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














Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Shaped by Our Stories...   Transformed by His Love

A little girl shares with her brother

Gatluak spoke softly, his demeanor peaceful. “My mother died when I was 2 years old, and my father had another wife.” “Did the other wife raise you and care for you?” I asked. “No! She refused me. She did not cook for me. I spent my time with the cattle so I had milk to drink. My older brother was the one who cared for me. He became a pastor. So did my uncle. When I was 12 years old, I fell very sick, and was close to death. I received healing prayer. I felt the Presence of God. Something told me that I was loved, and that I would not die.”

Stephen was matter of fact. “My parents died when I was a small boy. I do not remember their faces. My uncle took me to be his son. My aunt and uncle had only one child of their own; a daughter. One day, my uncle called the community together. He wanted to make an offering to the local ‘small god’. He gave four bulls. But the evening that the four bulls were sacrificed, his daughter fell into a water hole and died. It was then I began to question and to look.”

Altogether we had 11 young men attend our Discernment Conference held August 17th -19th, sharing their stories; praying together for discernment. In their own way, each of them told us this about God: “He suffered for me.”  

When we were talking about how to help others to learn what it means to serve, I asked Gatluak, “How would you teach this to an old woman who was blind and who could not walk?” “By speaking very loudly,” he answered!

Discernement Conference  Aug 17-19,2015
 
One month later, in the middle of a “Trauma Healing Workshop”, an intensive course for clergy, lay readers and the students of our St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College, Gatluak and Nassir were woken up in the middle of the night. Both students at St Frumentius’, they had become friends and were rooming together. Two of Nassir’s brothers had been shot and killed by two of Gatluak’s brothers. In total eighteen were dead in a clan conflict in nearby Jikwao.  Gatluak and Nassir’s friendship, shaped by grace and now marked with tears, forgiveness and prayer, continues to grow. 

Artwork form the Trauma Healing Intensive Course Sept 15-19,2015
"A tree on Fire"      Nassir
A couple of days ago, one of our staff came to give us an update on his children and to tell us that he had just lost his teeth. We often thought that this gentleman, with his remarkable gift for losing things, would ‘lose his head if it wasn’t attached’. He came close to expectation with the loss of his partial denture. 

Several months ago, his wife had suddenly left, taking their young children with her. Rumour had it that she was headed for Khartoum, apparently intending to sell the children. The next news was that his wife had been imprisoned in Khartoum after starting to make and to sell home-brewed alcohol (alcohol being illegal in Islamic Sudan). His children, the oldest of whom was only 8 years old, were alone and fending for themselves on the streets of Khartoum. In Nuer culture, it is the father who has legal custody of the children in the event of a separation. Accordingly, he sent his brother-in-law to find and bring the children home. The next thing we heard was that the money sent with his brother-in-law was not enough to purchase additional ‘exit visas’ for the children. More money was procured. Then right at the border, some armed men arrived with a letter written by the wife, stating that her brother was trying to steal her children while she was in jail. End result: now brother-in-law was in jail. So much pain; for him, for his wife, for their children, for the extended family.

Recently, as we sat with Ojullu in hospital, he spoke of going to Addis ‘to eat good Ethiopian food, and to stay in one of the big, big hotels’. Too weak to stand, unable to walk, dying of AIDS, he avowed, “Nothing will stop me from getting to Addis.” Confused and occasionally incoherent, was he alluding to heaven, we wondered. So loved by us, by his fellow staff at the Gambella Anglican Center, and by his fellow students at St Frumentius’, he lay there, in the stench of uncontrollable diarrhea, and revealed the gentle dignity of a beloved friend undiminished by degradation.

Our stories - they aren’t over yet.

Beloved Ojulu



Gatluak

~ Please Pray with us ~

~ for our full time and part time students of St Frumentius' Anglican Theological College

~ for our newest refugee camp churches in Jewi, Pinyadu 2, and Sorre

~ For Stehen Munye and Simor Taidor to be odained deacon

Nassir
~ With thanks for the recent Trauma Healing workshop and Inner Healing teams

Students pray for each other in our recent Inner Healing intensive course led by SOMA, USA












~ for the dedication of St Frumentius' Anglican Theological College and the blessing of the chapel  by Archbishop Mouneer to take place November 24, 2015

Work continues on St Frumentius' Chapel and multipurpose building

Beauty in a Knitted Cap






Friday, August 28, 2015

Typical ....


             A 'typically' beautiful Gambellan Smile  

...Or Not!


       




People often ask, “Tell us about a typical day in Gambella!” I don’t know if we’ve had a typical day yet! Typical just isn’t part of the rhythm of life here! Morning usually begins with coffee and a psalm. After that - well let’s see. After that, on most days, we have staff devotions. We all have the same liturgy, we don’t all have the same language. This means prayer and worship happens ‘in unity’ in a cacophony of different languages. Then the ‘plan for the day’ happens. This is not usually our plan. Words like, ‘flexible’, ‘nimble’, ‘interruption', and ‘pain in the neck’ come to mind.



Snapshot of Wendy’s day yesterday, August 6th: 


~ Waking up to the sounds of a successful ‘hockey tournament’ played in our attic by the bats who had moved in during our absence in June. (Of note - moth balls do not deter bats, but they seem to have lots of fun sending them skimming over the ‘floor’ of the attic).

~ Cooking breakfast, lunch and supper for eight (I am learning that ‘Company’ is just family - the wider family of a life shared with One who has many brothers and sisters!).

~ Tending neighborhood children as well as the staff and their family members for a variety of interesting things: large oozing tropical ulcers, wounds, infections of various sorts, HIV and malaria.

~ A few precious moments spent planning out the drama that is to accompany my next Mothers’ Union teaching story - this one on prevention and treatment of malaria and scabies; “Helping Each Other when Little Things cause Big Problems”.

~ Spending time with someone dear:

Cham Ojur Puro
This afternoon I visited with Cham who was at home in mourning, grieving from the sudden loss of her mother to malaria. Her mother was “very very very old - probably 55 or 60”. I felt so privileged to sit with a circle of friends in Cham’s house, the conversation ranging from family to neighbors to bemoaning the electricity (or lack thereof) here in Gambella. Exposed wires, usually tied together with torn plastic bags, had, in Cham’s house, the luxury of electric tape patching them together. Two women in the community were recently electrocuted when the wires running along the roof of their houses were blown down by the wind. As our visit wound to a close, we were honored with a serving of Pepsi - a real treat, although one that I personally tend to find palatably challenging! We ended with a prayers and hugs. I felt very rich.  



A typical few days for Grant in Gambella

Thursday, July 23rd: 

It’s rainy season. We gather for morning prayer around 8am, our Gambella Anglican Centre staff together with the 20 or so prospective theological students attending our advanced English class. So instead of the usual mix of languages, we are worshiping mostly in English. Today’s meditation (Matthew chapter 6) is led by Darash. “What do salt and light do, and so what should we do to be salt and light to our communities?” , he asks. After prayer, and (impossibly sweet) tea, we had a staff “work day”. We’re trying to turn our compound into the garden of Eden, so we need to take advantage of rainy season to plant and arrange vegetation. No sooner had tomatoes and cucumbers and flowers been planted than the deluge began - thunder, lightening. Within an hour our rain water tanks were filled to overflowing. The rain and the accompanying sound and light show continued all day. Ample amounts of laughter seemed to be coming from the English class - always a good sign. Steve, our visiting professor from America, together with his helper Ken, a Canadian theological student, had to yell in order to be heard over the pounding rain crashing on to the classroom’s tin roof. The workers building the chapel had a good couple of hours work before being defeated by the rain. They have been  busy erecting arches - the walls will soon be up, the floors and vestry finished, and then the roof.

St Frumentius College Chapel / Multi-purpose Building - under construction!

In our ongoing battle with whatever has decided to move into our attic, I threw a batch of moth balls through the trap door. If the moth balls don’t work, my next offensive will be with incense. Apparently unwanted critters around here - be they mice, bats, or whatever, don’t like incense - must be low church mice, bats, whatever…

Friday

The rain has eased back today. Every plant in the place has grown an inch or two overnight.

Before I went to Egypt last week I heard about food shortages once again cropping up in the Gambella People’s Region. More and more refugees keep coming. This morning I wrote a letter to a few friendly organizations that have helped us in the past. Hopefully some help will come. Our ‘Samaritan Fund’ for emergencies was running low.

At 3pm I had a meeting with four of our five Regional Deans (I managed to get information from the fifth before the meeting, so everyone was represented). We talked about some potential pastoral moves, a few problems (including the fact that a thousand people from an ethnic group where we’ve never had a church suddenly want to become Anglicans). We also divided up the money we have for emergencies and money we had for building churches (now that fund is empty too). 

At 5pm I met with a church council that wants an electric keyboard. It’s an extremely ‘cool’ item whose blasting tinny rhythms are guaranteed to to attract the young people, apparently. They don’t have the money to pay for it, so they want the bishop to help. The bishop also doesn’t have the money, but that is hard for them to believe. They also know that the bishop, for some reason, doesn’t seem to be delighted at the idea of purchasing this highly desirable item. Anyway after an hour and a half or so I managed to convince them that they needed a plan to raise the money and that if they had a good plan I would help them somehow. Sigh.I hate saying ‘no.’ I have to say it almost every day, though.

Saturday:

Today Wendy and I took our guests to some of the ‘tourist hotspots’ in Gambella, including - the prison. The prisoners there make and sell bead work, so while Wendy helped Ken and Steve to choose something for their families, I sat and chatted with one of the inmates - a former Anglican pastor I had to depose for robbing the church. After leaving us he got another job, but stole money there as well - hence the prison sentence. I’ve visited and prayed with him a few times now. He is sad to be in prison, but insists that he is innocent, so I can’t really say he’s repentant. Still, God is not finished with him.


Sunday:
This morning’s adventure (most Sunday mornings are an adventure) took us to a new church in a village called Koat Ngoal; don’t ask me to pronounce it. Two hours of driving takes us to Lare. From there we drive off road for ten minutes or so until that is no longer possible.

                         The Road to Koat Ngoal

Soon we reach a group of Mothers Union members singing a welcome song. This usually means we’ve arrived. Not today. Today it means, “Here’s where you need to follow us into the elephant grass and maize fields.” A half hour walk in the mud through grass 8-9 feet high finally brings us to the church.

                 Mothers'  Union meet us on the road

The congregation in Koat Ngnoal is not new, but they have recently build a church and so instead of being under a tree, they have a place with shade from the sun and shelter from the rain. The welcome at the church is a typical Nuer welcome (finally something typical!) with enthusiastic singing, ululations, hand shaking and footwashing for the guests. The church itself is a tiny stick, mud and thatch structure - somehow we manage to squeeze 40-50 people in. The lessons point to Jesus as the Good Shepherd, so when it comes time to give the church a name (names are only given to the church when the bishop comes), it is easy - Good Shepherd Anglican Church. After the service lunch is provided for us back in Lare (with a literal ‘song and dance' welcome from the Sunday School) - then the two hour drive back to Gambella town.

We reach Good Shepherd Anglican Church, Koat Ngoal

Showers. Naps. No rain today - but lots of thunder and lightening as I write at 6pm. It will certainly rain tonight. More adventures tomorrow.



~ Please Pray with us ~

~ for God’s blessing upon the opening of St Frumentius Anglican Theological College, Gambella

~ for our incoming theological students
 
~ for our faculty Jeremiah Maet Paul, Karen Salmon, Dr Johann Vanderbijl as well as those providing teaching in intensive courses including Tekele Belachew and Bishop Grant

~ for those visiting teams who will be teaching the students and clergy on Healing from Trauma 

~ for God’’s provision for funding for the remaining classrooms and faculty housing as well as the completion of the St Frumentius College Chapel / multipurpose building

~ for discernment for those seeking ordination as deacon and priest, and for the selection committee advising the bishop

~ with thanksgiving for our recent wonderful visitors: Rev Kim Beard and the Toronto team; Steve Hunt; Ken Johnstone
 

          One of our 'typically' beautiful backyard birds:
                              a Pygmy Kingfisher


FOG on the BLOG

A few months ago a friend in Toronto (the Rev Dean Mercer) emailed with an idea. He wanted a way for Canadians to support our work in Ethiopia and suggested the formation of FOG (Friends Of Grant). Joining is easy - the membership fee is $100 a year sent to DevXchange (their website address is at the bottom of this page). The money can be sent electronically or by cheque. DevXchange will send a charitable receipt. There are not many benefits to being a member (the satisfaction of giving and the receipt being about it…). Some have objected to the name (“What about Wendy?”). Dean’s answer was that lots f stuff rhymes with FOG - we can have a BOG when we’re in town (a Big Old Meeting); we ca talk about FOG on our BLOG (as I am doing right now!); However, for those concerned about this (Wendy says she isn’t concerned), you could chose to call yourself a FOGWART, since Friends Of Grant and Wendy Are Really Terrific. This group is of course welcome to all - but especially those who wish to receive a CANADIAN charitable receipt. Those who aren’t concerned about the Canadian part can still give through DevXchange - or the other organizations which are helping us, like FADE, FACE and SAMS.
        Blessings, 
        “A Friend”

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Talking about the Opo...




The Opo area small hunter-gatherer people group; only about 5,000 in the world. Eight years ago, one of our Nuer Anglican deacons, Gordon Roc, stripped off his clothes, and holding them high overhead, waded through the crocodile-infested river, more than a mile wide, separating the Opo from the rest of the world during the rainy season.  He spoke to them about Jesus. The Opo were interested, but said to him, “We have just one question; if we become Christian, can we drink coffee?” Gordon was surprised when his reply, “Of course you can drink coffee,” was met with a joyful shout, “Then we will become Christian!!” (A few years earlier, some 7th Day Adventists had visited them and told them that Christians couldn’t drink coffee, to which the Opo replied, “Well then, forget Christianity!”).

The Opo quickly became one of our favorite people groups in the Gambella Region. We  especially enjoyed the fresh perspectives on the faith that the Opo portrayed in drama. For example, their dramatic presentation of “I will make you fishers of men”, portrayed a fisherman who, after drawing in the fish with his net, then proceeded to club his fish on the head (which gave an entirely new slant on discipleship making).

The Opo had no written language until about 7 years ago. Now they have Morning Prayer, the Communion Service and part of the New Testament in their own language. On Easter day 2014 the Opo gathered to hear the first reading of their translation of the gospel of Mark - the service that day consisted of a reading of the whole gospel. “Now we know that God speaks our language!”, they said.

Until recently only two Opo women have attended our Mothers’ Union education program, with a third woman recently joining them to represent the 1,000 Opo refugees newly arrived from South Sudan. It was our privilege to join the Opo this year for Christmas, and we were astonished at the change the Mothers’ Union had made in this close knit community. As we entered the village, we noted with delight that several ‘tukals” (the small round mud and stick dwellings) had built little extensions on to their thatched or tarpaulin roofs. They were using these extensions as dish drying racks. Knowing that the introduction of water purification and dish drying racks had decreased by 90 percent the hospital admission rates for infant dehydration from diarrhea, (Africa’s number one killer of small children), the teaching of dish drying racks and water purification became the subject of our first teaching session in the Mothers’ Union education program
Opo Dish Drying Racks!

As we came into the center of the village, we saw 3 jerry cans set up on poles. We had taught the women how to put taps into these easily available jerry cans.  It had been the local practice to have one repeatedly refilled but unwashed water pot into which one communal cup was dipped and then passed from person to person (for example, from one person with a cough to the next person who may have diarrhea, etc). Now, clean water was put into the jerry cans, and cups washed in between use.
Opo Clean Water Dispensers


The next morning, to much general amusement, Wendy tried to help prepare Mapo, the traditional meal of maize which is ground by hand on large flat stones; (Hard labour, let me tell you, and all done before anything can be eaten in the morning). The night before, when we had been served Mapo for supper, we noticed that it was different than at previous visits. Now the large round ball of maize meal was bright green instead of white, and also, it tasted much better. In the morning it became clear - the women were adding Moringa leaves as they ground the maize and shaped it onto Mapo.
Malnutrition is a key factor in the unbelievably high rate of infant mortality in the Gambella region. Our community survey had shown that out of an average to 9 to 11 pregnancies per woman, only 2 to 4 children survived to age 5 years. Beans and lentils, which could be grown in other areas in Ethiopia, were, for a number of very good reasons, not readily acceptable to the Nilotic people groups of the Gambella region. Was there a culturally resonant source of nutrition that was available in our area?
Adding Nutrient-rich Moringa
It turned out that Moringa was the answer. Moringa leaves are a wonderful source of vitamin C. And vitamin A. And vitamin E. And vitamin B - niacin, thiamin riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin 12. And Folate, And Iron. And potassium, and calcium, and magnesium and all the essential amino acids (it is in fact a complete protein), as well as containing all the essential fatty acids, and a myriad of trace essential elements and minerals. Here was something that could completely eradicate malnutrition and it was growing wild (and free!) in our area. Plant, shrub and tree leaves had formed a traditional part of the diet of many of our people groups, some using Moringa from time to time without knowing about its tremendous benefits, others never having heard of it. Now our Mothers’ Union have learned how to plant, harvest and cook with Moringa, and were giving away seeds and seedlings in their local area teachings.
Reddish Hair - a sign of Iron Deficiency
The best part about seeing the Opo cooking with Moringa was the appearance of their children. Not one of the Opo children had red hair, (a common sign of iron deficiency in dark skinned people), nor did any of the children have the distended bellies commonly seen with protein malnutrition.

As dictated by hospitality, of course the Opo did not want us to be left alone to sleep in our tents. Of course we would enjoy having the whole noisy community stay with us all night. In the morning, we were again delighted when, stepping out of our tent, we saw a whole forrest of mosquito-net ‘tents”, the nets ingeniously hung between two poles, each having a swinging cross bar for easy access to the mosquito safe interior.


The Opo also proudly showed us their one demonstration ‘safe cooking fire’ that they had constructed after their Mothers’ Union teaching session on burn treatment and prevention.  A 70 percent decrease in infant toddler burns has been found in communities that simply put low mud walls on either side of the traditional cooking fires.


Opo's Mosquito Net Community
Safer Cooking Fires

In the most recent training event, the theme had been empowerment. As the current Mothers’ Union teaching program comes to an end in September of 2016, we are busy planning and discussing how the Mothers’ Union might want to continue to grow and to  serve in their communities.
Teaching Empowerment through Story


The training of future clergy and current clergy and lay evangelists at the new St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College in Gambella  is moving from the planning stages to reality as we prepare to receive our first year’s students to be enrolled in September of this year. As we write, the second of two English Language Intensives is being held for candidates for admission into theological studies requiring a grasp of written English. Plans for teaching those gifted in ministry who do not have fluency in English is also underway. We are hoping that two of our Opo who have shown great potential both in helping with Bible translation and with Sunday worship and ministry will become part of St Frumentius’ first year class. 
Please pray for the Opo with whom we have the privilege of sharing life and of sharing the love of Jesus.

~ Please Pray with us ~

~with thanksgiving for successful heart surgery for Sarah Lual. She is recovering well from this live-saving intervention. Thanks so much for your prayers

Sarah Lual receives a new bible just before she goes to hospital for heart surgery. Thanks to the children of Holy Trinity Classical Christian School, SC for this lovely gift.

~ for 6 year old Wecca - still on the waiting list for his heart surgery.
Pray for protection from the irreversible lung damage that could result without speedy intervention
 Little Wecca Omot


~ For the new refugees arriving from conflict zones in Bentiu and Malakal

~ for the refugees who have been newly moved from Leitchor  to the  new Jewi Refugee Camp

~ for St. Frumentius Anglican Theological College:
     ~ for wisdom in the choice of students accepted into our first year class beginning September 2015
     ~ for the timely completion of St Frumentius' College Chapel
     ~for the timely construction of faculty housing and classrooms for the college
     ~ with thanksgiving for our incoming faculty - Rev Jeremiah Muot Paul, and  Ms. Karen Salmon
     ~ For our Dean, Rev Dr Johann Vanderbijl

~ with thanksgiving for visiting teams for their work in teaching, in library cataloging, and in construction

Sunday School Teacher training -
we are running from Pharoah's troops




Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ethiopian Martyrs


A new Coptic icon of the 21 Egyptian Martyrs of Libya

Ethiopian Martyrs

I have just learned the horrifying news that as many as twenty-eight Ethiopian Christians have been shot or beheaded in Libya by members of the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. This alarming act of violence against those that ISIS calls “people of the cross” comes just two months after twenty-one other Christians - twenty Egyptians and one Ghanian, were beheaded on a Libyan beach.

It is too early to learn the names of these newest martyrs. It is also too early to know what churches they came from. (The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has more than 30 million members, but there are also members of many other churches in this country, including at least 15 million Protestant Christians.) Personal details about the men who have died may emerge. For now we can note the most important things to be said about these victims. Their names are known to God and they are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 13:8). Their denominational affiliation is no longer of any importance: they are among the unnumbered throng from every nation, tribe, people and language gathered before the throne and the Lamb (Rev 7:9) who have come out of the great persecution (Rev 7:14) and have had every tear wiped away from their eyes (Rev 7:17).

The persecution of followers of Jesus is one of the terrible facts about today’s world. Although the popular imagination may still associate the persecution of Christians with the distant past (of the Roman Empire, for example), it is a reality that more Christians have died martyrs’ deaths in the last hundred years than in all the previous centuries of Christian history combined. We are living in a time when the words of Jesus “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also,” (John 15:18) are being fulfilled on a more and more frequent basis.

How are we Christians (those of us in Ethiopia as well as around the world) to react to this most recent atrocity? First, we must look up to God in thanksgiving for the lives of these brothers who loved not their own lives, but followed Jesus in the way of the cross. Second, we must ask for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to abandon the temptation to hate. Instead we must follow Jesus, who not only suffered death on the cross, but also prayed for his executioners to be forgiven. If we are turned to hatred, the terrorists have won. Finally, we must continue to reach out to a world desperate for the love of Jesus. Make no mistake, the terrorists who executed these martyrs of Ethiopia have exhibited the worst of human depravity, but they have also revealed their desperate need of a Saviour. The apostle Paul, a great persecutor of the church of God, was turned to love by his experience of meeting Christ on his way to the Syrian city of Damascus. May God use his church to so act and speak of and from the love of Christ that many former or potential persecutors may be turned and have their names written in the book of life.

+ Grant, The Horn of Africa

~ Please Pray with us ~


~ For our Mother's Union Literacy trainers with thanksgiving for our recent training at Gambella Anglican Centre

~ For Little Wunwar, for recovery from a serious falling injury. Wunwar is the 4 year old son of our priest, Jeremiah, soon to become one of our faculty at the St Frumentius' Anglican Theological College. Pray also for Wunwar's mother Elizabeth for recovery from kidney problems.

~ For little Sarah Lual scheduled for open heart surgery June 15, 2015

~ For Wecca - For protection from Pulmonary Hypertension as he awaits heart surgery

~ For those grieving in Libya and in Ethiopia


~ For the St Frumentius Anglican Theological College

~ For Rosemary Burke, recently appointed Secretary General of the Anglican Church in Ethiopia