Monday, May 26, 2014

The Unsung Heroes

Today is Memorial Day in the United States of America...a day on which we are granted an opportunity to remember those who gave up their lives in battle so that others might live theirs in peace. It is also a day to remember the sacrifice of those who love them...husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, family, and friends...they too must not be forgotten.

But there are others who fight battles not of this world...those who stand, rank and file, on the front lines of the war against all evil...those who push back the gates of Hades...those who bring sight to the sightless, freedom to the fettered, sustenance to the starving, life to the lifeless...those who have left homes, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, fame, and fortune to serve and die to and for this world so that others might live for eternity. These are the unsung heroes I remember today. The workers in the Lord's harvest fields who have given, who do give, and who will give more and more...the unsung heroes of our age...those "of whom the world was not worthy" (Hebrews 11:38).

There is one particular missionary I have in mind as I write this. A dear friend with whom Louise and I served in Kaokoland way back in the eighties. Life had not been kind to Tish...she had learned much in the school of "hard-knocks" as they say...and yet gladly and willingly she chose to serve Him Who had chosen her to serve.

From Left to Right: Justin, Tish (seated), Anre, and Anton

Yet in spite of the fact that life seemed to continue to give her lemons, Tish worked hard to better the lives of others. She continued to serve faithfully as a missionary of the Cross. There are many today who can call her "mother" as it was through her witness that they became children of God. Tish poured her life out as a drink offering, without compromise and without complaint. 

And now, as she battles against her final enemy, an enemy that has already been swallowed up in the victorious resurrected life of our Lord Jesus Christ, those of us who are privileged to know her and the testimony of her remarkable life, can truly say that she has fought the good fight and has kept the faith. There is a crown of righteousness laid up for her which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give to her on that Day. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Past meets Present

The Rev. James (Jim) Ivan Abdy was born in 1927 in Sheffield, England. He died a priest of the Diocese of South Carolina, June 23, 1997 aged 70. 

In between these two dates, Fr Abdy completed his theological studies at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield, Yorkshire, England, served as a royal engineer during World War II, was ordained deacon in 1950, and served in numerous missions near the towns of Kuruman and Kimberly, South Africa. He was ordained a priest in 1951 while serving in Bechuanaland (now Botswana). 

From the 1950s to 1977, Fr Abdy ministered in Namibia (formally South West Africa) in the Diocese of Ovamboland at St. Mary's Mission, Odibo, and extended to the Diocese of Damaraland serving the Anglican churches located in the towns of Keetmanshoop, Upington, Luderitz, Mariental, Swakopmund, and Walvis Bay. He met and married Lurena Gayle Banghart in 1962 while living in Ovamboland.

How Fr Abdy became a friend of my family I may never know, but he must have been pretty close as he was asked to baptize both my brother and me in spite of the fact that neither of my parents were ever actively involved in any church during my lifetime. My mother, who on good days would describe herself as an agnostic, always spoke very highly of him. 

Who was this man who seemed to have had the ability to reach out beyond the gulf of unbelief in such as way as to leave the indelible imprint of his name on my life? Was it perhaps the prayers of Fr Abdy that helped to bring me to my knees before the throne of grace and mercy in 1980? Was it his prayers that brought his friends back to Jesus' feet before they met Him face to face?

It seems that I could have met him twice in my post-pagan life. The first time was when I was a student in Cape Town, South Africa in 1981-1982. The second was when I was a student in Columbia, South Carolina in 1996-1997.

Alas, I failed to meet him on both occasions simply because I was not aware that we were practically on each other's doorsteps.

But this past Saturday, Louise and I visited Fr Abdy's second to last church and the place where his cremains, along with those of his wife, Gayle, are interred. There, the past met the present....

Upon his arrival in the Diocese of South Carolina, Fr Abdy served as vicar of the Holy Apostles, Barnwell, and St. Alban's, Blackville, a position he held from 1986 until May of 1997, when he became vicar of the Church of the Holy Communion, Allendale. 

We were less than an hours drive apart, and yet we never met.

The Rev. James Ivan Abdy's ministry of 47 year spanned two continents and three countries.

However, he has two surviving children, Mark and Anne, who reside in Maryland and Tennessee. His daughter is a Postulant for Holy Orders from the Diocese of Oregon and is presently completing her clinical pastoral education or chaplaincy at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville. Upon ordination to the presbytery, Anne will join the family business as reportedly there have been presbyters in the family lineage dating back to 1482.

So, while we may not be able to meet Fr Abdy on this side of eternity, we may yet be able to meet his children...

The Church of the Holy Apostles, Barnwell, South Carolina has a rich history and is well worth the visit.

A stained glass window installed by Fr Abdy in the small Chapel.

Above: The old Parsonage. It was apparently spared from the flames during the Civil war because the officer in charge shared the family name of Patterson with the owners.

Left: Charlotte Patterson's grave...the only know slave buried in the graveyard that surround the church. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Latest News From Bp. Grant and Dr. Wendy LeMarquand

Living in Suffering and Hope

“When 2 Elephants fight, the grass suffers.”

The story of South Sudanese refugees living in the Gambella region emerged through the mosaic of comments and insights offered as we listened to a small group of unregistered refugees, who were being helped by the members of one of our churches. 

“The problem started in Juba”. 
“The government met on December 15th and disagreed on some issues. They began quarreling among themselves. The fighting spread to the soldiers”. 
“By December 16th, many people, even women and babies in the streets, had been killed”. 
“The people fled for shelter in UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] compounds throughout the region”. 
“Church leaders spoke up against the fighting and they were killed; priests, bishops, even the moderator of the Presbyterian church”. 
“Those who tried to discourage the fighting were told, ‘...if you don’t want to fight, then leave.’ ”

The comments coalesced into a narrative:
“And we left, taking only what we could carry. And mostly what we could carry was our children. Even so, we have little ones who went missing as we ran for our lives, for they were shooting at us as we ran. More than once, we were ambushed on the road. Many of our elders couldn’t make it. We walked and ran, snatching only a few hours of sleep when we could. We had nothing to eat but leaves during the days it took us to flee to Akobo. From there we went by boat. We arrived in Matar naked and hungry. No one told us how to register as refugees in Ethiopia. The refugee office in Gambella town is closed. Now we hear that you can only register at the border, with a visa, and with identity papers from South Sudan. But there are thousands waiting at the borders. They are starving and they are still being killed in the fighting, even there. And we don’t have visas or papers. Those who are registered can get food at the new refugee camps. But some of the new camps are in flood zones, and many are now dying of disease. We fear malaria and diarrhea. We cannot register, and, without registering, we have no food except what the church collects for us.  And yet, if we register, we fear the living conditions.” (A week after our visit to Akula refugee camp, Isaac Pur of the Gambella Anglican Center, returning with a donation of clothes, was told of the deaths of 5 of the children who had met with us in the church).
“The problem is between two big elephants. When the elephants fight, the grass suffers”. 

The Road to Opo, April 28,14
We set off with as much maize, cooking oil, onions, tarp and mosquito nets as the Landcruiser could hold. We drove past flocks of storks, looking for all the world like small congregations of elderly British undertakers; past birds iridescent in crimson and turquoise; past the Jedi-like Fulani as they travelled from Nigeria on their long migration,  and through the mosaic of bright yellow mango seeds and peels left in the wake of feasting travelers (a road definitely “not in Kansas anymore”). The road passed through the new Akula refugee camp. In the two weeks since our last visit, this part of the road had become almost unrecognizable; mini villages of wood & thatch tukels, and grass and tarp pup-tents had sprouted and grown along the once deserted roadside. Finally we arrived in Opo.

Fulani Herdsman

I’ll let Grant tell of our visit.
           We visited our Opo people this week. They have had some real trouble. Most Opo (there are about 5,000 Opo people in the world) live in Ethiopia, but some in South Sudan. Two weeks ago the rebels in the South Sudan conflict tried to conscript the Opo to fight in the war. When they refused, their villages and all their food stores were burned. They (at least 1,000) have now walked across the border and are staying with the Opo in Ethiopia. Our priest there, David Onuk, who is really the key community leader as well, has invited them to join the church. They have had no food except what the Ethiopian Opo could share with them, so we brought them a truckload. We discovered UN workers there doing an "assessment" of their situation - but they can't call them "refugees" and give them ongoing support because they have no identification. They will probably (after a month or so) be given support which will last them 2 months. The UN workers were clearly frustrated that their hands were tied - one of them said to us "thank you for bringing food for these people, all our assessments are useless if they just die..."
We unloaded our gifts of food - pitifully inadequate for such a large number, but enough to keep away hunger for at least a day or two. Every stray kernel of maize was carefully swept from the car and carried into the church - nothing would be wasted.

Food for Opo
As we took our leave, the three people given permission to ride back with us had metamorphosed into eight extras - the safety hazard caused by crowding apparently of concern only to Grant. We pulled away. Untranslated but unmistakable, the women with us cried out to their friends as we passed, “Hey, Look!!! We’re in a CAR!!!!!! Wheeeeeee!!!” With the inevitable predictability borne of long experience, Grant’s faint and happily ignored protest, “The kids will throw up”, was once again fulfilled. Looking on the bright side, at least no one had diarrhea on this trip! (Note to self: bring plastic bags next time).
Matthew 28 v.1 was quoted in last week’s sermon at St Luke’s Church, Gambella. “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, the Mothers’ Union* went to see the tomb.”  *[Mary Magdalene and the other Mary] “We always say ‘Mothers’ Union’ when we talk of the women disciples of Jesus,” explained John Gach, one of the clergy who had come to Gambella for this month’s clergy training.

Jesus with Mothers' Union ( Mary and Martha)
at Lazarus' tomb

The Mothers’ Union teaching event, May 7th & 8th, looked at the causes of recurrent diarrhea. The Gambella region far exceeds Ethiopia’s infant/child mortality of 90/1000 live births, with diarrhea as one of the 5 major causes of infant and childhood death. We practiced making Oral Rehydration Solution using a technique that required neither measuring spoons nor expertise, and yet, when measured repeatedly by me in my kitchen, turned out to be reliable and reproducible. Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) has saved hundreds of thousands of precious lives since it’s widespread use starting in the 1970’s. Eddie Ozols, of Anglican Aid, Australia, the major donor for our Mothers’ Union training program, asked our Anuak priest, Darash Thatha, how many children’s funerals had he held last year, and how many had he held this year. Fifty funerals last year, none this year.

Opo Mother's Union rep, Mary Ngate;
looking through a magnifying
 glass for the first 
time in her life;
practicing making ORS

If you’d like to read more about our Mothers’ Union training program, click here to see the 2nd Quarter report (Jan-Mar 2014) prepared for Anglican Aid:


Young refugee from South Sudan

~ Please Pray with us ~

~ For the 100,000 new refugees in the Gambella region

~For our church members who are sharing their homes and their food with the new refugees

~For the establishment of the St Frementius Theological College, Gambella;
-new buildings to construct (faculty and student housing)
-old buildings to renovate (office, library, classroom, principal's residence)
-college chapel to build
-security wall to complete
-faculty to recruit
-principal to arrive

~ For Johann and Louise Vanderbijl as they prepare to come to Gambella; Johann will be the principal of the new St Frementius college

~ For our clergy and lay readers

~ For our Mothers' Union

Mothers' Union at Pinyadu

~ For our son, David and for Anna, and for their wedding, May 24th, 2014.

Beautiful in Canmore

Photo Credits:
Many thanks to our visitors,
Rosie Fyfe,  Diocese of Egypt, for her photos of Akule Refugee camp ( Sunday offering), and the Fulani herdsman
and Eddie Ozols of Anglican Aid, Australia for his photo of the young Sudanese refugee at St Luke's church, Gambella
and thanks to Johann Vanderbijl for his icon of the raising of Lazarus

Rt Rev Dr Grant LeMarquand
and Dr Wendy LeMarquand
are missionaries of SAMS
(Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders)

Bishop Grant is area bishop
for the Horn of Africa
(Ethiopia, Somalia, Eretrea, Djibouti);
under the Most Rev Dr Mouneer Anis,
Bishop of Egypt with North Africa
and the Horn of Africa

If you would like to share in our work,
see the following charitable donation links:

In Canada: Devxchange     

In the UK: 
Friends of the Anglican Church in Ethiopia,
and Egypt Diocesan Association 



Bright and Beautiful in Abol

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What is the Missionary's Real Job?

From the Paracletos Blog-site:


MAY 15, 2014


This is eternal life
The phrase “eternal life” is not a definition of duration; it is a declaration of source. Eternal life is God’s life, and yes, it does last forever. But that’s not the point. We, like the Jews who confronted Jesus in John 5, often do not get the point.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. JN 5:39-40
God wants more than to simply spend time (even lots of time) with us; he wants to share life with us. We miss out on that life either because we are unaware it is available or we are unwilling to avail ourselves of the offer.
So what is eternal life, really? “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3). We are back to the biblical concept of knowing: To know him who is true (1 John 5:20).
What is a missionary’s real job? To introduce people to Life. To the person of Jesus, not to the doctrine of salvation. The whole process of growing as a disciple (a follower of Jesus, by the way, not of ourselves or our mission or our church) revolves around knowing Christ. To be effective in pointing others to Jesus one must be familiar with him. To be an effective ambassador who accurately reflects the Master one must be steeped in the person of Christ, not just his teachings.
That is precisely where we tend to get off track.
We become more wrapped up in the work of the Lord than we are in love with the Lord of the work. We put more effort into dissecting the Word of God than we do into discovering the author. We strive to perfect our methods and our materials when we need to be focused on our transformation. Missionaries do this. You and I do this. But when we applaud our missionary friends for the wrong things, when we hold them accountable for the wrong things, we hinder the accomplishment of God’s goal: that they may have life, and life in abundance.
You and I, as missionary advocates, must keep our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith. We must behold his glory so as to be transformed into the glory we behold. Having started there we are then qualified to point our missionary friends to the one who has captured our hearts, our imaginations, our allegiance. He will do the same for them, and then they will be able to do the same for others.
There’s so much more to say on this topic. Until next week...

Monday, May 12, 2014

An (Overdue) Update...

So much has happened since we last sent out an update...

First...Thank you

Thank you for praying for us, for supporting us, and for encouraging us. Every phone call, every letter, visit, email, prayer, gift, and card is appreciated. You have been so kind to us and we are so grateful. Please know that we pray for you regularly.

Second...Good News!

1. Both Louise and I have been given an absolute clean bill of health! My cardiologist was as pleased as punch and took me off the hard-to-find medication I have been on for years. Praise the Lord with us!

2. Denise Cox of SAMS-USA told me this morning that our monthly support pledge percentage is up to 45% now! We thank our Lord for all our partners! Some of our supporters have told us that they have been blessed since they signed up to support us. I hope that has been your experience as well. We have been deeply moved by the sacrificial giving of some - like those with a fixed income, and children in youth Groups, and others who struggle to make ends meet and yet still signed up to support us! We also heard that some have recently decided to double their pledge! We didn't see that coming! Thank you! 

3. St Frumentius Theological College now has its own website! 
Take some time to browse through the information:

4. We have started the countdown process! Our "exit strategy" is rather complex. 
First, all our documents that are in English have to be translated by a certified translator. Check. This part has now been completed!
Second, we have to make copies of all relevant documents and have them ratified by a notary public, a clerk of the court, and the secretary of State. 
Third, all our original relevant documents have to be authenticated by the Us Department of State. We hope to have them sign off on all the copies as well - just in case!
Fourth, all the relevant documents will then need to be authenticated by the Ethiopian Embassy.
Fifth, we will then apply for our visas.
Sixth...God willing, we will get on the plane in August!

There is a process we will have to go through once we arrive in Addis Ababa as well, but that will be a bridge we will have to cross later...sufficient for the day is the evil thereof...

Third...a Summary Update.

1. Louise and I have been busy getting ready for the great trek! Yup, we are still packing, and unpacking...packing and unpacking. We will be allowed to take two 50lbs bags with us on the plane as regular baggage and up to 5 extra 50 lbs bags each. That may sound like a lot, but books weigh quite a bit more than clothes, so we have to be very selective as to what goes and what stays. We have begun to pack the books we will need in Gambela but can't take with us right now in small boxes labeled 1 through 7 with 1 being the most important and 7 being the least important. We will then be giving these boxes to churches and individuals who we know will be visiting us sooner or later for them to brig in when they come.

2. Louise has been attending various classes on nutrition and health and doing a lot of reading. I have never known Louise to read this much before! Knowing that even the smallest things can make a huge positive impact on the lives of the people in Gambela is so inspiring. God willing, Louise will be attending bee-keeping classes in the near future as well...honey is so much more than sweet and can be used for all sorts of medicinal purposes. We recently met a wonderful Christian brother at the Carolina Bee Company (see and we hope to learn as much as we can from him before we leave...he may even come and visit us in Gambela and teach us first hand using African Bees!

3. I have been writing lesson plans and have been as happy as a warthog in his own water-hole! Should you like to take a peek at the curriculum for St. Frumentius Theological College, please visit our wesbite. I just completed the Bible Courses this morning...I say completed, but is a lesson plan ever really complete? Church History up to the Rise of Islam is in the works as is the Systematic Theology Lesson plan - I am using the Nicene Creed to teach the Doctrines of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit with the Doctrine of the Church thrown in for good measure.

4. I also recently replaced my desktop computer with a smaller MacBook Pro Laptop. This is my first Mac and I have been taking lessons on how to use far, it has been a pretty good experience and I have learned a lot! I even made my first i-Movie too! 

This short movie is something you could use should you want to make our ministry known to your family, friends, small group, Sunday School, Pastor, Vestry, Missions Committee, or even the whole Church! It is on You Tube at

Fourth...a Request.

Help us get to and stay in Gambela, please. 

Our Lord chose to make us an interdependent Body for good reason...we are so aware of our limitations and our need for Him, but also for you. The Lord has called us to go into a field white for harvest, but we cannot go without your help. 

1. If you have not yet made a pledge, would you consider making one today? While large amounts are obviously most welcome, every gift is an indescribably blessing as we know that along with your gift comes an active interest in the lives of our brethren in Gambela. No amount is too small. Please prayerful consider coming on the team! 

2. If your have made a pledge, thank you, thank you, thank you. We cannot do this ministry without your personal involvement. Your call as a sender is every bit as important as our call as the sent.

3. If you know of anyone who would support us, please pass our names and information to them...or, better still, why not have us come to a small gathering at your home and present this great opportunity to those you invite? A couple have done this here in Greenville and it has been such a blessing.

Thank you for being here for us and for the people in Gambela and South Sudan.

Many, many blessings.

Johann and Louise