Vanderpool Newsletter – Spring 2009
Here it is April and the time to celebrate our Risen Savior. What a privilege to serve a God who sent His only Son to die on the cross to save us from sin and raise Him to life so that we could spend eternity with Him.
As you know, I went to Africa at the end of January and my friend, Sharon Chrisman, traveled with me. We left Orlando loaded with everything that we could pack within the airline weight limits and as much as we could carry on the plane. We were taking items for the Motorcycle Sunday School Missions, a few requests from the bases, sleeping bags and all the personal things we needed.
The purpose of the journey was to visit all of the Sunday Schools that have been started in Zambia and Malawi. Since many of the areas where we are working don’t have any kind of church program for the children/orphans, our Director saw the need to help in this area. We call the program Motorcycle Sunday School Missions, and we have two circuit riders that travel to six Sunday Schools by motorcycle and teach each week at each location. You see, some of the places where we are working are just footpaths and most of the time we can’t get any vehicle in other than a motorcycle. This ministry is based on the concept of the old-time “circuit rider” preacher.
We have 12 Sunday Schools in Zambia and nine Sunday Schools in Malawi. There are usually about 200 children that attend the Sunday Schools. The Sunday School begins with singing, a Bible lesson, memory verse, craft and games. It may sound familiar to what we have here, but for children in Africa it is a whole new learning time. Many are hearing the stories and seeing the pictures for the first time in their lives. They love to color, and they don’t mind coloring on their leg or on the ground if they don’t have a proper table. They are so proud of it when they are finished.
Most recently, in two of the areas where we are working, no school of any kind has been available for the children. Our facilitators, who work at the Orphan Rescue Units, have started a community school. Even though they may not have all the proper tools for teaching, they have been teaching what they can. Did you know that there are children who can’t come to school six months of the year because they can’t cross the river? There isn’t a bridge, and people are dying due to snake bites and malaria because they can’t get across the river to receive medical help. It is difficult to grasp these facts when we live on this side of the world, isn’t it?
Phonics classes are another part of the Sunday School—helping adults and children learn how to read. Our Director saw the need to help with education through a phonics program. At the Summit last year, this was a big part of teaching as well as the Motorcycle Sunday School training. There are adults here who have never had the opportunity to learn to read or write. They have been busy putting their children through school. One lady came to the phonics class and hid her book inside her clothes. She was too ashamed to let anyone know she couldn’t read. Today, she boldly carries her notebook because she has learned to read. There are kids who are 16 and never been to school because they didn’t have school fees, they had to work or, if they could go, the closest school was a three hour walk and that would be just for primary school.
Each week the circuit riders not only have Bible classes, but also spend time teaching phonics to the children and adults. For those children who are able to attend a government school, the teachers are so impressed with the way the children are improving with their reading because of the classes.
We also have a teacher training program for those who want to help teach in the Sunday School and phonics program. As the classes continue to grow, we need more teachers to expand the classes. It is great to think that local men and women are being raised up for teaching. There are chiefs in a couple of the Sunday Schools that are coming to the teacher training classes.
That’s just a little glimpse of the Motorcycle Sunday School ministry.
Our first stop was Malawi. We didn’t travel by motorcycle on this trip, but the base pick-up truck instead. There are three Sunday Schools that are at the Rescue Units. Three Sunday Schools are in areas where we don’t have a Rescue Unit. These Sunday Schools are a bit more challenging as the villages are very strong Yao areas. Two villages are pretty open, but one village in particular is very strong in their witchcraft and there is resistance. But the Lord is opening a door, and the circuit riders are trying to learn the language of Yao. Sometime in August, a newly translated Yao New Testament will be available, but many will need to learn to read and we are ready with the phonics classes to help. Pray for the circuit riders as they learn Yao and for the Lord to break the bondage they are under and see the light of Jesus.
Our next stop was South Africa. We were here only for a few short days but it was good to talk with the coordinators. We hope to be running a Motorcycle Sunday School Circuit there in August. We were able to spend a day just going through the program for starting it South Africa. Right now, the circuit riders are learning how to ride motorcycles so they will be ready to start when they graduate from the BIBLE, MISSIONARY & WORK Training Center (BMW). As part of the BMW student’s outreach, they are beginning Sunday Schools, which will be part of the future circuit.
We were in Zambia the longest. There are 12 circuits here. It was the rainy season and the roads weren’t always so good. Four-wheeler clubs in the States would long for the challenges of the roads we traveled on. The Lord was so good and we were able to visit all the Sunday Schools. At every location, there was an eagerness of the children and adults to learn. Lives can never be the same for these that hear the Word of God and know that Jesus loves them enough to send someone to help them learn.
Uganda was the final country we visited. I was able to visit all of the units including some new ones that have been built since my last visit. We have a Unit that is about a three hour drive by pick-up and then you have to travel by boat two and a half hours. The local fishing village was something to see. The women spread all the fish out on the ground to dry. Birds swoop down to get their meal, children run in and out before the mother tells them to play somewhere else. Women are mending nets and the men are relaxing as they have been out all night fishing. In this village, children must be at least 13 in order to go out fishing. They must be in school, but as I looked around, I’m not sure that is being enforced. It was a great ride. We arrived at the Rescue Unit only to see a few children around. It seems the guardians or parents are afraid for the children to come, as many children are being kidnapped, stolen or killed. It is part of some witchcraft offering. However there are still some children who come. There was a Bible story, games and some food and lots of picture taking. The children and adults are so grateful to Teen Missions for bringing help to their villages.
Returning back to the States, I realize over and over again how thankful I am that the Lord has allowed Teen Missions to help the children and adults in all these different programs. Lives are being changed for the Kingdom of God.
Here in Florida it’s now Boot Camp preparation time. The Big Tops went up this week when a work group came to help. We will be putting Big Top number one up on May 2nd. I will be helping to oversee the Mustard Seed program this year. Mom has been helping me with many of the preparations this year. Barb will come later to help with music.
I will be returning this summer with a team to Zambia. Our project is to help with the Sunday Schools and film a documentary on the Motorcycle Sunday School Mission. I would appreciate your prayers as I write a script for the documentary. I haven’t been working on videos for several years so I will need help getting brushed up on my film-making skills. Next week, I will be learning how to ride a motorcycle. This will also be a new challenge.
I was recently diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes. The doctor says we can get the sugar levels down by tablets but need to work on getting the right dosage. I would appreciate your prayers as we work through the medication.
The Lord is good and I am thankful for the Lord allowing me to serve here at Teen Missions. Many thanks for your financial as well as your prayer support.
Because of Him,