September 2013

Dear Friends,

We’d seen the wedding photos before, but sat captivated once again as they passed before us on the laptop on our kitchen table, where the bride and groom, Michi and Glynis, were seated beside us.  The bride, Nancy’s niece, was stunning and her dress remarkable – the lower part an exquisitely made white sphere, the top, the neatest pale-green bodice, while the groom in long frock coat, lace cuffs and black calf stockings looked both elegant and radiant. The wedding was in the lovely Austrian spa town of Bad Ischl. It was a very beautiful day and Peter conducted the wedding.

Happy Austrian couple

Also watching the wedding photos with us were two very great friends from Yemen; Dr Sameera, who worked in the Christ Church medical clinic some years ago and her lovely daughter, Ghoson, herself newly-engaged to a friend in Yemen and currently over in Britain doing a placement in a dental practice near Bristol.

Dr Sameera enjoying the beach
Ghoson tries her hand at bread making

When we’d seen the wedding photographs, we asked after Ghoson’s brother – a gifted and popular singer, and in his songs, an often articulate and outspoken commentator on Yemen affairs. Ghoson then went online and in moments we were transported from pictures of laughter and beauty to carnage and grief – to pictures of a parade ground in Sanaa (Yemen’s capital) where a few months ago one hundred young servicemen were killed at their graduation ceremony by a suicide bomber. The contrast between what we had just been watching and now saw could not have been greater. Interspersed with pictures of the bloodied parade ground and a few dazed survivors, were clips of Ghoson’s brother singing a passionate lament for those killed, along with a haunting refrain asking what possessed the mind of the youngster who had killed them. It was the turn of the bride and groom – shocked and stunned to ask questions of the pictures now on the screen. They entered as readily into the grief and horror as Ghoson and her mother had moments before entered into their joy.

There was a significant wedding in Aden too a week ago, that of Dr Tahani, one of our two young lady eye surgeons and Ahmed Soufi, eye technician, also at the clinic. We would have loved to have been there though in reality only Nancy would have been allowed to attend. We were told that it was very happy, and today we have news that Peter Welby, who spent time with us in Aden as our volunteer, has just got engaged, which is great. His fiancée, Jen, is lovely. Nigel Dawkins, who with his wife Catherine were our successors in Aden has, we have also just learned, been appointed to a post as a Canon on the staff of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, which is very good news.

In Sanaa, a much more lawless place now than Aden, the National Dialogue edges along. It is due to present its findings in two weeks’ time and to deliver a new constitution for the country. Ghoson has some young friends who are participating in it. Invited to join as young, intelligent and articulate representatives of the South and its concerns, they have found themselves quietly assigned to a dull committee dealing with transport …Despite this and other disappointments, Ghoson and her friends still hold out some hope for the Dialogue, but her mother, none. However, we did not spend all our time discussing Yemeni politics. As both mother and daughter had expressed interest in riding a train we took a ride on the magnificent Welsh Highland Railway through Snowdonia and concluded the day sitting in heather overlooking the beautiful Cregennan lakes above our home here in Dolgellau. We listened to the lapping of the waves and watched the sun sink behind the hills. Asked how she was, Sameera replied, “Just too happy.” Cregennan is a far cry from Aden’s refugees with whom her life is largely caught up.

Heather grows in Wales too

Welsh Highland Railway

In the last newsletter we mentioned the conversations going on with others on the council of reference for Christ Church and the clinics, about the future of the work, and in particular of the finding of new good personnel for both. The correspondence between us has been lively and positive. One suggestion made by several was that we try to establish a working relationship with a Christian medical charity in the region. That is happening. Two months ago Peter was invited, along with Dr Edwin Martin, who is on the council, with his wife Peta, to attend in Beirut a conference sponsored by HOME (Health Outreach to the Middle East) a fine Christian Arab medical foundation involved in supporting work in, amongst other countries, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, and interested in getting involved in Yemen also. It was an inspiring and moving occasion, though we English participants had forgotten just how enthusiastic Egyptians and others are for long, late-night meetings …

Two weeks ago a young lady doctor from Egypt, sponsored by HOME, went to start a month’s placement at the medical clinic at Christ Church. It looks like a most promising development for which we are very grateful. Also coming out of our council dialogue was the suggestion that clergy, ideally not westerners, from across the diocese consider going to do short stints of a few weeks in Aden to encourage both the congregation and our local medical staff. It was a suggestion taken up conscientiously by Bishop Michael, who wrote putting the need to all the clergy. Three have already expressed a warm interest in going at different times over the next six months, which is wonderful.

A few weeks ago Yemen and Al Qaeda got brief, very high-profile attention in the western media. It angered many Yemenis, who saw the situation very differently to the way it was presented by CNN or the BBC. A Yemeni journalist wrote, ‘For many Yemenis – hunger, a lack of electricity and water scarcity are urgent day to day concerns. More than ten million people, almost half the country’s population, do not have enough to eat. Al Qaeda is seen by most as an obsession of foreign governments; attacks on oil pipelines occur on an almost weekly basis. The travel-alerts announced for Yemen have been in effect for years and the country has long witnessed the capture of foreigners.

The English Yemen Times even had a semi-comic but nonetheless quite chilling article in it entitled, ‘How to Kidnap a Foreigner.’ You can read the article in full HERE. The journalist concludes, ‘While foreign embassies have a responsibility for their own security, Yemen’s international supporters need to demonstrate clearly their commitment to be mindful of the harmful effect, that some counter-terrorism measures, like extensive drone strikes and over-flights in particular, have on Yemeni public opinion, and on the vital peace talks on which Yemen’s hopes for long-term change, rest.

Yemen, not Wales

We have included photos of the wedding and of Wales and hope you do not mind. We are short of new ones from Aden but will take more when next we return, hopefully later in the year – and after a move to Reading, which should take place very soon.

One or two kind friends have asked how the book, ‘Yemen: Heartbreak & Hope’, is going. The Greenbelt festival requested 20 copies for their book tent and a local heating engineer has just popped in here to buy a copy. In short, it continues ‘to go’. Reviews, apart from a slightly ambivalent one in the Church Times, have been most enthusiastic, one reviewer, who we thought might be particularly critical, describing it as ‘brilliant and beautiful’. It’s never too late to order (from lulu.com) and Peter promises to promote it no more.

We end with an e-mail received this week from the visiting Egyptian doctor mentioned earlier. ‘I like the clinic team, and have started to feel like they are my family. Today I went to Tahani and Ahmed’s wedding. The bride was very beautiful, the other girls too, and I enjoyed my time with them. Mr Mansour is doing a great job. He has a nice lovely family, and I have spent time with Ruba (his daughter) and her cousins. The clinic is going well, it has a good reputation. I like my patients too and also the accommodation is very good. I am blessed to share in this work.’  – So are we.

With our love and very best wishes in Christ.

Peter and Nancy


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November 2009

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Service at Maalla Cemetery - Aden, YemenAt Christ Church, Remembrance Day is one of the highlights of the year and this year it was marked by a series of three services, attended by representatives of the British, French and Indian embassies; members of the local congregation; and other Christians living in Aden. The first service began at 10.55am in Ma’alla Cemetery, allowing us to observe the two minute silence at 11am. Wreaths were laid at the cemetery including one that had been sent by a family in England whose relative lies buried there.

At midday we gathered at Christ Church for the main service of the day, which was followed by a splendid lunch in the church hall when everyone was able to meet and relax. The day finished with an atmospheric dusk service at Silent Valley: a cemetery on the edge of the desert, far away from the hustle and bustle of Aden. As the sun set over the rocky hills, four sisters from the Missionaries of Charity sang a quiet song in honour of those buried there.

A poignant day for all involved, remembering those who have gone before us in this place.

Ras Morbat Institute

When Stefan Poldevaart first came to Yemen four years ago his plan was to teach technical skills to local people. His dream is finally becoming a reality as the building of the Ras Morbat Institute nears completion. The Institute has been built next to the church and consists of a teaching space on the ground floor and a community space upstairs. Early in 2010 Stefan will train two teachers: one Yemeni and one Somali. They will then provide the training for the first intake of students, who will also be a mixture of local Yemenis and refugees from Somalia. The team at Christ Church is most grateful to all those who have supported this project financially and have backed Stefan’s dream with the necessary resources. Particular thanks go to the British Embassy in Sana’a, Episcopal Relief & Development and the Anglican congregation in Bahrain.

Ras Morbat Institute, Aden, Yemen - June 2009

June 2009

Ras Morbat Institute, Aden, Yemen - November 2009

November 2009

Partnership with UNHCR

Another exciting development in the past few months is a new partnership with the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR. There are two large refugee camps on the outskirts of Aden and UNHCR has engaged our clinic to provide eye care to the refugees in Kharaz camp. A team from the eye department has been visiting the camp to perform basic eye examinations and to refer patients for operations at the clinic. So far the project has been running on a pilot basis and we hope that the partnership will lead to a more significant commitment in 2010.

The Kharaz Refugee Camp in Yemen
Refugees receiving treatment from the Ras Morbat Clinic mobile team

Nigel & Catherine’s Wedding

The wedding of Nigel and Catherine Dawkins

Nigel & Catherine Dawkins

On 17th October, Nigel Dawkins (Chaplain, Christ Church) married Catherine Lewis-Morris. The service took place in the UK, at St Mary’s Church, Caterham, where Nigel served his curacy. Over 200 friends and family came together to celebrate the wedding.

The service was followed by a reception at the Surrey National Golf Club, in what proved to be a wonderfully joyful and relaxed day. Catherine worked as an accountant in London for seven years and has spent the past three years training for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. She is now with Nigel in Aden where she is helping to manage the chaplaincy finances.

On 15th January 2010 Catherine will be ordained deacon by Bishop Michael Lewis, Bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf, and will be licensed as Assistant Chaplain.

Prayer Points

  • for the finances of the church and clinic: as a result of the global recession, pledged support for 2010 is significantly lower than previous years;
  • for the management team at Christ Church as they face tough decisions regarding how best to reduce expenditure in 2010;
  • for the Ras Morbat Institute as it begins training its first students;
  • for the development of work with Somali refugees in partnership with UNHCR;
  • for Nigel and Catherine as they settle into married life together.
Pages:
Yemen - Heartbreak and Hope by Peter Crooks

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