May 2003

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Mark applied for the FM radio license on a whim and hardly expected or cared if he got it. He did get it - in record time - and now with a virtual monopoly of the Kwongland airwaves we are looking to broaden the appeal we make to the Kwong for the Gospel. Meanwhile, back in N'Djamena our year of administrative duty has been completely overshadowed by the discovery of 5 years of embezzlement by a trusted employee.

Broadcasting to you live from Chageen

Disseminating the Gospel in Kwongland through low power FM radio 

Good Evening, this is the voice of Chageen: WRTP, Radio "Terre de Paix" broadcasting to you live from Chageen Ngolo at 94.2 on your FM dial. During the following two hours we bring direct to your homes and campfires the following programs:  30 minutes of local news and views, 30 minutes of God Speaks to the Kwong Today, followed by obituaries, grain prices, a word from the chief, important upcoming events, and finally, 30 minutes of story telling and hit singles by local artists.

Sometime in the year 2005:  As the sun sets, men and women stretch out on their mats under the stars, brew a final cup of tea, and reach for their battery powered radios to tune in the nightly Kwong broadcast - the only broadcast, in fact, on the entire FM dial in this part of Chad. Women and children avidly listen to catch the one broadcast in a language they fully comprehend. Silence falls over the village like a blanket and the casual passer-by from another tribe hears only the incomprehensible jumble of Kwong words crackling from 100 radio sets as Scriptures are read and the Gospel is taught.

January 29, 2003:  As Mark and I rush across town from yet another appalling episode in exposing our ex-administrative assistant's embezzlement of thousands of dollars, to an important meeting with colleagues from five other missions, we stop briefly at the drab colonial edifice which serves as headquarters to the Chadian High Council for Communications. We are warmly welcomed and duly presented an official letter granting us the radio license to broadcast in the Kwong area. An apology is quickly added - ironic to us - for the very un-African speed and efficiency with which our application was handled.

The concept of a low power radio station has incubated in our minds over the past few years: radio broadcasts could do an end-run around the tremendous barrier illiteracy presents to proclaiming the Gospel- especially for women and children. Fearing a bureaucratic impossibility, it was little more than a vague notion until this past fall when another missionary informed Mark that the minister of the Communication Commission, a Christian man, was eager to use his authority before leaving office to grant licenses for Christian radio stations throughout the country. Although swamped with the added hassles and extra work entailed in the loss of our administrative assistant, Mark was able, with the help of a Chadian army officer from our district, to whip up the application, and a few weeks later to our amazement we were picking up the license.

We hope this radio will be a strategic tool for proclaiming the Gospel among the Kwong people. At the writing of this, however, the only evidence of the station's existence is that piece of government stationary bearing our license. The equipment, building, tower and antenna, the disc jockeys and other staff, not to speak of the $12,000 of funding all await realization. Our dream is to see the reality of Radio "Terre de Paix" during the next three years. Were funding available immediately, we could buy and send some of the large equipment in a container coming to Chad in July. If you desire to be a part of this vision monetarily, designate your contributions to TEAM for the Kwong Radio Project. If you know how to build and climb a 100-foot antenna tower, Mark would be much obliged to hear from you as well - 20 feet is his vertical limit.  We thank the Lord for the gift of this radio license and pray for God to make the vision become reality for declaring His Word among the Kwong people.

Snapshot of a Scandal

What turned made an otherwise enjoyable year in N'Djamena for 
Diane and Mark into a nightmare

The old Isuzu Trooper had outlived itís useful life as far as we were concerned and was to be sold to colleagues in another mission who had deluded themselves into thinking they could put up with itís cantankerousness better than we could. Wanting to make the best of the situation, I took the car to the vehicle inspection station to renew its safety certificate. I stood at the bare counter of the little office that would pass as a farm shed in any other country, and waited as the bored bureaucrats processed other customers. While waiting, I noticed at the end of the counter a gray, steel office drawer full of unclaimed receipts for the inspection of various organizations' vehicles. In one of the more remarkable providences of a saga which had already overshadowed three months of our lives and would, unbeknownst to us, overshadow yet another six, I recognized the signature on the receipts as identical to the one appearing on photocopied receipts submitted by our Chadian administrative assistant as justification for over $1000 of fees paid by TEAM for the acquisition of two land titles. When no one was looking, I lifted what looked like a representative sample from the drawer, promising the drawerís guardian angel that I would bring them back just as soon as possible, and headed home.

Jeremiah (a pseudonym since this is, after all, the web) had worked for TEAM 16 years and was entrusted with all but the most sensitive of tasks. There was virtually no purchase, or government formality but which he was not the trusted agent of the mission to handle the affair. His expense reports were accepted as gospel, and explanations for the habitual absence of receipts were convincing, at least at first, in a country where nothing really operates the way it is supposed to anyway. But over the years troubling questions kept coming up - not least of which was how he managed to pay for the very comfortable house he had built. And then, during Diane's and my watch, some troubling questions about the receipts he submitted for the land titles, the like of which I had now stumbled upon in, of all places, the vehicle inspection office.

It took Diane a month of badgering to procure photocopies of these receipts from Jeremiah in the first place, and then another month of me traipsing around government offices to inquire as to the whys and wherefores of the exorbitant amounts on the receipts. When no one in any of the offices even recognized the receipts, we smelled a rat, and as providence would have it, we found it in a gray steel office drawer at the vehicle safety office. Wonderful cooperation from the otherwise bored vehicle safety staff (who forthwith removed the steel drawer to a back room) and several weeks of perseverance and many digital photographs of documents later and we were able to establish beyond doubt that Jeremiah had helped himself to receipts from that drawer, whited out the original payee, written in TEAMís name, and presented Diane with photocopies of the falsified receipts. 

This story represents just one vignette of what later became three full-blown scandals. Investigating Jeremiah has been the theme of our lives these past nine months, and to say it has been stressful would be an understatement. Each morning we awoke to the dread of wondering whether some nameless bureaucrat at the Chadian Tax Bureau, Treasury, City Hall, Public Works Department, Precinct, or printing company who had a key piece of information would cooperate with us or would leave our investigation dead in the water. Each night we went to bed, especially after another face-to-face meeting with Jeremiah, clinging desperately to the sovereignty of God in the face of Jeremiah's lies, more falsified documents, unflinching arrogance, and worst of all, that perpetual grin of invincibility. Our trust, however alloyed by worry and fear, was not in vain. Through it all God vindicated the justice of our cause and Jeremiah has been convicted on all three counts - the last and grandest making him liable to the Chadian government to the tune of over $12,000 for taxes he pocketed rather than pay on TEAM's behalf.

The Rest of the story

What wouldn't fit on our printed newsletter

We confronted Jeremiah with his falsified receipts and the excuse he made was even more incredible than the discovery of the receipts at the vehicle inspection station. Here's what he told us. One day he was driving around town with our mission pickup and about $1000 of mission money in his briefcase. The car stalled and he got out to open the hood, leaving his briefcase on the seat of the car. As he was peering under the hood, an acquaintance came along with another friend to help. While he was behind the hood, one of the fellows helped himself to the money. Of course Jeremiah knew them and so caught one of them. At this point the story gets spooky or preposterous, depending on your point of view. Bear in mind, however, that Jeremiah was an top-flight elder in one of the most prestigious Protestant churches in N'Djamena. 

The thief, to hear it from Jeremiah, proposed that instead of returning the money to him, he accept receipts made out for an equivalent amount for the property title business which Jeremiah was supposed to be taking care of. Since any normal thinking person would be insulted by such a suggestion, the thief put a spell over him so, in Jeremiah's words, it wasn't until four months later when we confronted him with the bogus receipts he was even aware of having been such an idiot. Well, suffice it to say, even if we allowed the superstitious stuff, his story (which is unquestionably a fabrication) had more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese. What was remarkable to us, and the reason we relate the story at all, is that this educated, mature, (apparently) Christian man regarded it as less shameful to be associated with the occult than to honestly admit that he had stolen money and betrayed his employers. This is unfortunately an only too typical feature of the Chadian spiritual landscape. 

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