Arrival in Gambella

Matthew Doleak from WGBS opening meetings with devotion.

Matthew Doleak from WGBS opening meetings with devotion.

by Jeff Ritchie

Addis Ababa is located in the highlands of Ethiopia. The weather there is almost always pleasant. Gambella, by contrast, is in the lowlands of Ethiopia. Weather there is hot and dry or hot and humid. We arrived in Gambella as hot/dry was changing to hot/humid, just about like the weather in my U.S. city of Jacksonville is about this time of year.

The weather, however, wasn't as warm as the welcome received from the leadership of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan's Eastern Upper Nile Presbytery and the Mekane Yesus (Ethiopian Church)'s Western Gambella Bethel Synod. There were greetings all around given in three different cultural ways–Nuer, "standard" Ethiopian, and American. It was a joy to meet old friends and make new ones.

Our formal time together began with worship led by both South Sudanese and Ethiopian Nuer leaders. The Rev. Matthew Doleak, the Synod's Director of their Division of Mission and Theology, shared a devotion from Matthew 28:19-20. He reminded us that our purpose in meeting together for five days was to further Christ's last command–make disciples of all peoples. He commended David Paduil of our traveling team, calling him a missionary who left Sudan but who has returned repeatedly to serve his people whether they live in Ethiopia or in South Sudan.

We then introduced ourselves and had a briefing of the work of the Western Gambella Bethel Synod. During that discussion, the same Rev. Matthew asked us if we had followed up on the request we had received during last year's visit for Bibles in the Nuer language. Imagine, 100,000 Nuer Christians in the Ethiopian Church and 100s of thousands of Nuer Christians in the South Sudanese Church without access to the Bible. But that is the case. Even if war had not intruded, Bibles are not printed in either country and those available are hard to find.

We had immediately found a need that is shared on both sides of the border. That need illustrated the theme that has already emerged from this trip–we will be more fruitful in our mission if we work together. We've been in Ethiopia only three days and already a vision has emerged for intentional collaboration in mission among three countries, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the U.S.A. We'll be brainstorming practical ways to do this over the next four days.

Tomorrow–worship at the Kondiaal Parish in one of the Refugee Camps.

Jeff Ritchie
Associate Director for Mission