“Oh hello, we have a little visitor,” I said to Roger, our priest in Addis, as I was talking to him on the phone. A juvenile Boomslang had just made an appearance on the porch of our Bishop’s house while I was telling Roger of all that had transpired since our return to Gambela. But I have begun the story in the middle…
Since we left the United States for Ethiopia, we have been busy mostly with documentation, meetings, and conferences. We only had a few days in Gambela before we left, Louise for Holland to meet with her mum and family, and me to Egypt for the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East Conference held in Luxor. It was a marvelous time of catching up with good friends, my bosses (Archbishop Mouneer Anis, and Stewart Wicker from SAMS), and meeting so many new and wonderful people from all over the Near Middle East, the Middle East (the Gulf Region as well as Iraq), Cyprus, and North Africa. Some of the stories from the front-lines of some of the world’s most difficult countries were very moving indeed. One man remarked, “We are told, ‘You are not like us therefore we will kill you.’ We respond, ‘You are not like us, therefore we will die for you.” And he wasn’t speaking metaphorically.
There was time for more leisurely activities and I got to see some amazing sights as well as enjoy a Felucca trip on the Nile. Mind blowing.
From Egypt we returned to Addis for a Faith2Share Consultation. It too was a great time of catching up with old friends, making many new ones from all over the world, hearing stories from martyrs and saints, learning so much from the breakout sessions, and, most importantly, praying with and for each other. We met dear brothers from Kenya who specifically wanted to meet us as they want us to collaborate in a mission to a people group that straddles the border between our two countries. This is a dream come true for Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy – I remember them talking about reaching this particular people group the first time I met them years ago!
Another piece of good news is that Bishop Grant was asked to reopen a church that had been "lost" decades ago in an up until now closed country. Please keep this in your prayers, as there is still much to do.
And then finally, the blessed reunion of husband and wife in Addis! Louise returned two days before we left for Gambela and we spent the one day shopping for supplies and food one cannot get here.
Our flight to Gambela was uneventful and oh, the joy of being back home again! But as we were driving in to town we were told that the whole town was on lockdown as two people groups had a bit of a tiff in a nearby town. The unrest had spread and the local government was not prepared to have it get out of hand. The town had been shut down – not a single store was open – and was filled with troops and police armed to the teeth. Their overwhelming presence was strangely reassuring…no one in their right mind would dare to make trouble while they were around!
When we go back to the Anglican Center I called Roger to let him know what was going on. It was then that I spied our unwanted green guest (about 18 inches or 46 centimeters) peeking out from under a blue barrel of emergency water. I called to Louise to bring me my sjambok and one whack settled the matter. Roger expressed astonishment that I was killing a snake while still chatting on the phone…well a man must do what a man must do, I guess.
That same night, I heard strange squeaking sounds outside the lounge window. Louise thought it was a cat, but it soon became apparent that one of the local dogs (which seems to be perpetually pregnant) had decided to have her new litter under the bougainvillea on the side of Bishop Grant’s home. Sigh…it never rains, but it pours…and that’s exactly what happened. The heavens seemed to open up and it poured down intermittently for two days. I guess that’s one way to keep the curfew!
Today the town reopened and we were able to go stock up and get out Internet taken care of. Meetings are still going on to resolve the dispute so please pray for wisdom, cool heads, and peace.
Building has ceased as the builders too had to stay home, but so much has been done! Our home is move-in-ready, but far from complete…it still has a few, shall we call them, character flaws…especially with regard to the plumbing. But slowly by slowly the egg walks…one of the first lessons one must learn here if you are to survive.
We now have a mattress for our bed and an ill-fitting mosquito net…our shower and toilet works…well, sort of…and we have redeemed a few bits of furniture here and there. This makes the place quite livable we think. I have also been preparing a piece of land for a vegetable garden that, hopefully, will one day serve the College and have created a composting area. The slaughterhouse across the way does have its advantages.
This is a long letter…I apologize for that, but so much has happened in this short space of time and there are still so many things left unsaid.
Items for Prayer:
Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy are in Australia speaking to churches and various Anglican Aid Societies. Pray for these meetings that they may prove to be fruitful.
For our clergy, lay leaders, Mother’s union, and churches in the Horn.
For the approximately 300,000 refugees – some of the camps were flooded recently.
For the situation in Gambela and for peace and harmony among the various people groups in the area.
For Louise and me as we try to finally settle and get things unpacked.
For the Area conference in November.
Finally, I have added a poem I wrote about the present situation. Thank you for your love, concerns, and support.
You are much appreciated. Please do let us hear from you.
Much love and blessings.
Johann and Louise
The lockdown of the town became
The lockdown of us all.
“Go home!” they said, “Go home and stay!”
A curfew was installed.
A cry for vengeance had been heard,
For blood that had been shed.
Two children’s argument the cause,
An adult’s death now fed
The raging fire that had spread –
That could not be resolved –
And now engulfed entirely
The people groups involved.
What feeds this love for violence;
This craving for revenge?
One moment friend – next moment foe
A lust for bloody binge.
Lord, you revealed yourself to be
The Author of our peace.
Light of the world bring light to all…
From bondage bring release.
Foul ruler of the wicked hearts,
Your rule shall not prevail.
As Christ our King leads on the fight
Your evil deeds will fail.
Lord of the Harvest, hear our prayer
For fruit at harvest time.
Cause us to hear Your blessed words;
“I know those who are Mine.”
Instead of hatred, let Your love
Be poured out on us all.
Release Your angels ‘gainst our foe
Let his advance be stalled.
Let enemy love enemy;
Let groups be made as one;
Let us not cease our efforts ‘till
We hear Your words, “Well done.”
Let not the lockdown of our town
Prophetic words become.
Speak Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
And let your kingdom come.
© Johann Vanderbijl 2014