Proverbs 8: 1-4
Happy New Year! I hope that 2019 has started as it means to go on as I have had the opportunity of meeting thousands of people in Maridi Diocese. I have been travelling since mid-December with the bishop to all the archdeaconries with between four and seven parish churches.
The bishop’s team includes:
- The bishop’s chaplain Pastor Tito who looks/acts like an angel.
- Mama Rejoice – the Mothers’ Union chairperson and wife of the bishop. Sweet, humble, caring and wise.
- Madam Phoebe – the Mothers’ Union leader and lay reader. Fastidious, graceful and amiable.
- Archdeacon Elisoma with the good qualities of an elder.
- Capt Gerasoma – the diocesan secretary with mind-blowing administration skills. He organises amongst other things getting to churches, congregating with and receiving news from parish priests before the march into church, ordinations, licensing, confirmation of communicants, the Holy Communion service while giving time and honour to many different groups of people. He also arranges photo opportunities and gift-giving parades, gets us back to the bishop’s house in under eight hours and leads prayer and worship where he brings us to our feet with his singing skills.
- Pastor Jeremiah – the youth co-ordinator. He’s just organised a three-day prayer and teaching conference for over 300 youths with no money (but all will be taught, fed and have an amazing time).
- Adimo – the youth worship leader and keyboard player who picks up the music of the singers and plays like he’s been practising for weeks. He worships in spirit and truth and never fails to bring me out in goose bumps.
- Malesh Jackson – the youth doer of all things technical and transport logistics.
- Baboya and Andrew – drivers, mechanics and bringer of all bags.
- Me and Mama Lynn – reminding everyone that we are part of the global church of Jesus. I gave updates about nodding syndrome but only had five minutes or less to speak. It drove home to me how much a centre is needed where information can be disseminated, training can be given to health workers and carers and a place of sanctuary created for the sickest (and homeless) children with nodding syndrome. This currently fatal disease does not have to be fatal but not many know how to treat it.
- And finally, our new Bishop Moses Zungo. I have an affinity with Moses as he is aware of his failings as a Christian and dependant on the grace of God. I see him constantly growing into his honoured role. Even with the very great honour and respect he is given here, he knows it’s all about giving glory to God.
Please pray for all of us.
For me, the first and the latest visits were the most memorable. Rasolo, the town furthest east (and closest to the fighting between the non-peace agreement signer rebel leader and government army) was an adventure as the roads have been barely used since 2013. The people there have next to nothing in the shops and are surviving solely off the land. Even water access is down a hill where the women have to fetch it, carrying 20 litres on their heads back up the hill. However, the celebrations we witnessed for the bishop’s visit were amazing.
The latest church (we haven’t finished yet) was just as amazing but within a rebel held area – the peace agreement has been signed but is waiting to be integrated into the government army – where everyone celebrated God while 14 year old boys controlled the crowds with guns. This is not what citizens want but it’s what they have to live with.
The non-peaceful rebel army came last week to attack the peaceful rebels about a mile outside the town. When the rebels split, they took a lot of weapons belonging to the leader of the NAS militia who has not signed the peace agreement. Thank God as they heard him coming and scarpered. I learnt just how unpeaceful my heart was when I asked Captain Gerasoma why the massive battalion of government soldiers here in Maridi didn’t surround them and kill or capture them (thinking of the terror and agony this leader brings in his wake). He answered: “Because the governor is committed to the peace agreement.” Could any of us say that we are so committed to peace as he is? It’s made me think.
Writing this letter to my churches – full of people living in very different circumstances to each other, and even more different from here, with various ideas of peace and poverty and what to do about it – is a lesson in true humility. All of us think that we understand what life is like for each other when we really don’t. I can only trust God’s Word. All these years building relationships with people brings me great joy and more knowledge of how little I know.
Please pray for All Saints Faringdon who have said goodbye to my (and CMS’s) staunchest supporter, Joan Plumptre, as she went to be with the Lord.
I’m popping home to Scotland shortly to be with my first-born as she has her first-born. Please pray.
With gratitude to God and you all for your love and care for us.
In God’s love