Monday, August 31, 2009

New Martyrs of Sudan

The Episcopal Church (USA) General Convention this year, approved May 16 as the feast day for the Martyrs of Sudan. (click here for background). This icon, was commissioned by Hope with Sudan, and painted by Sudanese artist Awer Bul, in commemoration of the martyrs. For more info or prints, contact Jerry Drino: Profit from the sale of prints will go to support survivors of recent attacks in Sudan.

People of the church continue to die in Sudan today. Please pray for the Episcopal Church of Sudan.

Prayer Request

Please pray for the Diocese of Ezo, currently suffering from frequent attacks by the LRA rebels. Pray for Bishop John Zawo, the diocesan staff, and the people. Two weeks ago a lay reader was killed in the church, and 8 children abducted, please pray for them and their families. Other lay readers and pastors have been killed, and other Sunday school children abducted by LRA in the past months.

Please pray for the Diocese of Twic East, currently suffering attacks and instability from local militia. Pray for Assistant Bishop Ezekiel, Rev. Phillip, Canon Mark, and all the diocesan leaders. Pray especially for the family of Archdeacon Joseph Mabior Garang, who was killed in the church while leading morning prayer, and the families of the 40 others killed in the attack on Wernyol last Saturday.

These recent attacks are part of an escalation of violence in the region. Please see the Archbishop’s appeal to the international community: click here

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Malakal and Renk

Three of us from the provincial office traveled to Malakal and Renk for the last two weeks. It was a wonderful trip and an adventure.

Malakal and Renk are about 200 miles apart, both on the flat plain that surrounds the Nile river, just north of the Sudd (the largest seasonal swamp in the world). It rained in Malakal while we were there, and I have never seen such mud! It was the kind of mud that adds an extra quarter inch to your height with each step.

This was my first visit to Malakal and Renk, and the purpose was to get acquainted with the area, find out and see what kinds of agriculture projects are going on, and identify the vision the diocese has as well as agricultural potential for future projects. We had meetings with organizations, and with diocesan leaders, andi visited diocesan facilities and farms. I got to give an introduction to agriculture lecture to primary school students in Malakal, and a short, two-hour workshop to the students at Renk Theological College, and members of the Mother’s Union. We talked about how a pastor can take on the role of an agriculture advisor, and we went out to talk about specific techniques in the Mothers Union garden. We also spent some time talking about attitudes of abundance, and looking for the resources and the opportunities existing in their own congregations.

Through our time in Malakal and Renk we were shown wonderful hospitality by each diocesan staff, and the Mothers Union. Mama Rebecca, a deacon and Mothers Union leader in Malakal, accompanied us on the whole trip. She kept us all in order on the journey. She speaks six languages, and talks about God with just about everyone she meets. She carried a thermos of tea with us, she doesn’t like tea herself, but she had it there for us and others she met on the way.

Between Malakal and Renk we took a boat on the Nile, because the roads there are impassable this time of year. The river ride was amazing, both coming and going. Downstream it took 8 hours, upstream it was 25 hours, but I didn’t get tired of seeing the smooth surface of the Nile, the horizon of reeds and water hyacinth, the sun and clouds, the sunset, and the moon and stars all reflected on the glassy surface of the water. As the sun set, Mama Rebecca served tea to several passengers, dishing out milk and sugar. I couldn’t understand the language, but I could tell she was telling stories from the Bible.

On this trip, like Kajo Keji, I was again struck by both the beauty of creation, and the power of people. As we look around us we can choose to see only the suffering and vast need, or we can open our eyes to see also the effort, unity, and love both great and small shown by the people. Mama Rebecca’s thermos of tea is a great symbol of this for me!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kajo Keji

I just spent several days in Kajo Keji diocese, which is near the border with Uganda. The diocese requested that I come put on an agriculture workshop for their theological students, and the diocesan leadership. Archdeacons and rural deans came from all over the diocese, some riding bicycles for many miles to get there. We spent two full days in lectures and doing agriculture labs. We made a compost heap, mulched a pineapple field, made and applied a garlic based natural pesticide, made a level for marking a contour on a hillside, and planted a contour hedge of peas to control erosion. We also spent time discussing designing projects that run on little or no funding, and about attitudes of land stewardship and looking for the abundance God has blessed us with. As always, hearing the stories, ideas, and questions of the participants taught me a lot.

Kajo Keji is a beautiful place. The mangos there are in season 4 times a year! So I saw the strange sight of ripe mangos and mango blossoms on the same tree. There are beautiful tree covered rolling hills, and the temperature always seems perfect. Just being there was a chance to drink in the peaceful beauty of the rural landscape. It was difficult to leave the new friends I made there, and the inspiration the ambient sense of peace seemed to bring me. But I find, now back in the hustle and bustle of Juba, that that sense of peace is lingering.

There is much to be thankful for. Blessings come in unexpected ways. I realized a few weeks ago, that the lack of funding for our agriculture programs this year, has actually taught me about designing simple volunteer driven programs, and has led me to look for the abundance God has given us in new ways. Here is the abundance I see most readily this week: people! It is not the few and the powerful that change the world, it is each and every one of us. We each have the decision every day to love to give to serve. And our decisions inspire others. I met church leaders and students and staff members in Kajo Keji that inspired me with their commitment and their daily decisions to serve and care and give.