May 2007

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Nothing in Africa endures forever. The continent is littered with monuments to a missionary or development worker's dream-gone-sour. Some day, the Voice of Chageen will fall silent and become, as it were, a mute monument to the Vanderkoois. On the occasion of the dedication of the radio station, Mark acknowledges as much, and challenges his hearers to head the words of the gospel while they yet have it. On the Flip Side, we describe another dream-gone-sour which, at the time it was written, had terrible ramifications for health care in Chageen. 

Mark delivered the following address to the village chiefs, civil authorities, and a delegation of notables from the Evangelical Church of Chad on the 28th of April. The occasion was our much belated dedication of the radio station, which we morphed into a celebration of 15 months of successful broadcasting. As such, the address is ostensibly about the radio station, but it is really about the totality of our ministry to the Kwong and reveals some of our hopes and fears. As such, we thought you would enjoy reading an abstract of it. 

Honorable chiefs, representatives of the government of Chad, delegation of the Evangelical Church of Chad, men and women of the Kwong tribe: the reason this radio station was built is found in the writings of the prophet Daniel where he declares that the day will come when the God of heaven will establish his kingdom on earth - a kingdom which will destroy the kingdoms of this earth, but will itself never be destroyed. This radio station was built because Diane and I and the thousands of people in America and Canada who contributed towards its cost believe that every man and every woman of every tribe on the earth must prepare for the advent of this kingdom. In the past, the apostle Paul tells us, God let all the tribes of the earth go their own way in ignorance, but now God calls on us to repent and submit to the rule of his kingdom.

Normally, God makes this call through the reading and preaching of the Bible. But Africa has not been kind to her children, and the sad fact is that literacy remains for many a dream which will never come true. And that is why we built the Voice of Chageen: so that even if a man or woman might not read the words of God, he or she might still hear them with his ears and prepare himself for the coming of this Kingdom. And so it is, that having been broadcasting for nigh on 15 months, we are grateful for each of you who has come to share our joy, give thanksgiving, and anticipate with us a rich future for FM 95.2.

We do indeed believe that many fruitful years lie ahead for FM 95.2, but the sober truth is this: one day the Voice of Chageen will fall silent. One day a bolt of lightning will hit this tower and that will be the end.

Here Mark, who hitherto was speaking in French (with translation into Kwong) for the benefit of the VIPs, switched to Kwong so as to address the chiefs and population directly (with translation continuing in French). 

My Kwong friends: In the past you walked in darkness, but today you walk in the light. A missionary lives among you, the words of God have been translated into your language, and now you have a radio station. Each of you may sit in your own home and hear the message of the Kingdom in your own language - even if you don’t know how to read. But heed this: The day may come when there will be no more light. One day, there will be no more missionary, there will be no more radio station, and even these books in Kwong will be destroyed by termites. All that will remain - all that you will have to pass on to another generation of Kwong children - will be what remains in your hearts. So my appeal, my plea to you today, is simply this: do not be careless with the light while you have it. Listen to the radio. Heed the words you hear on it. Read these books. Walk in the light. And finally, teach the words you hear to these children who are sitting all around us today so that one day, they will be able to teach their children, and their children’s children will teach the generation after that. And so, even when FM 95.2 will fall silent, the light will still shine in Kwongland from generation to generation 100 and even 200 years from now.

The Flip Side

The makings of a medical catastrophe in Chageen

It was one of those great leaps forward in African development for which no one could possibly anticipate the catastrophe to follow. In the late 90’s, the mission hospital, which trains the medical personnel who staff evangelical clinics such as the one at Chageen, decided to raise its academic standards to those of the government schools - such as they are. It seemed, at the time, like a very progressive thing. Since when, after all, did anybody ever complain about higher academic standards? We all cheered when the government gave its Good Housekeeping seal of approval to the beefed up curriculum. Only a few unheeded voices in the wilderness observed that this fancy new curriculum had been implemented at the price of virtually all of the Bible teaching which had formally been a cornerstone of the curriculum.

Well the chickens have come home to roost. All these staff so painstakingly trained to such stellar standards – and qualified thereby to serve in government clinics for something approximating a guaranteed and fairly generous salary – have voted with their feet. They have concluded en-masse that serving Christ in very rural clinics (e.g. Chageen) for a meager and uncertain remuneration simply isn’t worth it. Gone are the days when our beloved nurse Jeremiah would declare to anyone who would listen: “Je suis un Evangélist Medical - I am first of all an Evangelist and secondly a medical person.” (It was Jeremiah’s ministry of medicine at Chageen which sparked in part the revival in ‘96 among the Muslim nomads in our area.)

The result has been an unmitigated catastrophe for many of the 37 clinics in the evangelical network and for us at Chageen in particular. As we write, it appears that the clinic at Chageen, which has functioned for 25 years and was largely responsible for the establishment of a church among the Kwong in the 80’s, will be closed for all intensive purposes. Our remaining staff are being transferred by the evangelical clinic bureaucracy to more profitable clinics where there is more money to be made and the staff are less likely to fly the coop. The net result is that evangelical clinics which are in some cases within walking distance of government clinics and even large hospitals are staffed, while Chageen, which is separated in the rainy season (i.e. summer) from the nearest medical care (another rural evangelical clinic) by 25 miles of snake infested swamp and a large river, will be completely unstaffed.  All our protestations to the evangelical clinic bureaucracy have availed nothing.

We are considering all the options. The most likely option at present is that the government will staff the clinic. Where this would leave its Christian testimony is hard to predict. We have also considered hiring a private nurse with our own money, and we are on the lookout for medical personnel from the States, Canada, and Europe who might be interested in helping provide medical care here in Chageen. (If you fall in this last category, please write us and CC our administrator Steve at He will get the email much quicker than us.)

Doing nothing is simply not an option. Watching, as we have these past weeks, a teenage girl die of jaundice after giving birth to her firstborn and a young man vomit out all his blood breaks our hearts. These people are not abstract statistics – they are our friends and neighbors.

In Memory

On April 30, Christopher, whose sad story was the theme of our last newsletter, finally died. He was finally killed not by his broken back, but by the bed sores that rotted away his buttocks and ultimately spread infection to the rest of his body. We spent considerable time preparing him to die, and he died in faith. Mark was honored to preach the hope of the gospel before a great number of people at his wake (pic to right).


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