February 2006

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We make our plans the best we can, we hope for the best, and then God has a way of doing what is best in His councils. Such has been our experience with FM 95.2 In this newsletter we first consider the new realities of the radio station, and then Diane dusts off a three year-old newsletter to take a walk through the village of Chageen. 

The plan was simple, the plan was naïve, and naturally enough, the plan failed. In its place we are confronted with a new reality, incredible possibilities, and in the meantime, no small amount of discouragement.

First the plan, which, as you may recall, was the grounds of considerable optimism on our part when we returned to the field nigh on three months ago. That plan was that Theodore (bless his soul - he is with us and it would indeed be crisis if he wasn’t) would take charge of the radio station and we would happily return to what we always perceived as our main ministries of translation, teaching, and discipleship.

 We were naïve on several counts. First and most glaringly, Theodore doesn’t know Kwong, and as 70% of our broadcasting is in Kwong (the remainder being in neighboring languages of Fulani and Arabic for which we have prepared broadcasts), that limits what he can do.

 We assumed this deficiency would be mitigated by our second naïve assumption, which was  that Theodore could work with the Kwong guys to make some slight adaptations of the hundreds of pages of Kwong discipleship material we already have so it could be used directly on the radio. There was merit in the idea, but the fatal flaw was the word “slight”. Radio, as it turns out, is an entirely different medium than a discipleship lesson under a tree, and idol worshiping pagans are an entirely different audience than your run of the mill pastors and elders. The adaptations necessary are anything but slight, and Mark is of necessity heavily involved in making them.

Thirdly, we began this marathon a mile behind the starting blocks. If for the past year we had been recording church songs, folk songs, traditional stories, fables, health programs, and otherwise preparing all the ancillary material which makes the station attractive to a cross section of Kwong society, we would have been at the starting blocks. But we had no idea we would need such an enormous quantity of this stuff or that preparing it would be so time consuming.

Finally, we failed to fully appreciate just how relentless a radio station can be, even with only one hour a day of air-time five days a week (15 minutes at 6 AM and 45 minutes at 6 PM, M-F). No sooner is one broadcast done than another demands attention. The task is never truly done. You can never cross it off your to-do list. It just goes on and on. It is literally all we do every day. Goodness knows ignorance was bliss - or we would have never built this thing.

 So the plan snagged on several crucial points, and today we are faced with the reality that for something like the next 6 months our ministry will not be anything like what we expected. During these months we will be 100% radio missionaries, after which we hope - dearly hope - that the corpus of recorded material will be sufficiently large and diverse enough to start doing reruns, and that the Kwong men Theodore is training will be able to assume many of the tasks which by force of necessity fall to us presently. Meanwhile, we are completely overwhelmed.

 A gloomy picture indeed, and yet during these last weeks since we made our first broadcast on January 10, we have felt within us a vindication of 14 years of ministry among the Kwong such as we have not felt before. Our legacy of relationships, language abilities, translation, theologizing and discipleship have all come to a laser focus. As best as we can tell, every single radio in Kwongland is tuned into the Voice of Chageen every night, and the beauty, glory, uniqueness, humility, mercy, and truth of Christ is being articulated (by our Kwong guys - not us, incidentally) and understood among the Kwong with a clarity and winsomeness as never before. It would not be an exaggeration to say that during the first month of broadcasts more Kwong people heard the beauty of Jesus expressed with more clarity than in a decade of our teaching and preaching in churches and town squares.

 As we write the scripts, record our local artists, and prepare the broadcasts, we are humbled and awed at the power of the tool placed in our hands. For years Mark chaffed at the ecclesiastical nonsense in the Kwong churches which seemed at every turn to doom our best efforts at painting a glorious picture of God and his Christ. Now we have the sense of being endowed (at exactly the right time - not a year too soon) with what is nothing less than the ecclesiastical equivalent of the atom bomb. Surely some discouragement, overwork, and the sacrifice of our cherished plans is not too great a price to pay for the possibilities which lie before us. God grant that we would milk this thing for all its worth, that his Holy Sprit would bring conviction and salvation to the souls of many who listen, and when it is all said and done, that this radio station and our labor would not be in vain.


Diane Reflects

In May 2003 we wrote:

Good Evening, this is the voice of Chageen: WRTP, Radio "Terre de Paix" broadcasting to you live from Chageen Ngolo at 95.2 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. Women and children avidly listen to catch the one broadcast in a language they 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.

On Januaray 19, 2006 as Mark and Theodore executed our 8th broadcast, I meandered through our end of the village. The sun was setting over my shoulder and I wondered, “would our epiphany of nearly 3 years ago prove true?”

Just 50 yards away a group of women continue to pound grain for the evening meal, yet a Kwong song rises above their pounding from a small radio held by three men sitting close enough to allow the women the privilege of enjoying the broadcast along with them. A short distance further a group of high school aged boys cluster around another small radio. Twenty-some children gather around yet another radio a short distance further. Then a group of 10-15 men sing along with the Kwong hymn which precedes the evening’s Bible teaching. Yes! 3 years of blood, sweat, tears and much, much prayer have realized the beginning of a dream come true. Evidenced from Mark’s essay, this is only the beginning, not a climactic accomplishment. We feel our utter dependency on the Lord’s strength, guidance, and empowering as much now as we ever have during these three years leading up to this dream come true.  

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