How do you stimulate spiritual growth among 8,000 poverty-stricken, illiterate women in small, remote villages? TEAM missionary Diane Vanderkooi faces that challenge in her work among the Kwong women in Chad, Africa.
Early on, Vanderkooi thought literacy was the answer so that the women would have the means to study the Word of God themselves. Reading, however, is virtually impossible for women who’ve never darkened the door of a school nor held a pencil in their hands. Vanderkooi saw that the learning curve of reading was just too steep for them to teach anything more complicated than a “wordless book” full of colors to tell a story. And these ladies needed Spiritual food as soon as possible. They couldn’t wait five to ten years until they could read.
So, Vanderkooi turned her efforts toward discipling women, in the hope that they could teach the Word of God authoritatively and coherently to other women. Radio has opened the greatest opportunities for Kwong women to learn and teach the Bible to their own people. During the past six years, spiritually maturing women have taught more than 60 radio Bible classes. How, you might ask, when they can’t read? Vanderkooi literally put the words in their mouths. She reads a prepared lesson in the Kwong language and the women repeat it verbatim, adding proper tones and rhythms that make it sound truly Kwong. Then, with the help of digital audio editing software, Vanderkooi makes it sound like the women are “reading” Scripture fluently and instructing as authoritative Bible teachers.
An additional challenge is enabling the other 8,000 Kwong women to hear these teachings. Radios, in general, belong to men, and since men and women, even married ones, are rarely in the same hut in Kwong society, very few women ever had the chance to hear the lessons. A Canadian ministry named Galcom offered a solution by providing inexpensive, single-frequency radios to Kwong women at a subsidized cost. This has given many women the possibility of owning a radio and hearing God’s Word for themselves.
The obstacles to spiritual development of Kwong women are numerous – illiteracy, poverty, shame and intimidation, the role of women in the society, lies of Satan, apathy, and spiritual immaturity. But these obstacles are being overcome as Kwong women have the opportunity to hear God’s Word and to grow spiritually. It has been a joy to see a spiritual awakening that was never given vent before.
-Written by Diane Vanderkooi
-Photos provided by Diane Vanderkooi