As with so much of life, be it in the USA or in Chad, the people we work and our relationships with them do much to define the seasons of our lives. In this letter, we pay tribute to two Kwong men who have made life a lot easier for us in recent months through their sterling character and dedication to the work of ministry. Then, on the Flip Side we consider some of the unexpected - and pleasing - knock-on effects of the radio station.
There are in missionary service seasons of great encouragement, as well as seasons of great struggle and despair. A barometer of these seasons is our evening prayer as a couple, and as this newsletter goes out, those prayers tell a story of encouragement. “Thank you Lord,” we pray, “that we can lie down to sleep with no great crisis or unsolvable conundrum to agonize over, no alienated relationship or offended pastor to lament, no outrage of injustice to brood on, and no disease of our bodies or doubt in our souls to disturb our rest this night.” For the absence of such things, endemic though they are to African missionary service, we are filled with gratitude. It is surely a testimony to the sustaining grace of God who knows our wimpiness with respect to such things, but it is also a tribute to the excellencies of the Kwong men and women with whom we have the pleasure to work. We should like to pay a small part of that tribute with this missive.
Pierre Baday and his lovely wife Naomi have been on the Kwong radar screen for something like 10 years - mostly as an obscure, rural pastor - until he was chosen by the Evangelical church of Chad to be the president (read: fuehrer) of the Kwong district of the church. It was - and still is - a mystery as to how a half a dozen men from other tribes seated 200 miles away can know who one good district president is - let alone 43 of them - but in our case, they seem by all appearances to have made a profoundly wise decision. After four mostly frustrating years with John, the former district president, Pierre’s very un-fuehrer qualities - his winsomeness, domestic industriousness, pastoral heart, dedication to prayer, fiscal transparency, dissatisfaction with the status quo, maturity (he’s 50-something), and, not least for us, his deep appreciation and promotion of our translation and teaching ministries, have made him a very big reason for the peace we have recently enjoyed as we lie down to sleep. We thank God for Pierre and Naomi.The radio station, as our last newsletter not so subtly implied, was a big reason for desperate prayers and fitful nights some months ago. Many of you joined us in those desperate prayers, especially as it became apparent that our Romanian colleague Theodore, who, far from running the station for the two years we anticipated, would leave us unexpectedly at the end of March. That crisis is the background of our next tribute, which we duly pay to a Kwong gentleman who beyond all reasonable expectation stepped to the plate in Theo’s place. His name is David Gouptan, a fine Kwong chap with a reputation as an expert millet farmer and the rare Chadian mason who can lay a plumb, level, and square brick. To make a long story short, he is most known now in Kwongland as the voice on the Voice of Tchaguine. Less obviously, but no less importantly, he is the man who has relieved us of many of the more time-consuming aspects of program production and allowed us to again pursue our ministries of translation and teaching. Considering that a computer is an essential tool of his work and that as of a few months ago he had never touched one, this is amazing. And considering that he serves the radio station with the same humility and dedication that Pierre has brought to the district administration, we have even more reason to give thanks as we lie down to sleep.
By the time this letter arrives in your mail, we may again be sleeping fitfully. If not sooner, then later. ‘Tis the nature of missionary service. ‘Tis the nature of life, as far as that goes. But we would be remiss to let the blessings of this present season of encouragement, and two of the men who have greatly contributed to it, go unnoticed and unappreciated.
After 7 months of broadcasts, the radio station is exceeding our most optimistic expectations as an effective tool for disseminating the Gospel and for influencing the course of Kwong society. What is perhaps most gratifying is the “knock-on” effects of the station in other facets of our ministry which we could never have anticipated. Here, for your encouragement, are a few of them.
Ø The promotion of “traditional” media - i.e. written materials. We rather hoped this might be the case, but it is indeed staggering to think that in the seven months since the radio opened, we have sold more Kwong discipleship books than we sold during the previous 4 years. In one of those weird flukes of human psychology, hearing these materials on the radio every day somehow makes them “serious” and more worthy of purchase than previously.
Ø A boost in the self-confidence and motivation of key women to teach other women. The marvels of digital sound editing, Diane’s patience as a human teleprompter, and a lot of repetition has enabled a few godly women who can’t otherwise read and do not understand Scripture particularly well to sound like literate, learned teachers on the radio. As Naomi and Tabitha listened to the finished product of their first recording session, they saw the incredible possibilities and exclaimed in wonder: “We sound like pastors!” “You are,” Diane replied, “to hundreds or even thousands of women who will be listening to your teaching every Monday night.”
Ø The setting of Scripture to music. The need for good music on the radio was the impetus behind the Kwong song-writing workshop Diane organized in April. Twenty-three men and women from 8 different villages arrived, many with their traditional harps in hand. During the 4-day workshop the Lord’s Prayer, the Great Commission, The Great Commandment, and the Song of the Lamb (in Revelation 5) were set to traditional Kwong tunes. In all, some 20 new Scripture songs were birthed and are being aired over the FM airwaves.
Ø A vibrant ministry to the Fulani ex-nomads of our area. We planned from the beginning to broadcast programming for the Muslim ex-nomads who settled in our area some 40 years ago. But little did we anticipate that our main employee at the station, David, would “happen” to be fluent in their language, and that the nomads would themselves have such an affection for the stories of Jesus they hear every Friday night. So intent are they to not miss any of those stories, they asked us to delay the broadcast by 5 minutes - so they could finish their Muslim prayers first. We obliged.
Little could Mark anticipate back in 1984 that the skills he learned working for a land surveyor in Dekalb county would prepare him for missionary service in Chad. Yet so it was. Recently Mark completed the very time-consuming task of surveying and drawing a plat of the land on which our home, the radio station, the Evangelical Clinic, church, granary, and translation office are located. Diane, having taught high school trigonometry in her former life, remembered it better than Mark and made her own substantial contribution to the effort thereby. The plat still needs to be filed with the government. Previous to this we did not have a single scrap of paper to show ownership of the property - which was “deeded” years ago by a wave of the chief’s arm.
You may recall that during our sojourn in the USA last year a very strong wind put a nice, but undesirable curve in radio antenna tower. It was supposed to be a freestanding tower, but it just wasn’t up to the extremely violent storms we get here. So for the last 6 months Mark undertook - and finished just as the storms began again - what was by far the most challenging engineering task he has yet attempted - attaching reinforcing cables to the 96 foot tower and anchoring them to the ground. For someone who is deathly afraid of heights, this achievement is as surely a testimony to the sustaining grace of God in the missionary endeavor as anything could be.
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