October 2015

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News from Mark and Diane Vanderkooi

October 1, 2015

Dear family, friends, and supporters;

Four months of rains are ended and we now anticipate with some sadness the 8 months of dry weather and withering vegetation which await us. We have been overwhelmed with work these last few months, as the following missive will tell. Nevertheless, the Lord has been good, keeping us from serious sickness and granting us much satisfaction in our work. Here is an update of our labors.

Your fellow servants,   Mark and Diane

Our life in a snapshot

Diane has finished translating 1 Timothy with the guys, and has started on 2 Timothy. Mark meanwhile keeps on working on the missing “Volume 3” in our 6-volume Kingdom of God discipleship series in Kwong. This volume traces the kingdom of God through the history of Israel. By all accounts, Diane should be done with 2 Timothy and Mark should be nearly finished with Volume 3, but alas, Diane is still on chapter 1 of her book and Mark is only a third of the way through his project. Diane’s excuse is that taking care of these orphan kids and feeding the malnourished ones (see below) has just torpedoed any semblance of order in her life. Mark’s excuse is that supervising the construction of the Bible school building (see picture in sidebar) is a time consuming process which takes about half of each week. As we write, however, Diane has successfully organized more ladies from the church to do much of the work with the malnourished kids, so her life is resuming some semblance of order, and the construction project is in a phase where the concrete needs to cure for extended periods of time, which makes Mark’s life a little less hectic as well.


They are not strictly speaking orphans – their fathers and siblings are still alive. But without a mother to nurse them, these newborns’ fathers and siblings don’t count for much. Death is their lot. We have by the Lord’s enabling kept three of them alive. Besides Sylvie whom we have raised for 9 months in our home, we were able to work with a little tyke named Mariye’s aunt to nurse him, and since she was already nursing her own baby, we showed the family how to supplement her breast milk with goat milk. The third one, who is now called “La Vie”, which means “life” in French, showed up in a basket on the back of a motorcycle one rainy night from a distant village. After being tossed around by his family like the proverbial football for a couple weeks and almost dying, a caring aunt here in Chageen took charge of him and we work with her to keep him bottle-fed. He is now a chubby little guy and doing well.

Malnourished kids

It is not entirely clear now how we got involved in taking care of malnourished kids, but what is clear is that the Lord wants his glory to shine through such an effort, so here we are. Presently, Diane and the women in the church are making and distributing enriched porridge mix to 20 severely malnourished kids through our Evangelical Medical Clinic. It is a great opportunity not only to save the lives of children on the edge, but to share the gospel with the mothers and lift their eyes out of the very deep darkness and profound ignorance that many of them live in. We do wonder how it is that we have managed to spend 25 years here without previously being particularly aware of these kids.

Half Full or Half Empty

No one can live in Africa for any length of time without wondering as to the roots of the grinding poverty that seems to be the perennial lot of this continent. As Diane has delved ever more deeply into the lives of the mothers whose children are so badly malnourished, we have been forced once again to ponder the causes of their misfortune – not as faceless generalities, but as real people. The crux of the question is always this: is their misfortune fundamentally about laziness, or about living conditions which are simply so difficult that any other outcome is impossible. Something of the complexity of the issues at stake is evidenced by our respective opinions on the matter: Mark, who has always contended that they are essentially hard workers against insuperable odds, is detecting more indolence than previously, while Diane, who wasn’t always so sure about their work ethic, is now appreciating just how hard their lives really are. Either way you explain it, this much is clear: a vicious cycle sets in which frequently dooms their infants to a  short life of malnutrition and death.  Perhaps the most distressing part of this phenomena is that many people simply don’t care. When a baby is burning up with a fever, and they have a choice of buying Roundup herbicide for their fields or of getting a malaria treatment for their baby at the clinic, too often it seems Roundup wins out. After all, when it comes to babies “there’s always more where that one came from, and they’re free.”


The new Kwong Bible School facility consists of two classrooms, two offices and a foyer. It has taken much of Mark’s time and has slowed considerably the work of translation.


La Vie with his aunt Mamaya.


The church ladies have been a big help to  Diane  in the distribution the enriched porridge to the malnourished kids..


During the rainy season, which corresponds to summer in the USA, the gardens around our home blossom and become quite attractive.

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