Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Context of Following

There is this wonderful dialogue between our Lord and a few would be followers at the end of the ninth chapter of Luke's Gospel. The first person approached Him and said bravely, "Lord, I will follow you wherever you go." To which Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

Then He called another to follow Him, but this one said that he first wanted to go and bury his father. Jesus' answer to this excuse (which was probably not about an imminent death and burial, but rather a way of saying 'let me stay put until my familial obligations are complete' - which may have been many years in the future!) was, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."

Then, yet another hopeful approached Him and said, "Lord, I will follow you, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God."

From these replies, it seems that He (to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden) looked beyond the apparent 'good intentions' and saw a deep seated reluctance to give up anything at all for the advance of God's Kingdom.

Just a few verses earlier, Jesus had made it abundantly clear that He was about to suffer, and if anyone wanted to follow in His footsteps, they would have to be prepared to suffer too. It is a well known statement. "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." This statement is clearly defined by the preceding verse. "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day."

This is the context in which He then said, "If anyone desires to come after Me...let him follow Me."

If one looks at the Western Church in general, one may be forgiven for thinking that Jesus never made such a statement at all. Indeed, one may wonder if the many verses regarding self-sacrifice have ever been read, much less applied by most Western Christians today. How many times are we not told in Scripture to do good to those who hate us and spitefully use us, to forgive those who sin against us, to esteem others better than ourselves, to be servants, to be the least...not to mention the fact that the command to love your neighbor as you love yourself is second only to the command to love God above all else!

Do you love anyone - and we are not even talking about our enemies here - but anyone as much as you love yourself? Do you really know the full meaning of discipleship and servanthood? If you claim to follow Jesus, do you know what to follow Him really means? Do you really know Him and do you know where He is leading?
What is the context of following for you?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The executioner of millions...

Procrastination, they say, is the thief of time. But in some cases procrastination is the executioner of millions. 

We saw this in the case of the Jews in Europe during the second great war and then in the case of the Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. In their apologies for their lack of a timely response, heads of states claimed that they did not act as they simply could not believe that the reports were true. One would think that by now we would have learned from our mistakes. 

In his discussion paper, The Holocaust as a Guidepost for Genocide Protection and Prevention in Africa, Dr Edward Kissi states: "Events in Africa since the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, suggest that the deliberate targeting of stereotyped groups, with the express intention of annihilating them, continues." (See here:

Indeed.  But recent events in the Sudan do not only suggest that stereotyped groups (in this case Christians) are being targeted with the express intention of annihilating them, but they suggest that the world is once again guilty of procrastination. Over the past few months, parachute bombs have been raining down silent death on the villagers in the Nuba Mountain area (See here: Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Twenty thousand were recently moved to a new refugee camp in Gambela. 

Is this systematic slaughtering of Christians soon to become another Nazi-Germany, another Rwanda, another Dafur?

Anglican Radio Interviews...

Here are links to the Anglican Radio interviews with Michael Porter...

With Bishop Grant LeMarquand:

With me:

With Louise and me:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Jonah – successful mission worker?

Taken from: 


jonahWe all know the story of Jonah.  It’s taught in churches and religious schools, partly because it’s a graphic and exciting story that appeals particularly to children.  Well, at least the bit with the storm and the big fish is exciting.  We don’t always tell the second part.  While theologians may argue over whether it is a true story, a parable or an allegory, this exquisitely crafted play in four acts has much relevance for the 21st century church, and we’re going to consider four contemporary applications of its lessons.
Jonah was a reluctant mission worker.  This is the bit of the story we’re most familiar with, how Jonah ran away from what he knew God wanted him to do, and was boxed in more and more till he got on and did it.  Most of us who have been Christians for a while will know this sense of how hard it is to run away from God, though we’re not usually boxed in as dramatically as Jonah was!  Yet our own experience of God tells us that God knows best how to run our lives.  To what extent are we still trying to run away from what God wants us to do?
JonahJonah was a frightened mission worker.  He knew that the Ninevites were a cruel and dangerous people.  What were they going to do to him when he told them to change the way they lived?  These were the people who invented crucifixion, and an earlier form of execution, impaling on a sharpened stake.  Faced with those two alternatives, we might have been buying a ticket to Tarshish too!  But to what extent are we afraid of telling people the good news today?  What’s the worst they can do to us?  Granted, we have to be careful not to lose our visa, endanger local believers, or damage the reputation of our agency, but let’s be bold!  Let’s risk the ridicule, criticism and bullying that might result.  Are we prepared to take the good news to people even at personal risk to ourselves?
jonah2Jonah was a judgmental mission worker.  He didn’t think these people were worthy of being forgiven.  They were foreign, cruel, evil.  Only nice people deserve to be forgiven.  He was blinkered by his racial supremacy of being one of God’s chosen people.  The other people obviously weren’t chosen.  But God had bigger plans.  We might laugh at such narrow-minded bigotry these days, but who are the people we don’t think are worthy of forgiveness?  Benefit cheats?  Illegal immigrants? Arms dealers?  Drug pushers?  Rapists?  Paedophiles?  But in God’s eyes, we are no better, but Christ died for us when we didn’t deserve it (Romans 5:8).  Are we prepared to take the good news to people we don’t think are worthy?
Jonah was a successful mission worker.  We often admire the philosophy of Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill, or the harvest of Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost.  Yet 120,000 people responded to Jonah’s message!  When Jonah was faithful to his calling, God delivered the results.  It’s not rocket science.  God does not want anyone to die, but wants people everywhere to turn to him (2 Peter 3:9).  So why would we not want to tell people?  The US illusionist and comedian Penn Jillette, who is a vociferous atheist, commented in a blog about how much he respected a Christian who gave him a Bible:
How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
That’s a harsh statement, which strips away the cosy multicultural fudge that we are used to.  We might like to think we don’t tell people about Jesus out of respect for their faith choices, or because it’s a private matter, but surely love overrides those and demands that we tell people the good news.

The Mosquito...and another killer...

The mosquito. One of Africa's most deadly creatures. According to NetsForLife ( "over half a million (655, 000) people die from malaria each year, mostly children younger than five years old. There are an estimated 216 million cases of malaria each year." Ethiopia experiences cycles of malaria epidemics every five to eight years, but according to USAID these epidemics have decreased over recent years. This is mainly due to preventative measures such as insecticide-treated nets, spraying operations, and anti-malarial drugs. 

Of course, this is wonderful news and hopefully the downward trend will many lives will not be saved if we can conquer those protozoan parasites!

But there is another killer in that rears its ugly head from time to time with devastating force. It is not easy to identify nor is it easy to prevent or treat, but it is there and we ignore it to our own peril. 


Of the 35,000 inhabitants of one of the refugee camps in Gambela, about 80 % are between the ages of 12 and 17. These children have experienced violence and fear on a level we cannot begin to imagine even in our wildest nightmares. 

What is happening inside them, behind those cherubic faces? Is anyone helping them to deal with those images of horror and the reverberating screams of their parents and peers? 

What lies dormant now may not lie dormant forever. History teaches us that anger is but one letter removed from danger. It lies simmering beneath the surface until some trigger is pulled and the trauma explodes with thunderous violence.

Saving people from malaria is a wonderful thing to do. Saving people from extermination through war and persecution and famine and poverty is equally commendable. But leaving people unsaved from the festering power of hatred and bitterness is unforgivable. 

There is only one who can reach into the depths of a person...there is only one who can heal the putrid psyche of the suffering...there is only one who can dispel the darkness trapped in the soul of the tortured...and that is Christ...the one, who in the depths of His own personal darkness and despair, cried out, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." 

At the recent opening of the Church of the Holy Family in a new refugee camp located in the southern part of the Gambela People's Region, several different ethnic groups gathered together to worship Him whose blood made them one...while just across the border ethnic violence raged on. These men, women, and children are witnesses to the fact that the suffering Saviour brings healing to His suffering servants.

It is by His stripes that they are healed, as it is His stripes that can remove the sting of their own. His response of forgiveness to those who afflicted Him defies the logic of retaliation, and it is in embracing Him that they are enabled to let go. It is only Christ who can break the cycle of "trauma epidemics" and it is only us, His people, who can bring this eternal preventative measure to bear upon the lives of those who need release.

Shared from Revival Tabernacle's Facebook page.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

For the confession of sin...

As we continue to pack, repack, keep, discard, and discard more and more, I come across some interesting things I have kept over the years. Some are objects that must have had some significance at the time. Others are articles and quotes I kept for sermons, papers, projects, articles, or seminars. But most of the papers are of my own creation...the aforementioned sermons, papers, projects, articles, and seminars. Each object or paper brings back different memories and emotions...some are sad, others are humorous, but for the most part, they speak to me of the abundant grace and mercy of our Lord.

You see, these objects and papers represent His faithfulness over the years in keeping me in the palm of His hand through thick and through thin...and these years speak of Him who has promised to be with me even to the end of the age...of Him who will never leave me nor forsake me...of Him who will bring to completion the good work He has begun in me...of Him who is well able to keep me from stumbling so that He might present me faultless before His presence in glory on that Day...of Him who is slow to anger, but quick to forgive...

One of my latest "discoveries" is a paper I wrote on worship while at Trinity School for Ministry. Part of the project was an exercise in the creation of our own set of Collects. Reading through them now, I see the reflection of my own understanding of the character of the one to whom I direct my prayers, supplications, and petitions. One particular Collect that caught my attention was the one I wrote for the confession of sin.

Merciful Father, You are ever ready to forgive and to reconcile; we confess that we have sinned and have fallen short of Your glory; forgive us our many transgressions against You and our fellow human beings and grant us grace that we may have the humility to confess our sins, not only before You, but also before those whom we have wronged, so that we might receive Your pardon in the same manner in which we grant pardon; through Him Whose death reconciled us to the Father, Jesus Christ, our Advocate and Mediator. Amen. *

Where would I be today if not for the gift of confession and the greater gift of forgiveness? All these objects and papers would represent nothing more than a vain striving after wind as they would lack the rootedness of a relationship made possible through forgiveness.

Indeed, it is because of forgiveness, that I am one of the "kept" instead of one of the "discarded"...

* Vanderbijl, Johann W., A Primer on Worship, LW 413, 2005

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Slowly by slowly...

Slowly by slowly...a handy-dandy saying we learned when we were in Ethiopia. Selling Louise's car is just one more step taken toward our departure more check mark on our to do more knot more adieu said and done. 

We almost feel like we are in reverse...those around us continue to gather, while we continue to is a strangely liberating experience akin perhaps to the shedding of pounds while on a diet. Or perhaps it is like watching some object from a distance through a set of binoculars.  There is a focus that remains clear, but the closer you move towards it, the more details you can see.  For us, one more item gone means the letters on the banner at the finish-line are becoming clearer and sharper.

Bye-bye Tracker...thanks for good service and good memories.  


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wrong...dead wrong...

I recently watched an excellent presentation by "Wrongologist" Kathryn Schulz - on being wrong, of course.

As the description says, Kathryn "makes a compelling case for not just admitting but embracing our fallibility." But I couldn't help wondering what Kathryn would have to say to South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit and to former Vice President Riek Machar - or, indeed, to Omar al-Bashir whose wrongness has left his hands stained with the indelible bloodstains of thousands. These men are all wrong...dead wrong....literally. So, would it help if they admitted or embraced their wrongness? Perhaps...

But I venture to say that "admitting" or even "embracing our fallibility" outside the context of the Gospel, leaves our "fallibility" vague and undefined and therefore both untouchable and irreparable. Can the South Sudan ceasefire agreement work at all if both sides do not first deal with their own personal fallibility in terms of general human depravity and divine forgiveness through Christ? Indeed, can there even be any point to "embracing our fallibility" unless we first consciously plant our feet firmly on the level ground that lies before the cross?  

Read this...and Pray...

Dear friends,

The churches in Sudan and South Sudan have asked that this Sunday, Feb 16, be set aside as a special day of prayer for South Sudan. Although a ceasefire was signed, it has been ignored by both sides. Much of the population of the country is displaced, either within the country itself or over the borders. Please pray for God to move the hearts and minds of leaders and people alike to turn from hatred to peace.

in Christ,

+Grant LeMarquand, the Horn of Africa

Monday, February 10, 2014

A chapter ended and a chapter begun...

Another page turned...a chapter ended and a chapter begun.

Today I received my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification from Visions International and TriCounty Technical College.  It was a hard slog, but well worth the blood, sweat and tears..alright, maybe there was no blood.  It was fun to learn with and from my two fellow students, Robin Steele and Courtney Andrews and I venture to say that our main instructor and mentor Bernell Ingram is now also a good friend, although I am sure she wanted to wring my neck on more than one occasion!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Here's a hilarious take on perseverance...sometime we feel like this trying to find partners!

Friday, February 7, 2014

A message from Bishop Grant LeMarquand

Bishop Grant writes: “Although Gambella has thus far escaped the violence taking place across the border, one horrible incident did occur a week ago. It is unknown whether the perpetrators of this had come from across the border or were local. Last week, as the sun was setting and people were sitting down outside their tukals (huts) to eat, armed men of a different ethnic group suddenly appeared from the bush and opened fire on an Anuak village near Abol killing three people (two women, one pregnant with her first child, and one newly married young man). The men kidnapped eight children and headed back into the forest. Three of the children escaped, but five are still missing. The entire village swam across the river to escape further violence and have been living in the small village of Abol Kir where we have a small Anglican congregation. I went there today with a member of the Gambella Anglican Centre staff who is himself an Anuak priest. We brought a truck load of maize, cooking oil, coffee, sugar, mosquito nets, tarps, ground sheets, soap, and some cooking and cleaning supplies. 

The whole village gathered and I asked to hear the story of what happened. Two women spoke clearly and calmly recounting the details. I spoke about how it must be so easy to become angry and want revenge, but that taking revenge would just  make the other group want to retaliate again. I spoke about one of the hardest things that Jesus ever said: love your enemies – it doesn’t mean we don’t have enemies, obviously they are there, but he wants to change hearts – their’s and ours’. Then we prayed. One woman broke down weeping at the end of the prayer and had to be held by several other women who were afraid she would hurt herself. “She has a mental problem,” said my priest friend. “Her children are among those who are lost.” If my children had been taken like that, I would have a mental problem too!
The clergy were at the Gambella Anglican Centre this week for two days of training. We were able to talk about how the refugee situation is having an impact on the region, their churches – and themselves personally. At least half of the clergy have lost relatives in the fighting in South Sudan: one priest has lost six cousins, one has lost a son. Several have friends and relatives who are missing. Afer the clergy training days Wendy had 35 Mothers’ Union leaders here for two days of training on nutrition – but the war in South Sudan also had to be addressed. Wendy talked on Wednesday afternoon about grief and then led a time of prayer, especially for those who had lost loved ones. The demonstrative weeping that followed was intense, but neither unexpected nor inappropriate. It was a bit like a cloud burst which was briefly violent, but ultimately cleansing.”
Johann & Louise Vanderbijl
~ Touching The Whole Person – Body And Soul ~

-  Vision with action can change the world –

January 2014

Since the war broke out in South Sudan on December 15th, over 100,000 people crossed over the border into the Gambela People's Region with little more than what they could carry.  Add to these numbers the continuing flow of refugees from the war-torn area of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in the Sudan.  The refugee camps are now so large that the government of Ethiopia has had to open a new one.  The majority of the residents in these camps are between the ages of 12 and 17 years old...many of them are orphans.  

These people tell harrowing stories of torture, rape, butchery, the loss of loved ones, and of the anguish of not knowing whether family members are alive or dead.  As you can imagine, this turn of events has placed a sense of urgency on our hearts.  In a recent letter to a mutual friend, Bishop Grant LeMarquand stated that his greatest need right now is to get Louise and me on the ground in Ethiopia.  

However, as of this past January, we are now only at 18% of our monthly budget total.  

We are therefore making a direct appeal to you to prayerfully consider becoming a regular monthly partner with us in our ministry in Gambela.  Believe us, any amount would be gratefully received...$5 a month or even less...every penny adds up in the end and, as we know, our Lord is well able to multiply our limited resources.  

Also, if you know of anyone else who may be willing to partner with us, please introduce us.  

Would you please pray about this request?

If the Lord lays it on your heart to become a full time partner with us, please go to our SAMS web page and click on Give to Johann and Louise Vanderbijl - OR follow the directions found in the attached from.

Many blessings.

Johann and Louise