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. 


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


~ 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

~ 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…


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