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Prayer Mail Update

Dear Friends,
This is an update/prayer mail combination. 
1) Update: I am in Belize on my 13th trip in about 4 years. The trip this time is focusing on moving people forward in the ordination process, and I seem to be playing a central part in enabling that to happen, as Examining Chaplain and as a team member alongside the Bishop and the Commission on Ministry.
Though we have a full week ahead of us that may reveal important matters: as a result of my visit, I am anticipating ordinations to be scheduled during the summer, and I have been invited down for that event (specific date not established at this writing). 
As an advocate of people in the ordination process, I have also enabled the next phase of the next tier of people for the ordination process to move forward. It is not over til it’s over, so please keep everyone and all the matters at hand in prayer.
These are small daily steps that make a big strategic difference, the compounded impact being in part because of the repeated visits over time. 
2) The seminary library on the ground in Belmopan that has been reorganized by volunteers is poised to make a difference as a resource for at least one of the people in the process. 
3) I have been planning with the Bishop, the next phase of the strategic focus in my ministry here. More to come on this in the fullness of time. 
4) Prayers: 
that this trip continue to be fruitful, and for all the plans we are making and for all the people involved.
For Belizeans, the weather has been hot and humid. Prayer for those of us walking in a perpetual very warm shower of humidity, especially regarding dehydration.
God bless you,
Fr. Shaw
Belize City, Belize, Central America.

Sparks

Dear friends, this is a quick post to ask for your prayers for a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Guatemala and Belize that has escalated over the last week or so. Many of you are probably aware of the longstanding territorial dispute between Guatemala and Belize (in brief: Guatemala believes that much or possibly all of Belize rightfully belongs to Guatemala). But it’s more complicated than that. As photographer Tony Rath fleshed out in an amazing 2014 piece, Belize is actually waging a war within its environmentally protected lands against Guatemalan poachers who are heavily financed, heavily equipped, and heavily armed. That same month, the death of tourism police officer Danny Conorquie (a graduate of St. Hilda’s school) rocked our communities and served as a reminder that, so long as the territorial dispute continues, Belize’s national sovereignty and its people’s security are in jeopardy from outside poachers and illegal squatters.

Then last week tragedy struck. Guatemalan minor Julio René Alvarado Ruano was killed in the border zone by Belize military forces. These soldiers, who were traveling with members of the NGO Friends for Conservation and Development, maintain that they came under fire and shot back in self-defense, though family members of the young man contradict the military’s account. The incident, which comes on the heels of the shooting of Belize sergeant Richard Lambey, drew heavy criticism from Guatemala’s recently elected president Jimmy Morales who during his campaign for office had said that, “the worst thing to happen to Guatemala was losing Belize.” Within days of Alvarado Ruano’s death, Guatemala began amassing troops along the Belizean border, at least 3,000 in the last week, and the Guatemalan military has now occupied a famously disputed island in the Sarstoon River.

In other words, sparks are flying. Tensions between the two countries are practically as high as they have ever been.

In order to find a resolution, the Organization of American States (OAS) has been called in to investigate the situation, and Belize is confident that the story reported by its military and the accompanying NGO rangers will be vindicated.

In the midst of this tragedy, we ask your prayers for everyone involved:

  • for the family of Julio René Alvarado Ruano, as they mourn his death;
     
  • for the sovereignty of Belize and the security of its people, especially that of communities that lie along the border with Guatemala in the Cayo and Toledo districts;
     
  • for clarity, justice, and discernment as the OAS investigates the shooting;
     
  • for wisdom for the leaders of Belize and Guatemala as they seek to lower tensions and improve the welfare of their respective nations;
     
  • for a decrease of Guatemalan troops along the border, and a withdrawal of troops from Sarstoon island;
     
  • for a firm diplomatic resolution to the ongoing territorial dispute in such a way that Guatemala respects Belize’s borders as they are currently drawn.

Thank you for your prayers for Belize and for our churches and our schools there, and thank you for your prayers for us and our ministry as we continue raising support! May God richly bless you all!

Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy 2016-04-27 11:57:00

More Sorrow

As I drove through the town of Itang, little seemed amiss. Luke, our deacon in this area, asked me to stop. “We can walk from here,” he said. As I got out of the vehicle the smell of burnt wood struck me. A hundred feet or so past where we parked we came around a corner – nothing but charred wood and ashes – more than 200 homes gone in one night. Our Anglican church was still standing – perhaps the attackers here had a sense of the fear of God that led them to spare that one building. If only they knew that the people they attacked were made in God’s image and more precious to Him than any building.

2016 has been a difficult year for Gambella – and it is only April.

The refugee crisis

Two years of civil war in South Sudan has brought 300,000 refugees into Gambella, roughly doubling the population of the region. The increased population has resulted in many stresses on the resources of an already fragile social system. Water, electricity, internet service have all been in short supply. Although Gambella is not densely populated, access to arable land and to river water for the needs of agriculture, animals and humans is becoming more and more contested. 

The Anuak-Nuer conflict

Perhaps the most important challenge, however, has been the change in the ethnic make up of the region. The Anuak, for generations the majority people group in Gambella, are now vastly outnumbered due to the influx of refugees fleeing the conflict in neighbouring South Sudan, almost all of whom are Nuer. Tension resulting from different views and uses of land has once more sparked conflict. The Anuak, as well as hunting and fishing, are more settled in the land, planting crops and having a sense of ownership of the land they till. The Nuer, are traditionally nomadic cattle herders who drive their cattle through all land; the land that they believe belongs to God and is therefore free for their use. 

At the end of January this tension became violent. The details of the fighting are vague and under-reported, but the short version is that a few dozen people were killed, many injured, and hundreds of homes burned and looted. Some of the Nuer and Anuak youth actually looted the villages of their own people who fled from fear of violence. The town and region are still filled with anxiety two months later. Nuer cannot safely travel into Anuak areas and Anuak are afraid to enter Nuer enclaves. The Federal Police and Army are seeking to keep order, but violence has flared up in several places.

Our church life has been deeply affected. Our theological students (five Nuer and five Anuak) must have classes in separate places for now. Travel to some places is too dangerous and many people are stranded away from home and are being cared for by church members and family. Some are running out of food or the ability to purchase more.

If these troubles weren’t devastating enough, bad turned to worse in mid-April.

The Murle attacks

Early on the morning of April 15th, large, heavily armed groups of Murle people crossed into Ethiopia from South Sudan. The Murle have had a long history of raiding the cattle of neighbouring ethnic groups, killing any who stand in their way (or happen to be in the wrong place) and kidnapping children who are then assimilated into their people. The reports were truly horrific. Young Murle men with automatic weapons killing indiscriminately in the areas of Lare, Jikwao and Nininyang – all places where we have Anglican churches.  The first reports said 140 Nuer people, mostly women and children, were dead. The death toll went up steadily – 160, 182. It is now being reported that 208 have died, at least 82 treated for bullet wounds in the Gambella hospital (others have been moved to hospitals in Metu and Jimma), as many as 108 women and children have been abducted. 

David Yao Yao, a former Murle politician turned cattle rider has denied responsibility. He did claim (truly enough) that the war in South Sudan (mostly between Dinka and Nuer, although this is an over-simplification) has so destabilized the eastern regions of South Sudan that the area is virtually lawless. It seems that it was only a matter of time before the chaos ensued. The Ethiopian government and the South Sudan government have said they will work together to track down the perpetrators of this brutality and rescue those abducted. We will see. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia declared two days of mourning.

The only good news is that the rains have started – it is harder to raid cattle in the rain, so this event might not be repeated (this year).

These overlapping tragedies of civil war and the massive influx of refugees, the ethnic violence over land between the Anuak and Nuer, and now these appalling Murle raids have left our people feeling raw and fearful.

Jewi camp 

Just a couple of days after the Murle attacks, a truck owned by an NGO and driven by a “highlander” drove into Jewi Refugee camp just a few miles outside of Gambella town. ‘Highlander’ is the name given to non-Gambellan Ethiopians – Amharas, Tigrayans, Oromos and others – who are lighter skinned and quite different culturally from those groups native to Gambella. The truck struck and killed two Nuer children. Enraged refugees, no doubt already tense and on edge, responded with vengeance killing at least nine (perhaps more, reports are conflicting) highlanders. Vengeance leads to vengeance. Highlanders in Gambella began a march to the camp to kill Nuer. A highlander mob tried to attack Newlands, the Nuer part of Gambella town. Many were praying. Thankfully, perhaps miraculously, highlander retaliation was turned back by the Ethiopian (highlander) army. Although cars were burned in the centre of town, blocking the roads, and gunfire was heard sporadically throughout the day (warning shots thankfully), fewer casualties than expected were reported. As of April 25th, Gambella remains in simmering, tangible fear and anger.

The Anglican situation

Information has been hard to obtain from the villages and refugee camps. The internet has functioned only part of the time. Quite a number of relatives of our church members were killed during the Anuak-Nuer clashes. Many members were looted or had their houses burned. We have so far learned that, during the Murle raids, three members of our Anglican congregation in Kowkow (near Lare) were killed and 1 child abducted. The sister of one of our clergy was also killed in another village and her child abducted. I have little doubt that we will hear similar details from other villages. Pray for our clergy and lay readers seeking to bring comfort to those who mourn and practical aid to many in need.

Thanks for asking

Many have been asking us, how they can help respond to the suffering in Gambella, and the needs of those who have lost loved ones, whose houses have been burned or looted, who need food, clothing and shelter. As one of our people told us, “There are many who are very suffering”. Some have been directly hit, others have been stranded without means for food, unable to return to their home area. The simplest and quickest way to help would be through a donation to our ‘Samaritan Fund’. See below for donation links, but please specify that the gift is to be given to “Ethiopia – Samaritan Fund”.

For those wishing to make a contribution in response to this crisis, please click on this link for “The Friends of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt”:
http://www.friendsanglicandioceseegypt.org/contribute.html
Funds can be donated online or by cheque. Please specify:
Ethiopia – Samaritan Fund.

We are very suffering here


There is a wonderful
African saying,
“I am because We are”.
Identity is known in relationship;
in belonging
to your community.
This can be unfortunate
in places that
have a tradition
in which
baby boys
are blood covenanted
at birth
to the revenge

of their grandfather’s enemies.

Grief in Gambella

The revenge of family
and community
can be a part of identity.
It is very hard,
especially for a young man,
to say,
“No. I will not join in the fighting”.
Now our churches have a saying,
“One Lord, one family, one blood”.
The blood of Jesus
speaks a stronger word,
than the blood of Abel;
the blood that cries out for revenge. 
Heb 12:25

 

 ~ Please Pray with us ~

 Please pray for Peace in Gambella and in South Sudan

~

Pray for a functioning government in the eastern regions of South Sudan. 

~

Pray for evangelists to reach out to the Murle people so that their society can be transformed by the saving and healing love of Christ.

~

Pray for comfort for those who mourn and for wisdom for those bringing comfort.
 

~

Pray for an end to the culture of vengeance.

 

Sarah Kuel,
whose life was changed a few years ago.
A stray bullet from Merle cattle raiders
hit her leg,
crippling her until,
through the Samaritan fund,
and through volunteer pro bono surgery,
she was able once again,
to live the life of a normal young girl,
walking and running without assistance.
 

 

Children from Ninninyang,
one of the villages
recently raided by the Merle.
This photo was taken
a few years before the current crisis. 

~

 


Whose I Am

Date: 
2016-04-26 00:00:00

Today I almost forgot whose I am.  A new course was added to my course load and I panicked.  The course is called Managerial Economics and I have never taught it before.  I wasn’t even sure what it meant.  So I went to a friend who reminded me that God will not allow us to get in over our head.  That I can do this.  Still as I went home I was feeling very let down.  Then I had a knock on my door and a neighbor invited me for dinner.  It was great to leave the work for a short while.  We talked and got to know each other better then I asked her how her day had gone and she said she had delivered a baby.  I asked if she had ever done that before and found out it was only here that she had delivered.  Can you imagine.  Here I was worrying about a,course which I can read and stay ahead of the students and she is delivering babies. She told me the outcome is not always good.  The clinic where she delivered the baby has limited supplies.  In fact last week a mother came who required a cesarean and they had to send her to Kampala because the clinic had no sutures.  but there is also no ambulance service. She had to go by public transportation and by the time she got to the hospital it was to late for both her and the baby.   Compared to that how can I not trust God for the provision.  I must now trust God for my provision of knowledge.  Help me to allow God to stretch me even when it seems to hard.  Help me to remember whose I am.

A Call to Prayer

We are calling for a week of prayer for Gambella, from Sunday, April 24 to Sunday May 1.
Last night, a “highlander” was bringing water to refugees in a nearby camp called Jewi when he accidentally hit and killed two Nuer. The driver and some innocent bystanders were immediately beaten to death and more were murdered later that night brining the total up to nine. This is not the only recent incident preceding and following the Jikwo, Lare, and Nininyang massacre. The hatred has to stop somewhere and we are asking the Lord to do what appears to be impossible for humans in spite of their best attempts.
Also, we had planned to bring in a Professor from Addis to teach all our students, both full-time and part-time, on the subject of Early African Church History. This is scheduled for May 2 – 6. Our faculty believe that we must take a step of faith and proceed with this course even though at present fear still keeps our students apart. We believe that this fear is not from God as He clearly says He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind and we believe we must take a public stand in faith. While we will not force anyone to attend, we are encouraging our Nuer brethren to allow us to bus them to and from the Anglican Centre.
And so we need your prayers for that week also. Satan is seeking to bring this College to its knees…and so to our knees we will go! Remember, St Frumentius is the only seminary in the area. It is no wonder that the forces of darkness rally against us in such a violent manner!
I include a poem I wrote after the most recent killing in Jewi.
We stand before the sea
We stand before the sea, dear Lord,
We stand before the sea.
We see the dust behind us,
We see our enemy.
All human ingenuity
Has failed to save the day
And in our hearts we wonder,
Will Satan have his way?
Will we lie crushed beneath his heel
Will hell victorious be?
Will hatred, strife, and bitterness
Still reign perpetually?
Will sulphurous fumes engulf us all
And drag us down below
The surface of this swollen stream
Infested with our foe?
Stand, believer, stand and see
Salvation by God’s hand!
The God who freed the Hebrew slaves
And wind and waves command,
Is still the God Who was and is
And is to come again…
His Spirit touches deep within
And turns the hearts of men.
Come, Lord Jesus, come to us
You are our only hope.
The evil one walks through the land,
Binding with his rope
Those whose pain and suffering
Have given way to wrath;
Whose hardened hearts and conscience seared
Have led them down this path.
We plead the blood of Jesus Christ
As covering for us all;
We plead for the angelic hosts
To hearken to the call;
To battle principalities
To cast down every power,
And through our prayers may God once more
Become our mighty tower.
We are a mighty army,
And rank on rank we stand
With thousands and ten thousands
Of God’s angelic band.
In fiery chariots ready
To march against the hoards
Of hell and of destruction
To break their fiendish cords.
We stand before the sea, indeed,
But firmly on the Rock!
Our faith will lead us on again
Though others may us mock.
The one who spoke and all was made
Still speaks in healing words;
Your love and care will win the day
And render hate absurd.
Johann van der Bijl © 2016-04-20