Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Report on Ethiopia: Part Four

The following report is based on personal observation, interviews with Bishop Grant LeMarquand, and quite a shameless amount of "plagiarism" from various reports written by a new and dear friends from Egypt, Rosie Fyfe, who work with Bishop Mouneer in the Diocese of Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.

I will be posting these in bite sized if you come in on some part of the tail end, please scroll down to the beginning...
Unfortunately, there are no images as in my original documents, but, if you go to my Face Book site ( you will find pictures galore.
As always, please pray for the Horn.

5.  Gambella Anglican Centre
The Gambella Anglican Centre, which was officially opened in November 2010, currently hosts the St Barnabas congregation, library facilities, sports programs, an agricultural program and hosts groups from the community and local churches. In addition, it is the central gathering place for the 70 Anglican congregations in the Gambella Region, and hosts clergy training for 2-3 days each month, various ecumenical gatherings, literacy training, and Mothers’ Union training. It is currently the residence of the Area Bishop, and it is the administrative centre. In the future, we plan to start a small theological college to train current and future clergy, as well as a guesthouse which will bring in income. The Gambella Anglican Centre is in urgent need of upgrading in order to accommodate these developments.

6.  Current and Future Projects
a. Building a church
St Barnabas is an Anuak congregation, led by the Rev. Girma Obong. The Anuak people group makes up 21% of the population in Gambella Region. There is also a Nuer Anglican congregation in Gambella town, but the Anuak live on the same side of town as the Gambella Anglican Centre.

There are approximately 200 members at St. Barnabas’. The priest-in-charge is the Rev. Girma Obong. There is also a Mothers’ Union group which meets on Sundays, and a church choir. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, there is a children’s program, which prepares them for baptism, teaching them about the Christian faith and how to be a member of the church. Bishop Grant LeMarquand recently baptized 30 adults and children at St. Barnabas.

Before the Gambella Anglican Centre opened in 2010, the church met under a tree, using plastic sheets as shelter in the rainy season. Pastor Girma says that after the congregation moved, the church grew as they had a worship space and a place of belonging.
The congregation currently crowds into the training room at the Gambella Anglican Centre. Often there are too many people to fit inside the room, and the children then stay outside. Pastor Girma says that many people stay at home on Sundays, but when there is a new church, the congregation will grow.

The congregation, theological students, clergy gatherings, and ecumenical gatherings will be hosted in the new church building when it is built.  The church will be a circular shaped building, with a diameter of 30 metres. It will be multi-purpose; used by the St. Barnabas congregation, as a chapel for the theological college, and to host large gatherings that frequently use the centre.
b. Building a well
A sustainable water supply is urgently needed to host large groups and all of the current activities at the centre. The water supply from the town is unpredictable, causing problems for the many people who use the compound. A 5 metre deep well was recently built for the agriculture project, and a second 10 metre deep well is needed for drinking water. The well needs a windmill to draw the water up, and a lid will be placed on the well to ensure a clean water supply.

The Gambella Anglican Centre is increasingly being used by community groups, as well as hosting training and visitors. The wells are critical to supporting these groups, as currently there is no reliable water source on the site. Local people who come to the centre often complain about the lack of water.

The clergy and Mothers’ Union representatives will receive training in how the well was built and how to ensure that it is kept clean, so that wells can be built at each mission centre and church.

c. Library improvements
Unfortunately, the original architectural plans for the library building were not followed, and the library is currently difficult to use as it has low light and is very dusty. Light comes in through very small holes in the walls which are covered with wire mesh making it the darkest building on the compound. The small holes also let in dust and a lot of ash during the burning season as they are not able to be closed. Most of the other building have large windows, and are therefore in no need of electric lighting during the day. Furthermore, the current florescent lights use a lot of power to turn on. Large glass windows and a protective screen of wire mesh to stop the mosquitoes will be installed. Also, the tin roof will be re-fitted with carbonate or fiberglass sheets, instead of the current tin roof.

As well as serving school students, the library will also be used by the theological college in the future. Ten more book-shelves will be installed to house these books. The Area Bishop has donated his own library of about 200 boxes of theological books to form the basis for the library collection.

The library is currently under-utilized because of the distance from the town and the poor light. The improvements will let more light into the library, allowing it to be increasing used by the local community as well as the theological students when the theological college opens. Also, Gambella town is rapidly growing and there are more people moving to the part of the town where the centre is.

d.  Nehemiah Project: Vertical Garden and Security Fence
Since its establishment, one of the goals of the Gambella Anglican Centre has been to model small-scale agricultural projects and provide training, so that food gardening can be reproduced across Gambella. There is already a section of land on the compound which will be planted with mango, pawpaw and banana trees, maize and vegetables, a new well has recently been built to provide a sustainable water supply, and there are two agriculture workers.

The Gambella Anglican Centre aims to provide models of agricultural techniques which can be used around Gambella, as well as training in efficient use of land in order to promote effective agricultural methods. One of the planned projects, a ‘living wall’, or a ‘vertical garden’ which could grow the vegetables and fruit vines so desperately needed for nutrition, is an extension of this goal.  In the Gambella Region, there is a high level of malnutrition due to a lack of variety in peoples’ diets, a shortage of agricultural land, and inefficiency in land use. The purpose of the vertical garden is to provide a model where fruit and vegetables can be grown using a small amount of land, will efficiently use water, and be reproducible in villages around the region.

The water used for the top levels of the garden would be funneled down and used for the lower levels as well. Many families and churches have security walls, which could be transformed into ‘living walls.’ The staff at the centre and church community members will each be responsible for part of the wall.

Local peoples’ land in Gambella is being expropriated leaving them with less land for cultivation. Most people in the villages and in the Anglican congregations in Gambella don’t have any substantial land to cultivate. Many villages also don’t have wells so water availability is a problem during the dry season. There are Anglican Churches in three refugee camps in Gambella, where there is little space available for cultivation. Hence the idea of a vertical garden allows people to increase their crop yield within the present land and water constraints.

Families in Gambella have a small plot of land, but few families have a garden on their property. In addition, agricultural land in Gambella is often used inefficiently. There is little crop rotation, a limited range of crops and no use of compost or manure. Burning is an extremely common method of clearing the land, which alters the cycling of nutrients and the biotic, physical, moisture, and temperature characteristics of soil.

There is also a lack of knowledge about agriculture. Both Nuer people (who make up 47% of the population in Gambella) and the Dinka are traditionally pastoralists. However, the Dinka and Nuer have far less cattle then before as they were forced to flee the war in Sudan. At the same time, they do not know anything about agriculture. In addition, the literacy rate of women is approximately 23%, which leaves them with few options to learn with about nutrition or cultivation.

The vertical garden will provide a model for the local community, and the many people who come to the Gambella Anglican Centre from around Gambella. Agricultural training will be provided for local people, as well as Mothers’ Union representatives and clergy. Simultaneously, Mothers’ Union representatives will learn about nutrition, how to cook vegetables. Outside ovens will be built at the Centre, both to provide a model of a safe outside oven where children don’t get burnt, as well as a place for cooking lessons.

e.  Community Health
There are many diseases in Gambella which could be addressed through a community based health program. Dr. Wendy LeMarquand is a GP with experience of community health in Africa. Her work in Kenya of educating people about simple nutrition, water purification, and hygiene showed a dramatic reduction of hospitalizations and deaths related to burns, diarrhea, malnutrition, etc. She will work particularly through Mothers’ Union representatives to spread health education and awareness. Also, one of the Gambella clergy is training as a nurse, and will work in community health after he finishes his training.

The Gambella Anglican Centre will host training courses.  In some parts of Ethiopia, there is a high level of malnutrition especially among children. There is a high frequency of nutritional problems such as rickets, beriberi, pellagra, kwashiorkor (malnutrition with swelling). These nutritional problems decrease the ability of children to fight off diseases, and affects brain and body development.

f.  Theological Training Centre
There is a critical need for theological training among the current clergy of the churches in Gambella. The first clergyperson with a theological degree will graduate in 2013, and another priest is currently studying at the Alexandria School of Theology (AST) in Egypt. However, most of the clergy have only done some Theological Education by Extension courses, which provided very basic teaching. Their only ability to think theologically is to read the Bible themselves, and what they learn from others.
When Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, the Diocesan Bishop, travelled to Gambella in 2011 and asked the Gambella clergy what they wanted in a new Area Bishop, they asked for someone who can teach theology. Since Bishop Grant’s appointment, many of the clergy have said to him: “we can lead people to Christ and plant churches, but we can’t make disciples.” In a previous role in Kenya, Bishop Grant noticed that those who have better theological education are better pastors. The goal is for the next Bishop of the Horn of Africa to be a local person, and strong theological training is a key part of this future development.

There is also an urgent need for more clergy and, therefore, to provide theological training for these future clergy. There are currently only 16 clergy serving 70 congregations. They are supported by a deacon and volunteer lay leaders. There are people who want to be ordained, but who are not ready. The new church will serve as a chapel to the new small theological training college which will start at the Gambella Anglican Centre.
7.  Area Bishop Grant LeMarquand and Dr. Wendy LeMarquand
Bishop Grant was consecrated in 2012 on the Feast of St Mark (April 25) at All Saints’ Cathedral in Cairo and installed as Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa in September of the same year.  Before coming to the Diocese, Grant was Full Professor of Biblical Studies and Mission at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.   His interest is in the New Testament, the Synoptic Gospels, the Bible and Mission, African Christianity, Biblical exegesis, Greek, and liturgy.  Very committed to mission, evangelism, and ecumenical relations, Bishop Grant has served in various countries, including Canada, USA, and Kenya where he taught at St Paul’s Seminary where several African Anglican bishops and archbishops were students under him.  Bishop Grant holds a BA (1977), STM (1982) and MA (1988) from McGill University, Dip Min from Montreal Diocesan Theological College (1983) and ThD from Wycliffe College, Toronto School of Theology (2002).  A Canadian citizen, Bishop Grant is married to Wendy, a medical doctor.  They have two adult children; their son David and daughter Chara, who are both living in Canada.

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