Conversions, Coke Bottles, and Breakneck Speed: An Update from Gambella

Rev. Johann VanderBijl sends an update from Gambella, Ethiopia, where he works with Anglican churches and prepares for the opening of St. Frumentius Theological College. The construction of the college chapel is pictured above.

“I was walking on the road past the church when I heard singing. Suddenly, I felt sick in my head and inside and I knew I had to come in here for you to pray for me.” The young man stood up before the saints at St Barnabas during the time for testimonies and we prayed for him. He confessed his sins and his need for Jesus to touch his heart again. The transformation was virtually instant. As the congregation burst forth in praise to their resurrected King, his face shone like a light. He once was lost, but now is found…on Easter Day.

My message for this Sunday was on Xi and the Coke Bottle. If you have not seen “The Gods Must Be Crazy” you might not understand – the basic story is of a Kalahari Bushman who was chosen by his family to bear away an unwanted Coke Bottle (the evil thing) and to throw it off the edge of the world. We had watched this film as a fun Friday event with our local Anywaa folk and they had howled with laughter (Louise estimated 300 people attended). But as they heard me compare Xi’s task with that of Jesus, retelling the story of the Fall and of the picture promises throughout the Old Testament of substitutionary sacrifice, scapegoat, and Passover Lamb, they responded with praise and adoration. For God so loved the Anywaa…and we celebrated that love with abandon.

The Anglican Church in Ethiopia continues to grow at breakneck speed. I sometimes wonder if we will ever be able to catch-up. St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College will only open late August and it will take three years before our graduates are ready for placement. But the fire of the Holy Spirit is obvious, especially in the Gambella People’s Region where Bishop Grant barely keeps up with the planting of new churches (He just dedicated another new one yesterday!). We will simply move into His slipstream…

We now have another faculty member and a Church Administrator, both long-term church workers who have laboured in Ethiopia for many years. Rejoice with us for these co-workers in the Gospel and join with us in praying for them daily. God willing, a young Nuer man who is currently studying in Egypt will also join the faculty in August, together with his family.

The building of the chapel is moving along nicely, praise the Lord. We pray for the builders on a daily basis as well as anyone who comes onto the property, not only for their ongoing protection, but also that that the Holy Spirit would touch their lives and turn them around for Jesus.

Please continue to pray with us for them and so many others. Pray for Omot Ojulu who gave his life to Christ at the Easter service. Pray for the many conversions taking place throughout the Diocese – for protection and for growth in the Lord – many do not have trained pastors at their churches. Pray for our upcoming Clergy, lay-leaders, and Mother’s Union Training days, April 27-30. Pray also for the continued showing of the Jesus Film. Please continue to pray for Wecca, the little Anywaa boy who is in need of heart surgery. We are trying to get him and his mum passports now. Pray also for Wunuar, the son of a future faculty member who fell on his head from quite a height on Sunday. Pray for continued protection, health, and spiritual vitality for all our fellow workers in the Gospel throughout the Horn of Africa.

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