Thursday, August 10, 2006

Update: Sudan Biblical Language Program

"Plenty of Goats Round Here!" ---Dr. Jo Bailey Wells, Duke University

Jo has just emailed from Sudan:

Dear All,
I can send a newsbrief direct, thanks to Lauren's new system (excuse a random list of those addresses I can remember - do forward to others). Greetings to all, and thanks for all prayers. I'm aware of being buoyed up by them - almost half way through my time (it's flying by). My biggest concern - for the ability to deal with the heat - has been answered big time. It has been cloudy much of the last 3 days, with 24 hours of rain. Kind of English weather - which I've never appreciated so much before. Though England doesn't get so muddy. I've just completed my third day of teaching, 3 sessions per day. We've sped through 2000 years of history, chiefly from Augustine of Canterbury through the Reformation to the missionary movement. I'm pretty tired, but happily so - just so glad (and somewhat amazed) to have a class of people who are excited to learn about Anglicanism and asking GREAT questions. It felt like it started slowly, but the classhas now grown to 23 - two more arrived just as I FINISHED this afternoon - but I suppose I should be encouraged if the number is not diminishing. I appointed people to go over the last 3 days of material with them this evening. We'll see what happens. Perhaps it's the wind-up flashlights.

The Anglican/Episcopal students at Duke sent me with 50 (almost one suitcase-full) and I handed them out to my class yesterday along with copies of The 39 Articles and Lambeth-Chicago Quadrilateral to try reading. (The rest are gradually being distributed around the extended family who've welcomed me.) They are just thrilled with them - most haven't see wind-up ones before (nor me!). So there passed a hilarious five minutes during which some people thought it was a camera with flash, and others worked out how to use them - while I explained the link with Duke folks who have given as a token of their precious partnership with them in the gospel. They were touched. But - wait for it - it turns out what they became even more excited about was the little cable that is included in the box that allows the wind-up flashlight to recharge a cell phone. Amazingly the plug seems to fit their cell phones which most seem to have (and FAIL to switch off during class)... This is a strange world, where satellite technology has bypassed traditional infrastructure. I'd guess there are more computers than pit-latrines in this small town.

As I write this email, sitting in a coolbreeze in the 'peace' of the bishop's compound - on a pink plastic chair with various playful boys watching in fascination - there aregoats scavenging at the minimal vegetation. The 'kitchen' - a mud and reed structure with open sides - has just collapsed owing to the rainsand thus supper will be elsewhere tonight. Bishop Daniel is now in town and everyone is dancing. He's full of vision and very much loved - it's easy to see why. He also manages to charm a few more people back to their work, even when they haven't been paid in a while.

Life here is certainly basic - tougher than I've ever experienced before, even in Haiti - and, though I feel extremely safe, the peace is clearly very fragile. But the joy and laughter is equally striking, as is the longing of my students to learn their church history and engage with their 'cousins' (I've created an Anglican family tree) around theworld - once I can get them into the classroom. As they put it themselves, if they can understand their history then they will know better who they are, what they can offer to the Communion and be less likely to repeat the mistakes of their forebears. This afternoon, as we trotted through all the different Provinces of the Ang Communion, they were especially fascinated to talk about the united Churches of South India / North India / Pakistan / Bangladesh. Don't think it had crossed their minds that such ecumenical partnership was possible.

Well, I'm certainly learning more about who I am, and feel so proud tobe related to these strong, courageous, faithful people. Be warned that I may not stop talking about it on return.

With much love Jo


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