MuskNews: “Please pray for us!”
1 Thank you for your prayers!
: I have just delivered a condolence card to Rabbi Benjamin Hattab, Chief Rabbi and Director of the Jewish school in Tunis, who lost his son in the kosher supermarket in Paris to the gun of Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who stormed the supermarket. Indeed, three of the four people murdered by Coulibaly in the supermarket were Tunisian citizens. I met Rabbi Benjamin a couple of summers ago, at a fast-breaking meal during Ramadan hosted by then-President Moncef Marzouki for leaders of religious communities in Tunisia. Security and the economy are the major two concerns facing the incoming, freely elected parliament and presidency in Tunisia. It is wonderful that this nation has got this far, this quickly, out of the Revolution of 2011 and the chaotic years immediately following. Progress on these two major issues is vital in order for the political achievements of the past twelve months or so to be healthily built upon.
: at the end of 2014/beginning of 2015 we were still saying farewell to members of St George’s who were associated with the African Development Bank which has now relocated to its headquarters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. We said goodbye to Pastor Kwame and his wife Jackie in November, to some ministry leaders in December, to the secretary of our church council and chair of our fundraising committee for the St Cyprian Centre project in January.
2 St George’s, Tunis
: it was wonderful to welcome Rev Dr Peter Knight and his wife Christine to Tunis and St George’s at the end of October. The Knights stayed with us for three weeks whilst seeking to secure an appropriate base as home – they have an apartment in a great location which, when furnishing is completed, will be lovely. I have agreed to release Peter for fulltime language study for the first four months of their stay here, but his help with some services is greatly appreciated. We thank God that he has been granted a residence/work permit.
: I was greatly relieved when our interviewing of a potential Tunisian believer with qualifications as a civil engineer led to his appointment as Project Manager for our St Cyprian Centre build. Imed has worked hard, especially with our appointed architect, to produce the necessary “dossiers” for presentation to relevant authorities in Tunis who need to give their permissions in order for us to knock down some dilapidated buildings on site and replace them with the St Cyprian Centre.
: staff at the British Embassy in Tunis have been very gracious in assisting us to obtain a special document from the British Government giving the Church Council complete control over the necessary works to effect the building of this new centre. The title deed to the property where the church stands is in the name of the British Crown (for historical reasons) and this had caused a major hiccough when we first presented papers to the city authorities last year – not to mention the fact that somehow, in the complicated ‘Chinese whispers’ that seemed to develop when so many parties became involved in the process, the city authorities understood that we were wanting to pull down and rebuild the church itself!
: in January 2015, on the last Sunday service to be attended by the chair of our fundraising committee before she left to follow others to Abidjan, we rejoiced that we were less than a few thousand dollars from our original fundraising goal. The chair then refused to leave the lectern until the final amount was raised! She – a vibrant Ghanaian worshipper – told me at the Church Council meeting when I first shared my vision for the St Cyprian Centre (our Legacy Project): “Bishop Bill, you worry about the vision; please allow us to organise the fundraising – we will do it in our way!” Which she, and her colleagues on the fundraising committee, then did! Thank you Judith!
: my writing of these paragraphs has been interrupted by two men from the city authorities coming out to inspect our church site, plus our plans of things as they currently are and the new build that we would like to make. We pray that the authorities will grant us two permissions: one to demolish redundant, tired buildings and one to build the two new buildings comprising the St Cyprian Centre. Beyond that, we need much prayer and diplomatic help in sorting out the need to negotiate the departure of two tenants in two shops at street level in one of the buildings that needs to be demolished. One of these tenants is present legally, but has not been paying us rent for many years, the other is there legally but trying to pay us rent! You can imagine the potential complications!
: we have enjoyed welcoming new folk to a much smaller St George’s English-speaking congregation. I am grateful to those who have come forward to help as church treasurer and secretary plus others providing leadership for some of the church’s ministries. It has been great to get to know some Korean sisters (in the country via a Korean NGO) who have thrown their lot in with us and who participated in various Christmas services. Hilary produced a brilliant play for presentation by (a much smaller cast of) youth and Sunday School members. We are growing a much larger University Students fellowship. We had a full table of waifs and strays with us on Christmas Day for dinner, including a British refugee from the situation in Libya. Christmastime as a whole seemed a very busy period and we were involved in various carol and musical events at different venues in Tunis.
: it has been such a privilege to be closely involved in the life of the Arabic-speaking congregation. These dear brothers and sisters have been very gracious in putting up with sermons by translation and a mixture of Arabic and English in my leading of their services. They – and I! – are very much looking forward to Rev David and his wife Bassma joining us from Egypt in February, God willing. One of the major challenges for us all over the next year or so is the rebalancing of St George’s in terms of leadership, governance and support as the English-speaking congregation no longer so strongly dominates affairs in the church and as the Arabic-speaking congregation comes of age.
3 North Africa Episcopal Area
: Rev Hamdy is exercising a mature and pastoral ministry in Algiers. A couple of his Algerian members visited me in Tunis recently to share their vision for a careful but God-led growth of our ministry there. Rev Hamdy is the kind of priest who can well be trusted to lead such a growth. The Lord has miraculously healed a long-time rift – resulting from the tragic loss of their first child – between Rev Hamdy and his wife so that she and their second child have now joined him in Algiers. This is so healing for them and also so stabilising for the church community also. I do pray so much for continuity in Rev Hamdy’s excellent leadership in Holy Trinity, Algiers where the potential is so great and so exciting with an Arabic-speaker as priest of the church.
: we pray that 2015 will be the year for the signing of a good agreement between the Diocese and the British Government that will sort out ownership and use of the abandoned, buildings currently on the site of Holy Trinity, Algiers. The result of such an agreement will hopefully be to allow us to renovate and refurbish the church, to accommodate on site the minister of the church, and to have some facilities for outreach in the local community.
: Tripoli remains a very dangerous place in which various militias rather than an appointed authority hold sway. The church thrives giving support to Indians, Pakistanis, some Africans and a few Westerners working in the country. We pray for their daily safety and effective ministry. Malini had a recent health scare, but she and Rev Vasihar managed to get it properly investigated and addressed. These wonderful people remain in our daily prayers as do Rev Ayo in Tripoli – with a good ministry developed especially among the many Africans in and at the edges of the church fellowship and his, who is living in Italy with their two sons.
4 Personal touch!
: our run up to Christmas was typically busy and the Christmas play was a delight to put on! The plot was a time travel app which a couple of teenagers used to go back to first Mesopotamia (where they met the 3 wise men) and then Bethlehem as one of the teenagers was cynical and had to do some research for a school project! I’m happy to send you a copy on request! It is amusing and hopefully poignant in places! We had fun with a new sunrise scene created with huge swathes of orange, yellow and red taffeta and the wise men’s costumes made by a friend who has sadly now moved on to Texas, which were beautiful! Our Sunday School is severely diminished by the exodus of the bank so we could not have our normal huge Roman or Herod’s army or huge choir; we just had a little flock of sheep who doubled up as a crowd! We still have a decent sized youth group who also comprise most of our Youth Band, for whom we are very grateful.
: as Bill has said, it has been a time of continual goodbyes; some very hard to say! Judith, the chair of fund raising for our St Cyprian Centre is such a personality! A Ghanaian, with a base in Dulwich! She is so lively and I always found such encouragement when leading the music as I watched her move; her whole body and face alive with worship and joy. Her fund raising tactics are legendary! She stood up and invited people to give publicly at the initial launch, surprising both Bill and Bishop Mouneer! After a while Bill stood up and said, tongue in cheek, ‘We don’t do it like that in Britain!’ But they do do it like that in Africa and there were some significant pledges and gifts! Again the week before she left she was inviting people to donate the final few thousand we needed as she had promised not to leave until the target was met!! We have now reached our target! Thank You, Lord! Thank you, Judith!! Incidentally she has been a source of hilarious stories about cross cultural miscommunication. The most memorable was when she was still new in the UK and complimented someone for their big bottom! In Ghana women are very proud of them! Obviously it didn’t go down too well amongst white Londoners! As you can tell, I can’t think of Judith without smiling! Another sad loss is Bob, with whom I jointly run the music group. He has been here the whole time we have been in Tunis; a lovely Nigerian man who has patiently coped with my lack of understanding of African rhythms! Rhythm is in his blood! He plays a beautiful lead guitar and his whole body moves as he plays. He has a real heart of worship and a heart of love for the members of our team, including those who need to learn commitment and punctuality!! He has been given leave to retire early instead of going to Abidjan with the bank just for a few months before retirement. We shall miss him and his lovely family.
: it is quite overwhelming to be saying ‘goodbye’ to so many at once, so it is comforting that we have also said some ‘hello’s’! Peter and Christine are a delightful addition to our team! They are both so positive and very pastoral. A number of ex pat refugees are here in Tunis from Libya including a man with a UN group who has been a really faithful member of church but has now left plus the British Ambassador to Libya and his wife are a lovely couple we are getting to know. We have some lovely new Koreans in our congregation, here on a Korean government funded programme, scattered singly all over the country doing various volunteer jobs. Some travel far to be with us on Sundays and add a new flavour in more ways than one to our worship. At Christmas we had an international evening with songs and food and the Koreans sang Angels from the Realms of Glory in Korean and brought some delicious spicy chicken! We also have some students from Equatorial Guinea who are encouraging us to sing more songs in Spanish! Our International evening ended with us all singing Feliz Navidad!
: on a more serious note, friends here who have access to more graphic and disturbing news are very worried about the upsurge of a violent expression of Islam in the world today.
: on a personal note We had a brilliant time seeing family and a few friends this Christmas. We relocated our celebrations to Sarah’s home as our flat had been flooded and all the floors had to be taken up in bedrooms and corridor. Sarah had worked so hard to make their new home in Walthamstow really beautiful and we had a great time together, including a trip on the Cable Car over the Thames, a trip to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and a trip to Paradise Park in Newhaven which was actually fascinating and highly educational! Having sobbed that she was scared of dinosaurs and didn’t want to go in, Olivia stated afterwards that her favourite thing was the big scary dinosaur! It was lovely to spend some time with all our grandchildren who are growing fast and to visit all our UK based offspring in their homes, including roasting marshmallows at Nin and Simon’s, visiting Olivia’s pre school and collecting Aars from his school in Dorking.
: thank you for your prayers for Aaron as he is gradually being able to eat more things. There are still many things that are life threatening to him which puts a constant strain on his and Rachel and Darren’s lives, but we pray for eventual freedom from all these allergies. Rachel has a blog of wonderful recipes for allergy sufferers called ‘free2bake.com’ which is attracting regular attention from BBC Good Food and a TV programme in the US! Please pray for the family especially as the spring comes and they have to face Aars’ most serious allergy to silver birch pollen. He is enjoying many after-school activities and a special English group in poetry. Sam and Ben are settling in better to school in the US this year and enjoying all that their life in Malibu has to offer. Olivia enjoys pre school and Holly all her little groups such as Tumble Tots. Their life seems busier than mine! We look forward to some imminent visits from a few friends and some family in March and April and later from Helen, Sam and Ben in June!
5 Prayers please for
: folk in Tunis on staff at St George’s – Bill, Peter, Balqis, Sadak, Souad, Mohsen and Chedly plus their families.
: Rev Peter and Christine Knight in their language learning.
: Rev David and Bassma as they join us in Tunis in February.
: Rev Vasihar and his wife Malini plus Rev Ayo and Reader Crimson – all in Tripoli; Rosemary (Rev Ayo’s wife) with sons Joshua and Nathaniel in Italy.
: Rev Hamdy with Yvonne and Evan, plus the various African students making up the majority of the congregation in Algiers; plus newly arrived students; plus Algerian members of the church.
: Aaron as he and his mother seek a positive way forward with a recommended specialist over Aaron’s serious allergies, plus others in our extended family facing difficult days.
: movement forward with building permission for our St Cyprian Centre (Legacy Project) in Tunis; especially the sorting out of departure of tenants from shops that will be pulled down.
: protection and growth of national believers in North Africa; especially the congregation at St George’s directed at the moment by myself with assistance from Sadak.
: the impact of the work of members of the Africa Development Bank throughout the continent of Africa; their settling back into headquarters in Abidjan.
: pastoral care of the many folk who are here in Tunisia with mission communities, diplomatic missions, companies or as students and who attend St George’s.
: pastoral care within the growing Tunisian churches and for deep spiritual growth and maturity; for mature local pastors to emerge.
: our diocesan and primate, Bishop Mouneer and his wife Nancy in their significant and busy lives.
: wisdom for Grant and Wendy LeMarquand in Ethiopia – Grant is Assistant Bishop for the Horn of Africa.
: the general situation in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the Arab Gulf, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan – and in the current shaking of several of those nations, for God’s Spirit to be unleashed in a wonderful way.
Many blessings to you all and lots of love.
Bill & Hilary
Bill & Hilary Musk are mission partners with I.C.S. (Intercontinental Church Society: registered charity no. 1072584). If you would like to contribute financially to their support, please go to www.ics-uk.org and follow the link to “Make a donation”, then select “Tunis–St George’s–Musk” from the drop-down list. Thank you.