Archived Newsletters


These archived editions of our newsletters since we married in 1999 are 
arranged with the oldest first and most recent last.

April 2000 - Diane writes on finishing her thesis as a gift to the Neillim people with whom she worked in her pre-Kwong days.

September 2000 - Mark and Diane reflect on an idyllic life of service among the Kwong. 

Christmas 2000 - Christmas isn't a big deal in Kwongland, but such as it is, Mark tries to make a letter out of it. 

Annual reports 2000 - a, brief, whimsical (and serious) description of our ministry. It was originally prepared for the consumption of our fellow missionaries, but we thought some of the rest of you might enjoy it. 

January 2001 - Diane bemoans the frivolous character of our Kwong church services and Mark makes an appeal for laborers in the swamp.

April 2001 - Mark and Diane share the joys and frustrations of taking the Word of God into the hinterlands of the Kwong.

August 2001 - Mark pontificates on the cultural undercurrents of our recent problems with the translation committee, while Diane shares the challenges and joys of two of the first Kwong ladies to learn to read. 

December 2001 - How do you teach sanctification without aiding and abetting legalism? Mark did his level best to do just that for the Kwong. The Duke and Duchess of Chageen take center stage as Diane tells the story of some of our friends in the village. 

May 2002 - Missionary work in Africa is full of ironies. In this newsletter a pagan chief welcomes the gospel while  a Protestant pastor shows contempt for the discipleship classes we offer his parishioners. Also, on the back page, we describe the work which awaits us in N'Djamena for the coming 12 months while our regular administrator takes his furlough. 

December 2002 - Living and working in Chad forces us as missionaries to come to grips with the more unpleasant, but very Biblical realities of the Kingdom of God which life in America conveniently obscures. In this issue, we consider one of these realities - the remnant principle, or, if you prefer, the "blessed are the meek" principle.  On the back page, we bring you up to date on some recent news - from N'Djamena and Chageen. 

May 2003 -  Mark applied for the FM radio license on a whim and hardly expected or cared if he got it. He did get it - in record time - and now with a virtual monopoly of the Kwongland airwaves we are looking to broaden the appeal we make to the Kwong for the Gospel. Meanwhile, back in N'Djamena our year of administrative duty has been completely overshadowed by the discovery of 5 years of embezzlement by a trusted employee.

September 2003 - We had a rough year in N'Djamena, but we didn't have to think very hard to count many blessings from the time we spent there. In this month's letter, we share some of the very positive outcomes of this experience. 

December 2003- People who spend too much time meditating on their legacy get themselves into trouble - usually of the megalomania sort. In this letter, however, we dare to tread these treacherous shoals, in the hope that by doing so, we will, as the sage put it, "number our days and gain a heart of wisdom."

March 2004 - The real struggles of missionary life seldom have anything to do with the heat, flies, and harassment that come with living in a poor African country. The real struggles come from finding that the very people to whom God has sent you are often little inclined to cooperate with you or God in the missionary endeavor. In this letter, Diane shares the travails of her ministry among Kwong women. 

September 2004 - Being a missionary is a call to stepping outside out customary roles, going beyond one's training, taking risks that are uncomfortable, and being, in effect, all things to all men.. In this letter we share some of the many roles we have been compelled to play, both on the field and at home.

December 2004 -  After years of anticipation - and not a few second thoughts as the true complexity of the project became apparent - it is finally "show time" for the construction of the radio station at Chageen - and it will quite literally be a miracle when it all comes together. As Mark and Diane return to Chad to build the station, they share their hopes, and appeal for prayer.

April 2005 - We would have been happy with a purely functional radio station. Instead, the Lord gave us a station which is aesthetically pleasing, and which we never imagined could be built with as few complications as turned out to be the case. In this letter we share our joy at the completion of FM 95.2 in Chageen, and the recruitment of a fine gentleman to run it. 

February 2006 - We make our plans the best we can, we hope for the best, and then God has a way of doing what is best in His councils. Such has been our experience with FM 95.2 In this newsletter we first consider the new realities of the radio station, and then Diane dusts off a three year-old newsletter to take a walk through the village of Chageen. 

July 2006 - As with so much of life, be it in the USA or in Chad, the people we work and our relationships with them do much to define the seasons of our lives. In this letter, we pay tribute to two Kwong men who have made life a lot easier for us in recent months through their sterling character and dedication to the work of ministry. Then, on the Flip Side we consider some of the unexpected - and pleasing -  knock-on effects of the radio station.

October 2006 Wealth brings responsibility, and as by far the wealthiest people in Kwongland, we can hardly ignore the suffering around us. In this letter we look at the conundrum we face when as much as anything, suffering is the result of foolishness. Then on the Flip Side we discuss briefly our answer to the conundrum, some unexpected fruits of the radio station, and the fact that our translation project is on ice for the time being.  

February 2007 There is a pathos and brutality about life in Africa. In this letter we share a short vignette of a situation which struck us close to home. On the Flip Side we share our vision for a Kwong church will will endure for the generations to come and what such a vision entails for us today.

May 2007 Nothing in Africa endures forever. The continent is littered with monuments to a missionary or development worker's dream-gone-sour. Some day, the Voice of Chageen will fall silent and become, as it were, a mute monument to the Vanderkoois. On the occasion of the dedication of the radio station, Mark acknowledges as much and challenges his hearers to head the words of the gospel while they yet have it. On the Flip Side, we describe another dream-gone-sour which had, at the time it was written, terrible ramifications for health care in Chageen. 

October 2007  Where is a new generation of missionaries? We can't help but wonder. They say that Gen-X and Y want to "do something with their life". In this letter Mark and Diane observe that a life-time of missionary service has been (at least for them) one of the most honorable, fulfilling, history-making callings there is, even if it does come with a price. On the Flip Side, we tell of the revival of the Chageen clinic ... and one of the horrifying hazards of living in Chageen.

January 2008 Language is one of the most beautiful and powerful things on the planet. Every langauge has its strengths, and its weaknesses. Even the weaknesses of a language can do much to shed light and beauty on tired, overworked notions such as hope. In this letter, we see just how such a thing can happen. 

July 2008 - This special edition of our newsletter was a 16 page full-color review of our ministry from November 2005 to April 2008. It is here downloadable only in PDF format - 960kb. 

October 2008 - Three of our colleagues were killed this summer in Chad - victims of a speeding bus which crushed them in their car. In this letter, we contemplate the theology it would take to make sense out of their apparently senseless death.

March 2009 - One of the most common questions we are asked when we are at home is "What is a typical day like?" In this letter, Diane describes just such a day - typical, that is, in that nothing in the day was predictable.

May 2009 - News Update

July 2009 - News Update

October 2009 - News Update

October 2009 - Praying missionary prayers isn't easy sometimes. One feels like he or she is saying the same thing over and over again. In this letter, we reflect on this in the light of Jesus parable of the persistent widow. 

March 2010 - News Update

April 2010 - We work with a tribe, but we also work with real people - each one of whom has a different story to tell. In this letter, we tell the story of a man and his father and of the Christ who called them both to himself. Then, on the flip side, we tell a couple stories which show that translation isn't always the straight forward thing you might think it to be. 

May 2010 - Special prayer bulletin for trip to Mobou to install radio repeaters.

May 2010 - Update after trip to Mobou to install radio repeaters.

August 2010 - News Update

October 2010 - In an effort to commiserate with the hard lives the Kwong live, Diane performed an experiment in Kwong agricultural economics. In this letter, she presents the rather sobering results of what became known as "the peanut project". 

December 2010 News Update 

February 2010 News letter - Mark explains why something he never thought he would do - be ordained as a minster - was a good idea at this point in our ministry among the Kwong.

May 2011 News Update - Announcing departure for 7th term

June 2011 News Update - Arrival back in Chageen after furlough and vignettes of life in Africa 

August 2011 News Update - Accounting, telephones and Translation

October 2011 Newsletter - In this newsletter, Mark observes the seismic shifts of the last 30 years which have shaken the word of missions and argues that the proverbial pendulum of missiological thought has swung to an unsustainable extreme. On the Flip Side we introduce our translators, their extraordinary talent, and yes, their foibles. 

December 2011 News Update - Baptisms are an important part of any church's life. In this letter, we recount the excitement of a baptismal service at which a swarm of killer bees also showed up.

February 4, 2012 news update - Discipleship, translation, and ministry to nomads 

February 22, 2012 news update - Report of a trip to Mobou and recording ecclesiastical history

June 2012 news update - Kawalke and a Kwong church in N'Djamena

July 2012 news update - Translating Revelation, unneccessary deaths, and a great clinic

October 2012 Newsletter - Mark ponders the significance of the dark Providence entailed in preaching to resistant peoples.

October 2012 News Update - Diane records the book of Acts for radio, Mark writes copious footnotes, and that wonderfully reliable crop the Kwong grow called "tumo".

January 2013 News update - In part 1 of our essay concerning our ministry to children, we rejoice in the joyfull rucus under our office windows. 

March 2013 News update - In part 2 of our essay concerning our ministry to children, we despair of the way Satan has so twisted the Kwong idea of child raising.

June 2013 News update - "In the beginning was the Word..."  The travails of translating the Gospel of John. Also, Diane finds unexpected opportunity to exercise her gifts of counselling among the Kwong.

July 2013 News update - The unncessary death of two precious souls underline a deeper problem in Kwong society.

October 2013 Newsletter - Why is Africa always so bad off? In this newsletter essay, we explore some of the more profound reasons why. 

November 2013 News update - A trip to Turkey where we we stretched our minds as well as our legs is the subject of this update

December 2013 News update - The death of our dear friend Capitaine, keeping the qaulity of our translation up, and our annual conference are the subject of this update.

January 2014 News update - Evangelism campaigns in Chad get a bad rap by the missionaries, but we found out that they accomplish a great deal of good.

February 2014 News update - Our colleagues Ken and Beth need to leave the field for health reasons. That means extra work for us and the rest of the field.

April 2014 News update - Farewell to Chageen and hello USA

June 2014 News update - A note while we are home on furlough

October 2014 - Preparing to return to Chad

December 2014 - Raising the last bit of money for the N'Djamena facility

Janaury 2015 - Interns, ministry, and a new nameless baby

March 2015 - A new pastor and Sylvie gets a name

April 2015 - Death in Chageen

June 2015 - Sylvie, translation, and haute cuisine in Chageen

July 2015 - The stories of 5 babies 

October 2015 - Volume 3, Orphans, and grinding poverty

November 2015 - Essay "In search of a mission station"

January 2016 - Christmas in the USA, translation, and finding students for the Bible school

March 2016 News update - Travelling through the hinterlands of Kwongland to promote the Bible school 

June 2016 News update - Working at the N'Djamena center 

August 2016 news update - Getting ready for the Bible school, Kingdom and Communion

October 2016 news update - A report of the malnoutrition program one year on

January 2017 news update - The seasons of life in Union City

February 2017 news update and essay - Finished the Bible school building and Essay:Missing the poor

April 2017 news update - Saying farewell to Diane's dad and finalizing 1 Corinthians 

June 2017 news update - saying farewell to Diane's mother and welcoming the Grays

August 2017 news update - Opening the Kwong Bible school, and a legacy of two books.

September 2017 - Essay on death in Kwongland

January 2018 - The death of our chief 

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Last modified: January 23, 2018