For more pictures and information on the radio station click here.
We would have been happy with a purely functional radio station. Instead, the Lord gave us a station which is aesthetically pleasing, and which we never imagined could be built with as few complications as turned out to be the case. In this letter we share our joy at the completion of FM 95.2 in Chageen, and the recruitment of a fine gentleman to run it.
The last bricks had been laid that afternoon, and the cement holding them together was still wet. A gibbous moon a day or two past full was rising through the haze hanging above the thatched huts of Chageen, and glinted off the antenna tower and the low, squat silhouette of the studio. I couldn't help but admire it. It was not just an amazing achievement, but, with all due modesty, I must say it was a beautiful one. It would be, we hoped, the mouthpiece of our ministry to the Kwong.
We needed a mouthpiece - badly. As a matter of fact, it has taken the building of FM 95.2 to paint in stark relief just how badly we needed it. Illiteracy renders the printed page an almost worthless medium for conveying the glories of the Gospel to the Kwong. The obvious solution - teaching people to read - assumes mental faculties which, we have discovered to our dismay, are simply beyond the reach of huge swathes of the Kwong population. Pastors, who in the Divine scheme of things are supposed to mitigate that problem with good preaching, turn out too frequently to be themselves illiterate and given to teaching a depressing non-gospel.
So we have for many years taken upon ourselves this task - traveling to Kwong villages, living in their huts, eating their food, and teaching them. But what can two or three days of teaching do for them in the course of a year? Meanwhile hundreds of pages of translated materials - Scripture portions, discipleship lessons, and Kwong theology - pile up on the computer with no means of effective dissemination. We needed a mouthpiece that would do an end-run around illiteracy, leap over the pastors, and cross the long miles of the Kwong countryside day after day after day.
Seeing our mouthpiece become a reality would take two years of planning and organization, something like $20,000, the construction of a 100 foot antenna tower and an underground studio, the collaboration of 5 mission organizations, and the support of three churches. And most crucially, it took the dedication of the 8 men and women from the USA and Canada who came to Chad, endured the 110+ degree heat and scorching winds, and built the station over these last three months. Words can not express our gratitude for their fortitude, patience, and hard work to see the studio and antenna rise from what were mere pits in the earth when they arrived.
We often wondered during these years how such a complex undertaking could happen. Yet it did happen - flawlessly - because many of you prayed. Nothing was missing. Almost everything worked. People and luggage came and went without a hitch. Everything was finished precisely on schedule. And when we finally flipped the switch, it all worked - perfectly.
It remains now to see whether FM 95.2 will be as effective as we hope. Will we in, say 5 years, see in Kwong Christians a fresh new joy and zeal for glory of God attributable to what they are hearing on FM 95.2? Will there be pagan and Muslim men and women drawn to Christ by the beauty of gospel they hear in their own language? Or will the station, as sometimes happens in Africa, become a political football in the hands of vested interests, or worse, a white elephant announcing to future generations the folly of some crazy American missionary at the turn of the century.
It was because of the faithful prayers of many of you these last months that things went so flawlessly, and by those same prayers in the years to come, we believe that 5 years from now we will indeed be able to say that FM 95.2 played a crucial role in the health and growth of the church in Kwongland and neighboring tribes.
Radio Station: Who’s going to run this thing?
We almost went into cardiac arrest when someone suggested that a picture of us in front of the radio tower would make a nice prayer card - implying of course, that now (in addition to Bible translation, church teaching, literacy classes, evangelism, women’s ministry, and life) we have a “radio ministry.” Alas, we are still human and there are still only 24 hours in a day. Hence our urgent prayer request of this past year to find someone to run the station and train the Kwong to operate it.
God has answered these prayers beyond our expectations in the person of Theodore Popa who we had the pleasure of meeting in England on our return from Chad. An outgoing, 45ish, former electrical engineer from Romania, he has spent the last several years setting up a mission radio station in Niger for the Sudan Interior Mission. He is now ready for a change of venue, and is, by all appearances, just the person for the job in Chad. It is amazing to think that we scoured the USA and Canada for someone who (if we were lucky) knew the rudiments of French and not much else. As it is, we ended up with a guy who not only speaks beautiful French (he is in England working on his English), but is already familiar with sub-Saharan Africa, and has done missionary radio to boot. He will be trying to raise the remainder of his support over the summer months - not an easy task in Romania - and Lord willing will be on the same plane with us going back into Chad on November 3.
are the Vanderkoois?
The Vanderkoois are in the USA - again. You will recall that last year we did ½ of our home assignment (6 months) in Ohio and Indiana, before going back to Chad in December with the express purpose of building the radio station. The radio station is now finished, and on April 9 we arrived back in the USA to finish the remainder of our home assignment, this time in northern Illinois.
Finishing the radio station and getting Theodore onboard feels really good. It means we can anticipate going back to Chad without that project hanging over us and with the happy thought of giving ourselves once again 100% to the translation and teaching ministry that means the most to us.
Radio Station: Engineering Department
The challenge was how to create a noiseless, dustless environment for our radio studio in a land of boisterous roosters, village drum-fests, and howling dust devils (a sort of tornado). The obvious solution is to eliminate windows, which, while a good idea in some parts of the world, is a bad idea in Chad with its soaring temps. Air conditioning would create nirvana on earth, but that takes several kilowatts, and our solar panels deliver a fraction of one kilowatt. Our solution to this conundrum was an idea Mark has been itching to try for quite a few years – construct a building mostly underground, pour a flat, reinforced concrete ceiling with a little dike around the edges (and a roof over that), and then flood the ceiling with an inch of water. The idea is that basements stay cooler anyway, and the evaporation of the water off the ceiling would further cool the room under it. Preliminary test results were encouraging: when it was 111˚ outside, it was a wonderful 85˚ inside - with no dust, and no rooster noise. (Interpretation of the picture: you are looking into the "attic" of the studio with the rafters above, and the reflection of the rafters in the water below. The little dike holding the water in is in the foreground.).
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