March 2015

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News from Mark and Diane Vanderkooi

March 17, 2015

Dear family, friends, and supporters,

We canít help but recall Psalm 144, speaking of the blessings of the Lord on his people: ďOur barns will be filled with every kind of provision, our oxen will draw heavy loads, and there will be no cry of distress in our streets.Ē As our Kwong friends joyfully harvest their fields and heavily laden ox carts lumber past our front door these days, we rejoice in the Lordís goodness both to them and to us. In this brief letter, we would like to share some additional blessing of the Lord in our life and ministry here in Chad.

Your fellow servants,  Mark and Diane

Introducing Pastor Gawrang

It would not be exaggerating  to say that for the last nine years, the Kwong church district has been the proverbial ship without a rudder. Our dear friend Pastor Pierre was at the helm, but notwithstanding his deep spirituality, gentleness, and sterling intentions, he  frequently wasnít sure what course he should steer, and on those occasions when he did, he just had a really hard time showing the leadership needed to go there.

We have prayed for many years that Pierre would find a ministry more suited to his temperament and gifting, and that the position of church district president would be filled by someone with the dynamism and discipline which the church so desperately needs. This past month, the Lord saw fit to grant us our wish, and He sent us (by the agency of the church denomination which appoints church district presidents) Pastor Gawrang Jonas and his family.

Pastor Gawrang is a retired military man. From 1971 to 2000, which is to say during the most turbulent years of Chadís short history as an independent country, Gawrang was a soldier in the Chadian army, retiring as a Lieutenant. He had the unfortunate distinction of being a POW for three years during the civil war in the 1980ís. On the bright side, he managed to not get shot. He also participated in the Chadian blitzkrieg against the Libyans forces which still held the Aozou strip in the north of Chad in 1987. Finally, in 2000, he retired with a full military pension, married his wife Sarah, who is 20 years his junior, and set out to serve the Lord as a Chadian missionary to other Chadians in Chad.

We have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Pastor Gawrang, and we look forward to working together. He is from the Marba tribe, and does not speak Kwong, so his ministry among us is in French and Arabic. Our first impressions are that he has a good balance of Pierreís gentleness and that military predilection for doing things in an orderly and disciplined way. He will need every bit of both qualities to address the serious issues which are presently facing the Kwong church district, not least of which is a more or less total schism between the churches of the northern part of the district, centered around the town of Gam, and those of the southern part of the district centered around Chageen.

While we are optimistic of the potential of this new relationship with our new neighbor, we realize that only time will tell whether and how our personalities and philosophies will blend or clash. Pray with us that this would be an enduring, fruitful relationship. Pray too as Gawrang and we try to heal the schism in the churches here. On the 26th and 27th of March, the Kwong church district will be having their annual meeting, and this will prove a decisive moment in this effort.

Baby Sylvie

The nameless baby of our last update now has a name: Sylvie. She was named by her father after one of our interns who was with us when her mother died in childbirth.  She is growing and healthy. She spends most days at our home, and spends the night with her grandmother.  Our neighbors are dumbfounded by how well she is doing. It all comes back to basic education Ė donít give the child contaminated water, donít cut its uvula out with a dirty razor blade, etc. Our house worker Rachel canít help but express her regrets that she and the other women just didnít know what to do for similar babies in years past. Now they know.



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