Chad (MNN) — The everyday life of a missionary might not hold much attraction for children in the western world, but for a village in Chad it does. For missionaries with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) Mark and Diane Vanderkooi, God has positioned them perfectly for outreach.
The Vanderkooi's give the village children no food, no money, and nothing more than water from their well or the occasional glass of lemonade from their tree to drink. Still the kids come, day after day.
Lacking anything better to do, children roll out their mats under the shade trees in front of the Vanderkooi's house and sit quietly in the anticipation that sooner or later Mark or Diane will come out the door and entertain the kids with some books to look at, Uno cards to play with, Legos to build, a ball to play soccer, or some words of counsel and encouragement. These kids are the children of Chageen, and the Vanderkooi's are becoming more and more like parents to them.
Why do they come? Of course the Legos, books, ball, and Uno cards are a big attraction. They have nothing remotely comparable in their own homes. But even when they get nothing, they just hang out.
Why? Very simply, the Vanderkooi's home is the one place in the village where the children get a trace of love and attention. It is the one place where an adult looks them in the eye and talks to them. And they can't get enough of it. Some of them started calling Diane the "President"–the closest title they could think of for someone they adore and respect. (Mark, by all accounts, ranks several pegs lower, and is merely "Mark.")
All this is reason to rejoice, say the Vanderkooi's. It is precisely the kind of influence they envisioned seven years ago when they resolved to make the spiritual development of Kwong children a priority. "Surely if we can mold these young minds with the perspective and temperaments of the Spirit of God at an early age, they will be blessed with spiritual advantages that the present generation–steeped as it is in tradition–can only wistfully imagine," the Vanderkooi's report.
Most of the time the Vanderkooi's are so busy with their translation work and other ministries that they don't have time to give the children all the attention they crave. The soccer ball–not to mention Legos–is truly a marvelous invention, but it is a pitiful substitute for the kind eyes and counsel of the "President" or her deputy. "And when they do have time, a bona fide Child Evangelism Fellowship worker would be mortally embarrassed by the pitiful, uncreative nature of what we have to offer them. When Diane's brother, Jon, and sister-in-law were here for a short visit and suggested they make paper airplanes with the kids, they were dumbfounded at the ingenuity and creativity of such a simple suggestion," says Mark.
"We realize that working with kids really isn't our strongest gifting. Still, they come," says Mark. "We bumble along. Never was the ruckus of 20 kids under your office window a greater blessing than it is for us in Chageen."
Pray that God's love would flow through the Vanderkooi's and have a profound impact on the spiritual lives of these kids.