Living as Easter People in a World of Calvarys

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Mary Magdalene weeping outside the tomb is a poignant image of Easter.  “Mary, weeping outside the tomb, stands for all of us. She is weeping bitterly; weeping for herself; yes weeping for her Lord, yes; but also in her tears weeping for the hope of Israel” (Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship, NT Wright). As we hold in our heart all that is happening around the world, we join Mary in her weeping. This is a different Good Friday than we have ever experienced before. We identify with Mary in her loss and heartbreak as we lament for the world; for the unfolding chaos, death, vulnerability and isolation that is disrupting the fabric of communities and individuals. Most of our Mission Partners remain in the countries in which they serve. Many work in vulnerable communities where the impacts of the virus and the loss of income will be even harsher than it is in New Zealand. Andy and Shona Miller, serving in Costa Rica, share in the video below about the need for basic food supplies in their local neighbourhood. As Mary weeps, as our Mission Partners lament, and as we grieve this Easter, we are invited to reflect on the ‘good’ of Good Friday. Our Lord enters the depths of human suffering and experiences death. In doing so, God fully redeems death, darkness and chaos in His Resurrection. Tears are shed, yes, but tears are also wiped away. Andy reminds us that this is not the first time the Church has faced a pandemic. In fact “Christianity has always been a life and death issue”. We don’t get to the resurrection hope of Easter Sunday without going through the death and darkness of Good Friday or the aching and empty waiting of Holy Saturday when we sit in the disorientation of all that is lost.Mary didn’t know what would happen next that morning as she wept, but we do. As we approach Easter, we remember and experience the hope that comes from Christ’s defeat of death. It is not the end on Good Friday. We know that we live in a world of Calvarys, where suffering and death surround us, and for that we weep, bitterly. Yet as Easter people we hold onto a future hope and assurance that one day every tear will be wiped away. We are each called to live into that Easter hope as our witness in the world. N.T. Wright continues, “we find ourselves to be Sunday people, called to minister to a world full of Fridays. In that knowledge we find that the hand that dries our tears passes the cloth on to us, and bids us follow him, to go to dry one another’s tears. The Lamb calls us to follow him wherever he goes; into the dark places of the world, the dark places of our own hearts, the places where tears blot out the sunlight… and he bids us to shine his morning light into the darkness, and share his ministry of wiping away the tears.” Mission Partners are our teachers in this time. They have followed a calling to accept the invitation of Jesus to live as Easter people in different parts of the world.Mission Partners have already made the choice to leave safety and security, and many live in places where life is more fragile. Andy reminds us that God is in control, and what we need in this time of crisis is the Word of God.He shares how Philippians 4 has been reminding him of our calling as Christians to trust God and give our anxiety to Him. Part of our witness as Easter people is offering a non-anxious presence in a world consumed by fear and anxiety.  The image of a woman weeping beside a tomb evokes the pictures we have seen in the media of nurses weeping beside the bodies of those taken by COVID19. We weep in new ways this Easter. We honestly face the world’s chaos, death, waiting, and darkness in this moment in time and say: yes, this is all real, it’s awful, it’s overwhelming, and it’s a suffering I never expected to know, see or experience.  Yet what else is true?  What else is true is that we are Easter People with a fierce and active hope in God in the midst of suffering and darkness. Being Easter people is to defiantly straddle between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We weep, we are present in the hard, suffering corners of our world, but we also we look for and action signs of God‘s Kingdom arriving on earth, participating in the redeeming work God is continuing to bring forth.  Jesus, pass us the cloth.  WATCH ANDY AND SHONA’S VIDEO HERE

Stepping into our Legacy of Footsteps of Repentance and Belief

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On Waitangi Day, I was honoured to speak on behalf of NZCMS at a picnic in Ōtaki, jointly hosted by All Saints and Rangiātea Anglican Churches. This was an opportunity for the Church, both Māori and Pākehā, to gather together and share stories about Te Tiriti o Waitangi from the Kāpiti Coast. There was a challenge for us as the Church to face our legacy from the past: to continue to live into the good, and repent of and leave behind what was not right or just. I shared that as NZCMS now, we step into the legacy of the CMS missionaries who came to New Zealand in the nineteenth century. Although NZCMS is not the same legal identity, we were formed out of the parent agency in 1892 and they are part of our whakapapa. Like our forebears, NZCMS continues to have confidence that the Gospel is good news for all people. NZCMS sends out Mission Partners around the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ in partnership with local churches. We also support two Māori missionaries from te Takiwa o Manukau (a group of Māori Anglican Churches in south Auckland) who are called to share the Gospel with their own people. As we step into the legacy from history, we also repent of actions made in the past which did not honour Te Tiriti. NZCMS was involved as witnesses in presenting an official apology, and later signing an agreement to make practical steps forward to restore a measure of justice over the lands lost to Tauranga Moana iwi in the nineteenth century. When I attended a hui in Tauranga in December, I was moved to hear the stories from the tangata whenua, and to see the Church stepping into this space in a powerful way. See more here. There is a well-known Māori whakataukī (proverb) which says: Ka mua, ka muri. We walk backwards into the future. As we walk, we seek to walk with the twin footsteps of repentance and belief. The time has come. The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15).

Cairo visit

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I am nearing the end of my studies at Trinity School for Ministry! Originally I wanted to get this degree finished as soon as possible, and then get back involved in things. However, in the first year it became clear that this time of study was much more than just head knowledge, but healing and growing in God. I have two more courses to complete this semester, my thesis is due in April, and (God willing) I will graduate in May 2018.

This year, I’ve been studying courses in Romans, Hebrew language, systematic theology, church history and pastoral care. I’m finally writing my thesis, which will focus on how a theology of the Kingdom of God speaks into the theory and practice of international development.

In July/August, I spent three weeks in Egypt leading a trip with six other students and staff from Trinity. This was a great opportunity to return to one of the places that I call home, and to bring a group of seminarians along for the ride. Some high-lights:

Organising services, music, and preaching at the English speaking congregation of All Saints Cathedral (pictured above), filling in gaps while the priest was away. Visiting ministries of the Diocese. It was great to see projects that I had been involved with funding come to fruition, such as a school for Sudanese refugee children and a medical ICU unit. After many delays, the construction of the new outpatient clinic for Harpur Memorial Hospital in Menouf began this week. The joy of seeing my “Egypt world” and “seminary world” collide. One of our group preached at an Arabic congregation on our first Sunday.  Organising a workshop on the topic of how does theology speak into community development work. This was attended by former colleagues working in refugee ministries, community centres in slum areas, hospitals, seminarians, and a priest. This happened at the invite of the Diocese Director of Development, and modelled on a format of human rights workshops in Norway that a friend had been involved with. The discussion was really good, people gave positive feedback, and it helped me to think through some aspects of what I want to write about in my thesis. One thing that felt very different was the heightened security at churches; a result of the several attacks on churches in Egypt in recent months. A Coptic priest took us around St Mark’s Coptic Cathedral, where in December 2016 a bomb killed 29 people. There was still residue from the explosion on the columns of the church, chips out of the murals of saints on the walls, and a bloodstain on the wall of the courtyard where one of the injured had leaned.

Before visiting Egypt, I visited my seminary roommate Grace and her husband in Kenya. She is an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Kirinyaga, a rural area in the foothills of Mount Kenya. She was a wonderful host and the each day was full of surprises: a 7 hour prayer meeting, speaking to orphans on the importance of education, being interviewed on the Diocese TV station, touring a tea factory… We also did a pilgrimage at the “Safari ya Biblia,”a ministry that Grace was leading before seminary. As it is not a culture where people read a lot, the idea is that groups come to visit and the guide takes them around the bible by walking around the site. It was a great visit of learning more about the Anglican Church worldwide, and understand more of Grace’s context.

Waiting patiently

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I’ve been dwelling on Psalm 40 recently, “I waited patiently for the Lord…” One thing the Lord is teaching me at the moment is that his plans for me are better than mine. I’ve seen him continually provide for me and guide me in ways I would never have expected. This is a transitional season of my life, where I am only planning one semester at a time, and seeking to trust the Lord for the present and the future.

Study. I really enjoyed the last semester at Trinity. I got the top grade for all my courses — not that getting As in seminary is the most important thing, but that I learned more in and grew in studying preaching, early church history, Hosea and Anglican theology this semester. For this last course, I enjoyed writing a essay about Temple Gairdner, one of the first CMS missionaries in Egypt who was ahead of his time in his work with the majority religious group. This semester I’m studying Hebrew (it’s similar to Arabic!), ethics, Romans, and God the Son (systematic theology).

Uncommon Grounds. I’ve loved getting involved in this community café in a struggling neighbouring town. Set up by Church Army USA, they run lots of programmes for addicts, veterans, women, and are a place of welcome. I’ve committed to attending (and dishwashing!) at Church of the Margins, where anyone can sit at the table, eat, share from our lives about a different question each week and pray together. It’s always unexpected what happens and it’s a joy to be part of this ministry.

Arabic Bible study. I’ve continued to enjoy spending time with four families from Aleppo. I ambitiously decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner for them (more than 20 guests), and wonderfully a local store donated the food so I only had to learn how to source and cook a halal turkey! I had been praying about how to follow up on their interest in learning more about Jesus. God provided an Egyptian and an American man who both have Arabic fluent enough to lead the study and translate. Each 2 weeks, we listen to the Bible in Arabic, and together answer four questions: what does it tells us about God, what does it tell us about each other, what can we obey, and how can we share with others. Our last study was about the story of Cain and Abel, the first murder. It was powerful to hear these friends talk about the violence in Aleppo in relation to the “blood crying out from the land,” and the universality of the power of sin and violence. Please keep these families in your prayers.

Home life. In August, I moved in a wonderful new flat, located above the SAMS (the USA equivalent of CMS) headquarters and across the road from seminary. I’m living with Grace, a priest who arrived from Kenya to study. She is a great friend to laugh, cry, sing, dance, cook and pray with, and I’m so thankful for her. We’ve sought to make our home a place of hospitality — most recently a winter night gathering with poetry and banjo-uke singalong.

Summer and beyond. In July this year, I will co-lead a small group from seminary to learn from our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church in Egypt. I’m really excited to re-connect with friends there, and it may help with future discernment also. After this, my plans are open to where the Lord leads. I’m planning to write a thesis related to community development and the church, and I have a development professor from another seminary to supervise this.

A year in Pittsburgh

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Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. …You have turned my mourning into dancing. You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, So that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord God my God, I will give you thanks forever (Psalm 30)

The beautiful words above, written by King David hundreds of years ago, describe well my past year. I didn’t know at the time but when I arrived here I was carrying a lot of “stuff.“ Over the last year, I have been confronted with a lot of my own brokenness but I know that God is healing me, and changing me in this process. An image I’ve frequently thought of is Aslan the Lion in ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ clawing into Eustace’s flesh, removing layers of skin, but in that painful process creating a new person. I am thankful for this time away, for a counsellor, a slower pace of life, which has enabled healing and I know is preparing me for future ministry.

Trinity School for Ministry I’ve finished my first year at Trinity seminary, located in a small town near Pittsburgh, western Pennsylvania. I’m studying towards a Masters in Theology and Church History. I have one more year of classes to finish and then I plan to write a thesis.

Some glimpses of life here:

Ambridge is a former steel town devastated by the decline of the steel industry. Trinity was planted by an Australian missionary in the 1970s and it was placed in this town intentionally so as to be involved in a hurt-ing community. I joined a “cleaning and beautifying” community group and it’s been a joy to bring more beauty to this town. There’s a Coptic Orthodox Church one block from Trinity and I’ve enjoyed making friends there, and buying Egyptian food supplies. I’ve loved group study sessions with a diverse group of friends. My friend recently bought a kettle just so she could make me cups of tea! I attempted enculturation by joining the seminary flag football team. We won the “Lutherbowl” against other seminaries. I helped organize “Missions Day” where Archbishop Mouneer was speaking. As he spoke about ministry in Egypt, I was reminded what a privilege it was to serve in this Diocese. Learning the difference in pronunciation between “beer” and “bear,” and realising that the kiwi phrase “sweet as” can be easily misunderstood… Finding life-giving community at Southside Anglican Church, whose focus is “messengers of God’s radical grace to the wounded and sceptic.”

The Summer Break Over the summer I lived at a retreat and prayer centre on the Southside slopes of Pittsburgh. I spent a lot of time praying and reading, which has been a welcome break after the intensity of the year.

It was also a great joy to work part-time for the Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF). ARDF’s mission is to partner with local Anglican churches to transform lives and communities in some of the world’s most challenging areas through sustainable, high-impact development projects. I really like their partnership model, as the Archbishops of the Global South make the funding decisions for projects in their areas of the Anglican Communion. Previously I had worked with them in implementing pro-jects in Egypt, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Iraq and before I arrived, ARDF had been praying for someone to work in fundraising. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve written a funding proposal for education projects including a school for pygmies in DRC, vocational training in Myanmar, and a hostel for female students in Tan-zania. See more here:

I was recently put in touch with two families recently arrived in Pittsburgh from Syria. They are from a Muslim background. During their time in another Middle Eastern country they have been doing “Discovery Bible Studies” and the patriarch of the family had a miraculous vision of Jesus. The first time I visited, I didn’t go with an agenda but just to meet them and be friends. However, immediately the kids asked if I was Christian, the 9 year old girl told me stories about Jesus in Arabic, and asked if they could come to church with me. They have lived through very difficult times that I can’t imagine, but I do know when they talk about Jesus they do so with joy and their faces light up.

Thank you for your love and prayers. I’m excited to continue walking in this adventure that God is taking me on.

Rosie and the Teapot

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In late 18th century England, a small group of energetic people of faith started meeting regularly around a pot of tea to share their frustrations with the way things were. They began each meeting with tea and a short prayer, then for three hours discussed a subject that had been proposed at a previous meeting. They prayed, discussed, imagined alternatives and put their passion into action. This group, named the Eclectic Society, included John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, and William Wilberforce, who helped to abolish slavery in England. This group also led to the foundation of the Church Mission Society.

In April 2016, I joined the staff and faculty of Trinity School for Ministry at the New Wineskins Mission Conference. Anglicans from across the globe took part in this fantastic conference attended by 1200 participants. I particularly loved catching up with global Anglican friends, and was re-inspired by what the Lord is doing across the world.

The famous teapot used by the Eclectic Society also made a proud appearance on the CMS UK booth. As I examined it, I imagined the faithful Christians who started the work of CMS, and the faithful Christians who continue this work. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Rosie at Trinity School for Ministry

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I write this sitting on my porch of my new home, in a small town about 30 minutes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I’m here to study at Trinity School for Ministry, an evangelical Anglican seminary which aims to form Christian leaders for mission.

Before arriving here, I was wonderfully blessed to spend time with a dear friend, Jubilee, whom I shared a home with in Cairo. Our time together helped me transition as she patiently fielded questions on life in the USA. She even interpreted for her family when they understood me saying that the most frightening thing about North America is the ‘beer’ (I meant to talk about the large growly animals!).

I’m starting to feel settled and I’m excited about studying here. This semester I’m studying courses on ‘Evangelism and Church Planting,’ ‘Old Testament Introduction,’ ‘Biblical Interpretation,’ and ‘Systematic Theology.’ Today I read that “one of the privileges of coming away to seminary is the opportunity to drink from the well of a deep and sustaining tradition so that we in turn might pass it on to others.” This is my hope as I’m studying here.

Rosie has been a Mission Partner in Egypt. She is currently upskilling by studying at Trinity School of Ministry.

Strangers and Syrians – What Helping Looks Like (Issue 23)

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I arrived back in Wellington airport the week before Christmas feeling a little like a stranger in my own land. Two months later, I was again at the airport, but this time I was holding up a welcome sign in Arabic, waiting for a Syrian refugee family to arrive.

While on NZCMS leave and home service I’ve been volunteering with Red Cross refugee services. Because of my understanding of Arabic and my familiarity with Middle Eastern culture, I’ve been able to offer support to a Syrian mother and her five children, helping them adjust to life in New Zealand. This has involved collecting donated goods and furnishing their house, accompanying the family to appointments for housing and benefits, enrolling them in schools and medical services, and teaching them about public transport and banking.

Since the family don’t speak English and my conversational Arabic is reasonably fluent, I’ve been doing a lot of translation. This is fantastic Arabic practice for me and makes it easier for them to communicate with the others supporting them. There’s also been a need for some cultural translation – we may be familiar with how life works in our country, but for a foreigner things can be quite strange and difficult to understand. And it’s not just the big stuff like learning the language and understanding our (mumbly) accent. For example, we’ve been discussing the difference between pyjamas and track-pants, and teaching them the rules of cricket (which, as it turns out, is important for living in New Zealand when we’re hosting a world cup!)

It doesn’t just go one way either. I may be welcoming them into my Kiwi world, but they are equally delighted to welcome me into theirs. It was a hilarious and great joy to join in a ‘henna night’ (an Arabic hen’s party) for one of the daughters who is about to get married. In the context of a women’s only environment, the veiled Muslim women wearing long loose fitting clothes were unrecognisable in their tight mini-dresses, full make-up and belly dancing moves! Which raises an important point: Many of us will love the idea of helping out with families like this, but we find a number of barriers in our way.

One barrier might be that you don’t feel you know enough about their culture to be any help. Another may be that, deep down – hidden somewhere in your heart – is prejudice, a distrust of their culture, fear of opening up to people you don’t really understand. Sometimes the most missional thing we can do is take on the role of humble learner, giving them the honour of being the cultural teachers. And in the process we may discover that some of our prejudices melt away. Those strange veiled women – something we don’t really understand – suddenly become people like us in the privacy of their own home!

In Cairo, I used to walk past Syrian refugees every day on my way to the gym and to buy vegetables. In fact, the United Nations refugee agency hired part of the All Saints Cathedral building in Cairo as a refugee centre. Although the Anglican Church in Cairo has a large refugee ministry, I wasn’t able to engage with it personally or offer much of a hand, except to pray as I walked past them each day. So the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of one Syrian family settling in New Zealand has brought great joy to me. With all the news of wars and violence in the Middle East, it was hard not to respond in this practical way when the opportunity presented itself. Plus a side benefit has been eating Middle Eastern food and drinking cardamom-infused sweet Arab coffee – something I miss from Egypt!

For families like this, our volunteer team plays a significant role in their first six months of New Zealand life, as it takes at least six months to really settle in a new place. The goal of the volunteers is to support the family to live independently in New Zealand after this time.

There’s lot of ways Kiwis can help support and journey with the ’strangers among us.’ And it’s not just people like me who happen to speak another language that can make a difference. What’s needed is regular Kiwis willing to give some of their time to people that are feeling lost, alone and vulnerable in an unfamiliar land. As Scripture says, “Treat the stranger among you as if they were one of you, loving them as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:34).

Volunteering with Red Cross is definitely an option I’d recommend. For more information, see their website.


For Discussion

What barriers keep you from taking opportunities – big or small – to welcome foreigners to our land?

What ways can your community, small group or family reach out to ‘strangers’ like the family above?


Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

Transformations in Gambela

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A friend of Rosie’s reports about what is happening in Gambela, Ethiopia. 

My heart is so full. It has been said that life in Gambela is either very high or very low, but rarely in between. The stench of death, disease, and despair hangs in the air like a sulfurous fume from the pit and, if we are not careful, it can suck us in and rob us of the joy we have in Jesus. It is especially hard when those close to us are suffering…like when the teenage son of our Opo guard, Joseph, unexpectedly died of unknown causes recently.

But at the same time, the Lord is doing great things that we have, up until now, only read about in Acts and in books on revival. People regularly cry out in services, falling down on their knees weeping as the Holy Spirit touches their hearts. Demons too cry out, throwing their hosts to the ground, but they are dealt with swiftly in the Name of Jesus. The Anuak are using the Jesus Film in their revival meetings and evangelistic services to great effect.

The Spirit is moving and we have the best seats in the house!

We recently heard about a man in a nearby village who served as a ‘priest’ of a familiar spirit by the name of Wiu. This spirit is well known in the Gambela People’s Region as a powerful force for good (so-called) and for evil. The man has two wives, the youngest of whom is a Christian. His children too are Christians. In the past he was respected by many and feared by all, as he was very powerful. But bad things were beginning to happen to his family. From late 2014 to the recent present ten family members died of unnatural causes. So this past weekend, his children went to beg him to denounce the demon and to follow Jesus. At first the man resisted – he too feared the power of this spirit – but after being convinced of the truth of the Gospel and the power of Jesus, he rejected the demon and publicly burned all the fetishes, sacrificial spears, and cultic instruments in his possession. But not only was this one man set free from Satan’s clutches, but many of those who feared and revered him also turned to Jesus, including his first wife!

This is just one story among many. The folks in the Anglican Church here are advancing into areas previously untouched by the Gospel. (There is so much work, especially to the south of us, but we do not have enough trained leaders!) Pray especially for the continuing outreach work among the Majenger and the Tamakoi people groups. Pray also for the many showings of the Jesus Film and pray for our church members, that they may grow to maturity in the faith.

Tragedy in Heliopolis

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Pictured: Members and friends of the St. Michael’s Church congregation gather to pray. Article re-posted from The Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

One child is dead and eight women are hospitalized following the Monday explosion of three gas bottles, sparking a fire in the Kilo 4.5 neighborhood of Nasr City in Cairo. The group of ladies were preparing a meal for a meeting at the St. Gabriel Center, a Sudanese social center and ministry of St. Michael’s Anglican Churchin Heliopolis.

Youssef Attiya, a nine-month-old infant, succumbed to smoke inhalation and died this morning. His mother Mona Ismail remains in critical condition in the Galaa Hospital of Nasr City.

Ikhlas Ali is also in critical condition, suffering burns over 90 percent of her body. She is two months pregnant and the wife of Rev. Hassan Jemes, associate pastor of St. Michael’s in charge of the Sudanese congregation. Hospital staff at the Nile Emergency Center in Nasr City said she has little chance to survive, according to Rev. Jos Strengholt, dean of East Cairo Anglican churches and priest-in-charge at St. Michael’s.

Another child, nine-year-old Sonita Musa, suffered a bad head wound but was discharged this morning. Her mother Aziza Ibrahim remains hospitalized but is in stable condition. According to Shawgi Kori, director of St. Gabriel’s Center, Ibrahim helped around eight other women and children escape the fire, pushing several through a window, before being injured herself.

The meal was to be in commemoration of a child relative of one of the church members who recently died in Sudan. The explosion blasted pots of boiling oil to the ceiling, which then sprayed onto several women. The church community is now organizing rounds of visitation to care for the injured and the needs of their families.

The St. Gabriel’s Center serves the large Sudanese refugee population of Nasr City without discrimination. It runs a clinic, a vocational training program, English lessons, and provides a social outlet especially for women and youth in the neighborhood. One of the injured women is a Muslim.

“These are women associated with our church,” said Rev. Strengholt, stating only two have medical insurance. “We are committed to helping them whatever we need to do.”


Since this was written four women have died, including Ikhlas, the wife of Rev Hassan. Rev Hassan Jemes is the priest of the Sudanese congregation and  just became the Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Kadugli and the Nuba Mountains. Our Mission Partner Rosie worked with Hassan in the prison previously – her heart breaks for him.