Monday, December 30, 2013

Johann & Louise Vanderbijl
~ Touching The Whole Person – Body And Soul ~

-  Vision with action can change the world –

January 2014
Dear Prayer Partners

“Come quickly!  You have got to see this!”  We had only been in Gambela for a few days, and already we had seen so much and our minds were in overload mode.  We could hear the joyous sounds of worship coming from the classroom building as we rushed down towards it.  There we found the Opo (a tribe which came to Christ only 7 years ago after a Nuer evangelist of ours shared the Gospel with them) leading the other tribes, all present for the week of training, in worship.  Given the generally tense tribalism in the region (the horrific ethnic violence in neighboring South Sudan is just one example of this complex historic problem), this event proves that in Christ, all divisions can be overcome. 

And this is not an isolated event.  Traditional enemies are not only praying and worshipping together, but they are also caring for and looking out for each other…recently Anuak refugees fleeing from South Sudan Nuer cattle raiders, were welcomed, housed, and fed by our largely Nuer congregation in Tiergol…when the fighting broke out in South Sudan, it became apparent that it was not safe for our Dinka priest (who serves as pastor to this particular congregation) to return to Tiergol, so his fellow clergy, made up of different ethnic groups, rallied around him and now he and his family are safe and being cared for by a Nuer family in Addis…South Sudanese refugees from different tribes are being cared for at the Anglican Center as well as at the churches in the rural areas.

Dearest beloved brethren, God is moving in Gambela, but the needs remain staggering in so many different ways.  I do believe Jesus looks over this area with the same compassion He had when He looked out on the Galilean multitudes and that He challenges us afresh:  “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” 

Please help us get our feet on the ground in Gambela!  Without your partnership, we cannot be the laborers we believe the Lord is calling us to be.  We are six months away from our departure date and have not yet reached a quarter of what is needed for our support.  If you have been thinking about supporting us, now is the time to make your pledge…if you have not been thinking about supporting us, would you prayerfully consider doing so? 

It has been said that many hands made make light work and it is true.  It is amazing how quickly support can be raised if everyone helps.  We have calculated that if about 200 people gave $1 a day (an average of $30 per month), we would have all that we need for our living expenses, medical insurance, pension plan, and transportation costs.  Many of you have pledged to give more than that amount and we are truly grateful, but this only goes to show that every penny given can make a huge difference when they add up in the end.

Please take a moment now to pray for us as the Lord’s laborers and if He would want you to be part of the team that makes it possible for us to go into His harvest.

Thank you for your prayers and your encouragement!
In Christ’s Service,
Johann & Louise

Should you wish to become a partner in this ministry, please click on this link for more information.  http://samsusa.org/users/johann-and-louise-vanderbijl

The Rev Dr Johann Vanderbijl and Louise Vanderbijl are SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders) missionary candidates serving in the people’s region of Gambela within the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa


Johann and Louise Vanderbijl
150 Oak Ridge Place, APT 4N
Greenville, SC 29615
(864) 884-4717   

Monday, December 2, 2013

Be still my soul...

Johann & Louise Vanderbijl
~ Touching The Whole Person – Body And Soul ~

-  Vision with action can change the world –

December 2013
Dear Prayer Partners

Be still my soul…it is a well known hymn set to the tune of Finlandia, a symphonic poem by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius…it is a hymn that has comforted and strengthened many believers since Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel first penned the words in German ("Stille meine Wille, dein Jesus hilft siegen") in 1752, and by the English speaking saints since Jane Laurie Borthwick translated it into English in 1855. 

The second verse came to mind this morning as I was reflecting on our future.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

For the first time this past weekend, both Louise and I were struck by the reality of what we are about to do.  As we move forward into this new chapter of our lives as followers of Jesus, we leave behind our children, our grandson, and many dear, dear friends.  True, thanks to air travel, it is not as difficult as it was for those great missionaries who have gone before us, such as Hudson Taylor.  Who cannot be moved by his description of the farewell between mother and son? 

My beloved, now sainted mother, had come over to Liverpool to see me off. Never shall I forget that day, nor how she went with me into the cabin that was to be my home for nearly six long months. With a mother's loving hand she smoothed the little bed. She sat by my side and joined in the last hymn we should sing together before parting. We knelt down and she prayed-the last mother's prayer I was to hear before leaving for China. Then notice was given that we must separate, and we had to say good-bye, never expecting to meet on earth again.

For my sake she restrained her feelings as much as possible. We parted, and she went ashore giving me her blessing. I stood alone on deck, and she followed the ship as we moved toward the dockgates. As we passed through the gates and the separation really commenced, never shall I forget the cry of anguish wrung from that mother's heart. It went through me like a knife. I never knew so fully, until then, what "God so loved the world " meant. And I am quite sure my precious mother learned more of the love of God for the perishing in that one hour than in all her life before. [1]

Be still, my soul…the Lord was quick to respond with the words of this hymn.  Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.  The certainty of His call upon our lives will carry us through into this next chapter.  He paid the ultimate price for our freedom, how can we do any less? 

This week, we leave for a short visit to Gambela.  This will be Louise’s first trip to what will be her future home.  We will also be making a quick trip down to Cape Town, South Africa, to spend Christmas with the Queen and our family.  Then back to Greenville on December 29.

Pray for us as we go, please.  We are taking in many much needed supplies and need to get them through customs without duties or fees.  It is winter now, so the threat of malaria is not as high, but do pray for our health.  Also, pray for Pat and Nancy Kenney, dear friends from Holy Trinity North Augusta, who will be with us for the trip to Gambela.

Also, do continue to pray for our support raising efforts

Thank you for your prayers and your encouragement!
In Christ’s Service,
Johann & Louise

P.S. Should you wish to become a partner in this ministry, please click on this link for more information.  http://samsusa.org/users/johann-and-louise-vanderbijl

The Rev Dr Johann Vanderbijl and Louise Vanderbijl are SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders) missionary candidates serving in the people’s region of Gambela within the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa

Johann and Louise Vanderbijl
150 Oak Ridge Place, APT 4N
Greenville, SC 29615
(864) 884-4717   



[1] Hudson Taylor in Early Years-The Growth of a Soul - Volume 1 by Dr. and Mrs Howard Taylor, http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/hudsontaylor/hudsontaylorv1/hudsontaylorv1tc.htm

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Psalm 51

Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your amazing and grace-filled love toward me. Because of your great compassion, erase the record of my rebellious deeds.
Scrub away my iniquity.
Cleanse me from my sin.
I admit that I have done wrong.
I am very aware of my sin.
Ultimately, I sin against you, because I do what you declare to be evil.
And so, you are just and altogether blameless in your judgment.
I am a sinner from birth, indeed, from the moment of my conception I was predisposed to do wrong.
But you desire truth to change my inner being, and for wisdom to reign even in the hidden recesses of my life.
As hyssop is used to purge poisons from the body, so I ask for you to purge me – then I will be clean!
Yes!  If you wash me, I will be whiter than the driven snow.
My deepest longing is to be filled with the kind of joy and happiness that comes from being forgiven.
Indeed! May my crushed spirit be revived!
Be blind to my sin, O Lord! Blot out the stain of my wrong doing!
Recreate me from the inside out and transform my inner being.
Please do not remove your presence from me!
Please do not let your Holy Spirit leave me!
Restore the joy I once had when you first set me free.
Yes, and please make me the kind of person who willingly walks in your footsteps.
Then I will be able to tell others about your merciful ways from my own experience.
When they hear, they will turn to you.
Rescue me from the guilt of bloodshed, O Lord!
You are the God of my salvation!
Then I will once more be free to sing songs about your righteous nature.
O sovereign Lord, grant me the ability to sing forth your praises once more!
I know you do not desire an outward show of repentance otherwise I would gladly offer that to you; but no, you require something far more fundamental than ritual, no matter how sincere it might be.
What you desire is for my haughty spirit to be broken and to be replaced with a humble and repentant one.
Be kind to you people, O Lord, and rebuild our broken lives.
Once our inward disposition has been changed, then our external forms of worship will be acceptable to you.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Psalm 50

My paraphrase of Psalm 50

The Mighty One – God – even the Lord of lords has spoken and summoned the earth to come from the East and from the West.
God shines forth in splendor from Zion – the most perfect of all places.
Look!  God approaches – He is not silent – a consuming fire goes before Him and a raging storm surrounds Him.
He summons the heavens above and the earth beneath as witnesses, so that He may judge His people.
“Gather My people together,” says the Lord, “all those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
The heavens declare that God is a fair and righteous Judge!
“Hear my people, and I will speak! Listen, Israel, as I am about to testify against you!  I am God – your God!
I am not about to find fault with your religious rituals which you practice so diligently before me.
In fact, I do not need anything from you – even that which you think is yours to give.
Because everything is not yours – it is mine – every wild and domesticated animal – every bird in the mountains and every insect in the plains.
Do you really think that I would ask you for sustenance?  Even if I were hungry, why would I ask you for food?  Everything in all of creation is mine to do with as I please.
Do you really think that I am dependant on you and what you give to me?
So, stop all the pretence and listen!  This is what I want from you.  Are you listening?  The first act of worship should be thanksgiving and praise directed to me as your benevolent Sovereign King.
Then, by all means, ask, lament, or reach out to me in the emptiness of your despair, and I will gather you up in my arms, and deliver you, and vindicate you!”
Now, hear what God has to say to those who oppose Him. “How can you talk about what is right and what is wrong, seeing you hate my instruction and reject my Word?
You align yourselves with thieves and adulterers, you cut people to shreds with your speech, and you use your words to deceive.  You speak slanderous things about your own family members as you plot evil against them.
You thought that I was just like you because I did not react immediately, didn’t you?  Well, now the time of silence has come to an end.  You will hear my judgment as I make my case against you!
Carefully consider this, all you who forget and reject me, before you are torn to pieces with no one to rescue you!
Carefully consider this:  Whoever approaches me in gratitude offers true worship.
And whoever chooses to follow a godly lifestyle will live in true freedom.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I have but one candle of life to burn...

As I speak to many of my dear Christian brethren about the Lord's call on our lives to go labor in His harvest field in Gambela, Ethiopia, I am often told that we have lost souls right here on our own doorstep.  Why not expend our energies and our resources in reaching out to them instead? 

Yes, it is true.  There are many lost souls in our midst and the Lord yearns for each and every one of them to be part of His blessed family.  He weeps over every sinner who perishes without Him and He rejoices over just one who falls into His saving embrace.  And yes, we may even say that the Lord has brought the harvest to us – that He has brought many of the tribes, nations, and tongues of the world to be our literal neighbors.  So yes, we must seize the opportunity to reach out to them with the message of grace and truth.

However, it is equally true that there is so much light here...light that simply does not shine in so many of the dark places of this world.  Everyone here at home has ample opportunity to hear the Gospel.  Radio, television, billboards, flyers, churches filled with many who can bring them to Christ.  True, it is a sad reality that many believers here do not shine their lights in their own little worlds - their own sphere of influence - but should their disobedience invalidate the Lord's command to go into ALL the world?

I have often reminded my parishioners that Jesus' command in Acts 1 was filled with AND'S and not with OR'S...Jerusalem AND Judea AND Samaria AND the ends of the earth.  Let us then shine our lights here brightly, but also there…there where the darkness is all too keen to overcome it and extinguish it. 

However, does it not follow that the call to shine out our lights in that deep and tangible darkness is all the more urgent than to shine out our lights in the light?  To go to where there is no (or very little) opportunity?  To where there is no (or very little) witness?  To go where the light struggles to penetrate the darkness?  To go where the gates of hell strive to prevail against the plundering forces of the Kingdom of light?  John Keith Falconer once said, "I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light." 


Jesus told us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers into His field as the harvest was ripe for the picking...both here and there...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Johann & Louise Vanderbijl
~ Touching The Whole Person – Body And Soul ~

-  Vision with action can change the world –

November 2013
Dear Prayer Partners

We are all familiar with the sight of children going door to door on All Hallows’ Eve, ringing doorbells and shouting out “Trick or Treat” when the door opens.  In the UK, and still in many of her previous colonies, there is another day on which children parade down the streets asking for “treats”.  The day is Guy Fawkes Day held on November 5 celebrating the foiling of a plot to blowup Parliament in the year 1605.  However, the cry of the children on this night is not “trick or treat”, but rather “a penny for the Guy”, and rather than dressing up themselves, they would dress up an effigy (sometimes barely recognizable as an effigy) of Guy Fawkes, the poor sod caught holding the fuse when the plot was discovered.  Some would wheel the effigy a round in a wheelbarrow while others would simply prop him up on a street corner, both seeking to raise as many pennies as possible. 

This November, Louise and I would like to be so bold as to present all our partners with a challenge.  If, like us, you have felt a pinch on your purse strings of late, your first response to appeals for support could be, “I lack the resources”.  However, would you prayerfully consider pledging $1 a day to support us?  You see, in order to raise our monthly support of $5,200, all we need is about 170 people pledging $1 a day!  Of course, there are supporters who are willing and able to give far more and we are grateful for every one of you, but we do not want to rob anyone of a blessing.  So we wish to make it possible for each and everyone of you to participate in meeting the critical needs of the people in the Gambela region of Ethiopia by giving $1 a day.  Click on this link for details as to how you can to that today!  http://samsusa.org/users/johann-and-louise-vanderbijl

Louise is currently in Marion, NC learning more about how to minister to those requiring medical assistance using (and reusing) what is readily available.  She is enjoying the intensive course tremendously and is all anticipation for the day when she will be able to put all this knowledge into practice!  Two of the nurses in her course will be our neighbors in the Horn. 

God willing, we leave for Ethiopia on December 5 together with a couple from Holy Trinity, North Augusta.  We will participate in a clergy retreat while in Gambela, during which I will be one of the teachers. 

Thank you for your prayers and your encouragement!
In Christ’s Service,
Johann & Louise

The Rev Dr Johann Vanderbijl and Louise Vanderbijl are SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders) missionary candidates serving in the people’s region of Gambela within the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa

Johann and Louise Vanderbijl
150 Oak Ridge Place, APT 4N
Greenville, SC 29615
(864) 884-4717   

Saturday, October 26, 2013

In a recent article entitled "The Stain on Obama's Soul", author and activist Mia Farrow states:

"Bashir's assaults against the people of Sudan have escalated in intensity. Some three million people are living -- if you can even call it that -- in refugee camps with wretched conditions. They lack even food, water, sanitation and basic medical attention. Hundreds of thousands of children are growing up malnourished with stunted growth and damaged cognitive abilities. If they survive, they are left without an education to a lifetime of suffering, with many likely eventually succumbing to disease."

Indeed, but Ms Farrow does not tell the whole story.  Her eyes are fixed on Dafur, but the refugees pouring into Gambela, Ethiopia are not from Dafur...they are from the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain districts.  Is their plight any less, one may ask. 


But the need for clean water, for basic health care, for nutrition as well as many other basic things does not go unnoticed.  There are those who care, though we be few in number and our resources limited.  But we are there because we care because He cares.  While we all may have stains on our souls because of our own blind spots, the Lord remains faithful in calling us to work in His vineyard.  And so we push on...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Our very own You Tube video!

Thanks to Marshal and Susan Raines, we have our very own video on You Tube! Please pass this link on to others.

Teach for Change

Saturday, September 14, 2013

TRAINING ON CLEAN WATER WITH THE MOTHERS UNION IN GAMBELLA



TRAINING ON CLEAN WATER WITH THE MOTHERS UNION IN GAMBELLA
In a recent survey conducted by the Anglican Church in Gambella, Ethiopia, it was found that an average of 2 to 4 children survived per an average of 9 to 11 children born into the family. Most of these children die under age 5 from communicable disease and malaria.

With the support of Anglican Aid, a three year training program for the Mothers Union has started to address issues of poverty and health. The Mother’s Union is an integral part of the Anglican Church in Gambella, and is actively engaged in literacy programs, church activities, practical help, prayer and visitations to the sick. The new training program will expand the role of the Mothers Union, providing theological and practical skills to women across 70 villages. This will be done through a ‘train-the-trainer’ program, which will empower women to affect change in their own communities.

Dr. Wendy LeMarquand, the project co-ordinator, reports on the first training session. “On September 4th and 5th, we hosted 34 women representing 20 distinct Mothers’ Union groups functioning out of our 14 Mission Centres spread throughout the Gambella region.

It was wonderful to see how intently the women listened to the introductory story dealing with issues of how we learn and how we can work together to help take care of problems in the community. And it was a delight to see how much they enjoyed using pictures and story-telling as they later practiced teaching this to one another! They had lots of fun looking through magnifying glasses and binoculars in the session on how we are able to see things that contaminate water, and they were amazed (and quite horrified!) at the pictures of microorganisms shown to them on my computer!

Our practice sessions on solar water purification, water filter construction, clean water dispensers and dish drying racks were full of laughter, good questions and good discussion. When each of the representatives left to return to their Mission Centres, they carried the materials to make their own clean water dispensers, carrying these simple, inexpensive and locally available items as if they were carrying costly treasure.

These ‘water dispensers’ that our representatives will make during their own community demonstration/teaching sessions will replace the common open (and never washed) communal pot of water (which is usually kept inside the church office, in the dark), and into which one unwashed cup is passed from one coughing adult to one feverish child, to another with diarrhea, etc.

Some were moved to tears to think that what they are learning may save the lives of their precious children. To think that the occurrence and re-occurrence of diarrhea is something that can be taken care of and prevented was a new concept to many. To communicate these important truths in a way that is fun, non-judgmental and memorable is one of the main goals of the program.

Our Mothers’ Union representatives will return to teach what they have learned by holding a teaching day for all of our 1500 Mothers’ Union members at the Mission Centres, and then by holding a second teaching day at our 60+ local churches where each Mothers’ Union member is encouraged to invite and teach at least one community guest.


The Mothers Union in Gambella requires further support for these training sessions. Please contact Bishop Grant and Dr Wendy LeMarquand for further information.

Friday, September 13, 2013

"He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it."

I sensed the Lord's gentle rebuke during my devotional time this morning.  My reading was from John 8.  In the Message verse 19 reads:  "You are looking right at Me and you don't see Me."  A few verses later, Jesus says, "The one who sent Me stays with Me.  He doesn't abandon Me.  He sees how much joy I take in pleasing Him."

My anxiety with regard to our fund raising efforts exposes my lack of trust in Him.  I'm just not seeing Him even though He is right here with us.  But I have His promise.  He stays with me.  He does not abandon me because He knows that, ultimately, I do find my joy in pleasing Him.

When I prayed, "Lord, please open up my blind eyes that I may see you at all times, I sensed Him saying, "He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it."

Amen, Thank you Jesus.

Monday, September 9, 2013

September 2013
Dear Prayer Partners

We are now officially moved out and moved in.  But the process of shedding continues as we embrace a new lifestyle of simplicity. 

The character Nora Walker Hobbs in the musical Tommy sings:  “But what's it all worth? What's it all worth when my son is blind? He can't hear the music nor enjoy what I'm buying.”  Seen from the Christian perspective of eternity, her words take on a whole different meaning.  What’s it all worth?  As Paul said to the Philippians, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.”  In fact, he counted them as dung in comparison to Christ and His cause.  Are we learning the same lesson?  In all humility, I hope we are.

Nathan C. Schaeffer once wrote, “At the close of life, the question will not be how much have you got, but how much have you given. Not how much have you won, but how much have you done. Not how much have you saved, but how much have you sacrificed. Not how much were you honored, but how much have you served.” 

As we rehearse the needs of the people we believe our Lord is calling us to serve, we are reminded again and again of how loosely we must hold onto our earthly treasures, whether they be material objects or our loved ones.  Many in the Gambela People’s Region have lost their livelihood, their possessions, their family members, their friends in a moment of terror.  The Sudanese government continues to persecute our brethren in the Nuba Mountain and Blue Nile districts and the refugees continue to fill the already overfull camps.  With nothing but a patch of land, a small hut, a few odds and ends they were able to carry, and the remaining members of their household, they exist from day to day. 

But things can be so different!  The Lord Jesus came that we might have life and have it in abundance.  Life, not stuff.  And this life is not only free, but it can also not be stolen away by anyone. 

Please pray for us as we continue to tell others about the work of the Vinedresser in that particular part of His vineyard.  Pray that He would raise up people who will be willing to invest in a heavenly portfolio by partnering with us in the work of the Gospel.

In Christ’s Service,
Johann & Louise

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

An honor and a privilege....

Some of you may remember that Louise and I worked in India, among others, with a handful of Anglican churches in the State of Andhra Pradesh.  During one visit, I was asked to evaluate the work in the Kadapa district as there had been complaints that the priest in charge was not fulfilling his duties.  To my utter delight, I found the exact opposite to be true and reported that the word of the Lord was being preached faithfully and that the work was thriving.  This report led to the creation of a separate Diocese and the priest in charge was duly elected and consecrated Bishop.  He was later made the Presiding Bishop over both Dioceses...quite a turnaround for him and his flock.  His name?  Jaya Rao...Bishop Jaya Rao.

During the celebrations following his consecration, his son, Rajesh approached me with a request.  Would I name their baby daughter?  What an honor to name the firstborn granddaughter of Bishop Jaya Rao!  I said I would pray about it, and I believed the Lord wished her to be named Hannah Joy...the Lord had indeed brought them joy, but I also believe that this child will be a prayer warrior and that her petitions which she asks of the Lord will be granted her.  Hannah Joy is still doing well and continues to be a joy to her parents and grandparents.

However, this past week, I received an email from the Bishop and Rajesh, his son, informing us that the Lord had given them a son and that they wanted me to name him as I had named his older sister!  What a blessing!  What an honor!  And indeed, how humbling.   So we prayed about it and this morning I believe the Lord replied.  This is the email I sent them

Dear Bishop Jaya Rao, and Rajesh

మీరు దేవుని మా తండ్రి నుండి మరియు మా లార్డ్ జీసస్ క్రైస్ట్ నుండి గ్రేస్ మరియు శాంతి!

Congratulations!  Thank you once again for the honor you show us in asking us to name your Grandson, Bishop, and your son, Rajesh!  We prayerfully considered your request and believe the child should be named "Joshua David".  

The name Joshua means "YAHWEH is salvation".  He was one of two believing men sent out to spy out the land of Canaan.  Together with Caleb, Joshua believed that God was greater than the giants in the land and that the Israelites ought to fight because God was on their side.  He later led Israel across the Jordan to conquer the land of Canaan.

David means "beloved".  He was chosen by God to be King over his brothers (see 1 Samuel 16:7), and through David, God completed the conquering of the land of Canaan.  Like Joshua, he believed God to be greater than the giants (in David's case, the giant Goliath), and like Joshua, David led God's people to victory over the enemies of the Kingdom.

I believe that the Lord is raising up your Grandson/son to be a mighty man of God in His Kingdom.  I believe God is raising him up to lead His people to victory against the "giants" - against the principalities and powers of darkness.  Joshua David will be a man of vision, a man of faith, and a man who will love God and be loved by God.

As Hanna Joy is to be a woman of power-filled and faith-filled prayer, so Joshua David will be a man of power-filled and faith-filled action for the Kingdom.

May the Lord bless both your children richly, Rajesh, and may they bring happiness to you and Rebecca, Bishop.

Blessings.

Johann

Friday, August 23, 2013

CLERGY TRAINING IN GAMBELLA













CLERGY TRAINING IN GAMBELLA

Every month the clergy of the Gambella region in western Ethiopia come for two to three days of training. We are reading through 1 Corinthians, reading a book on the 39 Articles of Religion, and talking about pastoral issues in the area.

Bishop Grant shares about a recent clergy meeting: “one of the clergy came to me during a break. “Bishop, I have a problem. I need help to understand something”. David Onuk is the priest for the Opo people a small language group two hours into the bush from Gambella town. Although the Ethiopian census number only 1,700, there are probably closer to 5,000 Opo people in the world (it is hard to count people who are so isolated). In the last few years many of them have become (Anglican) Christians.

David’s problem took me by surprise, so I brought the story to the assembled clergy to discuss. A 19-year old nephew, James, who lived with David and his family, had gone off with a group of other young men to hunt for honey in the forest. They found a nest in a tree and James climbed the tree to retrieve the honey. The bees attacked and James fell from the tree impaling himself in the chest as he landed. By the time David reached the scene James was dead.

Then David explained his dilemma. James is the first Opo Christian who has ever died. Some of the people are confused. Are Christians supposed to die? What happens to a Christian when he dies? David explained that the Opo have no view of an afterlife. After relating the details of the story, and after receiving comfort and assurances of prayers from the other pastors, we turned to an attempt to help David to communicate the meaning of this event to his people.

The passage which, in the end, seemed most helpful was 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, but especially the first two verses:
    “We do not want you to be uninformed brothers and sisters, about those who  have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve as those who have no hope. For,  since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus, God will  bring with him those who have died.”
Paul, it seems, had encountered a problem in Thessalonica which was similar to the problem that the Opo were having. Didn’t Jesus defeat death? Doesn’t John 3:16 say that those who believe in Jesus “will not perish”? So what does it mean that Christians die? We talked for quite a while about that fact that Jesus himself faced death. We talked about the resurrection of Jesus and how Jesus’ resurrection is the “first fruits” of our future resurrection. We talked about how we do not have to grieve as if facing death means facing total loss and emptiness, but how our grief is intermingled with true hope – because Jesus rose, we have the assurance of being raised with him. James, even now, is truly in Christ.”


For more news from Bishop Grant and Dr Wendy LeMarquand, visit their blog; www.grantandwendy.com

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Collect for this Sunday and my paraphrase of Psalm 38.

Collect for the Day
Merciful God, by whose gift alone your faithful people offer you true and acceptable service, grant that we may serve you faithfully so that we do not finally fail to obtain your heavenly promises, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Psalm 38
O Lord…please do not continue to rebuke me in your anger.
Please do not continue to discipline me in your fury!
It feels as if I have been pierced through with arrows, and like I am being crushed under your hand!
I feel sick because of your judgments.
I feel rotten through to my bones.
My sins overwhelm me like a giant wave.
I feel like I am staggering under a heavy burden.
It feels like I have wounds that have putrefied and rotted, all because of my own foolishness.
It feels like I've been hit in the head with a two by four and I stagger in mourning from day to day.
I burn with shame from deep within me, and my whole body burns with fever.
I am numb and crushed beyond what I can bear, and I howl because of the groaning of my heart.
O Lord, I am like an open book before you.
My sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs and my strength fails.
I am blinded by my pain!
My friends and my family have abandoned me because of my illness.
Even my neighbors keep their distance.
Those who wish me harm, plot against me and whisper destructive lies about me.
But I am like a deaf mute – I neither hear anything nor say anything.  Words fail me and I am not able to say anything in my defense.
But even so, Lord, my hope is firmly fixed on you.
I firmly believe you will respond, Lord, because you are my God.
You don’t want to see them rejoicing over my downfall, nor do you wish to hear them taunt me.
So, Lord help me, because I am about to stumble and I am in awful pain.
I openly confess my guilt because I am plagued by my sins.
My enemies are too numerous and too strong for me, and those who hate me for no reason are many.
I did them no wrong.
And yet they seek to do me harm.
I was good to them.
Now they hurl accusations against me.
Do not forsake me, dear Lord!
Do not remain far away from me!
Hurry to my side and help me.
You are my Sovereign King and my deliverer.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Selling, Packing, Moving Forward

As I write this, our home of fifteen years looks like a bomb hit it.  We are packing...and we are realizing that we have a lot more stuff than what we thought.  Trying to fit fifteen years worth of stuff in boxes, borders on the overwhelming.  So, we are doing the unthinkable...deciding on what to keep and what to sell and what to give away.  Some of these things have no monetary value, but they are loaded with sentimental value.  My first teddy bear, Louise's doll, a shirt signed by all her classmates at graduation, items that belonged to our parents and grandparents that simply cannot be used anymore, and so on.  I have a number of books that simply won't make it to Gambela...they are just too old, many sporting dates from the late 1800's.

So there is a moment's hesitation between the act of picking up the item in question and the act of placing it in the box.  Yes, no, maybe.  Then there is the Scarlett O'Hara option.  I'll think about it tomorrow...in the box it goes.

The flat we will be moving to is fairly small.  One bedroom with a den.  We have already experienced the joys of downsizing.  Our gorgeous King-size Indian Rose-wood bed was sold last week and we have been wrestling with a full size instead, but so far we have only bonked our heads once.  But space will be a problem, so at some stage the procrastination will have to end and we will have to morph into something more ruthless.  More of a yes, no, no, no...no!

And then there's all that has to be done to get us ready for the adventure called "raising support" - or partner raising, as we prefer to call it, because that is exactly what our supporters will be.  Partners with us in the work of the ministry in Gambela.

To say we need prayer is an understatement...but we know we have many prayer warriors out there who lift us up to the throne of mercy and grace daily and for that we are most grateful.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My paraphrase of Psalm 37:1-22: for responsive reading...

Psalm 37:1-22
Do not get upset when wicked people appear to succeed!
Do not envy the perverse, because they quickly dry up like grass and wither away like green vegetation.
Rather, trust in the Lord and continue to do what you know is right.
Live a life of integrity.
Delight in the Lord and He will delight in you.
He will grant you your heart’s desire.
Surrender your life to the Lord.
Rely on Him alone and He will act on your behalf.
He will vindicate you in broad daylight.
He will openly defend you for all to see.
Relax in Him and be patient.
Wait for Him with calm confidence.
Do not get bent out of shape because those who do bad things appear to be doing well.
Don’t get upset…don’t get your knickers in a twist.
Don’t be anxious.
That won’t get you anywhere.
Know that the bad guys lose in the end. 
But those who rely on the Lord will inherit the earth.
The wicked will be gone a lot sooner than you think.
While you are still looking, they will disappear.
But those who humbly trust in God will inherit the earth.
They will revel in His abundant peace.
While evil people plot and persecute the godly,
The great sovereign King of the universe scoffs at them because He knows their fragile future.
While evil people prepare their weaponry to destroy the oppressed and the needy, and to eliminate the godly,
They will succumb to their own devices and their machinations will be destroyed.
Even so, the meager possessions of the godly are of far greater value than all the riches of the wicked put together.
What they have lacks eternal value, but the Lord will always sustain His own.
The Lord is intimately aware of and intimately involved in the daily lives of His children
Their inheritance is permanent and safe in Him.
They will not be comfortless in times of struggle.
They will be satisfied in times of famine.
But wicked people will cease.
The Lord’s enemies will be like faded flowers burned in a fire…they will vanish like smoke blown away in the wind.
The Wicked borrow, but they do not repay.
On the other hand, the godly are known for their compassionate and generous giving.
Surely, those blessed of the Lord will inherit the earth.
But those who reject Him will be brushed aside.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My paraphrase of Psalm 36

Psalm 36
Those who rebel against God are rotten to the core. 
They have no regard for God and they are so proud that they see no reason to give up their sin.
Their speech betrays their inner condition – their very words are tainted with evil and deceit.
They couldn’t care less about doing what is wise and good.
Even before they get up, they are plotting to do wrong, because they are committed to a habitual sinful lifestyle.
They are determined not to reject evil.
(In stark contrast) O Lord, your gracious mercy is beyond comprehension – it is as infinite as the universe!
Your loyal faithfulness is limitless!
Your justice is as firm and reliable like the highest immovable mountains!
Your righteous judgments are as fathomless as a bottomless ocean!
(And as a just judge who always does what is right) you preserve humanity and all in the animal kingdom.
Your loyal love is exquisitely precious, O Lord! 
You preserve and protect us all like fragile chicks are sheltered safely under the wings of their parent.
We eat our fill at your banquet table and our thirst is quenched by the waters from the rivers of your delights. 
You are a fountain of life and in your light the blinders are removed from our eyes so that we can see clearly.
Continue to shower your love on those who recognize your royal authority and who obey your will.
Vindicate those whose motives are pure.
Do not allow those who rebel against you to gain the upper hand over us!
Do not allow those who have no regard for you drive us out to wander as fugitives.
By faith we can see the rebels lying flat on their faces before you!
They have been sent sprawling and they are not able to get up.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.

Friday, August 2, 2013

My paraphrase of Psalm 35 for responsive reading

Psalm 35
O Lord, contend with those who contend with me. 
Fight against those who fight against me.
Pick up your shield and rise to help me.  Take up your weapons and close ranks to meet my pursuers.
Cause me to know within the depths of my being that you are my sure deliverer.
Let those who seek my life be ashamed and disgraced;
Let those who plot evil against me be repulsed and brought to confusion.
Let them be driven off by the Angel of the Lord, just as chaff is driven off by the wind.
Let them slip and slide away as the Angel of the Lord pursues them!
(I simply cannot understand it.)  I did them not wrong, but they tried to ensnare me in a hidden net and trap me in a pit they had dug for me.
Let them self-implode!  Let them be caught with their own concealed net!  Let them stumble and fall into their own pit!
(In the meantime), I will continue to rejoice in you Lord as I wait for your deliverance.
Every part of my being will declare: “Who is like you Lord?  You rescue the oppressed from the oppressor and the poor and destitute from the plunderers.”
Persons given over to habitual acts of violence rise up against me and accuse me falsely.
I am deeply distressed because they reward me evil for good.
When they were sick, I was moved by their misfortune and fasted and prayed for them…
But my prayers were not appreciated.
To them I behaved as a friend, or even as a brother. 
I bowed down in sorrow as I would were I mourning for my mother.
But when I stumbled, they rejoiced. 
They took advantage of my weak moment and gathered together like scavengers lying in ambush, waiting for the opportune moment to rip into me like a pack of wild dogs.
When I tripped, they mocked me.
Like hungry beasts they wanted to tear me apart with their teeth.
O Lord, how long will you allow this to go on?
Break through their ranks and rescue me!  Save me from being devoured by ferocious lions.
Then I will thank you in the great assembly;
I will praise you before a large crowd of people!
Do not allow liars to gloat over me!
Do not allow those who hate me without cause triumph over me!
They don’t even try to make peace with others, but continually plot against the unsuspecting.
They open their mouths in a wide grimace as they shout, “Aha! Aha! Now we’ve got you cornered!”
This is not hidden from your view, O Lord. 
Do not remain silent or distant.
Be stirred up as an awakening warrior and come to my aid!
O Sovereign King, vindicate me according to your righteous judgment – do not grant them victory over me!
Do not allow them to walk away and say, “We got what we wanted.  We have destroyed him.”
To the contrary!  Let those who sought my demise be exposed and humiliated; let those who arrogantly stood up against me be clothed with shame and dishonor.
But then, on the other hand…let those who desired to see me vindicated shout with passionate abandon:  “Praise God!  Praise him who grants peace to his servants!”
(And because of this….I simply cannot help myself!) I can’t help praising you publicly and telling everyone about your justice!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen!  Amen!  Amen!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The countdown begins...

August 1, 2013.  This day marks the beginning of our countdown for the big launch.  In a year's time, God willing of course, Louise and I will be leaving the country we have called home since 1996 for the country we will call home for who knows how long.

As you can imagine, our emotions are mixed...excitement on the one hand and sadness on the other.  We will be saying adieu to so many good friends and family.  This will be the first time we will be separated from our children and our grandson by an ocean.  I am not sure we have fully comprehended the gravity of this reality. I remember, years ago when I was a young Christian embarking on my first mission away from home, reading a biography of Hudson Taylor.  In it, he described saying his final goodbye to his widowed mother.

“My beloved mother had come over to Liverpool to see me off.  Never shall I forget that day, nor how she went with me into the cabin that was to be my home for nearly six long months.  With a mother's loving hand she smoothed the little bed.  She sat by my side and joined in the last hymn we should sing together before parting.  We knelt down and she prayed - the last mother's prayer I was to hear before leaving for China.  Then notice was given that we must separate, and we had to say good-bye, never expecting to meet on earth again.
For my sake she restrained her feelings as much as possible.  We parted, and she went ashore giving me her blessing.  I stood alone on deck, and she followed the ship as we moved toward the dock-gates.  As we passed through the gates and the separation really commenced, never shall I forget the cry of anguish wrung from that mother's heart.  It went through me like a knife.  I never knew so fully, until then, what "God so loved the world" meant.  And I am quite sure my precious mother learned more of the love of God for the perishing in that one hour than in all her life before.
    Oh how it must grieve the heart of God when He sees His children indifferent to the needs of that wide world for which His beloved, His only Son suffered and died."  Taylor, J. Hudson, A Retrospect, Dodo Press, 2009.

But thankfully, times and transportation opportunities have changed, and we will be separated only by a few hours flight rather than months of sea travel.  And then we do have a whole year to spend quality time with them...


So the countdown begins...


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Lesson at the Bottom of the Ocean

So, we are in the process of getting rid of stuff.  Stuff we have accumulated over the years...some sentimental, some valuable, some...well, just stuff.  Most of this has been relatively easy.  Often the memories are the toughest to deal with.  Stuff that belonged to one of our parents or even grandparents.  Like my mum's old leather handbag - every time I look at it I see her digging for her lipstick or a comb or a tissue - how does one get rid of that?  But I did...and, indeed, we have to.  We cannot take this stuff with us to Gambela and we cannot store it here and we cannot shove the stuff onto our children.  We must lighten the load and go out like the disciples of Jesus - with nothing extra.

The hardest thing right now?  Our bedroom suite.  It is a work of art.  Indian Rosewood with brass Indian figurine inlays.  But it is big and bulky and heavy and...just not something we can ship over to Ethiopia.

Strange, but we almost feel as if we are liberating ourselves.  With each new item set aside, sold, given away, or thrown away, we sense a feeling of relief.  One less thing to carry.  One less thing to lose.  One less thing to care for, worry over, protect...

And in the midst of it all, I found this story...it is entitled: A lesson at the bottom of the ocean

Once you read it, you will understand.  It is a lesson for us...all...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Official SAMS missionary candidates!!!!

EXTRA!!
EXTRA!!

Rejoice with us!

Our official acceptance letter from SAMS has arrived.  

We are now officially SAMS missionary candidates.  The next step is to find people who will be willing to share in this ministry as partners through prayer and financial support.  

We do ask for your ongoing prayers as we move forward with our Lord.

We also ask for you to pray earnestly for Resurrection Fellowship as we seek the Lord's guidance on our future as a church. Louise and I both feel that we are members and representatives of this Body to Ethiopia.

Blessings!

Johann and Louise

Monday, June 24, 2013

Psalm 31

This is my paraphrase of Psalm 31, to be said responsively.

Lord, I seek your protection – keep me from further humiliation.
I seek deliverance from the only One Who always does what is right!
Please hear me; please rescue me.
Be a rock solid safe house for me.
To me you are like an inaccessible summit, and for the sake of that irrefutable reputation please lead me and guide me.
Even though some seek to ensnare me in their web of deceit, you will untangle me and strengthen me. 
You hold my life in your hands, and so I am certain that you will intervene on my behalf, because you are and always will be the God of Truth.
And because you alone are the God of Truth, I will avoid those who deal in worthless falsehoods and I will put my trust in you.
I know that this momentary affliction will give way to rejoicing and praise because you are merciful.
Yes, indeed!  You are a God who is well acquainted with my pain and well aware of how deeply distressed I am.
You will never allow me to be tripped up by those who seek my harm because you enable me to stand firmly.
Even so, dear Lord, I am in distress right now and I am in need of your divine favor.
My eyes are swollen because of my grief and I am emotionally exhausted.
My life appears to be ending in pain, and my final years in groaning.
My past sins haunt me and make me feel feeble and frail.
Those who seek my harm have caused others to distrust me and to abhor me.
They have even managed to turn my friends against me, so that they now feel awkward in my presence and consequently seek to avoid me.
I feel so lonely.  It is as if I am being erased from people’s memories like someone who has been deceased for a long time.
It is as if people regard me as something to be discarded like a worthless broken jar.
I hear what they are saying about me, and their slanderous whisperings cause me great distress.
When they plot together against me, they try to figure out how to take away my life.
Nevertheless, in spite of all this, I still trust you, dear Lord.
I still declare openly that you alone are my God!
You alone are the one who determines my destiny.
They can plot all they like, but you will rescue me from their powerful schemes.
Please let me become aware of your comforting smile once more.
Deliver me because of your unceasing faithfulness.
Lord, they seek to humiliate me, but I have called out to you for help.
Do to them as they seek to do to me and make them as silent as the grave.  Indeed, let arrogant and contemptuous lips that spread poisonous falsehoods about the innocent be silenced!
I marvel at the greatness of your goodness toward those who remain loyal to you.
It is plainly evident to everyone by the way you openly favor those who hide in you.
You enfold them in your secret presence and keep them safe from the snares of the slanderer.
You conceal them in a shelter where they are safe from harmful gossip.
Lord, you are worthy of my praise, because you have demonstrated your wondrous faithfulness to me while my life was under siege.
I mistakenly jumped to the wrong conclusion!  You were watching over me all the time and you never once left my side!  You heard every plea when I cried out for your help!
And so I encourage every one of you who seek to live godly lives:  Love the Lord your God!  Follow Him even blindly because He is known to preserve the faithful and He will pay back in full the arrogant and prideful.
Be strong and unwaveringly confident as you patiently continue to wait on Him.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.