Ethiopia #5: Sunday in Gambella

by Frank Dimmock

Sunday in Gambella is reserved for worship and for visiting friends and families - still a wonderful tradition in much of Africa. I walked from the guesthouse where I am staying to the main Newland church for their 8:30 service. This is the Nuer church of the West Gambella Bethel Synod of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), our Presbyterian partner. They are collecting funds and constructing a larger church building to accommodate the ‘mega church’ numbers of worshippers. The service was shortened to 3.5 hours due to a scheduled funeral for the wife of an elder. By then, I was cooked (finished a liter and a half of water) but honored to bring greetings from The Outreach Foundation. The lectionary reading was from Romans 13, submitting to authority, which was appropriate following inter-ethnic violence in town the day before. Attendance was more than 2500 inside and the ‘nursery’ with countless young children and mothers were in the ‘annex’ outside. There were many choirs, wonderful singing and several offerings. The entire service was in Nuer, but the Synod President, Rev. James Gadet (also preacher for the day) provided translation for me. I was blessed!

On a Sunday walk, I passed an artistically-renovated tukel (photo). The occupants were not home, and I wondered how they crawled into the front door.  Many Nuer who are over 12 years old are already 6 feet tall. See the photo of the youth choir member who is reportedly 2.2 meters – over 7 feet – tall, on the front row, none-the-less.

Also see the photo from our lunch in the refugee camp on Saturday of beans and onions, eaten with njira (Ethiopian flat bread made with teff). I am still getting used to drinking boiling tea or coffee on a hot day, but that seems to be the custom here.

I am still waiting for permission to visit several other camps to meet trainees and visit schools. Please pray with me that the government will authorize.

Blessings in Christ,

Frank Dimmock

Africa Mission Specialist