I (Mark) had a notion to do a "10 years ago..." page on the web site here which would have one of our newsletters from 1993. However, 10 years ago Diane was studying Linguistics at Dallas and wasn't doing newsletters, and I was on furlough in Dekalb and my letters from that time aren't particularly interesting reading. If, however, we fudge the 10 years into 11, we come upon one of the first letters Mark wrote from Chageen.
FROM WHEREVER MARK VANDERKOOI IS
the temperature was dropping rapidly as the clouds which had
just disgorged their
contents receded into the east and as the snowplows
set about their
thankless task of extricating us from the winter wonderland.
Inside, we listened
spellbound as Eric Alexander delivered his exposition on the
book of Acts
in his rich Scottish accent, and as Helen Rosevere challenged us with
the personal cost of commitment to the Kingdom of Heaven. We raised our
14 thousand voices as one in praise to the living God - "We are on the
Lord's side, Savior we are thine!"
The curious passer-by would have had the impression, not entirely incorrect,
that we thought we were going to change the world by the sheer
force of our resolve.
It has been ten years since I and my IVCF friends from NIU attended the Urbana '81 Missions Conference, and committed ourselves to foreign missionary service, whatever the cost of that commitment might be to our own wills, physical comfort, and spiritual discipline.
I have fulfilled the commitment, and am living in a relatively
remote African village. I am
the only white person for 40 miles around, am
200 miles from
the nearest telephone,
electricity, running water, and post
office. My principle tasks
are 1: to learn an African tribal language which only one
other westerner (an Italian priest) has ever attempted; 2: to teach the
principles of translation,
which were such a grief for me as a graduate student to learn,
to an assortment
of locals who in God's inscrutable providence have, on
the one hand,
been charged with the responsibility of translating the Bible into
their language, and on the
other, have been equipped with little more than a junior
high-school education to do it; and 3: to expedite in whatever way possible
the evangelization of the tribe.
do not believe that Helen Rosevere's warnings of hardship and appeal for
commitment were misplaced. Far from it.
Across the centuries many of my fellow
missionaries have paid dearly for their testimony. In the last century perhaps 7
out of ten of those who ventured into Africa could count on dying
during their first term. Yet the
survivors called for more workers. That God should guarantee anything better to the servants for
whom he himself suffered and died in
the person of
Jesus would be unreasonable. A servant is not greater than
I believe that I am the proof of the fact that
Providence does not observe
a law of uniformity. Though many of
the factors which should by all accounts make
for a difficult time have been in place, these last four
months of living
in Tchaguine Golo,
have, far from being a time
of hardship, rather ranked
among the happiest and most satisfying days of my life. It is hard to say why
the God who suffered for me, and for whom I was willing to suffer
in return, should,
rather than accept the sacrifice I would offer him,
bless me instead with a task
which is nothing but joy for me to perform. Yet he has
done just that, and I believe that I have tasted some of the joy of the
Psalmist who wrote so many
"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance."
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