Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ethiopia hosts largest number of refugees in Africa

The total refugee population in Ethiopia is 630,000. Pray for our Anglican Churches in Gambella, in the west of Ethiopia, where many of the refugees from South Sudan have arrived.

Ethiopia hosts largest number of refugees in Africa

As South Sudanese flee to Ethiopia, concerns are growing that its capacity to help displaced people may be overstretched
refugee camp in Ethiopia's Gambela region
A refugee camp in Ethiopia's Gambela region. Conflict in South Sudan has triggered a large refugee influx into Ethiopia. Photograph: Zacharias Abubeker/AFP/Getty Images
Ethiopia has overtaken Kenya to become Africa’s largest refugee-hosting country after hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese arrived in the country this year. The total refugee population has reached almost 630,000, raising concerns that its capacity to help displaced people may be overstretched.
Civil war in neighbouring South Sudan is “the main factor” behind Ethiopia’s soaring refugee population , the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said. About 188,000 South Sudanese have arrived in Ethiopia since conflict erupted in December, bringing the total number in the country to 247,000.
East Africa’s refugee infrastructure has been heavily strained by fighting in South Sudan, which has driven nearly half a million people into camps around the region , with most settling in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, according to the UNHCR. Up to 1 million South Sudanese could be displaced in neighbouring countries by the end of this year, it said.
Ethiopia is poised to bear the brunt of South Sudan’s refugee crisis, said Kisut Gebreegziabher, public information officer at UNHCR’s Ethiopia office, which expects 300,000 South Sudanese to flee to Ethiopia by the end of the year. “Resources have always been scarce but the continuing influx of refugees from South Sudan in particular is putting further strains [on our operations],” Kisut said.
Close proximity to South Sudan makes Ethiopia’s western region accessible for many refugees, said Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR’s spokeswoman for east Africa. “Generally, when a person’s life is in danger, they flee to the closest safe country. Most of these people walked to get to Ethiopia,” she added.
South Sudanese started fleeing their country after President Salva Kiir accused his former vice-president, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup in December, triggering a wave of violence. Although ceasefires have been agreed, both sides have been accused of committing war crimes and endangering the lives of civilians.
As well as coping with refugees from South Sudan, Ethiopia is seeing an increasing number coming from Eritrea, as people flee a strictly enforced national service that requires all adults to spend most of their lives working for the government. Activists also bemoan a harsh government crackdown on free speech.
Eritrea’s escalating refugee crisis has resulted in almost 100,000 people seeking refuge in Ethiopia. Both crises are straining Ethiopia’s ability to support refugee populations.
“The number of Eritrean refugees coming into Ethiopia has shown a steady increase over the last several years – from an average of as low as 250 to 300 a month in 2009 to an average of 2,000 a month in 2014,” Gebreegziabher said. “They say they are fleeing persecution at home, including gross human rights violations and forced and open-ended military conscription.”
Torrential rain expected to last until October has caused flooding in some of Ethiopia’s camps. “With the rainy season, malaria cases are increasing,” said a spokeswoman from Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). “Because of the cholera epidemics in South Sudan, MSF is planning a vaccination campaign in the Gambela area for a target population of 187,000, to include both refugees and the host community.”
Although a decades-long conflict in Somalia has driven about 250,000 refugees across the border into Ethiopia since 1991 , the number of Somali arrivals has declined in recent months, said the UNHCR. “We are seeing a drop in the number of refugees coming from Somalia and that’s a very welcome development,” Kisut said. “In July, for example, we received less than 500 Somali refugees and this has been more or less the trend over the last several months.”
Kenya hosts about 575,000 refugees, many of whom live in Dadaab refugee complex, the world’s largest, with about 340,000 displaced people from Somalia .
Refugees from Afghanistan and Syria comprise the majority of the world’s displaced populations: Pakistan hosts the most displaced people, followed by Iran, Lebanon and Jordan, according to the UNHCR  (pdf).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ready, Get Set, Go!

Louise and I are now in Mobile, AL. The trip around the US was wonderful! Other than having to do some repairs in Santa Fe, New Mexico and having to replace two tires in Raceland, Louisiana, the trip was uneventful. We met with many partners and potential partners along the way, both churches and individuals, and had a wonderful time exploring new relationships and new places together...just the two of us. That in itself is priceless.

We have a number of loose ends that still need to be tied up before we leave, and we will also celebrate Jeremiah's 3rd birthday! On August 27 we leave for Atlanta and on the 28 we leave for Addis. We will stay in Addis for a while as we try to get all the paperwork done before moving on to Gambela. 

In October, I will attend the Faith2Share conference in Addis while Louise visits with her mum in Holland. Both of us will start Nuer language classes as soon as we possibly can. A lot needs to be done before the College officially open in January!

Please do check out our blogsite and our Face Book accounts periodically as we will be posting on both as much as electricity and internet access will allow.

Praise the Lord with us for a wonderful and uneventful journey.
Praise Him with us for new and excited partners!
Praise Him with us for all the paperwork completed successfully so far!

Pray with us for the outstanding 30% of our monthly pledge needs.

Pray with us that this time with our family will be blessed.

Pray with us that our flights to Addis will be uneventful.

Pray with us that our paperwork regarding work permits and residency will go smoothly and be granted in good time.

Pray with us that our language learning will be productive and that we will catch on quickly.

Pray for Louise's visit with her mum. Annie is 89 years old and is beginning to get a little frail. Pray that this will be a great time of bonding and of blessing.

Pray for the Faith2Share conference in October that I will learn all I need to learn and that I might be a blessing to the other participants as well.

Pray for all the many administrative things that need to be done before January.

Please do stay in touch and send us your prayer requests and news as well! We LOVE to hear from you.

Many blessings and love to all.

Johann and Louise

John Piper on Missions

John Piper on Missions

Excerpts of a few John Piper talks, specifically relating to missions.

Director, Editor- Mike Nelson

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Angels with mechanical skills...

As Louise and I have been driving through the United States, we have prayed for God's protection over us and our brave little old car, asking that He would give His angels charge over us and jokingly adding that we would prefer angels who had mechanical skills. Today, we believe He quite literally answered our prayers.

We had been traveling from Port Arthur, where we had visited the home of Janis Joplin and the exhibit in the local Gulf Museum there...another childhood dream come true!

The weather had been bad, but it cleared up as we drove further East. We had planned to go to a State Park on the Gulf Coast so that we could add a seaside experience to our list. And then it happened...

At first all we heard was a noise. I initially thought it was the road, but it soon became apparent that it was the rear tire. We stopped. Yup. as flat as can be...and the other one was not much better...as bald as me. So, we started unloading the trunk to get to the spare and then he pulled up.

He was a smallish man in an emergency road side assistance vehicle. He hopped out of his truck, came over smiling and asking what was wrong ( was that an Irish accent?), and when he saw the flat, he went back to his truck, got a professional jack out and proceeded to change our tire. He didn't ask...he didn't offer...he just did it. When the task was done, he gave us some advice, told us to take care, hopped back into his truck and was gone. It all happened so quickly, I didn't even get to ask him his name...

An angel? With mechanical skills? I'd like to think so...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Opening Question

"So, what are you going to do there?" I love it when people ask me that question. It is what I affectionately call "the opening question" as it opens the door for me to share about Jesus and what He is doing in Gambela.

Most Christians, if you ask them on a good day, will say they believe in the sovereignty of God and in divine providence. Ask them on a bad day and you might get a different response. Today, we were put to the test. Driving into Santa Fe, excited to be in a place we never thought we would ever see, steam starting to spew out from under the hood of our dear old car. Praise God for AAA! But this kind of event is never planned as far as budgets go and to be told that it would cost us $XYZ and that we would have to get a hotel room for the night and that we would have to rent a car to get to our meeting with the church in Albuquerque was a hard thing to hear. But, we had just been praying that the Lord would continue to lead and guide us as He has been all along this trip and we had to believe that somehow this was part of His sovereign plan too.

We asked some of our dear friends to pray with us via email and they did...and then...we received a message that the cost of the repairs would be covered. When one of these dear friends saw the email they responded immediately. Give me their number and I will call them to settle the account.

But if that wasn't enough of a blessing, as we were strolling downtown Santa Fe in the evening, we got talking with a saleslady in a local shop. She asked the usual questions. "Where are you from?' 'What brings you to Santa Fe?" And then, on hearing that we were going to work in Ethiopia, she asked the question.

"So, what are you going to do there?"

I told her about the South Sudan war. She knew nothing about it. I told her that the UN was predicting that this could be one of the worst famines of all time. She had never heard this before. I told her that the church was growing by leaps and bounds in the Gambela Region. She thought that was strange. Then I told her why. I told her that these people found in Jesus a God Who understood their suffering. That at the foot of the cross...that symbol of unjust suffering and undeserved hatred...they came to realize that they are not alone in their sorrow. In Jesus, these people who have suffered unimaginable things find hope. While she quickly ended the discussion with a "Well, I wish you all the best", Louise and I knew the seed had been sown. She had heard of a God Who knows and Who understands...

And we now know why we were meant to be in downtown Santa Fe...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Divine Appointments...

"Do you need some help lighting that fire?" I asked the Dutch couple camping next door to us at Mesa Verde, CO. I had watched the young man for a while as he tried to light the three sticks of wood haphazardly thrown on a bed of coals with matches. It seemed obvious to us that he had never done this before. So, we helped...and in helping, we once more saw the Lord's hand in bringing us to this specific campsite on this specific day for this specific purpose: to witness to His love and concern for all people, but specifically for the people of Gambela. Louise shared the Lord's call on our lives with the woman...who turned out to be the young man's mum...who knows what the Lord will do with her words?

Every day, as we drive, we read through our daily readings and pray. We always ask the Lord to protect us of course (especially our car!), but we also ask that He be glorified in our lives in some way during the day and that He will grant us an opportunity to witness to Him. We call these opportunities Divine Appointments. And we have had several. Just a seed...that's all one can hope to sow in a short space of time...but God is the One Who waters and grants growth.

As we drove through the Painted Desert yesterday, we saw how the slightest amount of rain could clothe the plains with green.

If God so clothes the desert (my convenient paraphrase), how much more will He not clothe those who do not yet know Him with salvation? If He can grant life to plants in the midst of harsh conditions, then surely He can bring the seeds we sow to maturity in Him? And so we pray for our Divine Appointments...that they might find and be found by Him.

Francis Asbury once wrote: "My desire is to live more to God today than yesterday, and to be more holy this day than the last." This echoes our prayers as we drive through this huge and gorgeous country....and, we pray, may it become an echo in the lives of those we witness to as well...in His time.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Dreamers: In A Town Called Chloride

"I've worked with all sorts of people, yes I have. Big names, you know? Like, umm...have you ever heard of Jack Nicholson?" I was sorely tempted to reply: "No, I've never heard of him. Is he someone famous?" But I didn't. I simply nodded and said, "Oh, yes. How interesting."

This was one of the characters we met yesterday in a small town called Chloride. Another one was a Danish Prince who could trace his lineage way back to the 900's to the great Canut, no less! He told us his dream was to visit all the ancestral places in England and France and Denmark...places he knew he had relatives. Judging by his toothless grin and painful gait, he had better start packing...or be content to keep on dreaming. Perhaps that's all he needed to be happy...

Happy is a word that seems to describe these gentle folk. The town is charming...really charming. There is nothing fake about it in spite of the fact that it is a few miles down the road from the Grand Canyon.

We arrived in Chloride quite by accident. We had had an event filled day as we travelled on from Bishop, CA. We breezed on by Las Vegas. In a sleepy little town in Arizona, an over zealous traffic officer pulled me over with blue lights flashing and siren blaring. Confused we sat waiting for him to tell us what I had done wrong. He approached my window and said: "Sir, I am going to apologize right now. I thought your orange ice-cream was a cell-phone." And so an orange, Blue Bunny ice-cream nearly got me a ticket. Then, we were treated to an "air-show" as we entered Death Valley. Two fighter jets came whizzing by us as we stood looking down at the awesome vistas.

And then...Chloride...

They appear to have tried the touristy thing a while back...but even their attempt is as charming as the rest of the town. There is a small "gold mine" on a hill...a "ghost town" close to the only restaurant in town, complete with graveyard and a grave of a horse thief...among other things...

So, dream on dreamers...you add to the beauty of your quaint town...the town called Chloride.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Presence...My Provider...

At MissionPrep: iMPact, we were told that the MP in iMPact stood for My Presence and My Provider.

Yesterday Denise told us that we are now at about 70% of our monthly pledge need. While we are still 30% away from 100%, we are not where we were a few months ago and, we are convinced, we are not where we will be in God's good time according to His good will. And that's the governing word: good. God is good. He is not capricious or fickle nor does He play games with His children. He calls, He provides, and remains present throughout the journey.

Walking through the Redwoods on our way down from stopping with Heyns and Hanna in Portland, we were reminded of how small we really are in the scheme of things! 

Or driving through Yosemite in the midst of those massive mountains...or camping at the foot of the Sierras...we are small...so small. But God is immeasurable and yet He cares for each one of us. He has been reminding us of both the MP's as we drive along. We pray wherever we go, talking to Him about what we see, where we are going, what we will be needing...like campsites. He has never failed to bring us to the right spot at the right time. It is as the Psalmist says...the Lord delights in us. 

And every time we experience His delight it is a reminder that He who governs the universe knows our needs, hears our prayers, and will answer in His good time according to His good will because He is good and because He is with us. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mixed feelings...

We are sitting enjoying a coffee and a bran muffin in Ava Coffee Shop in Portland, Oregon. I have mixed feelings as we enjoy the luxury of life in the US of A. This morning, our Archbishop, Foley Beach, sent out an appeal for prayer and political action on behalf of our suffering brethren in Syria and Iraq. And then there are those in northern Nigeria...and those in South Sudan...and those in Gambela.

Apparently, there are roughly 200,000 refugees in the area who are not registered with the UN. This means they have no access to food, shelter, or medical care. Some tell stories of eating grass and tree bark to stave off the hunger pains.

But while ethnic hatred continues to fuel the fire of violence across the border, our brethren in the Gambela region dip deeply into their own meagre resources to share with those who have nothing. I may be wrong, but I never heard of this happening anywhere else in Africa. But this is not the only miracle...I am convinced that the Lord must be multiplying the food as there simply is not enough to go around. And why not? He has done that before...

So, here I sit. The coffee is good...the muffin is great...and I am grateful. Grateful for food. Grateful that my wife is sitting, unharmed at the table with me. Grateful that my children and grandson are safe and well nourished.