Friday, August 23, 2013



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;

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 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,!

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...