Thursday, April 13, 2017

More time given.....
...to love

Life lately has been reminiscent of a well known childhood game; only instead of “He loves me…He loves me not”, it’s been, “It looks like cancer… It looks like not”.  
We now know I have atraumatic fractures in four of my thoracic vertebrae as well as a broken rib. My initial suspicion of a slipped thoracic disc or osteoporosis combined with prolonged coughing from asthma prompted me to get an MRI. Abnormalities on the MRI led to other tests and the discovery of other abnormalities on five of the other tests - some expected (osteoporosis), and some not. Could it be cancer? Walking through further testing and referrals, I think at this point we can safely say, “it looks not”!  Alleluia! I give all the glory to God, and much thanks to my dear family doctor, Dr. David Hall, and to you who've been praying for me and for Grant and our children. We asked for life, and this has been granted to us. Could all five abnormal tests have been due to artefact or lab error? Or is this more like the story of the woman who, on setting out from home, prayed, “Lord, when I arrive, give me a parking space”. Then, upon arriving and finding a space to park, she said, “Oh never mind, Lord, there’s a space right here!” 
Please do continue to pray as we have not yet completed a full work up, especially with issues regarding my lungs, and the risk of further fracture. Pray for Grant as he prepares to travel to Egypt for synod and then on to Gambella. Please pray for a place to stay for me while I heal from these fractures and complete the medical investigations, and that I may be able to return to Gambella to complete my work there. My Mothers’ Union teaching program has already transitioned to a fully African led “Local Training Program”. Now, instead of bringing women from all over the Gambella People’s Region to the Gambella Anglican Centre to receive the health training that they will take back and share with their local communities, the women will attend locally held trainings led by Mothers’ Union leaders. It’s been so wonderful to watch these strong and dedicated women grow in knowledge with practical skills, and in the knowledge of their worth and their ability to help their families and to help one another. Is there any greater gift than that of sharing in the amazing love of Jesus - a love that builds up and blesses, a love that spreads a fragrance of the knowledge of God?

In hope and in trust xxx Wendy

 

One of the small groups in our first, fully African led, Mothers' Union training program


After receiving an intensive course on Healing Prayer Ministry, our theological students and clergy then taught what they had learned to our 100 lay readers. (January 2017)
The day after the teaching on deliverance ministry, one of our lay readers came up to me. Knowing his long struggle with pain from a malicious injury inflicted many years ago, it was wonderful to see his quiet joy as he said, "Now I am healed. I know it deep within me."



~ Please Pray with us ~

For the ongoing work of the Anglican Church in Gambella, Djibouti, Somaliland, Egypt and North Africa
 

Monday, March 27, 2017

He is with us...... in the Furnace
Ethiopian icon
 An icon often seen in the churches of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, North and South, is that of the  four in the fiery furnace: Shadrach, Meshach,  Abednego, and “the One”, whom the Babylonians described as “like a son of the gods”. (Daniel 3:25) In the suffering of the long war between North and South Sudan, it was this God, 'He who suffers with us', who was the comfort and the hope of many Christians. “Our God is able to save us from this fiery furnace”, the three young men declared, “but if not” (in this way), we will cleave to Him (“not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar”). Throughout northeastern Africa the message of this God is one that resonates with the African heart.
During our time living in the Horn of Africa we have been witness to the reality of ‘the fiery furnace’. Here there is much suffering. Cruelty, greed and fear conceive poverty, war, forced migration, inter-ethnic violence and hunger. These in turn, give birth to anguish, grief and trauma. But in one sense this suffering is not ours. We share it with the people with whom we live; we “weep with those who weep”  (Romans 12: 15), but it is their suffering. 
During these years, we have not written much about our personal griefs - the loss of our parents, and of very dear friends to disease - to cancer and to AIDS. We have seen it as our task to bear witness to the realities of Africa, the place and the church here, and to let the African story be known rather than our own.  But now we must share a bit of our own story. 
About three weeks ago, although we did not know it, our world started to turn upside down.  Wendy began to experience an unusual and worrisome pattern of mid back pain. This prompted a series of tests. And three days ago, one of the tests came back showing very high levels of a tumour marker for cancer - most often ovarian but it can be associated with other cancers as we begin to suspect may be true in our case. We are leaving today for Pittsburgh for further testing and treatment.
We are grieving. Like the waves of the sea, grief comes and washes over us. When it goes, there is the joy of being with friends, and soon with family. And when it comes - there is Jesus. We know Him present - sometimes by faith alone, and sometimes in manifest love. 
One of the lessons we have learned in mission, is that every difficulty can be an invitation to know Him more deeply; to know the overcoming love of Jesus. And in knowing Him, something else wonderful happens. We begin to see others differently. More and more we see their beauty, and their indescribably precious value. Surely, to “love God with all our heart, our minds and our strength” is God’s greatest promise to us. And with it comes a marvellous gift - to love our neighbours as ourselves. (Mark 12:30-31)
It may be that God will save us from the fiery furnace of cancer. But right now, He is with us in the flames. You know, in our culture, we tend to substitute pleasure for joy. And suffering can destroy pleasure. But joy flows from love. And suffering cannot destroy love. Love ultimately overcomes. So “we do not grieve as those without hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
If it is my time, it is my time. If it is not my time, Jesus will heal me.     in tears, in love and in hope   xxxx Wendy
Do pray + Grant
March 27, 2017
Grant and Wendy





Thursday, February 9, 2017

Reflections on Christmas Past



“Bishop, should we cancel Christmas celebrations?”
This rather strange sounding question was addressed to Archbishop Mouneer, the Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa (and therefore my ‘boss’) during the week of December 11, by one of the clergy of the diocese. He brought the question to a meeting of the Cairo clergy gathered for a Communion service mid-week. Both the place where the question was asked and the timing of the question are crucial.
On December 11, a bomb was placed in a church on the grounds of the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo. The bomb exploded during the Liturgy and more than 24 worshipers were killed. Almost 60 were seriously injured. It is important to note that it is traditional in Coptic churches for women to sit on one side (often with their children) and for men to sit on the other. The bomb was placed in the women’s section. All of the dead were women and children.
The Coptic Church, joined by other Christians in Egypt, responded, yes with grief, but (as usual) without calls for retaliation. Outside of the Coptic Cathedral protesters and mourners shouted. For those who don’t know the language, the sight and sound of thousands of young men chanting loudly and strongly in Arabic might strike fear into the heart of many westerners. But listen more closely ... they are chanting the Nicene Creed. Yes, it was defiance. “We are Christians. We are here. We, too, are willing to give our lives; willing to be martyrs if need be.” But it was non-violent defiance. Here were Christians in the streets of an Islamic country openly and loudly proclaiming their belief and trust in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For me the response of most Christians in Egypt was remarkable, but not really a surprise. Yes, there is anger. Yes, there is terror. But there is also an amazing trust. And, even more amazing, almost a sense of thanksgiving. I heard Christians saying that they were thankful that God had, once again, counted the Egyptian church worthy of gaining more martyrs, more ‘witnesses’ to the suffering love of God expressed in the suffering of his faithful people. I heard some say how wonderful it was that those who died went to church to have Communion with God, and found themselves continuing that Communion in God’s immediate presence.
But the survivors, the injured and the grieving, still suffer. Lilly, one of the administrative staff of the Alexandria School of Theology - our college in Egypt, lost two relatives in the December 11 bombing, one a very close cousin. In such a situation of mourning, is it appropriate to celebrate such a joyful feast as Christmas? Should we postpone Christmas?
Of course the answer has to be no - precisely because Christmas is not simply a celebration, not simply a joyful feast. Christmas is about joy in the midst of sorrow, light coming into the very darkness of this world. The event of the Cairo bombing reminds us that not all was joy on the first Christmas. Of course we remember that the angels explained to the shepherds that the event happening in Bethlehem would bring joy. But this is not the kind of joy which simply ignores the pain of the world, or pretends it isn’t there. Jesus was born to a poor family, in a country occupied by a violent foreign power. When Jesus was born the local puppet king attempted to murder him by murdering all the baby boys in Bethlehem. The first Christmas was a time of deep sorrow for those living through the events. Interestingly, Jesus’ parents decided that fleeing to Egypt was the best way to avoid Herod’s brutality. Egypt was the place of refuge for the Holy Family. It still is. Jesus is still welcome in Egypt ... even if not by all.
One advantage of being our diocese (Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa) is that we get to celebrate Christmas twice! Some, like the English congregations in Cairo and Addis Ababa an the Nuer churches in Gambella, celebrate on December 25. Others, like the Arabic churches in Egypt and the Anuak churches in Gambella celebrate at the same time as the Orthodox in early January. As bishop I get to do both! A double dose of the reminder that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not [and cannot] overcome it.” (John 1).

Egyptian Madonna

~ Please Pray with us ~

We thank God for 57 recently confirmed in Teirgol, our outermost region in Gambella. Tiergol is accessible only by an (uncomfortable) boat journey, highlighted by passing tens of thousands of antelope and water fowl (as well as many crocodile). The women of Tiergol endeared themselves to Bishop Grant when they broke into spontaneous cheering at the amazing sight of a man (Grant) actually doing his own laundry!

Car Appeal
We have a 22-year old Land Cruiser. It’s great. It works ... but it is beginning to show signs that it won’t live forever. The heat and the rough roads of Gambella take their toll. We’ve had a car fund with SAMS, our mission agency for a couple of years and a number of people have given generously - but a good second hand, but somewhat younger, vehicle costs a lot of cash in Ethiopia where the import duty on cars is huge.
Then, out of the blue a couple of old friends, fellow former Montrealers, have decided to support our car appeal in a big way. They have decided that they will donate two Canadian dollars for every one US or Canadian dollar donated to our car fund for the next few months to a personal limit of $10,000. SAMS will inform them every month so that they can keep up their part of the giving.
Of course we are delighted and amazed. No matter how many times God surprises us like this we are still, well ... surprised! Please help us to raise the funds needed for a new(er) vehicle!
Our friends finished their email to us with a reference to Philippians 4:6-7:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep you hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Amen to that.
+Grant