August 2016

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August 23, 2016

Dear family, friends, and supporters;

We are in the midst of our favorite time of year – the rainy season – when the barren landscape of Chad becomes like the garden of Eden. The Kwong are engaged in the back-breaking labor of growing another year’s crops – and are paradoxically happy as larks doing it. Unfortunately, it is also the time of year when sickness and death from typhoid and malaria are only too prevalent. Here, then, is two short vignettes into our lives here in Africa. We think you will find them interesting.

Your fellow servants,   Mark and Diane

Getting ready for the Kwong Bible School

It is fair to say that all of Mark’s activities and much of Diane’s activities are focused on preparing for the opening of the Kwong Bible school next year. Our latest achievement is the researching, writing, and translating of the missing volume 3 of our Kwong “Kingdom of God” theology series. This booklet of 120 pages is entitled “The Kingdom in Israel” and attempts to convey to the Kwong that Israel and her laws are an essential part of God’s redemptive program and that they are a lamp uniquely calibrated to illumine the beauty of the gospel of Christ.

Now that book 3 is finished, we have begun translating an abridgement of “The Reformed Pastor”, written by the Puritan Richard Baxter in 1656. This book is (or was) a warm, passionate volume of instruction for his fellow pastors around the town of Kidderminster in England. In it, he pleads with them to but to be serious about their own spiritual health, and serious about the spiritual health of each member of their flock – messages the Kwong pastors need desperately to hear with all the fervor Baxter brings to the matter.

Besides working long hours with François and Joseph to prepare these materials, Mark and his Chadian tradesmen have finished pouring the floors of the Bible school building and will soon begin work on the roof. All these efforts, and others we haven’t mentioned, have made it clear to us that we should not go the USA for our home assignment in 2017. Now it appears we will stay in Chad another 2 years before returning to the States. Making this decision was actually a tremendous relief. Quite apart from the pressure of preparing for the opening of the Bible school, as the years go by, our attachment to the USA becomes less, and our attachments here become correspondingly greater.

Kingdom and Communion

One of the joys of working on something like a Kwong theology over the course of decades is seeing one’s own theology mature and take shape in new ways. For many years, we have found the “Kingdom to God” to be a useful framework on which to hang everything from the creation in Genesis to the consummation in Revelation. This theme has the additional benefit of being a motif that the Kwong can resonate with in a way that they cannot with, for example, that perennial American favorite found nowhere (but, yes, implied) in the Bible:  “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

But when it came to weaving the Mosaic law into the theme of the Kingdom, it was like fitting the proverbial square peg in a round hole. There was simply no elegant way to combine this enormous wealth of teaching about the sacrifices, the temple, and the feasts with what we had already synthesized over the last 20 years under the rubric of the Kingdom. So it was a rich personal epiphany for Mark to see that locked in the conundrum before him was an entire second rubric of Biblical theology in which hides the uniqueness of the Christian faith over against every competitor: Communion. An infinite, other-worldly deity relentlessly seeks the most improbable communion with mere mortals who have figuratively (and literally) spit in his face. All the prescriptions of the Mosaic law, far from being the onerous imposition they are often portrayed as, were rather  in large measure the gracious ground rules to make this preposterous juxtaposition of  incompatible beings in some limited measure possible. God really wants communion with man. And what a pleasure to see this theme worked out beautifully through the whole of Scripture – beginning with the tabernacle, and thence to the temple, and thence to the Incarnate Christ “who tabernacled among us”, and thence to the indwelling of the Third Person of the Trinitarian Godhead in mortal flesh, and finally to the stupendous climax when, as it is written, “Now is the dwelling of God with men, and he will live with them… and they will see his face.”

So now, at least in English parlance (the Kwong is anything but pithy), our theology is called “Kingdom and Communion,” Kingdom referring to God’s intent to restore his rightful dominion (his God-ness) over all things, and Communion referring to his intent to enjoy, well, communion with mortal men and women. For the time being, at least until another square peg gives us insight into another overarching theme of God’s business in the universe and history, these two words  sum up our teaching of the gospel to the Kwong. And oh yes, come to think of it, the bit about “communion” does sound suspiciously like a “personal relationship.”   


Our cell-phone internet service is slower than dialup used to be. But it works. Checking out the satellite weather pictures (here with our radio engineer David) to predict the weather has become a favorite pastime.


Keeping a dozen or so malnourished babies fed keeps Diane and her helpers pretty busy. Here they are mixing the enriched porridge mix which is the staple food.


For several weeks we have enjoyed giving a new Team missionary Annie Wilson an orientation to life in rural Africa. Diane and Annie put together several special discipleship lessons for the teenage girls of Chageen.


Our surrogate daughter Sylvie whom we kept alive after her mother died giving birth to her last year is now 19 months old. She is turning into quite a precocious little darling. Like all Kwong women, life is just not complete without a baby tied to her back.

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