Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy 2015-11-30 03:47:00

We Remember…

Beloved Ojullu Obilla, died Oct 26, 2015, age 39 yrs. We join with his family and friends in grief and in hope. Ojullu had provided for this dear young woman since the death of her own family. “Who will care for me now?”, she sobbed.
Ojullu was to have been ordained deacon this week at the dedication of St Frumentius Anglican Theological College by Archbishop Mouneer Anis.

Remembrance 2015: World War III?

Every year I have to preach about war. For the last four years I have been invited by the British Ambassador to Ethiopia to lead Remembrance Day / Veteran’s Day services in Addis Ababa and in other cities around the Horn of Africa. November 11th is remembered as the day on which the guns fell silent at the end of World War I. The sacrifice of those who gave their lives in both World Wars is remembered on this date since that time. 
This November 11th a small service was held in a gravelly cemetery near the airport in Djibouti City. Most in attendance were diplomats (British, American, French, Italian, German, Japanese – former enemies now allies) and military personnel from the large foreign bases in this ‘strategic’ little country adjacent to the very nearly ungoverned and ungovernable countries of Somalia and Yemen. The bodies of almost a dozen Allied airmen lie in this graveyard – some shot down over Djibouti (then French Somalia) by Vichy French gunmen.
After the service, it was my conversations with the French diplomats that were the most poignant. One told me that French Remembrance ceremonies are solemn, but entirely secular – no prayers, no hymns, no acknowledgement of God whatsoever. He was intrigued and found our Christian version moving. Both the French diplomats at the event remarked about a question that I asked in my sermon – “while we remember the events of two World Wars past, were we actually, now, in the midst of another World War?” Obviously the ‘war’ against global terrorism is a different kind of war: more diffuse; agonizingly unpredictable. But it is a war, and it is a ‘world’ war. Who knew, that two days later, the French themselves would become the latest victims of terror?
In all this, the Psalm we read at the service points to a reality that stands in stark contrast to human attack and counter attack: “He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots with fire.” (Psalm 46:9).  This is not a call to quietism, to inaction – it is a call to lift our hearts and look to a better Ally – One Who loves the whole world.
Two days later I was back in Gambella. No longer hobnobbing with diplomats and their ‘Military Attaches’, I am back with victims of war, with refugees who have fled a senseless power struggle in South Sudan. Once the internet was up and running I read the headlines: “Paris Attacks”; “Scores Dead and Injured in Multiple Bombings in the French Capital”; “French Borders Closed after Coordinated Terror Attacks.” Paris has become the latest battlefield of WWIII. How long, O Lord, will evil reign? When will the bow be broken and the chariot burned in the fire?
My diplomatic friend at the Djibouti service was struck by the message of Christian hope; by the message that God has not only promised to make a final end of all sin, evil and death, but that He has even come down to share the groaning of His creation.  
In Djibouti our service concluded with a poem written by the Rev. Edward Shillito. As he watched young men return wounded from the First World War, he wrestled with the question, ‘“How could he preach ‘good news’ in the midst of such devastation?” His poem, “Jesus of the Scars”, proclaims that only a God willing to suffer with his creatures could even begin to provide an answer:
    If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
    Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
    We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
    We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.
    The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
    In all the universe we have no place.
    Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
    Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.
    If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
    Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
    We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
    Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.
    The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
    They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
    But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak;
    And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.
In Gambella, in Paris, in Baghdad, in Mosel, in South Sudan the wounds of humanity continue to cry out. Only the message of Christ crucified and risen can speak to that cry. 

And We Rejoice…

~ with little Wecca, recovering well from open heart surgery. This little 6 year old would most certainly have died without surgery. As part of our fund-raising for this operation, we sold hand-made Ethiopian crosses. As I handed one of these crosses to a little boy in Montreal, I told him that this money was going to save a little boy’s life. His eyes grew big and solemn. “I want to buy another cross”’ he said. 
Thank you to all who contribute to our Samaritan fund.

~ With Jeremiah Maet Paul and his wife Elizabeth on the birth of their son, Kahn, November 14, 2015 Jeremiah is professor of African Traditional Religion at the St Frumentius Anglican Theological College.

~ At the upcoming visit of Archbishop Mouneer Anisfor the dedication of St Frumentius Anglican Theological College to be held November 24, 2015


Mothers’ Union celebrate the dedication of Holy Bible Anglican Church at Jewi Refugee Camp, Oct 25,2015


~ Please Pray with us ~
A little member of Holy Bible Anglican Church, Jewi Refugee Camp
~with thanksgiving for the 200 recently confirmed in Pinyadu Refugee Camp

~ for Peace between Nuer and Anuak in the Akobo region of South Sudan

~ For Grant and Wendy as they approach a particularly busy period of travel and teaching

~ For the victims of terror in Paris, Beirut, Mali, Somalia, Nigeria and elsewhere throughout the world

Newsletter, November 2015

“I have never started a Theological College before,” Bishop Grant told the Area Assembly this past week, “but I have found that it is easy to do so.” A number of people chuckled as they saw my expression of incredulity. “ All you have to do,” he said, “ is find the right person to do it.” Everyone broke out into spontaneous applause and the Nuer delegates began to sing.Kind words from our Bishop, but I am not so sure they are deserved. There have been many times when I have blundered on in the dark, trusting the Lord that He would lead me forward or fix my many mistakes along the way. All praise and honour and glory go to Him as He alone could do what has been done! Louise and I have simply been willing and ready servants.

This has been a wonderful month of learning and spiritual and physical restoration for both Louise and myself. We attended the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education consultation in Antalya, Turkey. There were 420 representatives from Theological Education Centres from 72 countries around the globe. Needless to say, we met many, many people and made many new friends and contacts. We also managed to sign up with Langham Literature, an organisation that helps College Libraries get the books they need for their students at affordable prices. Louise also attended two workshops on College Libraries that she enjoyed thoroughly. I met quite a few Deans and Principals of other Colleges and learned much from them. We also bought a number of books for the College – what a wonderful feeling to stand at a book table and buy books again!

After the consultation, Louise and I took a short break to rest before returning to Gambella. Thanks to Bishop Grant and Stewart Wicker of SAMS who made the break possible – and who insisted we take it!We returned in time for the Annual Area Assembly, the dedication of the College Chapel, and the official opening of St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College. Archbishop Mouneer Anis, Bishop Peter Tasker from the Diocese of Sydney, David Mansfield from Anglican Aid Australia, Luke Sherman, a videographer leant to us by the Tropical Health Alliance Foundation, as well as various representatives from other local denominations and organisations were present. Bishop Grant joked that while we were a bit early in dedicating the chapel as it is not yet complete, we were a bit late in opening the College as it has been functioning since August, so we are just right in our timing. It was a joy filled time for all. 236 clergy, lay-leaders, Mother’s Union, and church representatives attended. Please see my attached report from this Assembly below.

Our students received gifts of the Africa Bible Commentary as well as copies of Exploring Theological English made possible through the generous donation of a new friend to the College, Dr Larry. It was so moving watching them receive the books – some bent down and kissed the covers.We said goodbye to most of our visitors this morning. Bishop Grant and Dr Wendy leave for Egypt this afternoon. They will be at the clergy gathering of the Diocese of Egypt and will meet our dear friends, Kerry and Cynthia Buttram who have just been appointed to the English Speaking Congregation at the Cathedral in Cairo.

Prayer Requests:

There is no water available in the whole of Gambella town. Our main water tank has been empty for a week now and all our rainwater tanks save one are empty as well. Please pray for rain – even though this is the dry season – and for the municipal water to be turned on again.

Pray for our students as they come to the end of their first semester. They still have papers and exams to write before the College closes for the December holidays.

We give thanks for all our ministry partners…you are a great source of comfort and encouragement to us. Seeing your names listed on our monthly donor reports from SAMS reminds us that we are not alone in this ministry. The Lord has raised up a great team for us and we are grateful.

Many blessings and tons of love.

Johann and Louise

SFATC Report: Annual Area Assembly 2015

Greetings to:
Our honoured guests, Archbishop Mouneer Anis, Bishop Peter Tasker, David Mansfield of Anglican Aid Australia, representatives of other denominations, mission societies, and organisations, local government officials, and other friends.

Area Bishop Grant LeMarquand, Dr Wendy LeMarquand, General Secretary Rosemary Burke, Office Manager Meaza Tefera, St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College Faculty, Anglican Centre staff, all Clergy and Delegates.

Special thanks to the translators.

———- o ———–

Louise and I went to an ICETE consultation recently and one of the questions we were asked to consider was simply this: “What will the world be like when our students graduate in three years’ time?”

Unfortunately, this simple question does not have a single simple answer.

Things are changing so quickly all around us and so, as a Theological College, we have to ask ourselves, will we have prepared our students to deal with these changes and will they be equipped to help you, their people, understand the Gospel message in the midst of those changes? With the arrival of cell phones and the Internet – with things such as Face Book and You Tube a mere ‘click’ away – many of our people in the Gambella Region have been exposed in an instant to cultures and ideas and teachings and manners and behaviours very different to their own ancient and traditional ways.

If we at SFATC are not helping our students to think about these differences critically and to evaluate them in the light of the Scriptures, then we will have wasted their time, and our time, and we will not have served you, our community, well at all.

So, we have questions…and we will seek answers to these questions – and, no doubt, discover many new questions as we go along and as we learn from our students as much as they learn from us. But, God willing, when our students graduate in three year’s time, they will know the Lord well and they will know His Word well and they will know how to use what they have learned to serve the church and the society in general here in the Gambella Region.

As most of you already know, Louise and I arrived more than a year ago and we have spent that year asking many of these types of questions. After much thought, prayer, learning, and preparation (which included two intensive English Grammar and Reading Courses in the summer), we started SFATC in August this year with 13 full-time students (one of whom is from South Sudan, another is from the Lutheran Church) and 12 part-time students.
We also offer training for our lay leaders who struggle with the English language.

Unfortunately, one of our full-time students graduated from this life and went to be with the Lord he loves so much. We will always remember Ojulu for his desire to know His Lord and His Word better so that he could serve the church better.

Another full-time student could not cope with the financial pressures and decided to join our 12 part-time students instead, changing the numbers to 11 full-time and 13 part-time students. (Student introductions)

At present, we offer three programs: a Certificate in Theology, a Diploma in Ministry, and a Diploma in theology.

We have completed three classes so far this semester. Introduction to the Bible and Biblical Interpretation, Introduction to the Old Testament (I), and a course on Healing, Prayer, and Deliverance which was taught as two one-week intensives, with instructors from the UK, Ethiopia, the USA, and from Kenya. We still have three classes to be completed before the end of the first semester. African Traditional Religion, Theological English (I), and Biblical Theology (I), the last of which will be taught as a one-week intensive course. Our 13 part-time students join our 11 full-time students for the intensive courses.

God willing, along with our regular classes, we will offer two more intensives next semester, the first on Bible Story Telling and the second on African Church History.

We have four full-time faculty members. Karen Salmon, who teaches our Bible courses, is currently in Ireland doing all the paper work necessary for her to return to teach in Ethiopia. Karen also heads up our Servant Leadership Program in which our students learn to serve by doing various chores on and around Campus.

Jeremiah Maet Paul teaches African Traditional Religion and will be teaching on Islam and various other subjects in the future. Jeremiah is also the head of our Field Education Program in which students get the opportunity to work with some of our senior clergy in their churches. We have already had one very successful Field Education week and have received good reports about our students. I wish to thank all our clergy and church councils for their help in making this program successful. Without you this program would not be possible. Jeremiah also oversees the student Spiritual Development Program, in which he counsels our students, prayers with them, and teaches them wonderful new songs.

My wife, Louise, is our acting librarian and has catalogued more than 1,500 books by hand…she has 3,500 books to go. She has had some expert help in Barbara Hathaway and Muriel Teusink, for which we are grateful…and our students have been most helpful as well.

Along with the position of Dean/Principal, I teach Basic English Grammar as well as Theological English, in an attempt to help our students learn the kind of theological words and terms they will read and hear while studying the other courses. Another part of my position is to raise funds for student scholarships (with lots of help from Rosemary Burke), for buildings and furnishings, as well as for books both for our students and for our library.

Special thanks to all donors: Anglican Aid Australia, CMS Ireland, Crosslinks, IVP-UK, IVP-USA, Langham Literature, many individual donors and churches.

At the recent ICETE consultation, I was able to establish a few good contacts with individuals and groups such as Langham Literature, the Executive Director and the Executive Admin Assistant of the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa, various members of the Middle Eastern Association for Theological Education, and many others from all over the world who have and who will continue to help us in the future, whether through the provision of books, scholarships, advice, or other forms of valuable assistance. So, please do pray that the Lord will continue to lead us to those who will be willing to invest in the great work the Lord is doing here in Gambella.

We are especially grateful and honoured to have Bishop Grant LeMarquand serve as part-time faculty and as advisor and mentor to us all. Bishop Grant will be teaching an intensive course on biblical Theology in December.

We will be taking in a new group of 1st year students next year, so if you believe the Lord is calling you to enter into Christian ministry you need to pray about it, talk to your pastor or church council, and then talk to me as soon as possible. We would like for you to be recommended to us by your pastor and/or your church community. Then, you will need to pass an English entrance exam before taking the English Grammar Course in the summer. After that, the Academic Committee will interview and evaluate those who pass the English exams before any will be admitted into the College as students. We do want to make sure that those who come are called by the Lord and are serious in wanting to serve Him and His Church.

Of course, we are open to taking in students from other Christian denominations as well as other countries, but scholarships are limited to those who are Ethiopian Anglicans.

As always, we welcome your input as the church community at any time. It is encouraging to hear good reports from churches where our students serve. Please pray for us as we seek to equip those who will be your leaders in the future. Thank you.

Respectfully submitted

The Rev Dr Johannes W H van der Bijl
Dean/Principal of St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College
Gambella, Ethiopia

A quick update from Mary Beth in California – November 13th

Hi everyone!  I apologize that it’s been a couple months, but here’s another quick update from me! =]

As you may know, about five weeks ago I fell and sprained my knee.  While I’d like to have some cool story to tell you as to how it happened…my dogs knocked me over when they were playing fetch.  Who knew playing fetch could be so dangerous?!  I’ll spare you the gory details as to what my knee did when I fell, but needless to say, lots of pain and now a helpful (if not entirely convenient) knee brace.  Yet through lots of prayers (and less walking than normal) I am getting better and walking a little easier each day.  Thanks be to God! 

In other news, the semester is quickly approaching its end.  Yay!  I truly appreciate all the prayers as my workload increases in what has proved to be a rather difficult/stressful semester.  I ask your continued prayers in the next month as I prepare for juries (my piano performance final), write lots of papers, and continue to prepare for David’s and my wedding.  Lots to do, but exciting just the same!  Less than two months till we get married =]

Sorry this was a short, but I wanted to catch you all up and thank you again for the prayers and support.  We couldn’t do this without you!

As of today – November 4th

It’s a big day in Belize: Election Day! Some weeks ago the Prime Minister called for the dissolution of the legislature and for national elections to take place on November 4th. Since then, supporters for the two main parties, the UDP and the PUP, have been campaigning day and night in preparation for today. Please pray for peaceful, safe, and fair elections, and please pray for those who are being elected to govern the country of Belize.

In the meantime, I have withdrawn to a location in the countryside to get some work done in peace and quiet, far from the crowds of campaigners and voters. It also serves to give me a spot of rest after what was a very stressful previous week. I want to thank you for your prayers for my immigration process! With God’s help and the cooperation of the government workers in Belmopan, my application for residency has come close to concluding. On Friday I was allowed to pay the standard fee to become a permanent resident ($1,000 USD for U.S. citizen), and I surrendered my passport to be stamped with the appropriate seals. Waiting for this stamp takes weeks, and it is unnerving to be without my passport for so long. Please pray that nothing happens to my passport, and that this immigration process is concluded smoothly and quickly!

In the meantime, life and ministry continues here in Western Belize. This past Sunday we rejoiced to baptize six new Christians at St. Andrew’s! Two of them are adolescents who have been considering baptism for months, and we are so excited for them to step into the new reality of the new life in Christ! One of them was willing to sit down with me for a little interview about following Jesus for a young lady her age is really all about:

Please keep Dekada and these other new followers of Jesus Christ in your prayers!

November is a busy time for us as well as we prepare for our episcopal visit just in time for the Feast of St. Andrew on November 29. We have about a dozen candidates for Confirmation at St. Andrew’s, and about half a dozen at St. Hilda’s, and we are working hard to make sure that they are prepared to profess their faith in Christ and receive the laying on hands when the Bishop comes.

In other news, life and ministry continues. It’s a joy for me, as I prepare for my own wedding in January, to preside over the renewal of vows this coming Saturday for the acting principal of St. Barnabas’ School and her husband! Having been married for 25 years, I asked the two of them to share some of their insights for young couples like me and Mary Beth who are just starting out, and this what they said:

I ask that you continue to pray for the two of us. Our wedding is just around the bend, and we are in the midst of many preparations, and it is quite difficult to get everything done while she is in the middle of her semester at CSU Fullerton, and while I am here in Belize. And please also pray about our financial support: we are eager for new partners in our ministry who can give to meet our new budgetary needs as a couple, needs that have to be met before we can return to Belize in 2016. Please keep us, and all these things, uplifted to our heavenly Father who knows our needs before we ask! Thank you so much!