Thursday, December 18, 2014

This is not a game...

This is not a game...this is reality. A reality the children of South Sudan have to live with every day.

Monday, December 15, 2014


We are able to access our blogsite...because we are in Villiersdorp, South Africa. Apparently, Ethiopia ranks 78th out of a list of 79 with regard to internet access...sigh. Here is our latest prayer letter and a new poem.

“We regret to inform you that flight 809 to Johannesburg has been delayed.” I am glad some things in life never change. In fact, the longer I live here, the more I have come to appreciate the unpredictable – it helps to mortify any remaining vestiges of Western punctuality and to create a peaceful sense of Hakuna Matata. Louise and I are seated at the departure gate area in Bole airport awaiting the arrival of the plane that will take us to the one stop on our way to Cape Town. Thankfully, no one has started the useless wailing noises otherwise known as complaining. While some hopeful souls have taken to standing in a queue, most of the seasoned travellers remain seated with their noses in books, laptops, or cell phones. A few are actually talking to each other. (We just had another announcement encouraging passengers to return to the Lounge area. This is going to be an interesting day).

Louise and I left a rather warm Gambela on Sunday, en route to sunny Villersdorp where we will visit with family and friends until the day after Christmas. I have not seen my brother (other than on Facebook) since my dad’s funeral, 24 years ago. But this is more than a short holiday. We hope to meet with a few of our supporters and a professor from my old alma mater, George Whitefield College. It still strikes me as semi miraculous that anyone from GWC still wants to talk to me, but there it is. Perhaps I wasn’t all that bad a student.

The best news since we heard that Lauren was pregnant with our second grandchild is that we have the government’s blessing to start St Frumentius’ Anglican College in late August 2015. This means we can forge on ahead with plans other than building and fund raising. Last week, we visited several seminaries, colleges, and Bible Schools in Addis to learn more about how things are done around here. I am thrilled to report that everyone we spoke to was more than helpful and genuinely happy to have a Theological College open in Gambela since the closest Bible School is a day’s drive to the West.

I am also chuffed to say that our College will be open to all denominations and, thanks to an agreement between respective Primates, to students from across the border. This camaraderie restores one’s hope that the High Priestly prayer of Jesus might not be a pipe dream after all…perhaps we can all be one even as He and the Father are one.

I am now writing from a cool, sunny, gorgeous Villiersdorp. Needless to say, we did get here eventually…three hours delay made up en route so that we were only an hour late in the end. We did miss our connection but ran on the next flight just before the gate closed.

We will be here for Christmas, but we will be leaving the next day for Addis where I will be preaching at St Matthew’s on Holy Innocents Day…not much time. Then John Macdonald and a team from Trinity will be coming to Gambela…but that is a topic for January.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas to one and all.
Here is a poem I wrote about an incident at one of the Camps.

The Camp

“A refugee has no god,”
The camp official said.
“You shall not worship anything –
You are as good as dead.
A refugee has no rights;
You’re aliens in this land;
Don’t ask for leave; don’t ask at all,
You may not make demands.”
But still the people meet to pray
They meet to worship Him
Who gave them rights as children who
Believe upon His name.

There was a priest who lived within
The borders of this camp.
He could not go, he could not leave
The place without a stamp.
When leave was once again denied
This priest began to pray.
‘Twas his desire to attend
The clergy-training day.
To whom or which should he submit;
To man or unto God?
He searched his heart until he got
From Him the divine nod.

He left the camp; he went his way
The meeting to attend,
And as he feasted on the Word
His soul began to mend.
What honour this, what privilege!
To sit before the throne
Of Him Who suffered just like him –
He’d never be alone.
He was imprisoned on return
But joy still filled his heart.
No matter what man did to him
The Spirit quenched each dart.

The Bishop called th’ authorities
To plead with them the case.
“But he had broken all the rules,”
They argued to his face.
What rules are these, you might well ask,
That make the refugee
A nothing and a nobody –
No better than a flea.
They did release him from his cell
With stern admonishment,
“As long as you live in this camp,
Our rules may not be bent.”

How long, O Lord, must this go on
How long, ‘til human kind
To ploughshares beat each bloody sword
And seek peace ‘till they find
That there is never reason why
That any harm should come
From coveting or harbouring
A grudge ‘gainst anyone.
Prosperity and harmony
Are twin advantages
That come when men lay down their arms
And sign agreement pages.

Yet nonetheless, the fact remains
That wrong can n’er be right
The people in the camp still are
Engulfed in darkest night.
Displacement comes with every war
As people flee for life –
But they should be our honoured guests
And not reduced to strife
With camp officials and the like
Who seek to bring them low,
Make living hard – unbearable –
Just adding woe to woe.

Johann Vanderbijl © 2014