Thursday, December 8, 2016

Unity in a divided world


Lampedusa CrossDarash, our Anuak priest for St Barnabas Church Gambella, is a good story-teller.

Recently, his sermon focused on a story of three bulls; One red, one black and one white. “They loved each other as brothers, and together were strong. When the enemy looked at them, he knew that he could not prevail against them. So when night came, he secretly went to the black and to the red one. He told them that the white bull was the problem.  He told them that if they stayed together with the white bull, then an enemy might see them and might attack. They must reject the white bull in order to be safe. They listened to fear and drove the white bull away. When the enemy saw the white bull alone and vulnerable, he came and killed it, and ate. After a while, the enemy became hungry for more. He went to the black bull and said, ‘You are the good one, but the red is not. If you stay with the red bull, an enemy might see you and attack. You must reject the red bull.’  The black bull drove the red bull away, thinking, ‘now I will be safe.’ When the enemy saw the red bull alone, he came and killed it and ate. And then he did the same with the black.”

Darash concluded with a prayer for unity. “If we pray for peace, then we will have peace. If we love one another, we will have peace. We are to love Nuer and Anuak, Opo and Mezhenger, Mabaan and Highlander. As we love one another, we show the love of Jesus to the world around us.”


Darash’s sermon on unity points to the sad reality that our world is full of division - politically, culturally, ethnically, linguistically. We more often see our differences as curses instead of blessings, as reasons to fight rather than as opportunities to learn.

This is true as much in the church as anywhere else. Christians are divided. Some divisions have long and complex histories. Many stem from a right desire to honour and live the truth. Others are just petty. Sorting out which is which is no easy task. I have recently been given the opportunity to be involved in two initiatives which seek to find common ground between Christians and to learn to live and work together.

ILARCCUM Gathering

The first is called IARCCUM - the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission. IARCCUM’s task was not to hold another theological forum to sort out what issues unite or divide us but rather to explore how we could witness to Christ together; to point to the love God seen in the saving work of Christ, proclaimed and lived by the church in the power of the Spirit.

There were many profound and moving moments at the IARCCUM meetings but none more meaningful perhaps than at the vespers service at the church of St Gregory in Rome. (Gregory, by the way, was the Pope who send St Augustine of Canterbury to evangelise the British Isles.) During this service Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin blessed and commissioned the nineteen pairs of bishops to go out into the world together to witness and live for Christ.

At the moment of commissioning we were each given a cross. These were no ordinary crosses - they were Lampedusa crosses. Lampedusa is an island belonging to Italy, the closest bit of Europe to the African continent. Small boats filled (or overfilled) with refugees leave Tunisia or Libya and head for Lampedusa. Many of these boats don’t make it. Many refugees, most from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan, drown attempting the voyage. Moved by the plight of these migrants a Lampedusa carpenter began fashioning crosses from the wood of refugee boats that washed up on the beaches of the island. Each of the IARCCUM bishops received one of these simple, rough crosses, most still covered in the cracked paint or bits of grease which betrayed their origins. These gifts emphasised for us that our ecumenism is not simply a matter of doctrine - no matter how important theological truth is - our ecumenism is an ecumenism of bearing witness to the cross of Jesus and walking in his way with those who suffer in this world.

Back in Addis, I was then privileged to be a part of the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative, a dialogue between Orthodox and evangelical Christians. The presence of Ethiopian Orthodox at this gathering was extremely significant as both Orthodox and protestants acknowledged and looked beyond past prejudices to focus on the abundant opportunities for our different churches to pray and work together.

For me these events were signs of hope in the midst of the mistrust, despair, fear and violence of a world which seems more and more divided.

+Grant

Mothers’ Union together across cultures

           Anuak and Nuer Embrace


“I am thankful for the opportunity to get to know Nuer sisters; sisters in Lare; sisters in Jikwo…Now I have many Nuer sisters who I love, and it is very good. When I was sent to Dimma, I was scared to go, and I didn’t know anyone. But now… I have many sisters there too. Every Saturday is dedicated to the health program… We taught clean water, Moringa, clean dishes: this is a very big change in our community. Before the teaching, we were sleeping with mosquitos, and with skin diseases. Now this has changed. It remains to go to the people and ask them to open their hearts. You have created many teachers who will go out and teach the community…”    
Achua Obang, Anuak, Gambella
 

For the past three years, it has been a privilege to teach women how to teach one another biblical truth, prayer, and health - both prevention and treatment. We held our last ‘Gambella Anglican Centre’-d training session in September, and began the  transition into a fully African-led “Local Training Program”. Here is what the women had to say at the final session of the “Leadership Training Program (Phase I):

“Through this program we feel like we have come alive… We were living with many difficulties, suffering a lot, with many sicknesses in our communities. Many children were dying because of these sicknesses, and people were wondering, “why these diseases?” We came here and got teaching. We never thought such a big change would come. Now we go to villages and take the teachings to the community and we are well received. People like it very much.”  
Cham Ojur Pur, Anuak, Gambella

“We have learned how to make clean water, and how to teach the mothers good ‘life skills’. We put this into practice in our own families. When we are visiting …we share with others what we have learned. More and more women are learning. We know how to care for ourselves and we feel pride. This is the first opportunity to learn that has come to our area.”    
Sarah Nyabuony, Nuer, Gambella

“The love of God has made us willing to speak with white people, even though we have no language with them! Before in the villages, there were no toilets, and no place to shower. Now we shower, and toilets have been made - not just going behind the house. Moringa: people were not aware of it, but people now use, even  it is added to porridge for the young children. Now if we have diarrhea, we give Moringa tea, and we see that the time to healing is made short.The children with wounds on their legs - they took a long time to heal. Now we are taught how to clean the wounds. Now we are not seeing so many wounds. We know how to make healing ointment out of oil and candles. And now we are using this for shampoo as well as for soothing skin. The women are happy because this saves money. We no longer have to go to the market to buy shampoo! …We give thanks in the name of Jesus for bringing together Anuak, Nuer and Opo.”      
Sarah Nyadeng, Nuer, Lare

“We are building people up… and it is like giving sight to the blind. Now we know how to take care of burns by putting into cool water. We had no previous knowledge of this. It is very helpful to the community. We have learned about safe cooking fires. We keep them away from children, not to easily reach. Now we have lots of learning tools to help each other, for example, applying papaya fruit to burns. Thank you for caring for us.”   
Mary Nyabiel, Nuer, Pinyudu

“Sharing of knowledge is the best thing. In the beginning it was only Awilli from Abobo who was teaching there, going to seven different churches. One church was 2 days journey on foot. Now are many who teach in Abobo. With Moringa we have seen very big miracles. Two young children were about to die from diarrhea. Moringa tea was given to them. They were saved. When I would go to Thenyi, there was an old man who had a very big wound for several years. We put Papaya on the wound, and it was healed. In Abobo town, one person was burned. He was going to the clinic, but it was only getting worse.  We made the healing ointment … and put it on the wound twice a day. It was healed. When we go to different villages we see people getting water from the pump. They were washing clothes and emptying the water right by it. They did not use a toilet but would go near the pump. We taught that it was not good to have dirty washing water and waste products near to the hand pump. Now the area around the pump is kept very clean.”       
Awilli Aballa, Anuak, Abobo
Mothers' Union Graduate

“It was a very big and great plan from God who brought people from far away to live and learn together. Most of the points said by my sisters are all correct and I agree. Especially Moringa. Every home has Moringa - no one has to go to borrow. I ask all my sisters and brothers to pray for all my people. Now children are healthy. We know how to protect them from many different diseases”.      
Mary Nyalam, Opo, Wonkay

“I have shared with others what I have learned. Now we have become God’s doctors  for the community. The teaching helps the community - the children, the elders, everyone… Now we can help with the needs there. We have learned to put Neem twigs in the cooking fire, and rub Neem leaves into the skin. This keeps the mosquitos away.”    
Apap Oman, Anuak, Gambella

“Let one help carry the bundle of the other. We have learned many good things which have helped to decrease infection. In South Sudan, there are very big problems. I beg your prayers for South Sudan, that God could make a way to bring people back.”          
Mary Nyakong, Nuer, Akule 2 Refugee Camp  


Johann and Louise Vander der Bijl
for Johann and Louis

We give thanks

We give thanks for Johann and Louise Van er Bijl, now leaving Gambella for medical reasons. Johann told us of their farewell gift from St Barnabas Church. Apparently there was much discussion about this. Finally it was settled that they would receive an Ostrich egg. This, they were told, was because Johann was like the Ostrich. What was it? It could not fly. It looks like a bird, but it acts like an animal. Now Johann “looks like a white person, but he acts like an African!!” 
                                    

Prayers of Thanksgiving:

For the new deacons and priest to be ordained at the Area Assembly November 24th, 2016

For Archbishop Mouneer and the diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, that it will be allowed to keep their property and churches

For the Mothers’ Union as they begin a new phase of ministry in the Local Training Program and especially for Rebecca Nyater, our new MU coordinator for the Nuer

For those who gave towards the new bicycles given to our pastors


Rev. Simon Kerr on his new bicycle
Rev Simon Kerr with his new bicycle.



 

Please pray with us

For God’s blessing on the choice of a new dean for St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College
 
With thanksgiving as we explore new partnerships in Kenya and in Djibouti
 
For open doors to ministry in Southern Ethiopia, Djibouti, Addis, and Somaliland
 

For the new refugees that continue to flood into the Gambella region (60,000 per month) 

 
 

Monday, August 22, 2016


Gambella Moments



Peter’s Story:
“I came to Jesus through a dream,” Peter said. I leaned forward to listen, thankful for the privilege of hearing the life stories of those who had come to our Discernment Conference. Peter Ojulu is a lay pastor from Akobo, seeking to discern a call to ordained ministry.This is his story:
“Someone came to me in a dream, and told me to go to church,” he said. “I woke up. It was Sunday morning. I went to church and found that they were having a conference. At the conference they read Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all who labour and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”  I felt like God was talking to me. The words entered into my heart like dew. I decided to follow Jesus. Later I had another dream. In my dream, I saw God giving me medicine. When I decided to follow Jesus, I gave up going to witch doctors. For eight years I had been going to witch doctors, trying to get help for the pain in my legs [knees]. Nothing had helped. After my dream, the pain stopped. Not all at once, but slowly by slowly.”

Discernment Conference Gambella, June 30th-July 2nd


Here’s another story I heard that week, not from a perspective ordinand, but from one of those interviewing:
“We were having an amazing time of healing prayer during the service. All of a sudden a scream tore through the worship. The depth and the agony was unlike anything I had heard before. It seemed to come from something deeper than the woman herself. She went completely rigid and still. I went over thinking, ‘I’d better pray for deliverance.’ On my way, to my surprise, these words came to mind with quiet clarity, ‘This is the cry of the ancestor’s blood.’ Since the beginning of the ethnic violence in Gambella we had been teaching from the book of Hebrews, “The blood of Jesus speaks a louder word than the blood of Abel.” [Hebrews 12:24]  In a culture where blood and honour cry out for revenge, there is a better word. The cry of anguish and pain that once gave rise to a cry for revenge, was now taken up into the compassion and forgiving love of a Saviour. So as I went up to the woman, I just quietly prayed that the blood of Jesus would cover her and bless her. Peace came. Later in the service I saw her dancing. Her face was radiant.”


This past Sunday [August 14th] we set out for the village of Abari. With Darash, our Anuak priest and Regional Dean, we were going to visit the first church of the Mezhenger people, planted by the Anuak congregation of Abobo.  The road presented us with a few challenges. About half way there, we were challenged by a young male lion who stood determinedly in the middle of the road. He was not going to yield his territory! We stopped to take a photo while he stood there in majestic defiance. It was only as we restarted the car, as the engine roared back to life, and we began to move towards him, that he must have decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and loped away ahead of us until disappearing into the impenetrable grass growing alongside the road.

You...shall...NOT...Pass!
I think the lion thought our car roared at him when we restarted our engines



Here and there baboons sauntered lazily off the road, birds flashed by - scarlet, blue, yellow, glossy black. We drove by a couple of crowned cranes, their crowns glinting golden in the sun. It was a very African drive. The road grew narrower and narrower. Finally we were snaking along in the mud, brushing through eight foot high elephant grass on either side of us, the raindrops on the grass glistening in the early morning sun, until it was as if we were driving through some sort of eco car wash.

Eventually, the mud got the better of us, and the car, sinking down to its axels, became stuck fast. When efforts at digging us out seemed to fail, we decided to continue on foot. After all, the church ‘was only five minutes away’. Of course, it was an Anuak five minutes. Walking along, enjoying the wild beauty of our surroundings, I began to feel very African. Half an hour later, we came upon the incongruous sight of a cell tower. Undaunted, I continued on in my African safari mode, senses stretched out and attuned to the sights and sounds of what now seemed a sun-drenched  jungle. Ahead, Darash  stopped. “The vehicle is coming!” he said. He had heard it. Alas, my finely-tuned senses not withstanding, I didn’t hear a thing. Apparently my hearing was not as African as I had fondly imagined.  Muddy but triumphant, our car pulled up, and once back inside, we drove the rest of the (let’s face it, a lot more than) five minute journey to the Mezhenger church. 

Mezhenger church and home-made pulpit

Quickly learning the Mezhenger greeting, “Digoya bongeh!” we greeted the people. Malchias, our Mezhenger lay pastor, took out a lute-like stringed instrument, and, and for the first time, we joined the Mezhenger in worship.  Their beautiful lilting melodies, sung in the African five tone scale, were truly delightful. They were just as delighted at the deeper, more rhythmic Anuak hymns sung by Darash and Omot (the lay pastor of Abobo who had joined us on the way).

Mezhenger Worship



After a simple service, we drove back through swirling clouds of butterflies and stopped and briefly joined in the worship at the Anuak church of Tiersiru, one of the satellite churches of the Abobo Mission Centre. There is was Grant’s privilege to give the church a name, “St Mark’s Anglican Church” of Tiersiru.  After questioning the St Frumentius’ students about the apostle Mark during their examinations for the African Early Church History intensive, St Mark seemed an appropriate name!

Our final stop of the morning was in Abobo town, and there a lunch of freshly caught nile perch, roasted over charcoal, awaited us, lovingly prepared by Awilli, one of our Mothers’ Union leaders, together with the women of Bethlehem Church, Abobo. It was a good morning!

                                                                                   First day in Addis.

We are delighted to welcome theologians Chris and Suzy Wilson as our newest faculty members of St Frumentius’ ATC, together with their children Abigail and Matthew. Please join us in praying for God’s blessing on their settling into life in Gambella.


 ~ Please Pray with us ~

Please pray for the first year and second year students of St Frumentius' Anglican Theological College.

Please pray for Johann Vanderbijl, our beloved dean, and for Louise, our librarian.

Please pray for continuing peace and unity among the peoples of the Gambella region.

Please  pray for peace and unity among the Amhara, Oroma and Tigray peoples of Ethiopia.

Thank you to all who responded to the needs generated by the recent crisis of ethnic violence in Gambella. Those who wish to contribute to these ongoing needs, please see donate now link above.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Journey to Peace

“I had a dream,” she explained. The lovely Anuak woman stood before UN officials asking for permission to go to the Nuer in Pinyudu Refugee Camp. Denied permission, she went home and that night dreamt again, dreaming that God told her to go and speak peace to the Nuer. The next day she was not to be denied by any human force and, once in the camp, made her way to one of our 12 Nuer Anglican churches. There she was warmly welcomed. She is one of a growing number in Gambella who are saying, “In God’s eyes, we are all brothers and sisters.” In the aftermath of ethnic violence, peace between Nuer, Anuak and Highlanders is a journey of courage and obedience. 
Early in the morning of April 15th, Murle cattle raiders from South Sudan crossed into the Gambella region of Ethiopia. They killed over 200 people, mostly the mothers of young children, and abducted between 100 to 150 children as well as a few young women and thousands of cattle. Cooperation between the Ethiopian army, the South Sudanese government and a Murle chief of South Sudan has been responsible for the recovery of many of these children. Our Mothers’ Union Coordinator, Sarah Nyabuony is now part of the team in Gambella living with and caring for the rescued children. To date, more than 70 children have been found and returned, staying first in Gambella’s Presidential guest house before being returned to extended family and neighbors in the surrounding villages.
“Slowly by slowly” peace is returning. Our ‘town’ priests Darash (Anuak) and Peter (Nuer) together went to the Gambella Hospital to visit the victims of Murle violence. In response to a government request for donations for the victims, Darash and Peter brought some money to give away. They also brought prayer. Most just wanted the prayer. 
Some weeks ago a group of young Nuer high school students were walking from Pinyudu to Gambella to write their high school exams (buses were not running because of the violence). They were  beaten and waylaid by a group of highlanders. A week later  another group of young Nuer walking to write exams in Gambella town experienced a different reception. They were welcomed part way through their journey by some Anuak in Abobo town who fed them, gave them something to drink and saw them safely on their way. 
When the violence began in Gambella town, it was some highlanders who were the ones to offer shelter and help. Wilson, one of our Anuak priests, while running to find and rescue his family, himself ran into danger and was taken into safety by highlanders. Like shafts of sunlight breaking through the clouds, we are seeing acts of kindness bring light and warmth to the relationships in this area.
Witnessing the reunion of our Anuak and Nuer staff and clergy at the Gambella Anglican Centre brought us a joy that was almost painful. Yesterday, our 3 Mothers’ Union coordinators Achua, Sarah and Sarah together with facilitators Isaac and Darash, met on our compound for the first time since January. Their eyes were bright with joy and with tears. For two weeks our Nuer staff have been driven through Anuak territory to bring them to work. Now a couple of them have dared to walk here on their own. “Slowly by slowly” hope is growing.
Our churches have begun the process of assessing and responding to the needs of those affected by the recent violence. The first load of donated clothes has been brought to Lare where many of the victims of the Murle raid are located. Throughout the whole Gambella region, our clergy and lay readers have been collecting the names of those whose houses were burned or looted. Help is now being channeled to those most in need, especially to those in need of food and clothing. Thank you to all those whose prayers and contributions to our Samaritan Fund have made it possible to bless those so desperately in need of hope and restoration.
Peace in Gambella is a journey undergirded by prayer. Even in the midst of all the turmoil, we continue to see the growth of new congregations. This week I learned of a new Mabaan church in Tongo as well as a new church in Jewi Refugee camp. Darash, our Anuak Regional Dean, recently baptized 153 people in Dimma. There he learned that there are Murle who are asking to become Anglicans! 
We thank God for the peoples of the Gambella Region whose rich ethnic diversity will one day be a part of the ‘treasures brought by the nations’ to the New Jerusalem.  (Rev. 21:24; NAB)
Woman of Peace

~ Please Pray with us ~


Peace in the Gambella People's Region remains fragile. Please pray for the witness of forgiveness, respect and compassion to continue to grow in our churches and communities.

Please pray for our ordination discernment conference to be held June 30th

Please pray for the selection of our new incoming class for St Frumentius' Anglican Theological College, and for God's blessings on our 2nd year students

Please pray for Johann and Louise Van der Bijl. Johann is dean of St Frumentius' Anglican Theological College.

We give thanks for Karen Salmon, our wonderful professor of biblical studies who is leaving us to pursue ordination in the Anglican Church of Ireland.

Please pray for Chris and Suzie Wilson who will be joining us as new faculty for St Frumentius Anglican Theological College in September.

Please pray for Jeremiah Maet Paul, our Nuer professor of African Traditional Religion and Islamic studies.

We give thanks for the completion of 2 new faculty houses, the completion of the St Frumentius chapel, and the ongoing work of construction including the building of a new classroom and the completion of the security wall

Please pray for "good rain" and a cessation of the flooding now occurring in the beginning of rainy season

 
Clothes on their way to Lar



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

More Sorrow

As I drove through the town of Itang, little seemed amiss. Luke, our deacon in this area, asked me to stop. “We can walk from here,” he said. As I got out of the vehicle the smell of burnt wood struck me. A hundred feet or so past where we parked we came around a corner - nothing but charred wood and ashes - more than 200 homes gone in one night. Our Anglican church was still standing - perhaps the attackers here had a sense of the fear of God that led them to spare that one building. If only they knew that the people they attacked were made in God’s image and more precious to Him than any building.

2016 has been a difficult year for Gambella - and it is only April.

The refugee crisis

Two years of civil war in South Sudan has brought 300,000 refugees into Gambella, roughly doubling the population of the region. The increased population has resulted in many stresses on the resources of an already fragile social system. Water, electricity, internet service have all been in short supply. Although Gambella is not densely populated, access to arable land and to river water for the needs of agriculture, animals and humans is becoming more and more contested. 

The Anuak-Nuer conflict

Perhaps the most important challenge, however, has been the change in the ethnic make up of the region. The Anuak, for generations the majority people group in Gambella, are now vastly outnumbered due to the influx of refugees fleeing the conflict in neighbouring South Sudan, almost all of whom are Nuer. Tension resulting from different views and uses of land has once more sparked conflict. The Anuak, as well as hunting and fishing, are more settled in the land, planting crops and having a sense of ownership of the land they till. The Nuer, are traditionally nomadic cattle herders who drive their cattle through all land; the land that they believe belongs to God and is therefore free for their use. 

At the end of January this tension became violent. The details of the fighting are vague and under-reported, but the short version is that a few dozen people were killed, many injured, and hundreds of homes burned and looted. Some of the Nuer and Anuak youth actually looted the villages of their own people who fled from fear of violence. The town and region are still filled with anxiety two months later. Nuer cannot safely travel into Anuak areas and Anuak are afraid to enter Nuer enclaves. The Federal Police and Army are seeking to keep order, but violence has flared up in several places.

Our church life has been deeply affected. Our theological students (five Nuer and five Anuak) must have classes in separate places for now. Travel to some places is too dangerous and many people are stranded away from home and are being cared for by church members and family. Some are running out of food or the ability to purchase more.

If these troubles weren’t devastating enough, bad turned to worse in mid-April.

The Murle attacks

Early on the morning of April 15th, large, heavily armed groups of Murle people crossed into Ethiopia from South Sudan. The Murle have had a long history of raiding the cattle of neighbouring ethnic groups, killing any who stand in their way (or happen to be in the wrong place) and kidnapping children who are then assimilated into their people. The reports were truly horrific. Young Murle men with automatic weapons killing indiscriminately in the areas of Lare, Jikwao and Nininyang - all places where we have Anglican churches.  The first reports said 140 Nuer people, mostly women and children, were dead. The death toll went up steadily - 160, 182. It is now being reported that 208 have died, at least 82 treated for bullet wounds in the Gambella hospital (others have been moved to hospitals in Metu and Jimma), as many as 108 women and children have been abducted. 

David Yao Yao, a former Murle politician turned cattle rider has denied responsibility. He did claim (truly enough) that the war in South Sudan (mostly between Dinka and Nuer, although this is an over-simplification) has so destabilized the eastern regions of South Sudan that the area is virtually lawless. It seems that it was only a matter of time before the chaos ensued. The Ethiopian government and the South Sudan government have said they will work together to track down the perpetrators of this brutality and rescue those abducted. We will see. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia declared two days of mourning.

The only good news is that the rains have started - it is harder to raid cattle in the rain, so this event might not be repeated (this year).

These overlapping tragedies of civil war and the massive influx of refugees, the ethnic violence over land between the Anuak and Nuer, and now these appalling Murle raids have left our people feeling raw and fearful.

Jewi camp 

Just a couple of days after the Murle attacks, a truck owned by an NGO and driven by a “highlander” drove into Jewi Refugee camp just a few miles outside of Gambella town. ‘Highlander’ is the name given to non-Gambellan Ethiopians - Amharas, Tigrayans, Oromos and others - who are lighter skinned and quite different culturally from those groups native to Gambella. The truck struck and killed two Nuer children. Enraged refugees, no doubt already tense and on edge, responded with vengeance killing at least nine (perhaps more, reports are conflicting) highlanders. Vengeance leads to vengeance. Highlanders in Gambella began a march to the camp to kill Nuer. A highlander mob tried to attack Newlands, the Nuer part of Gambella town. Many were praying. Thankfully, perhaps miraculously, highlander retaliation was turned back by the Ethiopian (highlander) army. Although cars were burned in the centre of town, blocking the roads, and gunfire was heard sporadically throughout the day (warning shots thankfully), fewer casualties than expected were reported. As of April 25th, Gambella remains in simmering, tangible fear and anger.

The Anglican situation

Information has been hard to obtain from the villages and refugee camps. The internet has functioned only part of the time. Quite a number of relatives of our church members were killed during the Anuak-Nuer clashes. Many members were looted or had their houses burned. We have so far learned that, during the Murle raids, three members of our Anglican congregation in Kowkow (near Lare) were killed and 1 child abducted. The sister of one of our clergy was also killed in another village and her child abducted. I have little doubt that we will hear similar details from other villages. Pray for our clergy and lay readers seeking to bring comfort to those who mourn and practical aid to many in need.

Thanks for asking

Many have been asking us, how they can help respond to the suffering in Gambella, and the needs of those who have lost loved ones, whose houses have been burned or looted, who need food, clothing and shelter. As one of our people told us, “There are many who are very suffering”. Some have been directly hit, others have been stranded without means for food, unable to return to their home area. The simplest and quickest way to help would be through a donation to our ‘Samaritan Fund’. See below for donation links, but please specify that the gift is to be given to “Ethiopia - Samaritan Fund”.

For those wishing to make a contribution in response to this crisis, please click on this link for "The Friends of the Anglican D
iocese of Egypt":
http://www.friendsanglicandioceseegypt.org/contribute.html

Funds can be donated online or by cheque. Please specify:
Ethiopia - Samaritan Fund.

We are very suffering here


There is a wonderful
African saying,
"I am because We are".
Identity is known in relationship;
in belonging
to your community.
This can be unfortunate
in places that
have a tradition
in which
baby boys
are blood covenanted
at birth
to the revenge

of their grandfather's enemies.
Grief in Gambella

The revenge of family
and community
can be a part of identity.
It is very hard,
especially for a young man,
to say,
"No. I will not join in the fighting".
Now our churches have a saying,
"One Lord, one family, one blood".
The blood of Jesus
speaks a stronger word,
than the blood of Abel;
the blood that cries out for revenge. 

Heb 12:25

 

 ~ Please Pray with us ~

 Please pray for Peace in Gambella and in South Sudan
~

Pray for a functioning government in the eastern regions of South Sudan. 
~

Pray for evangelists to reach out to the Murle people so that their society can be transformed by the saving and healing love of Christ.
~

Pray for comfort for those who mourn and for wisdom for those bringing comfort.
 
~

Pray for an end to the culture of vengeance.



 

Sarah Kuel,
whose life was changed a few years ago.
A stray bullet from Merle cattle raiders
hit her leg,
crippling her until,
through the Samaritan fund,
and through volunteer pro bono surgery,
she was able once again,
to live the life of a normal young girl,
walking and running without assistance.

 


 
Children from Ninninyang,
one of the villages
recently raided by the Merle.
This photo was taken
a few years before the current crisis. 


~



 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

 War...and Rumours of War



   Jesus, the Prince of Peace

The phone rang. I looked at it apprehensively. The screen read, “Peter from Tongo.” 
“Are you fine?”, Peter asked. 
“Yes, we are fine,” I answered.
“You are all fine?” He sounded surprised. “There is war in Gambella!”
“Yes, it is difficult in Gambella now. Pray for us….”
War? Maybe. And much worse - rumours of war.
“The tongue is a small thing, yet, …how great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5)
At first the chatter was impersonal: “A bomb was thrown.” “This one was killed.” Then it became personal. “My brother was killed.” “My uncle.” “My nephew.” “My wife’s mother.” Always the ‘other’ group the aggressor, and ‘our’ group the only victims mentioned. Incendiary rumours taken as fact, whipping up emotions and anger. Hardening hearts and faces.
I’ll let Grant describe the situation.

From Visitors to Violence

January has been hectic. It was a joy to welcome visitors here in the Gambella Centre from Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Toronto, Ireland, and from Addis Ababa. Some taught, some painted, some did carpentry, some catalogued books in the library, some preached in our churches, or taught groups of clergy and lay readers, Others taught Sunday School teachers in several different locations. All were a joy to work with, and all contributed to the life of the church here. 
But as the last guests were leaving, life in Gambella began to unravel. 

It started as a dispute between two local Gambella officials. Well, apparently that’s how it started. Accurate ‘news’ is hard to come by here at the moment. Innuendo and rumour substitute for anything close to ‘fact’ or ‘reality.’ In any event, the two officials were from differing ethnic groups. The Anuak and the Nuer have always lived in a very uneasy tension in Gambella, tension which can flare up quickly.

The two officials and/or their representatives had guns. Guns were fired and at least one person was injured. In apparent retaliation, a pregnant women from the other group was beaten. Two days later she and her unborn child died of their injuries. Then came the explosion - literally. At a local college someone let off a bomb. Rumours as to the nature of the explosion include that it was a grenade, a landmine, or some more improvised device. Students from one group began throwing rocks at students of the other group. Police came and began firing in the air, or perhaps lower ... panic set in all over Gambella town and other towns in the region. Everyone's cell phone was buzzing with so-called information, or at least with hearsay about what had happened to ‘their people’. 

My clergy began phoning me and texting me. Much of the ‘news’ was inaccurate, although it was clear that death and injury on both sides was mounting up. Some accurate reporting was mixed in with the speculation. Our theological students, both Nuer and Anuak, lost family members. On the night of Jan 29th much shooting was heard from the centre of town. Worries were that there was a gun battle in the streets. It seems now that the suddenly over-crowded prison experienced a mass jail break.  A woman who cooks for groups on our compound lost a nephew in that violence. Doubtless we will learn of more deaths in the coming days. No one knows the number of casualties from this whole event. Or, if they do, they aren’t telling. Twenty seems to be the best guess.

On Jan. 30th, the Gambella Centre, received an unexpected influx of local ‘refugees.’ About 70 women and children from the small community nearby our compound suddenly walked through the gate. I’ll let Wendy describe their visit.

As they entered our compound, they reminded me of of the lines of refugees we saw heading into Akule refugee camp two years ago: women with their meager belongings on the heads, little babies in their arms, and children, silent, stoney faced, walking alongside. One difference - razor sharp spears and deadly pangas (machetes) were carried by a few of them, mostly boys, 8 or 9 years old. They had heard that 'people were coming to kill them', and they fled to us for refuge.

"What can we do?", I wondered. "We have no stores of food and no means of defending them." Inwardly I stepped back into Peace, and greeted each with a smile. I looked into the dull eyes and hardened faces. The sun beat down. “Water,” I thought. “Give each a cup of water.” As I gave each a cup of water, I looked into their eyes. It was the children who softened first. Slowly, shy smiles answered mine. Eyes began to brighten. It was lunch time. “They must be hungry,” I thought. I remembered yesterday, when the lunch prepared for 10 people stretched to amply feed almost 30. I had bread and ‘Injera’ enough for ten. But what was that with such a crowd? “Test Me in this,” the thought seemed to come. Grant went to get some peanut butter crackers left by our visiting team from South Carolina. Everyone had at least 4 or 5 pieces of the bread, injera and crackers ("biscotti"). Some of our Anuak students were with us. They and Grant led us in prayer. Johann, who had been driving various ones to safety, reported that the roads were empty of invaders. Federal troops lined the now too-quiet streets. Our neighbors relaxed, and leaving their precious bundles of possession temporarily in our care they left for home, with thanks and with blessings on their lips. 

Grant again:
After convincing our ‘visitors’ to sit and give up their weapons we heard their worries. They had been informed that the other ethnic group were coming to kill them. We made some calls and ascertained that there was no hostile group on the way. We gave them water and whatever we could find to feed them - and most importantly we prayed with them - and after a few hours they relaxed and began to head back to their homes. I was grateful that they decided that our compound was the safest place to be in a crisis - even though our dilapidated barbed wire fence wouldn’t really keep anyone out (a cow walked through one section a couple of days ago!).
The army has moved in to restore order - we pray that the soldiers may not over-react and may act wisely in a chaotic situation. Their task will not be easy. It is clear that the town is over-crowded. Shortages of power, water and many other things have left people on edge for months now. One group blames another for the problems.

We don’t know the future for the Gambella region. At the moment hatred, anger, grief and fear are ruling the hearts and minds of many; in the short term, instability, insecurity, and suspicion may remain for some time. Our prayer is that our churches and our pastors will be calm, will preach forgiveness, will welcome and advocate for people whose language and culture is other than their own.
(Ps 112: 1,7)  “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord…he is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”
I’ll let Wendy finish:
Last night Cham, our cook for visiting teams, came to us. “Many are wounded now,” she said. My nephew was killed last night, and I am afraid. Can my daughters and I come and sleep in the kitchen?

The Gambella Anglican Center has become a place of refuge and prayer. Please join us in praying for these dear people, caught in a long legacy of suffering and revenge. We, the ‘Ferenge/Engelize/Kawaja’, now each have a bag packed and ready. We do not want to leave.

Amazing prayers at each of our Gambella churches this morning. On both sides of the conflict, there were gracious prayers for each other. Prayers affirming the worth of all people. “Let the hatred end with this generation.”


As of February 5, 2016

Many troops remain in the town and fear is still evident. Nuer and Anuak are not crossing into each others’ parts of town. Our theological college is running classes in two separate places. But life is slowly getting back to normal. Buses have started running, banks and shops are open again. Thank you all for your continued prayers.
+ Grant

         Pray for the children







~ Please Pray with us ~



~ For peace, for unity, and for the grace of forgiveness to be known in Gambella

~ For the students and faculty of the St Frumentius' Anglican Theological College. We are now holding classes in 2 different locations  - one for Nuer and one for Anuak. Pray that we may again be united in one place, bearing witness to “One Lord, one faith, one blood.”
St Frumentius students with Grant and faculty member Jeremiah Maet, taken the day before the trouble began.

~ Pray for our wisdom and discernment regarding the safety and well-being of our staff and faculty. 
  
~ Pray for our Mothers’ Union as we plan and prepare for the next phase of their teaching and ministry  under entirely indigenous leadership 

"Mosquito" used in our Mothers' Union teaching on Malaria, during the dramatic presentation of "Helping Each Other when Little Things cause Big Problems"

~ Pray our congregations as they reach out to the communities of the wider Gambella Peoples Region, for peace and unity



Monday, November 30, 2015

We Remember...


Beloved Ojullu Obilla, died Oct 26, 2015, age 39 yrs. We join with his family and friends in grief and in hope. Ojullu had provided for this dear young woman since the death of her own family. “Who will care for me now?”, she sobbed.
Ojullu was to have been ordained deacon this week at the dedication of St Frumentius Anglican Theological College by Archbishop Mouneer Anis.




Remembrance 2015: World War III?


Every year I have to preach about war. For the last four years I have been invited by the British Ambassador to Ethiopia to lead Remembrance Day / Veteran’s Day services in Addis Ababa and in other cities around the Horn of Africa. November 11th is remembered as the day on which the guns fell silent at the end of World War I. The sacrifice of those who gave their lives in both World Wars is remembered on this date since that time. 

This November 11th a small service was held in a gravelly cemetery near the airport in Djibouti City. Most in attendance were diplomats (British, American, French, Italian, German, Japanese - former enemies now allies) and military personnel from the large foreign bases in this ‘strategic’ little country adjacent to the very nearly ungoverned and ungovernable countries of Somalia and Yemen. The bodies of almost a dozen Allied airmen lie in this graveyard - some shot down over Djibouti (then French Somalia) by Vichy French gunmen.

After the service, it was my conversations with the French diplomats that were the most poignant. One told me that French Remembrance ceremonies are solemn, but entirely secular - no prayers, no hymns, no acknowledgement of God whatsoever. He was intrigued and found our Christian version moving. Both the French diplomats at the event remarked about a question that I asked in my sermon - "while we remember the events of two World Wars past, were we actually, now, in the midst of another World War?" Obviously the ‘war’ against global terrorism is a different kind of war: more diffuse; agonizingly unpredictable. But it is a war, and it is a ‘world’ war. Who knew, that two days later, the French themselves would become the latest victims of terror?

In all this, the Psalm we read at the service points to a reality that stands in stark contrast to human attack and counter attack: “He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots with fire.” (Psalm 46:9).  This is not a call to quietism, to inaction - it is a call to lift our hearts and look to a better Ally - One Who loves the whole world.
 
Two days later I was back in Gambella. No longer hobnobbing with diplomats and their ‘Military Attaches’, I am back with victims of war, with refugees who have fled a senseless power struggle in South Sudan. Once the internet was up and running I read the headlines: “Paris Attacks”; “Scores Dead and Injured in Multiple Bombings in the French Capital”; “French Borders Closed after Coordinated Terror Attacks.” Paris has become the latest battlefield of WWIII. How long, O Lord, will evil reign? When will the bow be broken and the chariot burned in the fire?

My diplomatic friend at the Djibouti service was struck by the message of Christian hope; by the message that God has not only promised to make a final end of all sin, evil and death, but that He has even come down to share the groaning of His creation.  
In Djibouti our service concluded with a poem written by the Rev. Edward Shillito. As he watched young men return wounded from the First World War, he wrestled with the question, ‘“How could he preach ‘good news’ in the midst of such devastation?” His poem, “Jesus of the Scars”, proclaims that only a God willing to suffer with his creatures could even begin to provide an answer:

    If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
    Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
    We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
    We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.
    The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
    In all the universe we have no place.
    Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
    Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.
    If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
    Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
    We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
    Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.
    The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
    They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
    But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak;
    And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

In Gambella, in Paris, in Baghdad, in Mosel, in South Sudan the wounds of humanity continue to cry out. Only the message of Christ crucified and risen can speak to that cry. 

+Grant




And We Rejoice...


~ with little Wecca, recovering well from open heart surgery. This little 6 year old would most certainly have died without surgery. As part of our fund-raising for this operation, we sold hand-made Ethiopian crosses. As I handed one of these crosses to a little boy in Montreal, I told him that this money was going to save a little boy’s life. His eyes grew big and solemn. “I want to buy another cross”’ he said. 
Thank you to all who contribute to our Samaritan fund.

~ With Jeremiah Maet Paul and his wife Elizabeth on the birth of their son, Kahn, November 14, 2015 Jeremiah is professor of African Traditional Religion at the St Frumentius Anglican Theological College.

~ At the upcoming visit of Archbishop Mouneer Anisfor the dedication of St Frumentius Anglican Theological College to be held November 24, 2015

~



Mothers' Union celebrate the dedication of Holy Bible Anglican Church at Jewi Refugee Camp, Oct 25,2015

 

~ Please Pray with us ~
A little member of Holy Bible Anglican Church, Jewi Refugee Camp

~with thanksgiving for the 200 recently confirmed in Pinyadu Refugee Camp

~ for Peace between Nuer and Anuak in the Akobo region of South Sudan

~ For Grant and Wendy as they approach a particularly busy period of travel and teaching

~ For the victims of terror in Paris, Beirut, Mali, Somalia, Nigeria and elsewhere throughout the world