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…


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.


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.

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.
        “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

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sharing the heart of Jesus

Opo women: now adding life-saving Moringa to their traditional “Mapo’ (maize only) meal

A Busy Season
This past season from November thorough February has seen us host 28 visitors to the Gambella Anglican Centre, 2 clergy training events, 2 Mothers’ Union training events, 1 week-long clergy and lay reader conference, and the Diocesan Area Assembly for over 200 representatives. Combined with visits to various church communities including the student-led church of Mekele, visits to Djibouti and Somaliland, and many meetings about exciting ministry development, this has been a busy time! Crises with the clergy, crises with changing governmental regulations, lack of running water, lack of electricity and lack of time alone to rest and recuperate - all this combined has made us very conscious of our weaknesses; our shortcomings, and, very aware of the unfailing love of Jesus, who loves to fill all that we are not, with all that He is.

Highlights from Wendy

~ Sitting under the stars with the Opo at Christmas, watching the Jesus film, when, as one, with their spontaneous and heartfelt applause, they greeted the risen ‘Jesus’ as he appeared to his disciples in the film.

~ Baby Louise’s Oatmeal Eye Infection: 
“Baby” Louise’s Oatmeal Eye Infection:
 a rare moment when this ‘natural ham’ was not ‘crying’

Laughing and yet a little horrified, the Mothers’ union representatives watched as Baby Louise’s mother (me), happily spread the infection (oatmeal) from one of her eyes to both eyes, and then, using the same dirty cloth, to the face of my other “child” as well as to my friend, who, after shaking my (dirty) hand, rubbed the transferred oatmeal on to her eye as well. 
“What have I done?”, I asked my Mothers’ Union reps. 
And then, “Let’s do this again!!” 
“Shall I use the same cloth to wash Baby Louise’s other eye?”, I asked.  
“Noo!!!!” the Mothers’ Union reps shouted in horror

Mothers’ Union watch with horror and laughter

~Presenting new ways of teaching: Like still-life photographs, the visiting team from South Carolina with one of two gestures then frozen in a tableau brought the reality of the suffering of the woman healed from a flow of blood in a way that enabled our Gambellan women to touch her joy, and to reach out to touch this One who still heals today.

Portraits in “Still Life”: The woman with the flow of blood

As the season of Lent begins, I’ve been thinking, “What is mission”? I think it is walking with Jesus. As you give Him your hands to be available, your feet to follow, and your home to welcome Him, He gives you His heart for others, His perception of who they are in Him and His joy in seeing hearts become open to love. I believe God yearns to love others through human hands and human hearts; that what Jesus wants to be for us in the moment of our need, He intends to give through us to others. Jesus’ very life was poured out on the cross. To meet Him there, where sin and inadequacy have been taken up into His death, is to find life.

Thoughts from Bishop Grant
As Wendy has said, we’ve had a lot of visitors in the last two months or so. We are extremely grateful to each one: my good buddy Chuck from near Toronto, a group from Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, a Mothers’ Union staff worker from the UK, a family of long-term missionaries to Ethiopia who joined us for a few days of Christmas celebrations with the Opo people, a young couple from York, UK discerning a call to mission work here in Gambella, and finally a wonderful servant-like group from South Carolina. Each person and group has made wonderful contributions to our life and work here. So many others have contributed to our life and work here from a distance - we are keenly aware of the on-going support, especially in prayer, that we receive from so many. Thank you so much.

But the last few days have been quite remarkable.

To start with, Wendy and I became grandparents this weekend. Well, actually, we became grandparents nine months ago, but the baby has now become visible to all! Samuel Grant LeMarquand was born on Saturday February 7 in Calgary to David and Anna LeMarquand. We are grateful and excited - but it is difficult to be on the other side of the world when such a miracle is going on! Thankfully we’ll be in Calgary for the baptism in May.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, our Anuak churches in the new Abobo Mission Centre held a “spiritual conference” - two days of prayer, singing and preaching. We travelled there on the Sunday morning and had a wonderful service with Christians from four churches in the area. All of these are new. The oldest of the four, Bethlehem Anglican Church in Abobo town, was started a year ago. Now Bethlehem Church has given birth to three baby churches. The conference was being held in a tiny village called Ukunne. One of the great privileges I have as bishop is to name churches that I visit. This one, to the delight of the people gathered, received the name “Our Father Anglican Church” - in Anuak “Wuawa”  Anglican Church.

Over in Pilwal, one of our staff was invited to a special, high-powered event. It seems there a man in Pilwal who was possessed by a traditional ancestral spirit named Wiu. This man has spent most of his life serving Wiu, performing sacrifices for many people on behalf of the spirit. Even though his relatives are Christians, they were afraid of this man and the spirit who  possessed him. The family, convinced that Wiu is responsible for the recent deaths of three family members, have been begging him to become a Christian and forsake this spirit. Shaken by the recent deaths, the man spent this weekend in conversation and prayer, and opening his heart to Christ, he decided to burn his ritual sacrificial spears, and the leopard skin, a symbol of his spiritual authority, and to take on a new name, David, as a symbol of new life and new joy. His catechetical training has begun in preparation for his baptism.

~ Please Pray with us ~

Samuel Grant, now a one week old pirate!

Give thanks:
  • for the birth of Samuel Grant LeMarquand
  • for new birth for David of Pilwal
  • for the many groups who have been watching the Jesus film in our churches
  • for the new churches being planted
  • for successful times of training for our Mothers’ Union leaders and our clergy
  • for the good work being done by Johann Vanderbijl in preparation for the launching of our theological college
  • for the wonderful work of Louise Vanderbijl, my ‘partner-in-crime’ in Mothers’ Union training events

Hand-washing stations,
mosquito nets,
dish-drying racks,
safer cooking fires,
and nutritious Moringa - 
The Mothers’ Union are making a difference in Opo!!

Please pray:
  • for ongoing support to pay for programmes, salaries, Bibles, hymn books, new churches,and for buildings for St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College on the Gambella Anglican Centre compound

  • for the right teachers to come and teach at St Frumentius’ and for the right students to come and learn
  • that churches may continue to grow in their ability to take financial responsibility for the life of their churches

  • for true peace in South Sudan

  • for our many refugees

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Refugees Have...

As the staccato shots rang out, we joined hands and, together with the rest of the crowd, fled from the center of Gambella market. Moments later the embarrassed laughter of relief broke out as the crowd realized that we had all been running from a back-firing Bajaj (taxi). Tension and laughter; something that we in Gambella have been living with for the past few weeks.
Sunday found us on the road to Bonga - home, in our opinion, of the best honey in Ethiopia. We passed soldier after soldier, their AK-47’s slung carelessly over their shoulders, now stationed along the streets in this Mezhenger-zone border area. Heart-breakingly, we heard that the bee hives of the Mezhenger people, their source of food and income, had been deliberately destroyed in the recent uprising in this region. Our destination was  St Thomas’ Anglican Church in Bonga. It was wonderful to join our Anuak congregation there in a worship service permeated with peace. I was struck by the beauty of the quiet tears adorning the face of one woman as she raised her hands in thanksgiving and adoration. The Anuak plans to start a Mezhenger-speaking congregation in this area are discussed with excitement and enthusiasm, undiminished by either suffering or unrest. It is great to be part of what God is doing in the midst of the tumult and trust of walking with Him in this part of the world.

Refugees have no God

Ethiopia is a majority Christian country. We enjoy freedom of worship. Christians are able to meet freely here without fear of reprisal. Well, most of the time. There are, of course, parts of the country where this is not the case. 

Two sad situations were reported to us recently. Both happen to have taken place near the Sudan border in refugee camps where people are vulnerable at the best of times. In one camp, Anglican Christians were meeting with a camp official who had given us problems in the past, denying the church various things. On this particular day the official seems to have been trying to put Christians in their place, attempting to show them ‘who was boss’, and to assure them that as refugees they had no rights (not true, of course, although refugees often have little knowledge of what their rights are). Our church members were asking for the camp to allow a priest to come to give them Holy Communion and to baptize their children. “Refugees have no God,” the official told them. 

“Refugees have no God”? What does that mean? - especially since it was spoken by a man who, as a Muslim, claims belief in one God.  Does it mean, ‘Your so-called god has let you down. The one I believe in is bigger than your god’?  And what of the underlying  assumption, “You are sub-human. God does not care about you. You are not worthy of having your religious practices honoured and valued - you are mere refugees, unimportant people”?  The lay reader who told me this story also assured me that attendance in the church in that camp has gone up recently. It seems these people have a God after all.

A half day drive away in another camp a remarkable revival has been going on for several years. Every evening at sundown the children and young people of St John the Baptist Anglican Church gather outside the church for a half hour. They sing, they read a short passage of scripture which is commented on briefly, they pray for the sick. Then they all disperse to their homes for the evening meal and bed. Other churches in the camp have tried to model the practice. For some  reason these other gatherings have fizzled after a week or two. God is doing something special in this particular church. It is not a technique, it is not something that can simply be copied. But a few weeks ago in the midst of their Evening Prayer, the camp police arrived. They took the pastor and all the children to the camp jail and told them that what they were doing was illegal. They were told to desist. Our pastor said, “No, we are allowed to pray. We will pray. If you want to imprison us for the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will suffer gladly.” They were finally released...too much trouble to keep them all locked up it seems.

These stories of attempts to humiliate and dehumanize are in sharp tension with the over-arching story we find in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In that story we find that although Jesus possessed “equality with God” he did not consider that this meant living a life of privilege. He became downwardly mobile, entering our fleshly, dusty, muddy existence, giving himself for others, for us, for refugees, and for the proud, for victims and perpetrators, for his enemies and his friends. This story, encapsulated in Philippians 2:5-11, stands in contradiction to the stories of hatred, ridicule and oppression that are so common in our world. In the face of the attempts to dehumanize them, our people simply continue to sing and to pray, to build churches out of the mud and the sticks, because they know that one day all will become clear. One day “every knee will bow and every tongue confess ... that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” One day the God of the refugees will be praised by every creature “in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” And the humiliated will be exalted together with the one who “humbled himself” for them, to live and reign with him. 

We have much to be thankful for. We have just finished our annual Area Assembly (like a synod or a convention) which brought together almost 200 representatives from our churches to worship, learn together and make decisions. There are signs of growth in depth and commitment among our churches here - makes a bishop’s heart glad.

Bishop Grant
Area Assembly November 2014:
Click link to read Bishop's Charge

Small Stature.... Great Dignity

~ Please Pray with us ~

Give thanks for the recent Area Assembly (Nov 26-28, 2014) which brought together representatives from most of the churches in Ethiopia, and especially for the wonderful emphasis on repentance and reconciliation.

Give thanks for Johann and Louise Vanderbijl, recently arrived in Gambella. Louise is working together with Wendy on Mothers’ Union projects and Johann is preparing for the opening of St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College.

Pray for churches in refugee camps that God with be present to them in all their joys and struggles.

Pray for several pastors who have had difficult family and personal issues to deal with recently.

Give thanks for Grant’s recent visit to other countries in the Horn of Africa and for doors for ministry
 to continue to open there.

Pray for God’s provision of finances for St Frumentius’ College, for clergy salaries and for many other needs.

Pray for the upcoming ‘discernment conference’ and for those who are praying about their call to ordained ministry.

Pray for peace in South Sudan.

Pray for the several visitors coming to Gambella in the next two months.

Small Stature....  Great Smile

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Supermodels, Princesses & Special Police

Undiscovered Gambella Supermodel

Gambella is a strange place. It’s out of the way (we have an airport but it is used mostly by the World Food Programme). It’s poor (nearly half of the current residents of the region are refugees). Our two seasons, ‘rainy’ and ‘dry’, are more simply known as  ‘mud’ and ‘dust’. In Gambella, not many are educated, not many are employed, not many are well-fed.
But on occasion weird and unusual events happen in Gambella.

Seventeen years ago, Paul Pok,  parish priest of Pinyudu Refugee Camp, made the difficult decision to send his two eldest daughters to school in America under the care of  a relative. Recently Paul, now Regional Dean of Pinyudu (overseeing twelve churches), told me that one of his daughters was coming for a visit - they would see their little girl for the first time in almost two decades. As the visit got closer I began to realize that there might be something unusual about this young woman. She was traveling with a small entourage including a photographer and someone who seemed to be a kind of handler. Slowly the story emerged. This young woman is a (famous, I guess...) supermodel working in Milan, London and New York.    
Nikon Paul

We were invited to meet her and had no idea what to expect. Wendy and I travel in some diverse circles, but the world of high fashion supermodels was never our interest, really. As it turns out Nykhor Paul is a delightful, articulate young woman. In spite of being out of Africa for seventeen years she has managed to retain her use of the Nuer language. Although she has not been ‘home’ for most of her life, she cares deeply about the plight of her family and the many South Sudanese refugees once again fleeing their homes because of violence. She has started an organization (“We are Nilotic”: see and a fund to help these victims of war (see
Then a few weeks back, while shaking hands with the congregation at St Matthew’s in Addis Ababa, the British Ambassador asked if I was going to be in Gambella at the end of September - sadly no, I was going to be in another country for meetings, I responded.  “Why?” I asked. 
“Well, there is going to be a royal visit,” says he.
HRH Princess Anne with Rev Deng Mark
“In Gambella?? Really? Who?”
“Princess Anne.” (HRH, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II...) “She is a supporter of a children’s charity that works in Gambella, so she’s visiting the project. She will also lay a wreath at the grave of the only Commonwealth fatality in the World War II ‘Battle of Gambella.’ I thought it might be nice if she could be met by the Bishop, and if he could say a prayer at the grave.”

We have known for a long time that Gambella has many, albeit unofficial, supermodels and princesses - we just didn’t know that Supermodels and Princesses from elsewhere would want to come to visit. We’re glad they did. If their celebrity draws the world’s attention, even just a bit, to the problems in South Sudan and western Ethiopia, well and good!

“In the case of an event keep your head down below the level of the window. The medical kit is right behind your head, just pull it forward if you need it.” The ‘special police’, former British military, were on the alert; an exciting, if somewhat hyper-vigilant introduction to one of the countries in our diocese to east and north of us.

The courtesy and consideration shown to me by the top government official was deeply touching. As we walked to the site of a proposed new Anglican church to be built in this country, it began to rain. “This is a sign of God’s blessing on the relationship between our two faiths”, I was told. Pray for the beloved countries of this part of the world. 

Remembrance Service in a beloved Country

~ Please Pray with us ~
Another Undiscovered Gambella Supermodel
For those undergoing persecution in certain refugee camps
For the St Frumentius' Anglican Theological college
~ Library and Office building nearing completion
~ Dean's residence nearing completion
~ St Frumentius' Chapel plans submitted to contractor
~ Curriculum development
~ Official opening planned for September 2015
For the Horn of Africa Area Assembly November 26-28
For our church leadership, Clergy, Lay readers and Mothers' Union