September 2014

Dr Edwin hands out certificates

Dr Edwin hands out certificates

The highlight of the last few months at the Christ Church Clinics has definitely been the Cairo Medical Conference, so ably and well organised by Dr Edwin Martin and supported by Dr Ehab of HOME, Dr Mike Davies and Dr Jon Day of PRIME and others, around the theme of ‘The Long Term Care of Chronic Disease’. This is a large and increasing part of the whole of medical care in the Middle East where good record keeping is fundamentally important. Clinics specifically related to eye care were included in the programme, as this is the main work of the Ras Morbat clinics currently. Lively and interactive teaching was delivered by surgeons and specialists from the UK and Egypt – including Dr Adel a senior consultant from the National Eye institute of Egypt who has operated and taught at the Christ Church Clinic on several occasions.

Attending the conference were not just the doctors from Ras Morbat, but a nurse, two technicians and a pharmacist – the whole team. A number from another medical facility in Aden also attended, and the conference has served to strengthen professional links between those working in the same city. Around 30 Egyptian doctors also attended the conference. Firm friendships and professional links have been made between Yemeni and Egyptian colleagues. The team came back buzzing from the conference and ‘over the moon’, in the words of Peter Crooks, to be able to access postgraduate education. The staff are keen to access further training in the future. As links between Egyptian medical professionals, such as Dr Adel grow, this is becoming a more concrete hope for the future.

The PyramidsBeside teaching sessions, delegates observed a live operation training session in a local hospital, a refugee clinic, a hospital with a new surgical training programme and of course … the pyramids! For many of the staff this was their first visit outside of Yemen and they made the most of it.

The staff commented in feedback that the conference was interesting, useful, motivating, relevant, refreshing, excellent… We are grateful to Dr Edwin for all his hard work in making the conference happen, and to those who generously hosted and funded it.

The conference has again highlighted the need and hunger for postgraduate training and supervision at the clinics. We long for Christian medical professionals to come and work alongside the Yemeni staff who work faithfully to keep the clinics running.

Since the last update a new opthalmic microscope has arrived and is being put to good use. The eye clinic continues to be busy, and with cateract removal operations being performed by the wonderful Doctors Randa and Tahani. Dr John Sandford Smith hopes to visit again later this year to operate further, and the Cairo conference has whetted the appetite of the staff for further training.
Dr Osmany and his wife
Dr Osmany (pictured above with his wife), an eye surgeon from Cuba who works elsewhere in Aden also provides key support to the Ras Morbat staff on a regular basis with the most complex cases.

Qat chewingThe situation in Yemen as a whole remains precarious. Recent fuel hikes have led to protests, especially in the capital. Al Qaeda seem intent on targeting the military. Aden remains relatively calm and we are grateful that daily life continues much as it has been for the staff and community around Christ Church.

Velvet & Vijaya John

Velvet & Vijaya John

The other exciting news from Christ Church is the recent appointment of the Revd T Velvet John as the Chaplain of Christ Church Aden and Director of the Ras Morbat Clinic.

Velvet, originating from the Diocese of South Kerala in the Church of South India, is currently Dean of Certificate, Graduate, and Postgraduate Studies for TAFTEE (The Association for Theological Education by Extension) and also Associate Pastor of St James, Bangalore, and an executive member of the Bangalore Medical Ethics Committee. He is married to the Revd J Vijaya John and they have two adult children.

We, alongside the staff at the clinics and the small, but faithful congregation look forward to his arrival in Yemen in November, prior to a licensing by Bishop Michael in December.

 

 

 

April 2014

april1

A peaceful sunset scene in Aden, but it has been an eventful few months at the Ras Morbat clinics since the last update…

The redoubtable, conscientious and endlessly cheerful Dr John Sandford Smith (pictured above on a boat trip with the eye team) returned recently from his 15th visit to Ras Morbat, operating and teaching in the eye clinic. He performed 31 cataract operations and supervised a further 65 carried out by our two local eye surgeons and by a good friend, Qaid, who was long ago one of the first eye technicians. He has since be studying in America and hopes to return home to Somalia to set up an eye clinic there. It is a bold and courageous step and one that Dr John has long encouraged him in. While in Aden, John celebrated his 77th birthday and managed to swim on most days. Patient statistics show that over the years he has carried out over 2500 operations at the clinic. That is a remarkable achievement, but more than that he has, with enthusiasm and patience shared his wisdom and shown others how to do the business. We are enormously grateful to John and to his wife, Sheila, for generously and bravely letting him go to Aden so often.

Dr John and the team all scrubbed up

Dr John and the team all scrubbed up

Plans also continue apace for the Cairo Medical Conference. There are now 7 delegates signed up and eager to attend – including our senior doctor, Nada, the two eye surgeons, Ahmed, technician and husband of Tahani, one of the surgeons, Fawzia, our most faithful pharmacist and others. The organisation and planning of the conference has been energetically undertaken by Dr Edwin Martin through the auspices of PRIME, and there are expected to be additional local participants. Some of the input will be from well-known friends such as Dr Adel, who has often visited Aden from Cairo to operate and train our eye team. The overall theme is: The Long term Management of Chronic Diseases, including Eye Diseases. We trust and pray it will be a thoroughly good conference in every way and prove refreshing, inspiring and really useful to all. The conference will be in mid-May and last six days. While the participants are away, Mansour and Mariam in the office may have to pretend to be doctors …

Tea break at the clinics

Tea break at the clinics

The Council of Reference at its November meeting highlighted the need to upgrade some key pieces of our medical equipment. Consultation with Dr John, other visiting surgeons and the local staff suggested that a more modern and versatile ophthalmic operating microscope would be a great asset, especially for teaching aspiring surgeons. A good, suitable model available through a reliable local agent has been found, its specifications thoroughly scrutinised and an order placed. It should be delivered in the next few months – the purchase made possible by a generous grant from the British Embassy in Sana’a, who seemed delighted to help and to have an opportunity to invest in the work. It was a very generous grant.

On the video screen is an eye operation in progress

On the video screen is an eye operation in progress

Yemen rarely hits the world news – and for that, we should perhaps be grateful. The drowning of a boatload of refugees off the coast of Yemen recently merited brief mention on the BBC World Service. Al Qaeda continue with ruthless determination to kill prominent Yemeni military officers, while the kidnapping of foreigners, mostly in Sana’a, still goes on.

The staff of the clinics continue to work well and the congregation to meet gratefully each week to worship. But from both, Peter and Nancy received anxious enquiries on their last visit about the future leadership of the church and the clinics. John Sandford Smith’s report on his latest visit mentions the low overall output through the eye clinic of patients for surgery and the absence of any outreach programmes. The current lack of security affects both but so does the absence of a well-qualified, competent and enthusiastic resident eye doctor to push and promote the work. Different members of the now very depleted congregation continue to ask in turn when a priest, leader or pastor might be coming. The Archdeacon of the Gulf is planning to visit after Easter to assess the situation. He is no stranger to Aden and his visit is warmly anticipated.

april5

Peter and Nancy are happily settled in Reading, and enjoyed being on hand for the recent arrival of their second grandchild Huw, a couple of months ago. Mansour visited them several times when he was over from Aden recently, on one occasion appearing on their doorstep with a hot chicken dish straight from his sister’s oven in Southall. They continue to be in weekly contact with him now he is back in Aden, but will soon, a little reluctantly, devolve that responsibility to others.

Do pray for the clinics and for Christ Church, especially for the small congregation as they celebrate Easter.

December 2013

Dear friends,

It was a memorable text and had been sent in haste. It read simply, ‘Thank you, brother, for the god dregs.’ As so often, Nancy grasped the meaning of the message sooner than I. We had just come back from a return visit to Aden and had been distressed to find the two guard dogs there covered with fat, feasting, grey ticks. As soon as we got home from Aden we bought some potent anti-tick treatment and dispatched it with a friend going out there. The text acknowledged its safe arrival. On our most recent trip to Aden a few weeks ago, we found the dogs healthy and still tick-free.

Today’s agenda is not tick repellent but research into the purchase of a new ophthalmic microscope for the eye clinic – a need identified when Bishop Michael and representatives of the Council of Reference for Aden visited there in early November, and which we were asked to look into on our visit over Christmas. There is a particular model which our young surgeons trained on in Aden and which is widely used there called, for those interested in these things, a Takagi OM-8. The manufacturers have a good agent there but it may prove cheaper to purchase in Britain and we have tracked down an enthusiastic Takagi agent in Chesham, not far from where we are now living in Reading. But whether purchased from Aden or from Chesham, the price at nearly US$20,000 is not cheap. Still, it would be a huge improvement over what we have now and would make training of surgeons much easier. ‘Add it to your shopping basket …!’

Peter preparing to celebrate at ChristmasOur most recent visit to Aden – our fifth in the last two years – was shorter than previous ones – barely three weeks, compressed by the need to move house and to be on hand for the anticipated arrival of the second grandchild. Photos of the first, Jessica, we found to be the screen saver on several clinic computers. It was a timely, useful and happy visit, not without its dilemmas or difficulties but shot through too, with moments of heart-aching beauty. Our impressions on our return after a gap of eight months, wholeheartedly endorsed those of our friend Stefan Poldervaart on his return there with the Bishop as a member of the Council of Reference. I quote from his report of that visit:

It’s about four years since we were forced to leave Aden suddenly with our four young children. In the beginning of November I had the privilege of visiting Aden again, coming back to a place in which we served for several years and it felt just like yesterday. It’s been a great blessing to once again be part of this very special place – even if it is in a very different role – as a member of the Council of Reference for Christ Church and the clinics. One thing that really struck me was the fellowship on Friday. A small group of people and deeply committed to serve Christ Church have continued faithful at prayer. Nazir and his family gave us a very warm welcome. It was a blessing to share communion and experience the unity of Christ.

Nancy and friendNancy and I were, in our turn, most thoughtfully and warmly welcomed back by Nazir too. We shared Christmas with the congregation – about 25 on Christmas Eve, including children and several local friends, who came along gladly and stayed on readily to enjoy a wonderful Christmas meal of many flavours. We sang carols in Urdu and Amharic and processed through the garden to ‘Bethlehem’ to a hauntingly lovely one in Spanish, and in the stable – all far from home – heard again the promise of Emmanuel, God with us, and knew that he was.

Stefan wrote also of time spent with the staff. ‘Talking with the staff made a great impression on me. The commitment of the staff is amazing. They told me that God called them to serve the poor and needy of Yemen. The Ras Morbat Clinics which local people now much more readily call, simply, ‘The Church Clinic’ (ayaadit kaneesa) is a real blessing to the people of Yemen. Thinking over this visit, I think that this place needs much prayer. If more people get involved in one way or another, the church clinics can bless many more people.’

Bishop Michael after taking service at Christ Church

Stefan assists at communion

The utterly wonderful thing is that worship has continued at Christ Church and the work gone on – with courage, imagination and great dedication – cleaners and doctors alike, and worshippers on Friday having often to run a gauntlet of stone-throwing youths and burning tyres to get to work or worship. On several occasions bombs have gone off on the routes staff take to us – either just before they’ve set out or thankfully just after they have got home. Sometimes strikes and skirmishes between police and protesters have effectively shut down the public transport system on which our staff rely and then Mansour has ventured out in the bus and, by taking quieter roads, brought them in. He is, we say in English, ‘a brick’ – a substantial and most precious one. And all this – the faithful worship and costly service – has been offered day in and day out, week after week, and now, year on year without the presence of a priest/director on site. This is not an ideal nor a responsible way to continue but it is a remarkable and wonderful thing.

Nancy and I have made our occasional visits back when we have chivvied and chased, loved and shoved, retired some staff and recruited others and hopefully assured both staff and congregation that they are appreciated and not forgotten. While funds for the Aden project do come in generously from across the Diocese and the world, and are paid in to the church and clinic account most diligently, we could not help feeling over Christmas a twinge of sadness that as far as we were aware from nowhere in the Diocese was there sent to staff or congregation a Christmas greeting or note of thanks. Our Muslim staff are enthusiastic senders of e-cards to their Christian friends, complete with jingly music and swinging crescent moons….

Nancy's Gingerbread houseWe enjoyed this last visit, we ‘chivvied and chased’, but revelled too, in the renewal of friendships with colleagues, congregation and others. Nancy stunned many by producing for staff tea on Christmas Eve a beautiful, snow-iced gingerbread house, photos of which sped across Aden in minutes on Facebook. We swam as often as we could and of course ate fish. When the moment came to leave, we felt both sad and also relieved to be buckling on our seatbelts for the flight home.

The situation in Yemen just now, with the inconclusive conclusion a week ago of the months-long national dialogue is probably best described as precarious and Aden is very far from good. Three weeks ago a very large car bomb was detonated in Khormaksar (the airport area) outside the main offices of Aden security. It killed a few, caused enormous anxiety and blew in the apartment windows of, amongst others, Patras and Yasmin of the congregation. They remain in post.

In the autumn, Bishop Michael wrote to all the clergy in the Diocese, inviting them to consider doing a short stint of duty in Aden. Two responded quickly and very warmly and were all lined up to go but neither was able to for reasons quite unrelated to the political or the security situation in the city. A week ago, one of them wrote expressing a willingness to try and visit again, but when I broached the possibility of his coming with Mansour yesterday, he was adamant that this was not a time for any foreigner to visit, and added with a disarming chuckle, “Al-Q have just announced after they have fixed Syria they will come down to fix Yemen.” Not a happy prospect.

Thankfully Aden is not Aleppo nor Baghdad and we trust may never go the way they have. In Tawahi, where the church and clinics are located, the work goes on. In a few weeks’ time Dr Nada, our senior doctor, will travel with her husband Samir to Jordan to seek help in having the child they so much want. There is already a good locum lined up during her absence, who lives, usefully, nearby.

About the same time as Nada and her husband travel, we shall begin for a six month period and in close cooperation with the university dental faculty, a dental service two days a week – something the staff have often talked of and patients requested. It will essentially be a screening process with patients needing treatment being seen free of charge in the university dental faculty.

Discussing the dental screening project

Ahmed the eye technician

Two of our regular visiting eye surgeons have already agreed to return to train and teach later in the year and plans are well in hand for a medical conference to be attended by several of our staff in Cairo in May under the auspices of PRIME and with the energetic inspiration of Dr Edwin Martin, who is on the Council of Reference.

During this past visit, we were, on different occasions and by individuals on the staff or in the congregation asked intently, even urgently, when a “new director”, “pastor” or “priest” would be appointed. We assured them without difficulty that the matter was high on the agenda of the Bishop, his senior staff and Council of Reference, but we cautioned that it was not a propitious moment for recruiting – something of which they were well aware and to which, thoroughly understanding.

Nancy and I responded to an invitation at the height of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 to go and work in Beirut. When we told our Irish neighbour in Wembley, where we were then living, she responded refreshingly, “Now that’ll be different, for sure.” It was. We went, not out of bravado, nor with any assurance that we would necessarily be spared any danger, even death, but because deep down we had a gut conviction that this was where God had called us – and we went there with our  five year old son. God does call people to specific places, as many reading this will readily testify. In the past months we met a young couple, one of whom is exploring ordination in the Anglican Church; they have worked in Sudan, have first-hand knowledge of Yemen and a deep love for the country. In June I met a Maronite priest in Beirut who has written extensively about Christianity in Yemen in the third century AD and prays regularly for the people of Yemen and would love to visit. Neither are set to come over to Yemen, but they were surprising and lovely reminders that Yemen remains on the hearts of many thoughtful Christian people – in all sorts of places. It would be good to heed Stefan’s urging to pray, and to pray specifically that God in his love and wisdom would call a good person to serve and lead at Christ Church.

In the future, Jen Bourne, also on the Council of Reference, will be looking after the Christ Church entry in the Diocese’s most valuable prayer diary and put things on the website. Stefan hopes to make periodic visits back to Christ Church to keep in touch and have an eye to the state of repair of the buildings and equipment. Nancy and I have said we will for the immediate future continue to handle, with Mansour and Mariam, the correspondence, and to confer with them weekly.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to see the larger image.

The late Bishop Kenneth Cragg was an inspiration to many. We end with a prayer of his own composition, which expresses eloquently many of our thoughts as we think on the work and ministry at Christ Church.

O Lord, whose service requires all that a man has, grant us in our hearts the grace of self-giving and the power of sacrifice.

Fit us for the costs of truth and the labours of compassion. Make us able for the calling which is not by power or might but only by thy Spirit.

Enable us to live in courage beyond the appearance of the present or the entail of the past. Teach us the strength by which to hold with any lost cause of thine until it can be truly won.

Grant us the benediction of the peacemakers in the things of reconciliation that force and state cannot attain. Give us endurance, not grim and hard, but joyous and gentle in the peace of thy eternity. Show us the long-suffering that is more strong than anger, more ultimate than hate.

As by broken bread the peoples of the world are fed, so make us to serve their good by ready consecration of our wills, according to thy purpose, who are blessed in mercy, now and evermore.

Amen.

With our love and very best wishes in Christ.

Peter and Nancy


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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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July 2013

Dear Friends,

It must be one of the saddest pictures of war that I have ever seen. An exhausted fighter – dressed all in black, with dusty black combat boots sits in an elegant green armchair clutching his assault rifle in an empty street somewhere in Syria. Every building around him is scarred by war and the street is littered with debris – an abandoned mattress, a car exhaust pipe and a mangled, bullet-riddled corrugated iron shop shutter. The eyes of the fighter are glazed but it is the armchair that haunts me. How many generations, I wonder, have fallen asleep in its arms, or as youngsters climbed up them to have a story read, or removed a contented cat from its warm embrace? Not in the worst nightmares of its past occupants could they have imagined such an end. War, is terrible.

By contrast, I have beside me an exuberant report from Cairo written by a friend and past colleague, Ramez Atallah, Director of the Bible Society of Egypt, just hours before President Morsi was removed from power.

“What you do not know is that the real picture from the inside is radically different from what you imagine . . . The crowds around us were in a festive mood – parents, children, old people all chanting for the fall of the government and enthusiastically waving flags and banners. As Rebecca and I walked through the crowds we did not feel unsafe in spite of the incredibly crowded conditions and the complete lack of any police or army presence. On the contrary, we all felt very proud to be Egyptians and to be among so many wonderful compatriots from Christians to conservative Muslim veiled women! The concern, enthusiasm, passion and love for our country which we all shared was exhilarating and made us all the more loyal to our great nation. So instead of worrying for us, rejoice with us for the remarkable events happening in our country. Pray that the unprecedented unity expressed between all Egyptians who reject the forceful imposition of political Islam will result in a new Egypt where people with different persuasions can live alongside one another in harmony. This is the Egypt I remember from my youth and the Egypt more Egyptians yearn for . . .’

Local fishing boats

Yemen is a long way from either Egypt or Syria but what happens in those countries affects the entire region. Syria’s present catastrophe is a dreadful reminder, if the people of Yemen needed one, of the horror of war into which pessimistic observers of the country predicted, a year ago, it would plunge. Egypt’s second revolution, though fraught with perils – as recent days have shown, will very likely be an encouragement and boost to the morale of a significant number, especially of the younger, five hundred and more participants in Yemen’s remarkable ongoing, national dialogue. The way ahead in Yemen remains tough, and the challenges awesome.

Political assassinations continue and, in some parts of the country, the kidnapping of foreigners remains a lucrative pastime. Hardly a week passes without disgruntled tribesmen blowing up key parts of the nation’s electricity grid. However, despite these and numerous other dismal and distressing features of life in Yemen today, the country, for all its fragility, continues to exhibit what one free-lance journalist, Adam Baron, described recently as an, ‘odd resilience.’ ‘Writing off the country,’ he commented breezily, ‘feels premature.’ We agree!

Mansour making arrangements with the caretaker of the Maalla cemetery

A few weeks ago, Mansour, our most conscientious and loyal administrator, sent us details of cataract operations carried out by visiting surgeons at Christ Church over the past two years. Five hundred and eighty seven operations were performed by four different surgeons – two Egyptian, one Korean and one English – over eight visits under conditions which were sometimes difficult and occasionally dangerous. That they came when other friends feared to, is a remarkable tribute both to their faith and to their conviction about the value of the work at Christ Church. They brought sight to many and enormous encouragement to all at Christ Church, and especially to the eye team and our two female Yemeni  surgeons, who learned much under their supervision and who continue now to operate well – on their own.

Visiting surgeon with a Yemeni member of eye team

Last week I saw the latest financial statements for the work at Aden. They showed evidence of some very generous giving towards the work, from across the diocese and beyond – for which we are most grateful, as well as significant income from the eye operations just mentioned. It was another very solid sign of confidence in the ‘Aden project’.

After our last visit there at Easter, we wrote a little paper entitled, Aden – The Existing Facts, which we circulated to the Council of Reference for Aden and to other thoughtful supporters of the ministry there. The comeback has been lively, thoughtful and encouraging. There was an interesting exchange of thoughts about the leadership that might be appropriate there in very different circumstances to just three years ago; several suggested we forge partnership with other Christian medical agencies and two called for a clarification of the ‘core business’ of the work. The conversation continues.

The writing of the little discussion paper was prompted by the conviction of Nancy and myself that we should, at the end of this year, relinquish our responsibility for Christ Church and the clinics, and that some thorough appraisal of the work and ministry there now could help those responsible for taking the work on in the future, to discern the way ahead. In November Bishop Michael will convene the Aden Council of Reference, ‘when’, he writes, ‘we shall make plans for the future of this wonderful chaplaincy and project. What those plans will be can’t be pre-determined. We need to listen closely to Holy Wisdom and the Spirit of God’. For that meeting, and for these days before it of discussion and reflection, we do very much value your prayers.

Yesterday Mansour phoned to wish us a blessed Ramadan, to inform us of the shortened working hours during this month, and to tell us that the previous evening two lads from a house nearby had come over to ask if they and some friends could connect up their homes to our generator. Yemeni people are resourceful, but healthcare, not electricity, remains our prime responsibility in the city!

With many of you, we continue to watch with apprehension and anxious hope the convulsions and turmoil of this region, especially in Egypt and Syria, but in so many other places too, and would ask you not to forget Yemen with its own less-publicised struggles.

Just a few weeks ago the following came to us, written by a Yemeni friend. “Near the harbour of mountainous Yemen, the cradle-place of the ancient Arab civilisations and Islamic faith, sits a tiny church, a hopeful beacon of light:  those fortunate to find and seek its embrace will be sheltered and will come to know it as Christ Church, Aden. Nothing is impossible – even in Yemen.

With much love in Christ

Peter and Nancy


Yemen - Heartbreak and Hope by Peter CrooksYou can purchase copies of Peter’s book

“Yemen: Heartbreak and Hope”

online HERE.

Price $14.45

Pages: 1 2 3 4 6
Yemen - Heartbreak and Hope by Peter Crooks

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