March 2009

Download this newsletter
(Word 2003 - 179k)

Home Page

More Back Issues


People ask us what typical day is like in Chageen. Well, nothing is typical, except this one thing - you never know what another day will bring your way. In this letter, Diane reflects on just such a "typical" day.  


The sun rose with the warm intensity of any other day, but the day ahead could never be scripted.

Rachel, our house-help could not come to work, so I began washing dishes and kneading bread myself. Why not make a batch of cookies while I’m at it? Mark settles down at his desk to review the previous month’s accounts from the medical clinic.

Tooda, our deaf neighbor, announces her presence at the kitchen window with some grunts, so with dish water dripping from my hands I roll out a mat where she and I can sit and “talk.” Lacking any mutual sign language, communication degenerates to head nodding and smiles. All the same, it feels like a profitable visit. I push open the woven grass gate which marks the entrance to our yard and send her on her way. As I do this, I notice our neighbor, pastor Pierre, sitting under the shade tree about 50 yards away just outside his grass gate.

Another pastor, David, sits beside Pierre under the shade tree. After greeting them, Pierre informs me that they will be over shortly to talk with Mark about “a small problem.”  My stomach sinks: Oh no, a small problem usually translates into several big problems. Today would prove no exception.

An hour or so later Pierre and David join Mark on the same mat that Tooda had earlier vacated. “The first problem,” David intones, “is…” and so begins a litany of 4 or 5 woes of the church, each, alas, having something to do with their chronic shortage of money. Only one of their problems had, in our eyes, a kernel of eternal value in it. Although this meeting ends quite pleasantly, we long for the same pastors to come to us with honest concerns for the lost sheep of Kwongland.

As another test of his patience draws to a close, Mark walks the pastors out the front gate, only to see David coming  back – this time with Pastor Old Moses and Luke, a former employee of the clinic.  It seems that Luke was promised over $500 of retirement pay from the clinic when he left 2 years ago. Of course at that time the clinic was more bankrupt than Lehman Bros, and even now, Mark explains, Lambert, the head nurse, went home with only $25 of clinic salary for the month of January (we made up the other $75). Nevertheless, Luke is a good, guileless friend, and we give him a personal gift to help him get medical treatment for his eyes.

Between visits, Mark finishes reviewing the clinic accounts, and then meets with the clinic staff to report that while the handling of the cash box is much improved, the management of the pharmacy stock still leaves much to be desired.  He encourages them to be more vigilant in the month of February.

With these tasks out of the way, it is already late morning and Mark finally sits down to exegete Luke chapter 10 to prepare for translation. I praise you Lord of heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to little children...  I, too, sit at my computer completing an easy-reader version of the birth of Moses.  Today the young boys should come for their reading club, and expectation of their arrival in early afternoon motivates me to complete the episode quickly. 

With a good draft of the story in hand, including pictures, I find pastors Pierre and David still under their shade tree, with an elder of the church weaving a grass mat on the ground beside them. Pierre begins reading the Moses story aloud and the three become an impromptu committee for readability. With minor changes, the text passes muster. I need not have hurried, though - the boys all skipped club today in favor of millet harvest.

A few hours later at 5:50 p.m. as the Voice of Chageen prepares to go on the air, we pray with David and François who will be DJ’ing. Tonight, there will be the usual Kwong broadcast as well as a program for the Fulani nomads. As they go on the air at 6:00, we retire to the outer room of the studio where it is our custom to be the “prayer brigade” during the broadcast. Oh Lord, may this broadcast not be so much electromagnetic noise. May it bear life-giving, healing words to lost people across the length of Kwongland. Hear us oh Lord!”

Dinner, a TV show on DVD, and the world news on the BBC bring the day to a close. Although almost nothing could be scripted, it really was a day just like any other.

The Flip Side

The end is near…

Well, not the end of the world we hope, but at least the end of the seemingly eternal construction of our new medical clinic. We broke ground for the building on January 20, 2008, and now, 14 months later the principle remaining task is the plastering and painting of the  interior walls. A work team from First Baptist in Sycamore IL constructed the superstructure of the roof  and installed windows during the month of January, and Diane’s parents came out to help with a myriad of projects immediately afterwards. As the building nears completion, we are pleased with the results. It is arguably the prettiest building for 100 miles around. We trust it will contribute to our goal of providing the Kwong people with basic health care in the name of Christ for many years to come.

Translating again…

Once the roof of the clinic was finished in mid February, Mark was able to resume translation of the book of Luke. It is has been a rich experience for both Mark, Joseph and François. Pray for the continued progress of this undertaking.

Go figure…

Some people’s propensity for inexcusable irresponsibility never ceases to amaze us. A few days ago, Mark was at the clinic construction site when Lambert, our male nurse, came over from the old clinic building to say that he was treating a pregnant woman who had been bitten by a rabid dog a couple weeks previously. She was not feeling well, and since the traditional medicines of roots, bark, and leaves were not helping, she had come to the clinic. As we have no rabies antibody serum at the clinic, and as it was at any rate far too late to administer it, all we could do is weep for the poor lady and hope for the best.

Mark told the story to Diane over dinner that evening, and then added as an aside the story of a young boy who, about 15 years ago, and long before we were married, was also bitten by a rabid dog. The father came immediately to Mark who arranged by radio for the boy to get the rabies serum at a mission hospital 40 miles to the west of us. Even before the arrangements were complete, the father had scooped the boy up in his arms and began walking those 40 miles thought the snake infested swamp which surrounds Chageen in the rainy season.  As Mark recalls it, he walked right straight through the night by the light of the moon, such was the urgency of getting the boy to help.

Fast forward 15 years and a few days after the lady’s initial visit to the clinic. Jeremy, who plays second-string nurse when Lambert is gone, sends a young man to our door to pick up a vial of anti-tetanus serum (which we keep in our refrigerator) for his wife who was bitten by a dog… “She wouldn’t happen to be pregnant, would she? And how long ago was she bitten?” It was indeed the husband of the same woman. And then the shocker: “Oh, and by the way,” he continued, “I was bitten by a rabid dog when I was little,” as he pulls up his pants leg to show the unmistakable scar of a huge dog bite on his calf. “I’m Jean-Pierre’s son – I still remember sitting in front of your house when I was little, waiting to go to Koyom.”

Go figure… Of all people who should have had some notion of the seriousness and urgency of a rabid dog bite, who would realize that bark and leaves were not an adequate solution, and who had a stellar example of an appropriate response, surely this young man should be he. Mark saw no use in softening the blow. “Your wife will probably die. The anti-tetanus serum will do her no good. She needs to get ready to meet God.” We prayed with him, pleading for the Lord to save the life of his wife, arranged for someone to help her get ready to die, and then sent him sadly on his way, as we shook our heads in amazement.


Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2010-2011 Vanderkooi's Ministry in Chad
Last modified: December 20, 2010