October 2011

In March 2011 the British Embassy advised all British citizens to leave Yemen. Nigel and Catherine Dawkins left at this time, and Christ Church was without a chaplain for six months. In September, Peter and Nancy Crooks were able to return to Christ Church for a two-month visit.

The working days at the clinics begin for the Christian staff – Ethiopian, Indian, Pakistani and British – with prayer. It is a good way to begin. Yesterday it was my turn to lead. I spoke (rather movingly, I thought) about the need to emulate Jesus’ compassion for the sick and pushed aside. Afterwards we sang a hymn and prayed. By 10am I had blown it: exasperated by a Somali refugee woman’s rejection of what I considered a generous contribution towards her rent for a wretched, corrugated iron shack in Aden’s main refugee camp, I exploded with frustration, but then I calmed down, apologized, talked some more and she left with the proffered money.

There is a saying, ‘For gold the fire, for silver the crucible, for the heart … Jerusalem.’ I think Aden might fitly substitute for the name of the Holy City! It is a hard place and in recent months it has got much harder for the people here, though thankfully not as hard as in other cities of Yemen. Power cuts are long and unpredictable. Diesel and petrol supplies are erratic and with some of the country’s key oil fields on fire as a result of fighting, the shortages are likely to get more acute, fuelling anger among many. A lot of schools remain closed, occupied by large numbers of Yemenis displaced by fighting not far from Aden in recent months, and now other poor people seeking refuge in Aden from the fighting in Sanaa.

Despite these things, Aden for the most part remains calm. There are days of disobedience when government employees are discouraged from going to work. There have been the occasional halfhearted bombings of military or police installations, and last week an attempt on the life of the chief of defence. From time to time we hear the crackle of small arms fire as youngsters, many of whom have a gun or two, shoot it out with police. Sometimes main streets are cut off for protests, but generally street markets are busy, the post functions at an even more leisurely pace than usual, goats still scavenge enthusiastically on the rubbish tips and the consumption of qat appears undiminished.

We have managed a swim most weeks and of an evening have often walked into Tawahi, our scruffy, local commercial area, to shop, accompanied by Kala, the clinic’s Indian lab technician. (We rarely go far afield and whenever possible try to have a local friend drive with us.) Local stallholders, who thought they had seen the last of us seem astonished and happy to see us back, and in these quieter days it’s been really lovely to have time to catch up with local friends, not least among the clinic staff.

The clinics are running well and we are enormously impressed at the cheerful, conscientious dedication of all the staff. Morale was boosted greatly on learning that Dr Jan Tynovsky from the Czech Republic is prepared to come soon to help work on a list of over 150 cataract patients. There is also the possibility of a past local employee, an able and much loved surgeon, returning on a part time basis to Aden from Sanaa, with her young family. Dr Nada, who heads up the general clinic has just started a full time course of further study. She has a young ‘stand in’, but we miss her experience and wisdom.

On days of civil disobedience, when patient numbers are few, we’ve set aside the last hour of the day for ad hoc, highly interactive English classes. Nearly everyone attends. They seem appreciative. Yesterday Nancy tackled ‘kitchen English’ with the aid of a chopping board, mixing bowl, various instruments and ingredients. We meet in the eye clinic, which has constant electricity, thanks to a generator. On Friday, as we were about to start the service in church the power went. In moments we were puddles of sweat so moved to the eye clinic, which was quickly transformed into a very simple and wonderfully cool chapel. We were fifteen, including four lively children. Afterwards we shared a tasty brunch together. There was much joy.

Today I went to see the director of a local NGO working in the camps about a refugee from Congo who had appeared last week at church. He greeted myself and Sahel – our guard/driver – warmly and went on to tell us that his mother had had an eye operation with us “before six years”. The eyes are working well.”

Praise God! It is very good to be back.

Peter & Nancy

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.
Yemen - Heartbreak and Hope by Peter Crooks

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