“His brothers killed two of my brothers!” I listened in stunned silence as one of our students told me that the evening before, the brothers of his roommate, another fellow student, had shot and killed two of his brothers in a clash between two clans of the same tribe. There were many other casualties, five of whom subsequently died of their wounds in hospital.
Providentially, we were in the middle of a “Healing the Wounds of Trauma” workshop presented by SIL and the American Bible Society. I immediately got all the participants to sit down so that we could first of all tell them what had happened and so that we could pray. As I was praying, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to get the two students to pray for each other, their families, and their respective clans. At the end of their prayers, the rest of the usually unemotional men present were weeping as well. Amazing love was expressed as each one reached out to each other as brothers in Jesus – a bond stronger than that of clan affiliation.
This was probably the most emotionally draining week we have ever experienced. It started with one student asking for permission to leave as his best friend was critical and not expected to survive the night – he died the next day from hepatitis. Following closely in the heels of this crisis, was the news that another participant’s mother had just died. The next day I received an urgent telephone call to say that one of our full-time students had been hospitalised and was critical. (This student is better now, but we have had to face the facts that he will never recover.) Then the clash…
But all through this workshop, we heard our students tell of their personal wounds of trauma. I know each of these men personally, and to hear them talk about the war – of being raped as boys, or seeing their mothers, sisters, brothers being raped, their fathers shot before their eyes, being taken away from their families to serve as child soldiers, and other horrors – as well as present painful events like the death of their infant children or the experience of being displaced and impoverished, was extremely painful for me. One of our part-time students, whose name means “the unwanted one”, wept as he told me of the curses heaped on him by angry fellow tribesmen for his being an Anglican priest. I prayed that the Lord would turn every one of those curses into ten-fold blessings. “Weep with those who weep,” Jesus counselled…surely listening, tears, hugs, love, and words of affirmation are the only appropriate responses one can give.
But, as the Psalmist says, “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning”, I believe our students emerged from this exhausting week all the stronger for it as they experienced each other’s pain and prayed with and for each other. All I can say is thank you Lord for allowing us to be part of Your healing touch on these men at this time.
Please pray for the continued healing of wounds of the heart in our brethren in Gambella and South Sudan. We have really only begun to scratch the surface here. We will be hosting another spiritual healing event in October (SOMA-USA) and ask for prayers that there would be a deeper healing that takes place during that week. The same students will be present.
Our Bishop and SAMS Director have both counselled us to take time off soon so Louise and I are planning to go to Bahir Dar, a quaint town in the north, for a week in early October…the week before the arrival of the SOMA Team. I have wanted to visit a Bible College there and this will be a great opportunity to meet with the Principal and perhaps sit in a few classes. We also hope to visit a few of the historical sites in the area if possible.
We are also planning to attend the 16th Triennial consultation of the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education to be held in Antalya, Turkey, 6-11 November 2015. Many of the College Accreditation Agencies will be present and it is important for us to meet with them for the future accreditation of St Frumentius. There are also many useful workshops on oral learning and College Libraries that will be great to attend. We do ask that you will pray with us about this event and also prayerful consider helping us fund our flights and consultation fees.
Please continue to pray for the College and our students. We have eight full-time scholarships now and one part-time scholarship. We now have only 11 full-time students as one is seriously ill and another had to leave due to family pressures regarding financial support. Many men often support more than just the immediate members of their own families and his allowance was simply too small. However, they may continue to study as part-time students.
We love you all and appreciate you so much. While I know this sounds weird, there are times when we feel your presence with us as it is because of you that we are able to be here…we believe that you are as much part of this work as we are.
Thank you for being faithful to Him and His Kingdom.
Johann and Louise