someone from the "outside" has "audited" our translation in a final quality control check. We have translated 63% of the New Testament to date, as well as significant parts of the Old Testament.

You will remember that our last news update concerned Solange, a 12 year-old Kwong girl with Birkett’s Lymphoma, which is a fast growing but treatable facial cancer unique to central Africa. Under the direction of a specialist at Mbingo Baptist Hospital in Cameroon who has been guiding us via email, we gave Solange a very high dose of the chemo drug Cyclophosphamide. This drug destroys the immune system, so it was a pretty scary thing to do in a place like Chageen. At first we thought our worst fears were coming to pass and it wasn’t working. But because of the Lord’s tender mercies, it now appears to be taking effect. We will need to give her at least two more of these mega-doses of chemo to cure her. In another display of the Lord’s gracious providence, we were able against all hope to procure one more box of this precious and difficult to find drug so we can finish the treatment properly. Please continue to pray for Solange.

In search of a Shunammite
Since the death of Diane’s parents last year, we have no place to live when we go to the USA and our belongings are in a Store-N-Lock. We are exploring all our options, including purchasing our own home. We just mention this in case there is a Shunammite out there with some extra storage space and a “mother-in-law” apartment we could stay in for 2 or 3 months each year. ›

Mark and Diane Vanderkooi

serving with the Evangelical Alliance Mission  

  P.O. Box 1986 Grapevine, TX 76099-1986 800-343-3144

Our cell phone in Chad: 235-66-47-92-32

Another mother, another sick baby. Diane’s patience wears thin sometimes - especially when the mothers are negligent or don’t follow instructions.

School staff meeting with Pastor Onesimus (behind Mark) before the opening of the Kwong Bible school.
Our old friend and former Kwong translator Moses the Younger led the students in a week of spiritual reflection and encouragement before the start of regular classes.
Since Jackie, rear, doesn’t know Kwong, Joseph, sitting next to Diane, read the Kwong text out loud. The Kwong guys to the left translated into French, phrase by phrase, verse by verse while Jackie checked it against the original.

The tumor is clearly visible next to Solange’s nose.​