Yesterday was Revolution Day, and naturally, a national holiday. The people of Yemen are enthusiastic holiday makers. The main street of Ma’alla was shut off at each end with debris and rubble for a demonstration by those in the city wanting to see the south of the country break away and once again be independent of the North.
At the same time, over the hill in Crater, there was a counter demonstration by those eager to hold the two parts of the country together. Both were well attended but had about them the air more of carnival than protest. Police and soldiers with armoured personnel carriers oversaw both in a casual way, and at no time had cause to leave the shade of their vehicles.
A few days earlier, Nancy and I went to the main Ma’alla cemetery to photograph a grave for someone in England wanting to know where his father lies in Aden, and what the grave looks like. We found it without trouble. He had been in an accident and died in 1955. In the same row we spotted this poignant headstone, ‘In loving memory of Philippa Malone Dixon, wife of Wing Commander D.E. Dixon. Her life was take by a shark 5 July 1955.’ Sometimes we eat shark and chips here. The sharks, we are assured, come from a long way off. Still, it is a very sad epitaph.
As we left the graveyard, we saw young Abdullah, who keeps it very diligently. He told us that the municipality had cut off the cemetery water supply because the British Embassy had stopped paying the water bills. With his customary resourcefulness our friend had made a new connection to another supply. The authorities came recently to cut that off too. But, when they found Abdullah giving a very old man, who lives in a fragile shack leant up against the cemetery building, his daily wash with water from the illegal connection, they relented and commended his kindness.
This week Bishop Michael flies in and there is eager anticipation of his visit. He has not been able to come for a while. We shall look forward, amongst other things, to reporting on the visit, just concluded, of Dr Adel from Egypt, who operated hard and diligently taught our local staff in the eye department. He is a wonderfully enthusiastic, able and conscientious doctor, and we are delighted and grateful that he is committed to returning soon to give further supervision to our two local eye doctors, one of whom is already well able to operate on her own. During his ten days with us, 61 cataract operations were performed.
Last Friday we worshipped, of course, with the congregation of Christ Church – fourteen adults and four children. At the start of the service, Gashu from Ethiopia and Nazir from Pakistan, who, with Rex from the Philippines, have led weekly worship without faltering since our abrupt departure, asked us to kneel before them. They thanked God for our return and prayed that God would guide us in our visit. It was a deeply moving moment.
Amongst the congregation were four newcomers – two young Pakistani engineers, an Ethiopian house maid and a Colombian aid worker, all newly arrived in Aden. As she left, the Colombian woman said with radiant smile, “In the service I thanked God so much for those who made worship in this place possible.”
Today I visited the UNHCR to set up a visit to their office by Bishop Michael. On the way home, the Yemeni friend driving me unexpectedly said that in a local paper this week there had been a caution from imams about the wearing of inappropriate clothes in mosques. Second-hand clothes from Europe are imported here and bought eagerly, often with little awareness of what may be printed on them. Apparently the newspaper article showed men kneeling at prayer. One wore a T-shirt saying mischievously, ‘God’s busy – can I help you’. The other had a cap on which was written, ‘Jesus lives’. He does indeed! …….
With warmest thanks for your interest and your prayers.
Our love and best wishes in Christ
Peter and Nancy