Monday, January 12, 2015

The Challenge

The Challenge
Present your case, bring forth your suit,
The Sovereign Lord decrees.
Where are your gods whom you have loved
And served to nth degree.
They cannot speak, they cannot hear
And yet you bow the knee.
You offer what you do not have
And still you are not free.
What purpose does this ritual
Serve – and to what end?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Th’Omnipotent is friend.

While there is none like Him above,
Nor is there one below,
He who in Christ is well received
His name the Lord does know.
The King of kings took on the form
Of humankind on earth,
He through the Holy Spirit came
By Mary’s virgin birth.
He lived a life of poverty
And died a crim’nal’s death,
But rose again – was lifted up –
To distribute His wealth.

“What does He give, this Christ of yours?
What do I stand to gain?”
Why nothing – save your precious soul -
Erasure of sin’s stain.
What is more valuable than gold
Or silver, land, or home?
What if you gain all of the earth,
But have a heart of stone?
The riches that our God bestows
On those who are His own,
Surpass all that we think we know
And all we have not known.

So, think on this, my fickle friend
Before you close your eyes:
Your life is fragile – life is short –
And time’s not on your side.
What do you stand to lose, but pride
And little else beside.
Eternal life is what you gain -
An ocean deep and wide.
You have a choice, so make it wise
You cannot fool the one
To whom all hearts are open books,
All secrets are undone.

© Johann Vanderbijl 2014

Life is a privilege

Life is a privilege.  This was brought home to me just recently when a pussycat that escaped the talons of five kites in the morning and the fangs of a pack of dogs in the afternoon, succumbed to the clutches of an owl in the evening. In many ways, this is an illustration of the fragility of life here. A guard, whose teenage son was up and about one day, was seemingly rendered totally non-responsive overnight and dead within a few days after being released from hospital. An uncle of a coworker was spared when a bullet stopped millimeters away from his heart…but the same bullet had apparently grazed his spinal cord on entry and he may be paralyzed for life. This is reality and an accepted part of life here. There are no arguments with God.

But this acceptance has not dampened their zeal for a better life. While they do not lay any blame at God’s door for their suffering, they know that He has something far better for them than what they have had up until now and they are hungry for that. Dr Wendy reports that all her teaching on health, hygiene, and nutrition has been implemented among the Opo with visible results! We just hosted a teaching team from Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA who taught pastors and lay-leaders from the whole region. Some travelled for five days to get here, but they came and soaked up all they could while they were here. Our senior Anuak priest says that one of the reasons the church is growing so quickly among his people is because of the good teaching the leaders are receiving.  The desire to learn is palpable and the implementation of the new information almost immediate. Everything is shared with everyone who will listen.

Life is a privilege and it is a privilege to live life in Gambela.

The Jesus Film has been shown several times to different Anauk audiences as well as the Opo. But this did not stop them wanting to show the film again over the two Christmases – yes, two Christmases – the Western Christmas (Dec 25) and the Ethiopian Christmas (Jan 7)! Unfortunately, for the Opo the film is not yet in their own language, but they watched it in Nuer and in Amharic anyway. Pray for the showing of this film…it is now in an area where there are quite a few unreached and unengaged people groups. Pray that the message will be well received and pray also for the protection of the equipment. Theft and damage are other realities we are learning to live with.

I am continuing to plan ahead for the opening of St Frumentius’ Anglican College this year. As the books are all in English, I will be teaching two English Grammar Intensive courses, the one from1 – 26 June and the second from 3 - 28 August. God willing, we will be in the US for July to meet with individual partners and churches, and also to spend time with friends and family.  Right now, the beginning of the first Semester will be 31 August 2015. There is still much to be done, decisions to be made, and funds to be raised, but we are moving forward, Praise God!

Items for Praise:
New personal support is still coming in!
New churches are being planted among an up to recently unengaged people group!
General acceptance among our immediate community among whom we live – children that once ran from us now run up to us chanting, “Big brother has come!”
The beauty of the area – we have found a path that leads all along the Baro river through many villages and we have made many new friends (and seen our first “Nyang” or crocodile!).

Items for Prayer:
Protection for us all – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritual, relationally, financially.
The upcoming visit of a team from South Carolina: February 1 - 8
The upcoming Clergy Training: February 2 and 3
The upcoming Mother’s Union Training: February 4 and 5

Thank you all for your prayers, your financial support, your emotional support, and your correspondence! It is always such a joy to know that someone is thinking of you even when you are so far removed physically.

Tons of love and many blessings.

Johann and Louise