News Update October 2012

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Acts for Hearts and Minds

One of our perennial challenges is getting the Scripture we translate off of paper and into the hearts and minds of the Kwong. This has become Diane’s specialty as the years have gone by, most especially in her role as the producer of most of the Bible teaching programs which go out over the Voice of Chageen. Her most recent production is a radio drama of the book of Acts, based on the text of that book which we translated last year. This has proved to be a mammoth undertaking, requiring as it does a considerable number of Kwong to read the parts of the different characters, as well as days of audio editing to blend in the sound effects and music which make the text come alive. After about a month of work, she and her “troupe de théâtre” are about a third of the way through the book.

Footnotes for posterity

We finished translating the book of Revelation a couple months ago. All the research that the translation entailed gave us considerable insight into the structure and interpretation of the book – insight which we thought would be of service to future generations of Kwong Christians. So for the last number of weeks since finishing the book, Mark, Joseph, and François have been working at producing copious footnotes and section introductions for the book in an effort to preserve for Kwong posterity everything we learned ourselves. This project, which turned out to be almost as much work as translating the text of the book itself, is drawing to a close. We will, as has become our habit between major projects, translate a few more Psalms before embarking on our next odyssey, which will be the Gospel of John.

He who sows rejoices with those who reap

It seems summer is over in Midwest of the USA, and the farmers are harvesting whatever pitiful crops the poor rains allowed them to grow. The same can be said for most of the farmers in Chad, except that unlike the USA, the rains this year were usually abundant and barring total inundation (which was the unfortunate lot of some parts of Chad) the harvest has been very good.

Here in Chageen, and a few other places in Chad however, the farmers are, ironically, just now planting their crops. This strange habit of planting just as the rains end stems from a combination of factors, notably the unusual species of millet they prefer here, and the heavy clay soil on the flood plains surrounding Chageen which this species is especially suited to. As the flood waters recede from the plains – even as we write –  the Kwong are transplanting seedlings of this special millet called “tumo” into the muck that remains. During the next 4 months, not a drop of rain will fall, but the tumo will be nourished by the huge amounts of water which the clay has absorbed, as well as the dew which falls. As these four months are the coolest months of the year, the clay retains its moisture quite well, and this is enough for the tumo to produce a very substantial crop.

The upshot is that unlike the other varieties of millet Chadians grow, or rice which is the crop of choice just 10 miles south of us, the tumo isn’t dependent on regular rainfall. As a result, during the 21 years that Mark has lived in Chageen, never once has there been a famine. By comparison, there is a food shortage or famine in the rice growing areas about every 3 years, dependent as they are on a season of rainfall without any interruption in its regularity - which is quite a gamble on the edges of the Sahara desert. The last famine in Chageen was in 1984-5. That was a generalized famine across all of Chad when the rainfall was half the normal amount. Even tumo and clay didn’t help under those circumstances.

Stuck in the Mud

Every missionary in Chad has his or her “got-stuck-real-bad” story. Everybody, that is, except for Mark who regards driving as purgatory in the best of circumstances. All that changed on Sept 5 when, persuaded by the Kwong that a certain new “road” was “great,” he attempted a “little trip” of about 10 miles to bring our guest worker Ami Bockstahler, a nurse, to a rural mother-and-baby clinic. After 7 uneventful miles, and having nervously crossed 300 meters of flooded marshland, Mark breathed a sigh of relief as our trusty Toyota climbed up onto what looked like dry land again – and then promptly sank up to its axles in a sort of quicksand. 2½  hours later, and with the help of the people of the nearby village of Sawinya, he finally extricated the car – and then wasted no time in getting stuck even worse 30 meters up the road as he tried to turn the truck around to head home.  Finally, after 6 hours, they managed to get back to the house, without ever having reached the site of the clinic - much wiser for the experience, and with a story to tell next time the subject comes up at a missionary dining table.

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Diane has become quite adept at editing multiple audio tracks in the production of the radio drama of Acts. Another skill learned in the School of Necessity.

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It is not uncommon for the footnotes for the book of Revelation to occupy half the printed page, though we try to keep it to a quarter or less.

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Clearing the fields for tumo while they are still flooded is one of the most miserable tasks imaginable. The thick, matted vegetation is full of thorns and home to the most poisonous snakes.

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Planting tumo seedlings in the clay after the floodwaters recede.

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Extricating our car involved jacking up the rim or hub of each wheel and sliding thick branches under the tires to get traction.


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