Mark’s interest in missions dates to his childhood years when his parents hosted many missionaries in their home. By the time he began his undergraduate studies at Northern Illinois University, he fully intended to become a missionary himself. His involvement in Inter-Varisty Christian Fellowship during his college years instilled in him a love for discipleship and evangelism which influenced his choice of TEAM as the mission he would serve with. After spending a year at Trinity Seminary, finishing a master’s degree in linguistics at the University of Texas at Arlington, and doing a year of French study in Quebec, Mark arrived in Chad in 1989. After 2 years of working on a survey of the languages of Chad, he took up residence in the village of Chageen in 1991 and began to learn the Kwong language. He met Diane in 1995 on his airstrip, and married her in 1999. Lord willing, they will spend the remainder of their career with the Kwong in Chageen.
Mark and Diane are the only missionaries to one tribe of about 20,000 people called the Kwong. They do whatever it takes to help the Kwong church grow and mature to the point that it will survive for generations to come.
Mark’s principle ministry is overseeing the translation of the Scriptures into the Kwong language. He works with two Kwong translators, Joseph and François, to exegete the text, think about how best to render it in Kwong idiom, and then to make a translation that is clear and natural to Kwong ears, yet as close in meaning as possible to the original text. To date, they have translated Genesis, many Psalms, Luke, Acts, Colossians, James, 1 Peter, and Revelation. They are beginning the Gospel of John soon.
Besides translation, Mark works with the Kwong pastors and elders to facilitate the spiritual development of Kwong churches. His major contribution to the church in this regard is a collection of 107 discipleship lessons covering redemptive history from Genesis to Revelation. He also oversees the technical aspects of the Kwong FM radio station, as well as some aspects of the management of the Evangelical Clinic of Chageen.
The Kwong people are the last non-Muslim tribe as one moves north through this part of Chad. Their territory is a crescent shaped area some 60 miles long by 30 miles wide lying between the two major rivers of Chad. The gospel first came to the Kwong in a limited way in the late 50’s and 60’s, but it would be the 1980’s before enduring churches took shape. Today, there are about 25 churches and perhaps 800-1000 believers among the 20,000 people who are Kwong. Most of the Kwong still worship the gods of their ancestors, and a part of the tribe has become Muslim. The church’s great need in the 21st century is for trained leadership and a love for the Scriptures. Mark and Diane Vanderkooi have been serving among the Kwong in ministries of Bible Translation, discipleship, literacy, and teaching since 1991.
Primary Prayer Request
Pray that we would render the Scriptures into the Kwong language in a way that is clear and natural to Kwong ears, and is utterly faithful to the original text. Pray that we would discover those rare and precious Kwong vocabulary items and expressions which bring the full power and beauty of the language to bear on the sacred text.