Sunday will mark an end and a new beginning in the Anglican Diocese of Namibia. On Sunday December the 11th the first group of 45 new priests will be ordained at St. Mary’s Church in Odibo Namibia. This is a project that I have worked on since its beginning in 2007. It was then that I was asked to take part in a data gathering trip by my old friend Bill Yon from the Diocese of Alabama. A group of 6 of us traveled for three weeks throughout Namibia in the summer of 2007. On June 6th, 2007 I wrote in my journal;
“I keep asking myself the question, Why? Why am I coming to Africa? What is it that I hope to do here. I know that I cannot save Africa, but if I don’t believe I have anything to offer then I have no reason to be here. It would be stupid to come here and just accept the way things are but at the same time I have a lot to learn”
Over the next year I worked with our team to develop and write the grant to fund the project and to help design the overall structure of the classes. We had no idea if what we were planning would work. The distances these students traveled were vast, of them coming from more then 8 hours away. So in the summer of 2008 I moved to Namibia. Over the next 6 months I worked with the Anglican Diocese of Namibia to develop the actual 3 year plan to train 50 students in rural Northern Namibia. In January of 2009 the students arrived for their orientation week and the Training Program was off and running. On January 8, 2009 I wrote the following words while I was attending the orientation of the training program;
“Northern Namibia is an abandoned place. It is rural, poor, sub-Saharan Africa. Its children get sick, starve and die. Malaria is rampant, waterborne sickness everywhere… What does it mean to be abandoned? Abandoned suggests that at one point we knew one another and then we left. The truth is that we have never known this place or its people and therefore we feel no responsibility for it. How could we abandon someone that we never knew, we ask. We ask this to assuage our own guilt. The answer is that as Christians, we believe that we were all created in the image of God, and we must recognize our brothers and sisters. We must remember that they are part of us and we are part of them and when we insulate ourselves behind gated communities and 24 hour infotainment we are abandoning our family. This is the trauma we feel, that emptiness in our heart is a longing to know our family again”
Over the course of the next 3 years, culminating this Saturday the 11th, these students studied for countless hours, traveled for days and learned so much about what it means to be an Anglican priest in Namibia. I know that they will serve the people of the Diocese with joy and humility and that they will become the foundation of the diocese for years to come. I want to congratulate The Rt. Rev Nathaniel Nakwatumba for his vision and leadership The Rt Rev Petrus Hilakiluah for his dedication and service and The Ven Lukas Katenda for his unfailing work in support and leadership in this program. I am proud to have been a part of this work.