Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Call to Prayer

We are calling for a week of prayer for Gambella, from Sunday, April 24 to Sunday May 1.

Last night, a “highlander” was bringing water to refugees in a nearby camp called Jewi when he accidentally hit and killed two Nuer. The driver and some innocent bystanders were immediately beaten to death and more were murdered later that night brining the total up to nine. This is not the only recent incident preceding and following the Jikwo, Lare, and Nininyang massacre. The hatred has to stop somewhere and we are asking the Lord to do what appears to be impossible for humans in spite of their best attempts.

Also, we had planned to bring in a Professor from Addis to teach all our students, both full-time and part-time, on the subject of Early African Church History. This is scheduled for May 2 – 6. Our faculty believe that we must take a step of faith and proceed with this course even though at present fear still keeps our students apart. We believe that this fear is not from God as He clearly says He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind and we believe we must take a public stand in faith. While we will not force anyone to attend, we are encouraging our Nuer brethren to allow us to bus them to and from the Anglican Centre.

And so we need your prayers for that week also. Satan is seeking to bring this College to its knees…and so to our knees we will go! Remember, St Frumentius is the only seminary in the area. It is no wonder that the forces of darkness rally against us in such a violent manner!

I include a poem I wrote after the most recent killing in Jewi.

We stand before the sea

We stand before the sea, dear Lord,
We stand before the sea.
We see the dust behind us,
We see our enemy.
All human ingenuity
Has failed to save the day
And in our hearts we wonder,
Will Satan have his way?

Will we lie crushed beneath his heel
Will hell victorious be?
Will hatred, strife, and bitterness
Still reign perpetually?
Will sulphurous fumes engulf us all
And drag us down below
The surface of this swollen stream
Infested with our foe?

Stand, believer, stand and see
Salvation by God’s hand!
The God who freed the Hebrew slaves
And wind and waves command,
Is still the God Who was and is
And is to come again…
His Spirit touches deep within
And turns the hearts of men.

Come, Lord Jesus, come to us
You are our only hope.
The evil one walks through the land,
Binding with his rope
Those whose pain and suffering
Have given way to wrath;
Whose hardened hearts and conscience seared
Have led them down this path.

We plead the blood of Jesus Christ
As covering for us all;
We plead for the angelic hosts
To hearken to the call;
To battle principalities
To cast down every power,
And through our prayers may God once more
Become our mighty tower.

We are a mighty army,
And rank on rank we stand
With thousands and ten thousands
Of God’s angelic band.
In fiery chariots ready
To march against the hoards
Of hell and of destruction
To break their fiendish cords.

We stand before the sea, indeed,
But firmly on the Rock!
Our faith will lead us on again
Though others may us mock.
The one who spoke and all was made
Still speaks in healing words;
Your love and care will win the day
And render hate absurd.

Johann van der Bijl © 2016-04-20

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sad Update

Ethiopia Massacre Toll Rises to 208, 75 wounded and 100 Kids Abducted

Ethiopia Massacre Toll Rises to 208, 75 wounded and 100 Kids Abducted
Ethiopia Massacre Toll Rises to 208, 75 wounded and 100 Kids Abducted
The death toll from a raid carried out by gunmen in Ethiopia's border with South Sudan has risen to more than 200 people, officials say.
Armed men attacked Ethiopia's Gambela region on Friday, killing 208 people and wounding 75 others, Government spokesman Getachew Reda said on Sunday.
Getachew said the assailants also kidnapped 108 children and took 2,000 heads of livestock. “Ethiopian Defense Forces are taking measures. They are closing in on the attackers,” he added.
He said 60 of the assailants have been killed in clashes with Ethiopian troops, PRESS TV reported.
The Gambela region is home to more than 284,000 South Sudanese refugees, who have fled conflict in their country.  It is also home to Ethiopian and South Sudanese armed groups that regularly attack government installations and soldiers.
South Sudanese officials did comment on the raid. The country plunged into chaos in December 2013, when fighting erupted outside the capital, Juba, between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and defectors led by rebel leader Riek Machar.
The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced over two million others.
The warring sides reached an internationally-mediated peace deal in August 2015 and agreed to share out ministerial positions in January.

- See more at:

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Prayer Letter, April 2016

It is strange how one forgets the calamitous, cacophonic chaos of security and check-in lines at Ethiopian airports.  Private space is not something people seem to be aware of here and one learns to tolerate the constant prodding of the suitcase from behind as well as the double queues. The urgency to board the plane may have something to do with the excess pieces of hand luggage most of the passengers seem to carry in spite of the regulations. Thankfully, there was no livestock on board.

Gambella has cooled down since we left. Rather than a stifling 140+ F (60+ C) we are enjoying 95+ F (36+ C)…but this time we have high humidity added to the mix. The heat in March was so severe that a number of our trees are quite literally burnt and a few are dead.

What a wonderful surprise to have Ajikune, one of our Anuak students, meet us at the airport together with our driver Gutu and Joshua, a linguist from SIL working with the Opo! Karen Salmon, shortly back from Ireland, was on the plane with us and Rosemary Burke had a delicious supper ready for us on arrival. Thankfully no wildlife, other than odd daddy-long-legs, had moved into our home and Louise worked wonders within a few hours. Ah, what a sweet reunion with our beloved brethren here! We continue to have visitors throughout each day!

Linda Abwa from CMS Ireland arrived the day after. We arranged for our students and other interested parties to come hear her speak on pastoral care for those suffering from HIV/AIDS, but unfortunately the tension between Nuer and Anuak has not yet been healed, so we had to have two classes, one in each territory. As Gambella has the highest percentage of HIV in Ethiopia, our folk were more than interested to hear what she had to say and her efforts were well rewarded.

Unfortunately that night reports came in from three neighbouring towns that over 160 people had been killed, an as yet unnumbered amount wounded, many children, food, and cattle taken. This is quite a shock, as usually these types of cattle raids do not claim so many lives. But people are hungry at this time of year, especially since food trucks could not reach these areas due to road closures resulting from the ethnic clashes, and often hunger leads to violence. We are praying that there will be no revenge killings, but rather that the grieving will find solace in the arms of the Prince of Peace. Somewhere…dear Lord…somewhere the hatred has to stop.

While we were in the US, we met with a security specialist. After having drawn a basic map of the area and of our compound, he came to the conclusion that we are not secure at all. I think we have known that for quite a while especially since the Nuer/Anuak incident two months ago, but he gave quite a few good ideas of how we can protect ourselves if evacuation is not an option. The library building seems to be an ideal place of refuge if it comes to that. Of course, we do need to complete the wall around the compound, but that will take funds we do not have at present. The wall and the drilling of a borehole for safe drinking water is a priority as we remain at risk without them.

Also, communication is a problem. Often cell phone and Internet connectivity is disrupted when trouble erupts…we have not had Internet access on the compound since we arrived…until now…YAY!...but satellite phones are expensive and consequently not a viable option for us now. Obviously, this is something we need to think about…soon.

The College reopens on Monday. We will continue to hold classes in two locations, but we are hoping that this will not be a permanent reality. Fear is almost tangible here and understandably so. It is just so sad that our brethren can no longer live together in unity…

As you all know, I had heart surgery six weeks ago. Recovery is taking a lot longer than I had hoped, but I am getting stronger every day. Louise gives me the stern motherly talk often…I haven’t had the strength to disobey.

I have included a poem I wrote about the recent massacre…writing poetry helps me process the unthinkable.

Thank you all again and again for your prayers, your love, and your on-going support. You are very much appreciated.

With much love and tons of blessings.

Johann and Louise

Massacre at Gikuo, Lare, and Nininyang

The murderous hordes stole in at night
Our people were at ease
No one would ever have believed
That they had come to seize
Our cattle and our little ones
…the bit of food we had…
To slaughter all who could not hide…
Had hell itself gone mad?

As Jesus said, the devils’ hour
‘Tis darkness and t’is gloom
As Judas marched with soldiers armed
To send Him to the tomb.
Our Lord was slain through cowardice
Of each and all concerned
Of Priests and Roman Governors
Not one would overturn

The sentence of the Innocent
The slaying of the Good
The only One Who had not sinned
Hung on a cross of wood.
But out of death our Father brought
Salvation to the world
And through the resurrected Christ
Our freedom flag unfurled.

So in the ashes of our lives
Those who believe must find
The light that comforts even those
Whom horror seeks to bind.
The sovereign attributes of God
Unwithered by man’s sin
Remind us in the aftermath
That love will always win.

Oh Gikuo, Lare, Nininyang
Your wailing voice is heard
By God Himself who is the judge
Who has the final word.
For Satan plunders, Satan kills
But Jesus grants us life
And shepherds us through deepest vale
Through sorrow and through strife.

Seek not revenge, but rather stretch
Your hand out to forgive
Those who in sinful ignorance
Do not know what they did.
For Satan blinds the eyes of those
Who do not know the Lord
They are the lost who have no hope
Beyond the things they stored.

For all they have is of this world
They know not of the next
And so from war and so from theft
They simply cannot rest.
But we have not an earthly aim
Our sights are set above
The witness of our lives is this:
We serve a God of love.

We do not ask our fellow man
To give us victory –
All other nations and their kin
To bring to bended knee.
But rather we serve Jesus Christ
Who sits on Heaven’s throne
And bids us go to all the world
To call the peoples home.

Over 160 people were slaughtered in the area, many children were abducted, and cattle and food stolen.

Johann van der Bijl © 2016-04-16

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Q&A Johann Vanderbijl Dean of St Frumentius' Anglican Theological College

There is an urgent need for theological training in the region of Gambella, in the west of Ethiopia. There are over 90 Anglican Churches in Gambella, which are part of the Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa. These churches are served by 15 clergy, none of whom has a theological degree. There are no other theological colleges in Gambella. St. Frumentius Theological College opened at the Gambella Anglican Centre in September 2015. The priority of the college will be training new and existing Anglican clergy, as well as lay-leaders, but it is also open to other denominations. We already have some of the needed facilities, but we need your prayers and support to start this college.