A truck has been parked on the street leading to the clinic for months now. It is a disabled dump truck parked with its box in an elevated position. Since it is a convenient distance from a concrete wall, an enterprising fellow stretched some tarps across the intervening space and turned the truck into a dwelling, complete with a refrigerator. To make it feel a bit more like home, he also painted various parts of the truck in brighter colors: purple, yellow, green. I say “he”, but I’m pretty sure there were multiple people living there. A family?
Well, someone evidently persuaded them to move out, for the truck is now no longer inhabited. It’s not running either. But that doesn’t mean its usefulness has been exhausted. Behold, what Pinoy ingenuity has devised:
Yes, that is a basketball hoop. And it is at a pretty good height, with what can only be called a very expansive backboard. You could hit all kinds of interesting bankshots off that box.
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!
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
A couple of weeks ago I was accused, by someone I have never met, of being a liar, a hypocrite, stupid, and arrogant — because I am a Christian. I was startled by both the language used and the (typewritten) assault coming out of nowhere. I paused to check for stupidity, arrogance, hypocrisy, and lies. I am a sinner and I am weak so I do things I wish I hadn’t. I confess my sins, ask for forgiveness, and try not to do the same things again. (I do. More confession…) My personal theme song that plays in my head is “They will know we are Christians by our love.” In my humble, bumble way, I try to follow Christ by loving people. (Often fail, but rarely on purpose.) However, I was satisfied that the accusations were unfounded (especially since I don’t know this person from Adam’s house cat,) offered a message of peace and moved on.
Since then, I have been noticing the Christians around me. Last week, was the annual prayer walk in which Dony, Jenny, and Franklin go to each of our locations, including every building at the Children’s Home, to pray. They pray for the space and the people in the space. Dulce and Gloria were at Casa LAMB with me when they arrived. All of them have devoted their lives to serving God. Their own lives are full of challenges that would paralyze most of us. Nevertheless, they put their full trust in God and do their work with joy and love, and no whining! I am in a constant state of learning about how to be faithful from them.
I attended my first devotional in Flor of the new school year. Now we have 240 children! Almost 100 more than last year! The sound of their singing filled the soccer court, the community, and my heart. The passion of the teachers and principal, the joy of the children as they sang praises to the Lord was overwhelming. My own faith seems so lukewarm in comparison.
At the Children’s Home, the church leadership are children! Daniel, Carmen, Silvia, Julio, and Mirza are Sunday School teachers, Praise Band leaders, Assistants to Suzy for Baptism classes, lead an intercessory prayer group, help with Confirmation class, and participate in Discipleship class. I don’t do all that now, never mind when I was a teenager! Their commitment is stunning.
My current team and I have unexpected house guests. Maribel is in the hospital so we are caring for her 3 children – 5, 3, and 6 months. I asked Dulce and Gloria if they would help. Dulce has the baby with her and likely will be up several times during the night. I asked Berlin if the children could spend Thursday and Friday in Sala Cuna while I am working with the team. They all have heavy loads already. Their reaction to taking on 3 more children? Huge smiles! Of course! Their self-sacrificing love inspires me.
Through the course of my days here, I meet random people who shine God’s love through their eyes, words, and smiles. These are the poorest of the poor, who have nothing. Nothing as far as material goods, that is. They are wealthy in faith, hope, and love.
And then, of course, there is Suzy…
Next to all these giants in faith, I am but a flea. But, I hop along, trying not to annoy too many people while learning from these many role models.
Lord, please help me show I am Christian by my love.