Supermodels, Princesses & Special Police

Undiscovered Gambella Supermodel

Gambella is a strange place. It’s out of the way (we have an airport but it is used mostly by the World Food Programme). It’s poor (nearly half of the current residents of the region are refugees). Our two seasons, ‘rainy’ and ‘dry’, are more simply known as  ‘mud’ and ‘dust’. In Gambella, not many are educated, not many are employed, not many are well-fed.
But on occasion weird and unusual events happen in Gambella.
Seventeen years ago, Paul Pok,  parish priest of Pinyudu Refugee Camp, made the difficult decision to send his two eldest daughters to school in America under the care of  a relative. Recently Paul, now Regional Dean of Pinyudu (overseeing twelve churches), told me that one of his daughters was coming for a visit – they would see their little girl for the first time in almost two decades. As the visit got closer I began to realize that there might be something unusual about this young woman. She was traveling with a small entourage including a photographer and someone who seemed to be a kind of handler. Slowly the story emerged. This young woman is a (famous, I guess…) supermodel working in Milan, London and New York.    
Nikon Paul
We were invited to meet her and had no idea what to expect. Wendy and I travel in some diverse circles, but the world of high fashion supermodels was never our interest, really. As it turns out Nykhor Paul is a delightful, articulate young woman. In spite of being out of Africa for seventeen years she has managed to retain her use of the Nuer language. Although she has not been ‘home’ for most of her life, she cares deeply about the plight of her family and the many South Sudanese refugees once again fleeing their homes because of violence. She has started an organization (“We are Nilotic”: see and a fund to help these victims of war (see
Then a few weeks back, while shaking hands with the congregation at St Matthew’s in Addis Ababa, the British Ambassador asked if I was going to be in Gambella at the end of September – sadly no, I was going to be in another country for meetings, I responded.  “Why?” I asked. 
“Well, there is going to be a royal visit,” says he.
HRH Princess Anne with Rev Deng Mark
“In Gambella?? Really? Who?”
“Princess Anne.” (HRH, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II…) “She is a supporter of a children’s charity that works in Gambella, so she’s visiting the project. She will also lay a wreath at the grave of the only Commonwealth fatality in the World War II ‘Battle of Gambella.’ I thought it might be nice if she could be met by the Bishop, and if he could say a prayer at the grave.”

We have known for a long time that Gambella has many, albeit unofficial, supermodels and princesses – we just didn’t know that Supermodels and Princesses from elsewhere would want to come to visit. We’re glad they did. If their celebrity draws the world’s attention, even just a bit, to the problems in South Sudan and western Ethiopia, well and good!
“In the case of an event keep your head down below the level of the window. The medical kit is right behind your head, just pull it forward if you need it.” The ‘special police’, former British military, were on the alert; an exciting, if somewhat hyper-vigilant introduction to one of the countries in our diocese to east and north of us.
The courtesy and consideration shown to me by the top government official was deeply touching. As we walked to the site of a proposed new Anglican church to be built in this country, it began to rain. “This is a sign of God’s blessing on the relationship between our two faiths”, I was told. Pray for the beloved countries of this part of the world. 
Remembrance Service in a beloved Country

~ Please Pray with us ~

Another Undiscovered Gambella Supermodel

For those undergoing persecution in certain refugee camps
For the St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological college
~ Library and Office building nearing completion
~ Dean’s residence nearing completion
~ St Frumentius’ Chapel plans submitted to contractor
~ Curriculum development
~ Official opening planned for September 2015
For the Horn of Africa Area Assembly November 26-28
For our church leadership, Clergy, Lay readers and Mothers’ Union