Friday, May 15, 2015

Direct from Dell

Bishop Rob has asked me to contribute a few notes to the blog about our

experience here at the conference. So here are a few assorted observations.

On an early morning of my first day I walked  down to the thatched roof

pier picnic platform.  I seemed a bit erie that the boardwalk was watched over by

a uniformed security guard, just as it had seemed so unlike Saskatchewan when

the evening before there had been 3 guards at the front gate and the

undercarriage of our taxi cab had been inspected with a mirror to check for

explosive devices  before we had been allowed into the hotel compound.  Out on

the picnic  pier  I struck up a conversation with an East Indian man who works at

the hotel.  When he found I was here for a church conference he was was quick

to identify himself as a Christian. When he found out I had arrived from Canada

via Dubai he said it was while he had been working in Dubai (of all places) that

he had become a more deliberate follower of Jesus.  When he volunteered that

he had two sisters working and living in Calgary I told him my wife’s family was

from Calgary, and so went the connections.  The strangeness of this place to me 

was suddenly made less so because the Lord seemed to have provided

someone with some simple common connections. Small world!

There are representatives here from 5 African Dioceses (would have been

7 is the Burundi folks had been able to make it).  Each one has their own

enriching stories and needful situations.   Rob mentioned in his post: Bishop

Francis from the Diocese of Rokon in South Sudan.   He was able to find safe

accommodation for his family in the midst of the civil war and finish his

theological education because of the support of Canadians who were contributed

a  scholarship toward his ministry  and education.  I suppose a civil war might

have motivated many of us to leave off training for ministry. But men like Francis

seemed to know that in when the infrastructures for communication, 

transportation and education are all broken down by war and ongoing conflicts, 

the people would need the encouragement of spiritual community and

development leaders more than ever.  And although the independence of South

Sudan is was declared and recognized in 2011,  fighting continues fuelled in part

by the efforts of factions to control oil producing areas.  

There is little money to pay even bishops and archdeacons who have to

support  their families by farming or other such means.  One of the main

concerns of the archdeacons I spoke with were to get schools operating again as

soon as possible because otherwise a whole generation is going without the

most basic education.  Nevertheless their faith in Jesus is steady and they seem

keenly aware of God’s grace and providence in the midst of it all. I was told that

the preaching and evangelism is not left to the clergy but that the mother’s union

(like an ACW with a focus on community transformation) as well as the youth

groups are all active in sharing their faith. 

It was gratifying to see some of my Canadian colleagues getting the

picture of how even a little help and encouragement from Canadian companions

can do and mean so much.   But we are apt to remain na├»ve unless we admit in

turn how much we need their companionship to model the commitment and

passion that we need to address our own spiritual poverty.  As with most  cross

cultural endeavours, growing to understand one another will take continuing

concentrated effort and willingness to risk making mistakes.   Nevertheless I

expect  that we will learn to walk together much the way all children do …by

falling down.   But I think our heavenly Father is pleased to watch over his

children as we do learn to walk together.

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