years ago, before the days of inclusive language, there was an ad on TV for the
U.S. Marines. Usually it was shown on during football games or other sporting
events. It described in graphic detail the tough job that the Marines were
given to do. Their mission was never an easy one. The ad ended with the
refrain, "We’re looking for a few good men!"
thought of this ad after visiting Dick Baker in Gambella, Ethiopia. After
spending three days with Dick, we traveled ten hours on "Tanzanian-style roads"
to the town of Jimma to meet with Monsignor Souraphiel Demerew, Prefect
Apostolic of Jimma-Bonga. Dick described to us his dream of setting up a church
presence in a place called Pinyudo among the Anuak people. There are a total of
ten Catholics there, but they have received a plot of land for a church and the
ten of them have already built a church of mud and wattle on the property. Dick
would like to move out there, live in a container house, establish a presence
and, if all goes well, eventually build a more permanent place.
prefect then turned to me and said, "Do you think Maryknoll could take
responsibility for the Pinyudo area?" Recalling the beautiful people that I had
met in Gambella I found it an attractive request. Then recalling the isolation
of the area, the primitive conditions and the war raging right across the border
in Sudan with the possibility of thousands of refugees pouring into the area, I
realized that this was going to be a tough job. This mission would not be an
easy one. That’s when I recalled the Marine Corp ad and thought, "We’re looking
for a few good … Maryknollers."
Prefecture Apostolic of Jimma-Bonga is brand new in a new Ethiopia recently
freed from the Communist
regime of Mengistu. Monsignor Demerew himself spent some time in prison during
the Marxist days. Now there is freedom of religion and a chance to help
establish the Church where it does not yet exist.
Christianity in Ethiopia goes back to apostolic days when the servant of
Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, was baptized by Philip (Acts 8:27).
The worship of Yahweh goes back to the Queen of Sheba who, on her return from
Jerusalem, gave birth to Emperor Menalek I, son of King Solomon. But the
inhabitants of the Gambella Region are mostly of Nilotic Ethnic Groups who are
originally from the Sudan and are followers of their African Traditional
Religion. In their religion are "Seeds of the Word" and they are waiting for
the Good News to be proclaimed.
is inviting us to join him in the Prefecture Apostolic of Jimma-Bong to preach
the Good News, help establish the Church and bring health, education and
development to the Anuak people of South Western Ethiopia. Maryknoll priests,
Brothers, Sisters and lay missioners are invited to join Father Baker in this
new venture in the Africa Area. Again, "We’re looking for a few good …