Tuesday, March 5, 2013

February Newsletter
                                              Mountain and Valley, War and Peace
Sherkole Refugee Camp

The heavens declare the glory of God...”(Ps 19)
       We sat under a canopy of shining stars, astounded by their nearness and their beauty. All heaven seemed to lean close to hear the children and youth of the Mabaan as they ended the day, as was their custom, singing Evening Prayer. It seemed like Jesus was nudging me in the ribs - “See That?!!!  My kids!  Aren’t they beautiful?” -  I could feel His joy reflected in the beauty of the stars, pouring forth the silent speech of glory. The health of the Mabaan congregation and the maturity of its leadership was evident in the happiness of their children. 'I’m so happy I’m here', I thought, as I headed into the clean-swept tukul (mud-built thatched house), beautifully adorned with natural rock-powder paintings, for a night of peace.
       Then it started.
 It was, apparently, night two of the neighbouring clan’s three-night, all-night marathon of dancing and ‘music’, celebrating the return of a newly ‘rich’ young man from Australia - home to find a wife. Grant and I wondered if it was a contest of strength; (- the young woman who was able to dance vigorously all 3 nights and then sing the loudest on the 4th morning, perhaps the one most worthy to be chosen as the prospective bride?). The volume from this was such that Grant and I, sitting side by side, touching each other, yelling mouth to ear at the top of our lungs, were literally unable to hear our own words. The screeching music, sometimes blaring lyrics such as “ I don’t care, don’t care, DON”T CARE!!”, and “Hey! Hey!! HEY!!”, was interspersed with sounds reminiscent of machine gun fire, ambulance sirens, alarm clocks, traffic jams and battle zones. Worse still, it would suddenly and jarringly stop mid-screech for 10-20 seconds - the short savage bursts of silence as aggressive and startling as the din. Occasionally we would be treated to sounds of canned ‘merriment’ and ulalations cut unnaturally short.
       The suffering two to three hours into this was nothing compared to the suffering at eight to ten hours in - truly I understood why such things were sometimes used in torture. By night three, having done all we could within the gentle and respectful code of inter-clan negotiations, suffering seemed to blend with peace.  The sheer, quiet, overwhelming goodness of God, still present with our Mabaan hosts (who were more distressed over our discomfort than over their own), somehow defeated the power of the mocking and disrespectful attitudes of those whose oppressive, alcohol-driven ‘pleasure’ seemed to speak only too loudly of their hopelessness and despair. 
       The day’s lectionary readings after our first night with the Mabaan seemed particularly appropriate, - the disciples first glimpsing the glory of God on the mount of transfiguration and then needing faith and an ‘extreme make-over’ in their thinking, as they encountered the demon-oppressed down in the valley (Lk 9:28-43).  We were refreshed as, in reverence and joy, the Holy Spirit was received in power in baptism and confirmation. Truly, I was happy to be WITH Jesus and with the Mabaan.  ...“Having done all, to stand"(Eph 6 )...Interesting.... Grant’s ‘light reading’ at this time was Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”.

February: Bishop’s Highlights
 A few of the Mekele Students

Feb 1-3: Visit to Ethiopia’s newest Anglican church: formed by students of Mekele University, northern Ethiopia, wanting to meet and worship together in a common language (English). We were struck by the depth of unity in this ethnically diverse group.
Feb 9-12: Visit to Serkole Refugee Camp:  fellowship, baptisms, confirmations, healing prayer with the Jieng and Mabaan congregations
Feb 7-29: Work at GAC (Gambella Anglican Centre): Digging begun for the new well for GAC's agricultural area, clearing of agricultural area land, interviewing for GAC's Agricultural Co-ordinator job, meeting with contractor re: design for new GAC Church (to host St Barnabas' Anuak congregation as well as area diocesan events)
Feb 10-15: Addis meetings: Amhara and Somali believers
Feb 13: Ash Wednesday service: St Matthew's Church, Addis
Feb 16-18: “Life Skills” program training:  (Darash Thatha - Education Co-ordinator, GAC): Fifty teachers together with the principals of regional schools received training and materials to begin a new program teaching  Grade 6  students about  conflict resolution and first aid. (one wonders - first aid if conflict resolution fails?!!!)
Feb 23-24: Visit to Pinyadu: meetings with Anuak church council members of Pinyadu town; fellowship with "Pinyadu Old Camp" churches; worship and confirmations at the "Pinyadu New Camp" of twenty thousand new refugees from the Blue Nile/Nuba Mountains region of Sudan
Feb 28-29: Clergy Training days: Bible (1 Corinthians - pastoral issues); Anglicanism and the 39 articles of faith (text “Essential Truths for Christians” by Bp John Rogers); Prayer (Knowing God); Stewardship (Budget)
Feb 28-29: Visit from Canadian Embassy representative to schools hosting the “Life Skills” program.

            Confirmation at Sherkole

           A little beauty from Mekele

Prayer Concerns
Please pray with us for these ideas to be actualized:
1) 'Vertical Gardening
Many Gambella region families do not have enough land or water for farming. Each family’s tiny plot of land is surrounded by a (none-to-secure) 'security wall'. A ‘Living wall’ would transform these ‘security walls’ into vertical gardens which could grow the vegetables and fruit vines so desperately needed for nutrition. The water used for the top levels of the garden would be funnelled down and used for the lower levels as well.
We are hoping to build a “living wall” demonstration vertical garden at GAC for use of our staff and church community members.

 2) Mother's Union:
The Mother’s union members of our 73 churches in the Gambella region are asking for further training. Already involved in leading literacy circles, church activities, fellowship groups and home visitation (for illness, bereavement, prayer, outreach and practical care for those who are shut-in or in some way incapacitated), they are ideally situated to provide one-on-one teaching as well as small group participatory learning activities for the women of their communities. They want to teach bible, prayer and practical skills (such as simple methods of water purification , disease prevention, nutrition, and child care), as well as income-generating skills (such as sewing, weaving, and handicrafts) 
Please pray for the development and implementation of this program.