Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Handed over to Jesus, today.....

...are two of my friends facing very different kinds of necessity in Africa. One is, of course, our brother-in-Christ Kenny Macaulay, a delightful rogue who also happens to be the Rector of St Augustine's Church in Dumbarton (just west of the nice and civilized part of Scotland where Mrs Rabbit and I live). Kenny is off to the Gambia to try and negotiate with a local landlord who owns the property presently occupied by the Dumbarton/London Corner nursery school which the folks in Dumbarton underwrite pretty well in its entirety. Several thousand pounds have been spent upgrading a delapidated property in the poorest part of the town and the lease is up. The landlord sees the opportunity of reclaiming a much improved property and the education of some 90 small children hangs in the balance.

My daughter Hannah and I were with Kenny and his wife in the Gambia a couple of years back and had the opportunity to see the school up close. It's a great piece of mission work. It is based on the local committment of a Scottish town - in large part the committment of the Episcopal congregation but gets broad local support in the town as well. Kenny keeps Standing Order forms on his person at most times and pretty well everybody he meets ends up being hit for £5 a month. The story of how Kenny got involved in this mission is pretty well explained HERE on his blog. The outreach in question is also collaborative in that there is a local committee in Serrekunda which recommends children whose families are clearly unable to afford the school fees. Finally, through the help of an organization called Gambia Tourist Support, they are able to channel money (upwards of £1200 a month) into a country, where graft and chaos are not unknown, in such a way that the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and the individual donors need have no concerns. Money sent in for the school gets to the school and the school is able to pay its bills.

I phoned Kenny on his mobile today thinking that he was still in the UK only to hear a different ring tone before he answered. There were car horns tooting in the background and the sound of Kenny leaning out the window and yelling 'Bugger off' so it was clear that he was already driving through either Banjul or Serrekunda. In an understandably short phone conversation Kenny told me that while the negotiations are going to be an uphill climb with a fairly intransigent landlord, he plans to be there for a week and thinks that some agreement can be reached.

The second case is a different kettle of fish. Mark and Val are good friends of the Reverend and Mrs Rabbit - they've not been married that long and have a tiny baby boy named Josh. Mark is a ships engineer and regularly gets flown around the world to join ships and fix their massive engines. The paper work for his trips - visas and joining instructions - is done by the agency which sends him there. This time they neglected to get him a visa for the particular African country (to be named later but well known to Anglicans) the ship sailed into while the engine was being repaired. They're upriver now - loading or unloading - and the agency decided that the most convenient thing to do would be to simply leave him off the crew list and for him to stay 'below decks' which makes him technically a stowaway and at the mercy of whatever local official decides to inspect the ship.

Added to this is the fact that (sods law being well and truly at work this week) the ship keeps running into the sorts of difficulties which might invite local officials aboard - today it was the local mafioso storming the captain's cabin armed with a machete. The problem was dealt with by the "six foot six ape of a bosun" - a bad tempered Russian - who simply heaved the local thug over the side of the ship and left him to swim the short distance to the river bank and climb out. No doubt the Russian equivalent to "Bugger off" came up at some point in the altercation. Mark missed all the fun. He was below decks in what he calls his 'hidey hole'. Mark has a mobile phone and keeps updating his Facebook page. His wife, at home with a tiny baby, is somewhat unhappy with the situation.

So keep Kenny and Mark in your prayers today. Two lads far from home trying to do good work in difficult circumstances.