PLEASE NOTE: If we have not replied to an email or have failed to write personal emails to you it is not because we do not want to or are not interested or anything else. Internet access here is hard to explain to anyone who has not experienced it.
This has been what my mum would have called a topsy-turvy month. We have much for which to thank our benevolent and gracious Father in heaven. The birth of our precious granddaughter, Beatrix Rophe and the news that our youngest son and his dear wife are with child as well, are two items for praise. St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College is also moving forward step by step as we are about to enter the fourth and final week of our English Grammar intensive classes. IVP-UK and IVP-USA have graciously donated valuable books to our theological library, for which we are so grateful. Anglican Aid Australia has generously donated funds for a number of scholarships and CMS-Ireland has agreed to fund one part time student for three years. This is all cause for rejoicing! We are also grateful for the cooler weather (80 - 90 F instead of 90 - 140 F!) and for the rains.
But we have also had the valleys and the pits this month. We recently heard that our dear little Beatrix may be permanently deaf. It was hard enough not being able to be present at her birth, but having to know that your children are hurting and you cannot even put an arm around them was tough. Our dear brethren here, even though they have never met our children and grandchildren, embraced them and enveloped them with prayer, often bringing us to tears as they cried out to God for mercy.
Death has been all around us for the past month as well. For example, in one case, as many as six members of one family have died within the space of two weeks. There are many more such stories; most deaths appear to be malaria related which makes it even more tragic as this is preventable. One very recent death that hit very close to home was the death of the wife of our dear colleague, brother, and friend, Ojullu. He has a son who is seven or eight years old who now has to grow up without a mother.
And then there is the situation in South Sudan. As one of our pastors said: “There is never any good news from South Sudan.”
Besides all these things, there are the “little foxes” – frequent power outages (we did not had any power for three days and had to cook and eat all our frozen food – we really need solar power on the compound!), no water coming onto the compound (but thanks be to God for the rain that has filled our rain barrels!), no network (Louise desperately wanted to talk to her mum and sister about our sad news, but has not been able to call), intermittent internet and so on and so forth.
But then there is God. How many times don’t we read that in the Scriptures? Things look grim and then there is that blessed consolation – BUT GOD! With Him all things are possible. His plans for us are for good only and never for evil. He knew every day of our lives even before there was one of them! He is ever kind, gracious, loving, merciful, forgiving, compassionate, patient, good, holy, and just…while we might only see through the glass dimly, He sees it all and watches over us and directs our steps as we wait on Him. With such a God, who can despair?
The English classes have been an experience…a difficult but blessed experience. While we had 54 applicants, only 42 actually started the class, simply because the 12 others could not read. I don’t know how to explain this to westerners, but our dear folk here have not had the privileges we seem to take for granted. One student was telling me about his life as a child soldier in South Sudan…he saw his father killed before his eyes, he had no fixed abode for many years, and there was no time for school. The hunger for learning is immense and it grips my heart every time I see it in the eyes of those who so desperately want to participate in our classes but cannot because they are not able to read English. We are praying about meeting their needs in the future by use of mother-tongue lecturers, Chronological-Bible-Story-Telling intensives, and perhaps simple English Classes.
But I digress. Of the 42 students, only 20 passed the first test and so our numbers dwindled once again…there were tears…however, the remaining 20 students scored significantly higher in the second test, one even as high as 95%! As Louise said, the whole atmosphere of the compound seems to have changed. Everyone is more positive and hopeful. Remember, this is the first Theological College in Gambella. The fact that something very positive is happening has given our folk hope!
Talking about Louise…she now has her hands full. She has a growing vegetable garden, the job of cataloguing our growing number of theological books in our library, and a growing “wound clinic” – local children who have little cuts, scrapes, and more serious wounds flock needing Mama Louise’s tender touch. Many just want attention and show her tiny scabs with the hope that she will give them one of those wonderful things called Band-Aids! She recently ran out of them and had to send the children away – only tending to those wounds that were serious. You should have seen their little faces! She is loved by these wee ones…who else coos and fusses over them like she does?
I can hardly believe that this time next week we will be in North America! We will see our children face to face and will be able to touch them and love on them. What a privilege! We also hope to see many of you as well. At the end of this letter is our itinerary as it stands right now. If you are close-by to any of these places, please try to get in touch with us.
For our children and grandchildren.
For successful surgery on my “frozen” shoulder.
For our 20 students.
For rain and cooler weather.
We still need a few more scholarships for our theological students. It will cost about US$ 3, 500 for one student for one year, which includes tuition, accommodation, food, travel costs, medical and other such things.
For baby Beatrix and for the wee one of Heyns and Hanna’s yet to be born.
For complete healing for my shoulder.
For our travels in Ethiopia, as well as to, from and in the US.
Many blessings and tons of love to you all
Johann and Louise
June 19 – English Intensive Class ends
June 22 – leave Gambella for Addis
June 24 – leave Addis for Portland, OR, via Washington DC (!)
(time with our children and mission partners in OR and WA)
June 28 – speaking at Iona church in WA
June 30 – return to Washington DC; meeting with Francis Metcalfe
July 1 – road trip to Ambridge; meeting with SAMS, Trinity, and friends at Barb
July 2 – short visit with family in Charlotte, NC
July 3 – short visit with old friends in Columbia, SC
July 4 – stopping with Quentin and Sue Jackson in Charleston, SC
July 5 – preaching at All Saints Pawley’s Island, South Carolina
July 6 – meeting with the saints at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul
July 8 – meeting with the saints at Our Saviour, John’s Island, South Carolina
July 9 – meeting with the saints at Camp St Christopher, South Carolina
July 10 – meeting with the saints at Good Shepherd, Charleston, South Carolina
July 12 – speaking at Holy Trinity, Raleigh, North Carolina
July 13 – at Holy Trinity, North Augusta, South Carolina
July 15 – stopping with Larry and Tess Worley in Greenville, South Carolina
meeting with many friends!
Doctors, dentists etc.
July 19 – speaking at the Village Church, Greenville, South Carolina
on to Mobile, Alabama
July 26 – Baptism of Beatrix van der Bijl
meeting with the saints at Holy Spirit Anglican Church, Mobile, Alabama
July 27 – leave from Atlanta, GA, for Addis via Washington DC