News Update Aug 2011

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The elixir of life: normality

Or as Mark puts it to Diane (who begs to differ), “No experiments, no excitement. Boring is Good.” Well, life is good in Chageen, if not exactly boring – translation, kids, radio, women, clinic, pastors – it all goes on with no crises to make it “exciting”. Here then are some incidental features of our life as we find it.

Soccer and opportunity

They come to our compound, stand in front of our door, and respectfully clap about three times to get our attention, and then sit down on the bricks which line the walk to await our appearance. They are the dozens of young Kwong boys who come to borrow our soccer ball or play with our Legos, and listen attentively to any and every bit of wisdom we wish to impart to them. In short, they are the future of the Kwong tribe and we cannot help but be humbled by their attachment to us and openness. We keep wishing that someone more gifted than us would work with them, but failing that, we do our best to take some time with them before sending them off for their own version of the World Cup.

Real accountants and imposters

This is the closest thing to a crisis we have to report. In a fit of unwarranted optimism or outright delusion, our colleagues on the Chad field of TEAM elected us to the post of field treasurer. Mark bears the title since he does better in the field-council meetings that come with the job, but everyone knows that Diane has the accounting gene and are no doubt counting on her to keep Mark from completely screwing things up. So, for the last several weeks we have been introduced to the cynical world of “higher” accounting where a negative sign is a good thing and positive sign a bad thing. Mark still isn’t convinced. (Though Washington seems to have embraced the notion on its own terms.) Meanwhile, we have also been endowed with the task of configuring a new software package and sorting out a long-running currency exchange mess. Moral of the story? The missionary endeavor needs REAL accountants and business people, not experts in an obscure African tribal language to keep track of its money.

The last technological frontier 

The only reason our colleagues could even entertain the desperate notion of the V’koois keeping track of their money was on the odd chance that we would have affordable, reliable internet access – something they didn’t know for sure would be the case when they voted us in last December. As it turns out, that access materialized in the form of a data-capable cell tower 22 miles to the south of us and a nifty USB-2-cell adapter which brings us about 60 kbps service (which is to say slow) for about 30 cents a megabyte – a real bargain compared to the $5/Mb we used to pay on the satellite phone. 22 miles is a long way for a cell signal, but we were able to purchase a repeater from another missionary and the contraption works admirably well. At these slow speeds, we can’t watch videos, or even Skype, but email is easy and it is a special treat to pull up a current satellite picture of Africa from and have some idea about what kind of storms are coming down the pike.

Roundup ready

Imagine the thickest, most tangled, aggressive mass of crabgrass roots, and then imagine that it is under a foot of water and that you need to plant all the food your family will eat for the coming year in this mess and that the only implement at your disposal is a hand hoe. That is agriculture Kwong style – at least until now. Beginning a year or so ago, all that changed with the introduction of Monsanto’s “Roundup” herbicide. Now for about $60, or 15% of a farmer’s annual harvest, he can spray his fields and avoid thereby weeks of grueling labor to dig that crabgrass out by hand. (And no, we don’t own stock in Monsanto.) It goes without saying that the Kwong have fallen in love with the stuff and buy hundreds of packets of it at our weekly market.  So far it seems pretty benign, and we can only hope that it doesn’t prove someday to be another Agent Orange.

Translation: Too much too fast

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.(Acts 6:1 NIV)

When we translated Acts 6 into Kwong a couple weeks ago, this verse proved to be a case of drinking from the proverbial fire hose. Way too much information comes way too fast in too few words. With nothing in the way of introduction, and in an apparent effort to economize on parchment, Luke plunges ahead on the assumption that his reader (Theophilus initially) is cognizant of Grecian Jews, Hebraic Jews, and the daily distribution of food to widows. It is likely the assumption was fair for Theophilus, but nothing could be less true of the Kwong. Here is how we slowed down the fire hose, making three sentences out of one.

In that era, when the number of disciples was multiplying, among them were certain Jews who spoke Hebrew, and others who spoke Greek. And at that time, the disciples had a tradition of giving their widows some food each day. But as it happened, the Greek widows were overlooked in the distribution, so the Grecian Jews began to complain to the Hebraic Jews concerning them. (Acts 6:1) 

While this sounds a bit stilted in English, it has a very pleasing cadence in Kwong – a cadence which matches (precisely we hope) their ability to assimilate new information.

Imparting the Kwong people with new information in ways that they can assimilate it easily is why we live and work here. Whether it is a verse about underfed Grecian widows, a Sunday School story about Elijah reading Ahab the riot act, a lesson for women about a Samaritan lady who finds living water, or 10 minutes with a bunch of soccer nuts, we seek by every possible means to help the Kwong understand the power of God and glory of His Christ. Many thanks as always to each of you who stand with us in this endeavor.



Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Soccer

Until their parents complained that the kids weren’t helping in the fields as they should, the boys would play soccer from early morning until sundown. When the parents complained, we restricted them to afternoons.


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Diane taking advantage of a captive audience to share some words from the Bible before the boy abscond with the soccer ball.


Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Cell-Antenna

This antenna pulls in the cell signal from 22 miles away and gives us both telephone and internet. Our phone number is (235) 6647-9232 between about 1pm and 3pm Chicago time (7pm to 9 pm Chad time).


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Roundup – the magic potion which is transforming agriculture in Chageen.


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Translating Acts 10, the story of Cornelius, on August 12th. François, left, Joseph, center. The guys had a field-day coming up with vocabulary for the sheet being let down from heaven.

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Last modified: June 09, 2012