Retrospective 1992-2004

Home   Our Life in Chad

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    

 March 1992

 Outside 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.

Now 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.

I 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  his master.

However,  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 centuries ago:

 "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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Last modified: May 17, 2011