Newsletter – February 2016

I was trying to explain the difference between ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ to my English students the other day. “Simple,” I said, “is something that is easy to explain and easy to understand because there is usually only one thing to think about. Complex, on the other hand, is something that takes a long time to explain because there are so many different things to keep in your head at the same time…things that are often strange or unknown to the person you are trying to talk to which makes it harder for them to understand.”
Life in Gambella is not simple.
We returned in January filled with new and exciting ideas about what we were going to do with our students only to have our very first week turned upside down by deadly ethnic clashes.  Nothing has been the same ever since. We now teach two sets of classes in two different areas of Gambela, as neither ethnic group can meet with the other at present. Our Anglican brethren on both sides long for fellowship with each other and will often pray for each other, ask about each other, and send greetings to each other through us. They have responded negatively to other denominations in town that are calling for total segregation.
It is both painful and pleasing to see this…pleasing in that they have transcended traditional tribal barriers and painful in that they are being forced to stay apart because some on both sides do not share that unique oneness in Jesus. It is refreshing to see that our brethren here are not slow to see the spiritual forces of darkness behind the killing and the hatred – not flesh and blood, but principalities and powers in the heavenly places – and so they turn as one united body together against a common spiritual enemy and fight their battles on their knees, fasting and praying for peace.
At the same time, city water has been very scarce and the power has been sporadic. Some of our brethren in outer lying areas do not have food as all the roads were closed during the unrest. And it is hot…very hot. Temperatures are now often between 45 and 55 degrees Celsius with an increasing humidity, even at night. Our students tell us they can’t sleep…we know, because we can’t either. When the power goes off and we don’t have fans going, it feels like we are living in an oven.
Add now this: my dear old heart that just doesn’t seem to be able to handle this extreme environment anymore. I had a really bad episode of Atrial Fibrillation in Addis in December last year just before we went to South Africa. While in South Africa I heard that I ought to have a heart ablation, a procedure in which the surgeon cauterizes the areas where the impulses enter the atrium and cause the heart to beat very fast and irregularly. I had hoped to put this off until July, but the other morning I woke up with A-Fib in spite of the high doses of meds that I am on to prevent this from happening. See? This is so long and difficult to explain! It is complex – not the sort of thing I would have planned for us at this time.
The long and the short of it all is that we are closing the College a week early to go to South Africa so that my ticker can get a service…of course the pacemaker and other problems complicate things, but it just wouldn’t be my life if it was simple, would it?
We are thinking about changing the dates of our current semesters so that the College will be functional only during the less extremely hot seasons…the rest of the time…well, we will have to figure that out as we go along. We remain committed to the Lord’s work and the people here in Gambela…we just have to figure out creative ways to keep me healthy!
We have been moving at quite a pace with our dear students as we have had to cram our lessons into shorter hours because we are now dividing everything into two. We have also had to make up for the lost week in the past two days and have given them projects and assignments to do for next week. After that, they all go to their respective field education areas where they will be engaging in a research project as well as teaching Bible Stories chronologically. They are all so very, very smart and we are very, very proud of each one. So many strikes against them from the start and so many strikes against them as they simply try to live here, but they are troupers and keep on keeping on for Jesus!
We will send out an update once I have had the procedure done.
We love you all and are so blessed to have you as partners…we are not alone…the Father is with us, and you all are with us too. We are encouraged.
Many blessings and tons of love.

Johann and Louise
As of today – February 11th

As of today – February 11th

Greetings from (a very) sunny California! News has been slow in coming over the last few weeks, but it is time for us to give you an update, and ask for your prayers as we continue the process of Deputation and seek partners to continue our ministry and mission in Belize!

But first things first, many of you have been waiting for pictures from the wedding! Our photographer has sent us the final cut of over 700 pictures, and they look amazing! Please feel free to check them out and to share in our joy!

Over the last few weeks, we have been visiting with churches and other supporters, even as Mary Beth has begun classes and we have almost completed the process of moving into our for-the-time-being studio apartment in Fullerton. On January 31st we were honored to visit Holy Trinity Parish (Ocean Beach), and the following Sunday, January 6th we returned to our primary sending church, the Anglican Church of the Resurrection (San Marcos) where they are already missing Mary Beth, her presence and her piano playing.

This weekend itself will prove to be quite busy. Tomorrow (Friday) I will be headed to a clergy meeting for the Diocese of Western Anglicans, and on Saturday will be presenting about our mission at the annual meeting of the diocesan House of Delegates (i.e. Synod). Immediately afterwards, we will then fly east to Nevada, where we will spend the rest of the weekend with the good people of Christ Church of the Sierra (Reno) who for years have been key supporters of our ministry. We plan to be back in Southern California again by Tuesday so that Mary Beth can get back on campus, preparing for her senior piano recital to be held on May 6th.

In other news, Lent has begun and with it a serious and introspective character to life. It is difficult for me to be away from my friends and ministry in Belize, and the somber mood of preparation for Holy Week and Easter seems to resonate for me during our sojourn away from the mission field proper. Financial support is coming slowly, and it is tempting to lose heart as we wait on the Lord. But Mary Beth and I believe that the Lord has indeed called us to Belize, and he will prepare the way for us to return. And so we ask you again to join in praying for God’s provision and providential hand in preparing the way for our speedy reunion with our beloved friends in the Cayo District.

In the meantime, things continue on very well at St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s. This past Sunday both churches held their Annual General Meetings, and with the guidance of Bishop Wright and Deacon Tulloch, the leaders for 2016 are already jumping into action. My “State of the Church” addresses (one for St. Andrew’s and one for St. Hilda’s) were given in my absence, and I commend them for your reading as well. I am excited to see where the Lord takes our churches over the next few months, just as I am excited to return and be wtih them once again.

So, thank you all for your prayers, for your support, and for your encouragement. May the Lord richly bless you!

Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy 2016-02-10 01:24:00

 War…and Rumours of War

   Jesus, the Prince of Peace

The phone rang. I looked at it apprehensively. The screen read, “Peter from Tongo.” 
“Are you fine?”, Peter asked. 
“Yes, we are fine,” I answered.
“You are all fine?” He sounded surprised. “There is war in Gambella!”
“Yes, it is difficult in Gambella now. Pray for us….”
War? Maybe. And much worse – rumours of war.
“The tongue is a small thing, yet, …how great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5)
At first the chatter was impersonal: “A bomb was thrown.” “This one was killed.” Then it became personal. “My brother was killed.” “My uncle.” “My nephew.” “My wife’s mother.” Always the ‘other’ group the aggressor, and ‘our’ group the only victims mentioned. Incendiary rumours taken as fact, whipping up emotions and anger. Hardening hearts and faces.
I’ll let Grant describe the situation.
From Visitors to Violence
January has been hectic. It was a joy to welcome visitors here in the Gambella Centre from Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Toronto, Ireland, and from Addis Ababa. Some taught, some painted, some did carpentry, some catalogued books in the library, some preached in our churches, or taught groups of clergy and lay readers, Others taught Sunday School teachers in several different locations. All were a joy to work with, and all contributed to the life of the church here. 
But as the last guests were leaving, life in Gambella began to unravel. 
It started as a dispute between two local Gambella officials. Well, apparently that’s how it started. Accurate ‘news’ is hard to come by here at the moment. Innuendo and rumour substitute for anything close to ‘fact’ or ‘reality.’ In any event, the two officials were from differing ethnic groups. The Anuak and the Nuer have always lived in a very uneasy tension in Gambella, tension which can flare up quickly.
The two officials and/or their representatives had guns. Guns were fired and at least one person was injured. In apparent retaliation, a pregnant women from the other group was beaten. Two days later she and her unborn child died of their injuries. Then came the explosion – literally. At a local college someone let off a bomb. Rumours as to the nature of the explosion include that it was a grenade, a landmine, or some more improvised device. Students from one group began throwing rocks at students of the other group. Police came and began firing in the air, or perhaps lower … panic set in all over Gambella town and other towns in the region. Everyone’s cell phone was buzzing with so-called information, or at least with hearsay about what had happened to ‘their people’. 
My clergy began phoning me and texting me. Much of the ‘news’ was inaccurate, although it was clear that death and injury on both sides was mounting up. Some accurate reporting was mixed in with the speculation. Our theological students, both Nuer and Anuak, lost family members. On the night of Jan 29th much shooting was heard from the centre of town. Worries were that there was a gun battle in the streets. It seems now that the suddenly over-crowded prison experienced a mass jail break.  A woman who cooks for groups on our compound lost a nephew in that violence. Doubtless we will learn of more deaths in the coming days. No one knows the number of casualties from this whole event. Or, if they do, they aren’t telling. Twenty seems to be the best guess.
On Jan. 30th, the Gambella Centre, received an unexpected influx of local ‘refugees.’ About 70 women and children from the small community nearby our compound suddenly walked through the gate. I’ll let Wendy describe their visit.
As they entered our compound, they reminded me of of the lines of refugees we saw heading into Akule refugee camp two years ago: women with their meager belongings on the heads, little babies in their arms, and children, silent, stoney faced, walking alongside. One difference – razor sharp spears and deadly pangas (machetes) were carried by a few of them, mostly boys, 8 or 9 years old. They had heard that ‘people were coming to kill them’, and they fled to us for refuge.
“What can we do?”, I wondered. “We have no stores of food and no means of defending them.” Inwardly I stepped back into Peace, and greeted each with a smile. I looked into the dull eyes and hardened faces. The sun beat down. “Water,” I thought. “Give each a cup of water.” As I gave each a cup of water, I looked into their eyes. It was the children who softened first. Slowly, shy smiles answered mine. Eyes began to brighten. It was lunch time. “They must be hungry,” I thought. I remembered yesterday, when the lunch prepared for 10 people stretched to amply feed almost 30. I had bread and ‘Injera’ enough for ten. But what was that with such a crowd? “Test Me in this,” the thought seemed to come. Grant went to get some peanut butter crackers left by our visiting team from South Carolina. Everyone had at least 4 or 5 pieces of the bread, injera and crackers (“biscotti”). Some of our Anuak students were with us. They and Grant led us in prayer. Johann, who had been driving various ones to safety, reported that the roads were empty of invaders. Federal troops lined the now too-quiet streets. Our neighbors relaxed, and leaving their precious bundles of possession temporarily in our care they left for home, with thanks and with blessings on their lips. 
Grant again:
After convincing our ‘visitors’ to sit and give up their weapons we heard their worries. They had been informed that the other ethnic group were coming to kill them. We made some calls and ascertained that there was no hostile group on the way. We gave them water and whatever we could find to feed them – and most importantly we prayed with them – and after a few hours they relaxed and began to head back to their homes. I was grateful that they decided that our compound was the safest place to be in a crisis – even though our dilapidated barbed wire fence wouldn’t really keep anyone out (a cow walked through one section a couple of days ago!).
The army has moved in to restore order – we pray that the soldiers may not over-react and may act wisely in a chaotic situation. Their task will not be easy. It is clear that the town is over-crowded. Shortages of power, water and many other things have left people on edge for months now. One group blames another for the problems.
We don’t know the future for the Gambella region. At the moment hatred, anger, grief and fear are ruling the hearts and minds of many; in the short term, instability, insecurity, and suspicion may remain for some time. Our prayer is that our churches and our pastors will be calm, will preach forgiveness, will welcome and advocate for people whose language and culture is other than their own.
(Ps 112: 1,7)  “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord…he is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”
I’ll let Wendy finish:
Last night Cham, our cook for visiting teams, came to us. “Many are wounded now,” she said. My nephew was killed last night, and I am afraid. Can my daughters and I come and sleep in the kitchen?
The Gambella Anglican Center has become a place of refuge and prayer. Please join us in praying for these dear people, caught in a long legacy of suffering and revenge. We, the ‘Ferenge/Engelize/Kawaja’, now each have a bag packed and ready. We do not want to leave.
Amazing prayers at each of our Gambella churches this morning. On both sides of the conflict, there were gracious prayers for each other. Prayers affirming the worth of all people. “Let the hatred end with this generation.”
As of February 5, 2016
Many troops remain in the town and fear is still evident. Nuer and Anuak are not crossing into each others’ parts of town. Our theological college is running classes in two separate places. But life is slowly getting back to normal. Buses have started running, banks and shops are open again. Thank you all for your continued prayers.
+ Grant

         Pray for the children

~ Please Pray with us ~



~ For peace, for unity, and for the grace of forgiveness to be known in Gambella

~ For the students and faculty of the St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College. We are now holding classes in 2 different locations  – one for Nuer and one for Anuak. Pray that we may again be united in one place, bearing witness to “One Lord, one faith, one blood.”
St Frumentius students with Grant and faculty member Jeremiah Maet, taken the day before the trouble began.

~ Pray for our wisdom and discernment regarding the safety and well-being of our staff and faculty. 
  
~ Pray for our Mothers’ Union as we plan and prepare for the next phase of their teaching and ministry  under entirely indigenous leadership 

“Mosquito” used in our Mothers’ Union teaching on Malaria, during the dramatic presentation of “Helping Each Other when Little Things cause Big Problems”

~ Pray our congregations as they reach out to the communities of the wider Gambella Peoples Region, for peace and unity

Splat!

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 


How can this not be one of the most wonderful, beautiful statements ever uttered by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?   It has comforted me and encouraged me many times over.  The darkest time is no longer dark, but filled with the light of hope and love when I remember this promise.  I will never be alone, never without love and hope, no matter what this life brings.  I have repeated this to countless people suffering from tragedy, anguish, or fear.  I pray it brings them the comfort it does me.

This wasn’t Kennet’s first rodeo.
He knew what was coming!


Recently, it occurred to me that Jesus made this promise is not only for the diffiult times, but the happy ones too.  It was hearing “SPLAT!”  that did it.  It began with a funny game I brought back from the US to play with the medium boys called “Pie In the Face!”  It is a simple game.  You spin the dial and turn a crank the required number of times, your face positioned just right.  At a random moment, SPLAT!  You get hit in the face by whipped cream!  Hilarity ensues.  Very quickly, the game devolved into taking turns getting hit in the face.  Everyone had to participate!  

It was as funny the 50th time as it was the first time.  And who do you suppose laughed the hardest? I am sure it was Jesus, sitting there with us, holding his breath until Kennet, or any of us “lost” the game again, then bursting out laughing!


Then again, I heard a “SPLAT!”  This time it was a water balloon.  I don’t remember who the perp or the victim was but it didn’t matter because seconds later we had pandemonium.  Water balloons flying across the courtyard, children shouting with victory or laughing in defeat.  It was every man, woman, and child for themselves!  Then….(imagine foreboding music) the big guns came out.


There was Menguin, house dad for the big boys, standing in the middle of the courtyard swinging a hose over his head, promising all a well aimed spray!  That unleashed the more strategic warriors and the bowls and buckets appeared. Every faucet, placed for fire prevention, was going full force. Filling a constant supply of balloons, buckets, plastic cups and anything else that could hold water.  And who was in the middle of it, pointing out vulnerable victims, directing balloons to their target?  I am sure it was Jesus, whooping along with everyone else, laughing to see Menguin get his from a bucket from behind!

She is not innocently walking with a bowl!

I am sure Jesus threw that balloon at Menguin!

When Jesus promised to be with us always, he meant always and in every situation, including pie face and water wars.  I was filled with joy when I could see him there, face covered with whipped cream and hair dripping wet from a well placed balloon strike.  That is what love is…To cry with us, to struggle with us, to grieve with us, and to throw water balloons with us!  

As the child’s hymn goes,  


Jesus loves me, this I know


For the whipped cream is in my nose

  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 
SPLAT!


January 2016 – Lima and Huancayo, Peru

Dear Ones –In Rusty and Sara's home - he was trying out my little camera.

Thank you so much for sharing in the Peru
ministry last month.  It was a good and fruitful time, though at times difficult.

The original plan was to celebrate Bishop Bill’s retirement and the consecration of two more Peruvian bishops.  Neither happened as the plan to become a Province of the Anglican Communion was derailed.  Bishop Bill has been asked to stay until the end of April and no bishops are scheduled to be consecrated.  Quite how the future will unfold is unclear.  My hunch is that there will be a bishop elected to become diocesan and then, after Bishop Bill returns to England, the development of Peru will continue.

There was much disappointment, indeed some fears for the future.   I joined John and Susan Park – veteran SAMS missionaries and a team of three from the Diocese of Worcester, England, – including the Rt. Rev. Graham Usher, Bishop of Dudley.  We met and planned how we could help after the transition.  While there, we all sought to exercise a ministry of encouragement and hope.  Susan Park went to Arequipa, I went to Huancayo and Bishop Usher met with the new bishops.

DSC_6464I also spent time in San Mateo, Lima, where we sought solutions to their water problems – intermittent delivery and hugely polluted.  Thanks be to God there are some solutions in sight thanks to a companion parish and “Living Waters for the World.”  The school has huge needs – does anyone have a 16 camera security system the state is now mandating?

In Huancayo there are four clergy –DSC_6136all tent making so as to serve as priests and missionaries.  There is one new candidate for ordination.  They are under the leadership of Vicario Carlos Quispe.  There are four missions and all are in rented property.  The clergy there were despondent having just had two of their community depart for another denomination.  They are dedicated and know how to reach into the communities across the valley from Jauja to Huancayo.

I am returning in March with a small team.  Louie Midura is coming from my own parish and three or four will come from Grace Anglican in Florida.  The goal is to introduce them to what God is doing at San Mateo in Lima and to give them a first look at Huancayo.  Grace Anglican is sending a team in late July.  This trip will give them a vision for Huancayo.

I want to give thanks for the success of the January trip.  I had no altitude problems, my Spanish became fluent if imperfect and all travel was easy.  Please pray for the same in March.

In late February I head to Florida to be with Grace Anglican and then on to a SOMA board meeting.  In April I shall be at the New Wineskins conference in North Carolina, preceded by the SAMS missionary retreat where I am to lead worship.

Thanks for your continued support.  As ever, we need financial support as well as lots of prayers.  We are a team – senders and sent.  Bless you all,

Ian+

 

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The pass over the mountains is over 13,500 feet.

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These water tanks need to be placed up on the fifth floor so as to feed the bathrooms.  San Mateo needs a pump and plumbing to raise the water to that level.

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The tanks seen from above –the area with the three small toilets will possibly be where we can house the purification equipment.

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The new tiled floor in the chapel of San Mateo – the altar area is now roofed.

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The new bathrooms – thanks be to Grace Anglican Church, Fleming Island, Florida.

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Fr. Dimas is the parish priest and Rusty Edmunson is a Presbyterian missionary and works with Living Waters for the World.  Behind is the square in San Juan de Lurigancho.

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This woman is carving gourds

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In one of the outlying farming communities – where Fr. Ricardo has family– we found an ongoing New Year set of festivities.  

I

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These masks represent the old men and young men of the Inca era.  They dance and shuffle accordingly, snap their whips and entrance the crowd.

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One of Fr. Ricardo’s uncles

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A village view from a shrine – they are a very traditional Roman Catholic area.

 

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This view is from a huge statue of the Virgin Mary at the village of Concepción

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One of our store front missions – this one is in Huancayo and led by Fr. Pancho and his wife Elida.

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Fr. Ricardo introduced me to his Tia Abuela – grand uncle.  He was dancing though not in costume.

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The BVM is about 75 feet tall and dominates the valley.

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I loved this bridge as we headed up into the mountains.

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Fr. James and his wife and children – he is at Justo Juez in Jauja at the other end of the long valley leading to Huancay.  Jauja has the local airport.

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From the main road – there were snow capped mountains to the north.  This is mid summer!

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The square in San Jeronimo, where we have our newest parish and mission center for the Huancayo area.

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At San Jeronimo we renewed our Baptismal vows – Fr. Ricardo is passing out the candles.

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Celebrating the baptism of Jesus

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Vicario Carlos and the music leader at Justo Juez

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With Carlos at San Jeronimo

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The whole valley was one huge lake eons ago.  This remains.