Wednesday, September 17, 2014

An update from the Gambela Anglican Centre

We arrived in a cool Gambela on Saturday past. As Addis had been so cold, we had wondered how our bodies would respond to the usual heat of the low country, but our gracious Lord had taken care of that already! Be not anxious, as your Father already knows…ah yes, another lesson on faith and trust.

The Anglican Centre is undergoing some major renovations thanks to the generous donations of many supporters of the Lord’s work here. For the present, it is our home-to-be and the library.  Pray with us for more donors, as there is much yet to be done before the College will be fully functional.

The library used to be dark because the open holes that were mean to serve as windows let in dust (and ashes during the burning season) rather than sunlight. 

But that has all changed now, as walls have been knocked open to accommodate large windows, and other walls erected inside to better utilize the space for books, computers, offices, and study areas.

The old office block has undergone a bit of a transformation as well, and is slowly beginning to morph into our new home. Thanks to one wall knocked out and one wall built in, it now boasts an open plan kitchen and longue area, and a shower! We hope to move in soon…perhaps when we return from Addis in October.

 Yes, Addis. Louise will be companion to the Queen on her trip to Holland, and I will be attending a Provincial Assembly in Luxor, Egypt, and a missions leadership conference in Addis after that. Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy will be visiting churches in Australia later in the month, but we will return home. Home…that is what Gambela is to us now.

We have been working hard on the Nuer language, but the going is slow. Having taught English as a Foreign Language, I know that there is such a thing as muscle memory and when it comes to the mouth and the tongue, muscle memory is a hard thing to overcome. Some of the sounds in Nuer are so foreign to the English mouth that it takes a lot of practice before the word spoken sound anything like what we hear with our ears.  And even then, our Nuer brethren first frown when we address them and then, recognizing the mispronounced greeting or statement, smile widely and repeat what we should have said several times. They are ever so gracious and patient with us!

Electricity has been a problem since we arrived, which means the cell phone and Internet network does not work either. Also, Louise and I have yet to purchase the adapter needed to access the Internet. But today, we have power and everyone is furiously catching up with their correspondence. +Grant let us use his adapter last night, so we did manage to Face Time with Hanno on his thirtieth birthday, for which we are grateful.

We have also been working hard on the grounds, pruning trees, cutting down those that are too close to others, fertilizing some with manure bought from the butchery across the street, planting vegetables and so on. There is still so much work to be done, but a vision of the future drives us forward. It is important to us to have this centre be totally self-sufficient. Green visions of solar power and wells and water storage tanks dance in our heads…but all in due time.

For now, work revolves around getting our home ready for occupation and learning the Nuer language. Everything else is a bonus…

Monday, September 8, 2014

Slowly by slowly the egg walks...

Slowly by slowly the egg the Ethiopian saying goes. Today we saw this proverb in action. We had been told to collect our residency cards at 10:30 AM on Monday. Bishop Grant says that we have set a new record for getting my work permit and our residency cards within the space of just over a week...three days over a week to be precise. We attribute this to the prayers of all our supporters and the amazing prior leg work done by our Diocesan staff and friends. 

So, like typical Westerners, we arrived at immigration half an hour early. No problem, I was told as the man behind the counter whipped out my card from a stack that looked very much like a poker pack. But then...he shuffled through them again, peering at Louise from time to time. He put down the cards and began to type on the computer. Uh oh...what's up, doc? No, he said, it has been approved, but it was coming from a different department. Could we wait for twenty minutes? Sure. Why not?

In the meantime, Doctor Wendy was stuck in traffic trying desperately to get our two little cardiac surgery candidates to see the doctor before noon. Louise and I had heard that they needed to see him when we dropped off a photograph of little Wecca this morning before leisurely walking over to immigration. A quick call..yes, we have cell phones...and the driver was off to pick them up...but no one anticipated the traffic. Perhaps it is because the Ethiopian New Year is around the corner? September 11...

So, we are waiting...Wendy is waiting...and the egg still only has one leg.

Finally a stash of new cards come Louise. Ten minutes. Just wait ten more minutes. "Is there a problem?" I asked. No problem. Approved. Another stash came in twenty minutes later...another furious shuffling and glancing nervously at Louise. Room 81. Sorry? Room 81. I suddenly felt like a little boy being told to go to the principal's office. No problem. Room 81.

So we toddled off to Room 81. "Why are you here?" the lady enquired. "Well, we were told to come here." Furious discussion ensued as Louise's receipt was passed on from one person to another. "Wait here." "Is there a problem? Do you need more documents?" "No problem." As this point I couldn't help myself. "Ah," I said, " slowly by slowly the egg walks." The whole office burst out laughing. "Yes," the lady said, "but you had better wait outside."

So we waited...and waited...until we were told to go back to Room 90 and then told to come back after lunch. By this time, Wendy had seen the doctor and all was set for the wee one's surgery some time later this month. She met us outside immigration, we went for a leisurely lunch and, sure enough, the egg got its other leg after lunch!

We now have what we need to move freely around and in and out of the country! We are legal aliens! Praise the Lord! So the plan is to leave for Gambela on Saturday. There is still much to be done, meetings to be held, supplies to be bought...but we will be going to Gambela, and that right soon, as the Prayer Book says!

And so we continue to learn...the egg will walk...eventually. And in the meantime, we will rest in the knowledge that our Lord knows the perfect time for the legs to hatch.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A week in Addis

We have been in Addis Ababa for a little over a week now. So much has happened since we landed at Bole International Airport Friday, August 29.

We breezed through customs with all our excess baggage...only God could work that out! Roger Kay, the local Anglican priest, met us at the airport - but we needed an extra vehicle for our bags. We are stopping with the folks at the Swiss Mission...a lovely room overlooking part of the city as the photo above will testify.

Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy arrived on Saturday...what a wonderful reunion! What a privilege it is to be working with such a godly couple.

Grant preached on Sunday on David and Goliath - both of us were facing our own personal Goliaths the next few days. They had to renew their residency and we had to get my work permit and our residency cards. But the Lord has been amazing throughout the process. They have their new residency cards, I have my work permit, and, God willing of course, we will have our residency cards on Monday. Grant says we have set a new record - but it is truly the Lord's answer to your prayers as well as a lot of preliminary work done by Meaza Tifera, the Diocesan Office Manager.

In between visits with new and old friends, we have attended a S***** conference (a very moving experience as these brothers and sisters are on the frontline of persecution), managed to get cardiac surgery appointments for two very sick little children from Gambela, attended a graduation ceremony of EGST (Ethiopia Graduate School of Theology) where Grant was the main speaker, and celebrated one of the best birthdays of my life!

If all goes as we think it will, we will be leaving for Gambela on Friday or our hearts yearn to be reunited with our family there! But this is still hanging in the balance. We try not to look too far into the future here...and perhaps, that is the way that God intended for it to be.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

News from Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy

News from Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy

Soldiers and Saints

Little Anglicans
“Yes,” he said, smiling happily, “we’ve come here for a holiday, and then we will return!”
I saw Grant’s face tighten with anguish and anger. Images of villages burning, of people shot as they ran, of the elderly and the very young - starving, dying, left behind; tales of the rape of countless women and the desecration of the dead came flooding to mind.
The young man sat back, relaxed, seemingly unaware of the tension that gripped the room. The older men’s faces became stony, their eyes darkened.
We had been sitting in our living room, serving tea to the relatives of a friend. It turned out they were members of the ***** army of South Sudan, and they were in Gambella for a break. I could see the young man’s apparent unconcern cut Grant like a knife. “What about the victims,” Grant was thinking, “do they get a break?” Instead he asked, “Why are you fighting?”
“We fight for our rights!” the young man answered.
“What rights did you lack in the new country of South Sudan?”
There was no answer.
“We fight for revenge.”
“Are you Christian?”
“Of course!”
“Revenge is not the way for those who follow Jesus.”
The conversation reached an impasse.
“We are praying for you and for the suffering of South Sudan,” I said. My heart was filled with an overwhelming sense of kindness for those entangled in such cruelty. “Lord, show them Your goodness, that they may know who they truly are,” I prayed.
A few days later the eldest one came to me. Even with almost no common language, we understood each other perfectly.
“I return to Nassir tomorrow” he said. 
“Pray for me, as you would pray for a little child,” and he bowed his head, that I might place my hand upon him in blessing.

St Martha's Anglican Church - new ( the church) ...
and Old ( the tree)

Wendy and I went to the Lare Mission Centre on a recent Sunday (August 10) to visit two little Nuer-speaking village churches out in the bush. Neither congregation had had a building before - just a tree to worship under. And neither congregation had been given a name (names are only given to churches when the Bishop visits!). So at 9:00am or so (after walking through fields where we were attacked by hordes of flies) we reached the first church in a place called Pietiel, where we dedicated St Martha's Anglican Church. Then at about 11.15 or so (after slogging through shin deep mud in our wellies) we reached the second church at Waken, where we dedicated Holy Trinity Anglican Church. Both congregations are small, each a part of an eight-point parish, but each has had a long, faithful and enthusiastic ministry in their area - and both are delighted to have a building, even one constructed of mud and sticks and thatch.

Dedication St Martha's

On August 24 the destination was an Anuak-speaking congregation in Abobo. Bethlehem Anglican Church has no full time pastor and is less than a year old. But they have good lay leadership and they are hard workers  - not only have they built a new church building for Abobo town, they have also planted several new congregations in the surrounding villages in the past year.

Thanks to all those whose generous contributions have made the building of new churches in the Gambella region of Ethiopia a reality!

Bethlehem Church, Abobo

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              

Open heart surgery for Wecca

~ Please Pray with us ~

For protection and healing for 6 year old Wecca  and 8 year old Sarah as they undergo open heart surgery in early September.

For blessing and peace for Johann and Louise Vanderbijl as they make their way through the Ethiopian 'Sea of Red Tape' to receive residence permits. Johann will be principal of St Frementius' Anglican Theological College.

For the Gambella clergy as they begin teaching new baptism and confirmation candidates

For the Mothers' Union leaders of our churches as they teach their members in basic health issues and nutrition.

For our new congregations being formed in refugee camps in Ashura, Dimma, Pinyudu, Leitchor, and Akule 1, 2 & 3, and for the new refugee pastors who have recently come from the dioceses of Malakal and Renk.

For the Opo Bible translators who are currently translating the gospel of Luke

Opo Bible translators David Onuk
and James Bol

Taking things for granted...

We are at the Hilton in Addis Ababa enjoying full access to high speed Internet for the first time since arriving at Bole International Airport. What a privilege...and what a reminder that we take too many things for granted.

Talking about taking things for granted...the Lord has been teaching us many lesson with regard to His sovereignty of late. Today we read two passages of Scripture that reminded us that God rules over all things...not just the good things. The first was the story about Samson and his first, apparently disastrous, relationship. Baffled by his request for a Philistine wife, his parents ask why he couldn't take a wife from his own people. But, the next verse tells us, they did not not understand that this was from the Lord so that Samson might begin to take action against the overlords and oppressors of Israel. Ultimately, his taste for foreign women would lead to the destruction of the lords of the Philistines in their own temple and the deliverance of Israel.

But those who experienced these things at the time did not know the end of the story as we do and therefore might not have seen the hand of the Lord at work...just as we do not always see the hand of the Lord at work as we wade through the sometimes odd circumstances that cause delays and distractions and detours in our lives.

The second reading was from the Gospel of Luke and focused in on the betrayal of Judas and the preparation for what we now call the Last Supper. In spite of our Lord knowing what awaited Him at the end of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and that final Passover Meal...knowing that it was a friend who would be the instrument by which the seemingly catastrophic event of the cross would be set in motion...knowing that His disciples would desert Him...knowing that His own would reject Him and abuse Him and kill Him...He continued to focus in on what He knew the Father wanted Him to do in the present. I can only imagine what was going through His mind as He instituted the Eucharist. We take those words for granted, don't we? This is My Body...My Blood...given for you...

Now, the good news is that in spite of gloomy predictions, I have been granted my work permit and should have it in hand by tomorrow. This means that we can apply for residency on Thursday! However, once again we have learned not to take things for granted. This is a gift from our Lord Who sovereignly holds the hearts of human beings in His hand, turning them whichever way He wills. All things, we are told, work together for the good of those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose. His purpose. That is the ultimate reason for all things in our lives, is it not?

So this morning, we prayed that we would not forget to learn the lessons we need to learn here in the present...even though our hearts yearn to be with our brethren in Gambela. The Lord knows our needs even before we bring them before Him...that is what Jesus teaches us in the Gospel of Matthew. Either this is true or it is not. Either He is sovereign or He is not. Either He is working out His purpose or He is not. We cannot have it both ways.

So, we submit ourselves to whatever it is He wills. Ultimately, He will do what is best for the kingdom and, subsequently, what is best for us and for those around us...that, we simply cannot take for granted...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Gratitude and Grace

And so it happened. We had enjoyed free wireless Internet access at the Swiss Nile Mission Guest House. But that was before it began to rain.

I have been told to hold things lightly here…to not expect anything and to receive everything with gratitude and grace. And so we shall.

This past Sunday, we attended St. Matthew's Anglican Church in Addis Ababa. Bishop Grant preached a wonderful sermon about David and Goliath...very appropriate we thought as we face the challenges of getting our paper work done in a timely manner. Apparently, we may have to stay in Addis for two weeks...not really something we want to do, but...gratitude and grace...

Two Gambela priests, Michael and Deng Mark, attended the second service. We were overjoyed to see them as they were to see us. It was like seeing old relatives again after a time of separation. It seems that they too are anxious for us to get to Gambela, but...gratitude and grace...

Today...Monday, September 1st...we managed to access the Internet at St. Matthews, but only in their small library where a few local children were sitting doing extra curricula work. But the connection is extremely slow and it took me about an hour to get the blog to load. 

We did get some paperwork done in the meantime. I signed my contract with the Anglican Church in Ethiopia and handed over our passports to Meaza, the very capable Diocesan secretary. Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy then went to immigration to renew their annual occurrence, apparently. We are getting a glimpse of what we will be doing a year from now. But this is a start and hopefully the wheels will turn a wee bit faster than predicted so our stay in Addis will not be so lengthy, but...gratitude and grace...

Another unanticipated problem is getting our debit card to work at a local ATM machine. We have been to three banks now and each one did not recognize our Wells Fargo Debit Card. But we may have found one that will...we will see...gratitude and grace...

So, we are learning, slowly by slowly, to hold things lightly...including time. We receive everything that works - and even that which does not work - with gratitude and grace. God is in Heaven and all's well with our world.