June 2017

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News Update from Mark and Diane Vanderkooi

June 29, 2017

Dear family, friends, and supporters;

During the past few weeks, two milestones have marked our lives – the passing of Diane’s mother after 82 years of life on this earth, and the long awaited arrival of Larry and Jan Gray to help us start the Kwong Bible school. In this short missive, we mark these events.

Your fellow servants,   Mark and Diane

Patricia Anne Stocksdale: 1935 – 2017

On June 9 after 82 years of life Diane’s mother finished her journey on this earth and went to her eternal rest. You may recall that only three months ago, her father made the same journey. On this occasion, Diane was able to make the arduous trip home from Chageen soon enough to say her farewell as the only daughter - a blessing which was withheld from her in the case of her father.

Now Diane and her 3 brothers are in the final stages of saying a poignant goodbye to the family home of 42 years and pretty much everything which was familiar to them. On May 23 an auctioneer liquidated the family estate, and now the family farmstead is on the market. It is a milestone of life which is difficult in the best of circumstances. Passing it in a remote corner of Africa takes the experience to another level. We are grateful for the grace the Lord has shown Diane through it all, and equally appreciative of the all wonderful people of Union City, Indiana who have made this difficult time so much easier.

Larry and Janet Gray

Reinforcements have arrived! For something like a decade we have been asking for people to come join us and help us here in Chageen. Now they have. Larry and Jan Gray first came to Chad in 1982 with their young family in the middle of the civil war, but are now enjoying a well-earned retirement, They arrived a week ago to spend a year with us to help us get the Kwong Bible school going. This school for the training of pastors is our last, best hope for bringing the Kwong church to a level of maturity such that we can reasonably expect it to endure for the generations to come. We realized long ago that with all the other irons we have in our fire, we couldn’t embark on this enterprise without some serious help. In the end, we got simply the best – a couple who already knows Chad, already knows French, and with decades of experience in teaching the Bible in this country. We are so grateful.  (Larry also officiated our wedding.)

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Diane’s parents were both teachers during most of their careers. Their legacy lives on in the hundreds of students they touched across 3 decades.


“Even down to old age, all my people shall prove,

my sovereign eternal unchangeable love.

And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,

like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne”

“K” in Rippon’s Selections, 1787, after Isaiah 46:4.


Quite apart from the melancholy of losing their beloved home, Diane and her brothers are finding that selling the family farmstead is difficult. Union City is a depressed post-industrial town. Even at $85,000 for 3 acres, a well maintained, if old house, large steel barn, and over 40 mature fruit trees within walking distance of the local schools there are no takers so far.


Diane came back to Chageen from her mother’s funeral on the same plane as the Grays. Sylvie (now 2 ˝ years old) was on hand to greet “Mama”.


Mark has been occupied for several months finishing the construction of the Gray’s house a short distance behind our own house in Chageen.

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