Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Good Friday

March 2013
       “I was wondering,” Johann later mused, “what does one DO when one’s pajamas are carefully laid on the pulpit beside you as you preach?” We were with him when, without missing a beat, he continued talking about the heart of Love, - as clothes, toothbrush etc were quietly, almost reverently laid beside him.
       “A sheep has done this,” explained John to Grant. Seeing Grant’s respectful but somewhat blank and enquiring expression, John, priest in charge of Matar Mission Centre, further explained, “ A sheep has broken into the car”.  As Grant was trying to visualize this, it dawned on him - “Ohh!! A THIEF!”. Our minds went immediately to the money given to re-roof the church. Was that taken too? 
       Thankfully, only one bag had been opened, and the items recovered, one by one, it seemed. Preaching, communion, confirmation and church council meeting later, it was off to the police station. There was our thief or lost ‘sheep’ - the Nuer pronunciation of sh/th and f/p being somewhat interchangeable. He was a skinny, underweight and undersized little guy, 14 going on 11 in appearance, named Chol (a Nuer name meaning “the one born after the previous child has died”). He was from South Sudan, just across the river. He was alone, without parents, food or means of support.
       What to do with him? It was decided by consensus, as is so often the case in this culture; “Let us take him home and feed him.”
       When I met him, Chol was sitting in the corner, his back to us in self-imposed shame, eating leftovers from the morning’s breakfast ‘feast’ of goat kidney stew. He had been admonished by the Mammas, “Don’t you know that we are your mothers? If you are hungry, you come to us!” We offered to pray for him. He was willing. By the time we drove off he actually waved, though in his eyes, tears were threatening.
       Two weeks later we watched another thief as he walked off with our soap. It was the day after he had received his disciplinary letter of suspension from his duties as parish priest; his church’s money having been redirected into the unimaginable riches of his new fridge and colour TV (these rare and precious appliances likely doomed to sudden death by electric power surge given the nature of Gambella’s power grid).  And yet, just moments before, we had seen him standing with our neighbour as her husband was buried, sharing her grief. And he had comforted her. The flash of anger over the loss of soap was reminiscent of the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35) as the love of Jesus seemed to cry within, “Who is robbed and I am not robbed?” Jesus’ words to the penitent one suffering beside Him ring out: “this night you will be with me...” (Luke 23:43). Sin, defeated by His love, is no barrier to God.
       This Good Friday, just two days before we leave for North America, pain and love resonate as memories of Africa come to mind. A few months ago, there had been flowers, lush reeds and myriads of butterflies and water birds in our region. Now the land was now charred and ravaged by the pre-planting season fires - the precious micro-nutrients of the topsoil burned away. Yet even as we travelled through the scorched and burnt earth of the dry season, the land remained beautiful. Through the patches of yellowed grass on charcoal black earth, we could see herds of exquisite antelope, beautiful red monkeys wise and Amish-looking with their white whiskers; and powerful, threatening baboons looking at us imperiously from the deserted village they had taken over for the season while the village people were away, bringing their cattle to the water. The physical suffering of hunger, thirst, and unremitting heat - 105 degrees day and night [40 degrees centigrade, eh] - is mixed  with the delight of new life shared with new brothers and sisters in a global family...and with the almost physical ache of looking forward to being with our family back home.

    Wendy & friends Pinyadu Refugee Camp

                           Abol Church

The Rt Rev Dr Grant LeMarquand and Dr Wendy LeMarquand are missionaries of SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders)
Bishop Grant is Area bishop for the Horn of Africa within the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa

Beautiful Africa

Beautiful children...

Beautiful Friends...

Rosie in the Rain

Johann - kid magnet

Prayer Concerns
~ Developing the Gambella Anglican centre: new church; new theological college; going green
~ Newly formed congregations in Ethiopia
~ Mothers' Union Community Education and Development Project

Africans teaching Africans

Bishop's Highlights:
In Addis
March 2: Addis’ first service for the newly re-formed S***** congregation
March 3-5: Time with St Matthew’s congregation;
Meetings & more meetings, including plans with Tearfund for a pilot ‘savings group” in Lare
In Gambella Region
March 6-15: Visit from Rosie Fyfe, our wonderful Diocesan proposal writer (many thanks, Rosie, for your invaluable aid)
March 6-20: Visit from Johann Vanderbilj - priest, scholar and friend, - discerning a call to teach in Africa (yes, this is the Johann of the redeemed pajamas)
March 8: Anuak worship conference at Gambella Anglican Centre 
March 9: Visit to Matar and Nininyang 
March 10: Confirmation Service in Matar
March 11: Visit to Lare, Pilwal, and Itang
March 13-15: First aid training at Gambella Anglican Centre
March 14: Visit to Opo (Rosie and Johann)
March 17: Service in Illea Anuak church 
March 17-20: Visit from Australian Board of Mission representative Julianne Stewart and her husband Martin (thank you for the food given to our mission centre in Tiergol - a famine region deemed too unsafe for the World Food Program to intervene)
March 24: Confirmation service in Abol
March 24-27: Visit from Dr Ron Lett  to those Gambella region schools receiving First aid training program
In Addis
March 27-31:Holy Week services with St Matthew’s church
March 30: S***** service 
March 31: Easter Sunday St Matthew’s 
March 31: Fly to North America