Prayer Request

Greetings in Jesus’ name!

I am very sad to inform you that the situation in Yemen has been deteriorating very seriously. The Houthi rebels have been in control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa since September 2014. Among twenty one provinces, nine provinces were captured by Houthis. In this situation Yemen’s President Hadi asked for support from regional powers. Saudi Arabia and the coalition of ten other Arab countries have begun air raids and shelling on Houthi positions of control. 1,50,000 troops are ready to launch operations and hundreds of Saudi’s war planes launched air strikes against Houthis in Yemen. Today all airports and sea ports are closed in Yemen.

Today Mansour shared that during this time of war robbery, looting and plundering have been increasing in public and private properties in all parts of Aden. The Presidential palace in Aden was plundered yesterday and all the materials were looted away. In this situation to safeguard our Church, Clinic and our property, we have deployed more security personnel in the campus. On Wednesday morning from 10.00 am local time the Eye Clinic remains closed indefinitely. Moreover, all Education Institutions and Government offices also remain closed now. Fierce fights are going on, not only in the neighboring cities but also in Aden, nearly 2 km away from our Church.

The situation in Yemen forced us to leave Aden and now Vijaya and I are in India. On the last Friday, the worship service could not be conducted in Christ Church. However, so far the Christ Church and the Ras Morbat Eye Clinic are not affected with any serious problems.

The people of Aden are in a state of insecurity and there is no peace due to unjust social order followed by  war. Today I contacted the staff in the clinic, maintenance staff and all the members of the Christ Church over phone and encouraged them to face the difficult situation in God’s name.

Kindly pray for peace and security for all in Yemen and its people particularly the ministry of the Christ Church and the Ras Morbat Clinic and members of the congregation.

I would be very grateful to you, if you could remember us and the Christ Church in your family prayers and as a congregation in tomorrow’s worship service.

Thanking you,

With prayers

Fr. Velvet and Vijaya.

Aden Update

The political problems in Yemen are only now featuring in the international news headlines. It has taken some real effort to track the developments in Yemen over the past three months in English language media, but the increasing unrest has now progressed toward outright civil war. Houthi troups loyal to former President Saleh have swept down from Sanaa and are in the process of taking over Aden. President Hadi’s exact whereabouts are unknown – he is purported to have fled the country but his supporters maintain his is still in control of Aden. As Saudi-led coalition air strike bombards Sanaa the crisis deepens into a proxy war between other Middle East countries who fear each others’ influence.  Coupled with strong sentiment among many in the south that a return to divided Yemen is the solution of their local problems, the present conflict has many layers and complexities.

Until the last couple of days when shooting and looting have become more widespread, the clinic in Aden has continued to operate as normal, seeing 40-50 patients each day. The staff show courage and tenacity enabling the clinic to continue to serve the Yemeni people. There has been no fighting in the area immediately around the clinic. Fr Velvet and Vijaya returned to India for the time being because everyone involved felt that the presence of foreigners on the property increased the risk for everyone. The church community however continue to meet on Fridays when they can travel freely in the city.

There are strikes and demonstrations in Aden. There has been an arial bombardment of the residence where President Hadi was staying but we are told nobody was hurt. There has been armed conflict between government fighters and supporters of the Houthi movement. It is clear that a civil war will be inconclusive and only deepen the confusion, poverty and basic survival factors for the Yemeni people throughout the country. What’s more, it will also give more scope for IS and AQAP to extend their influence among the tribes.

As always, we covet the prayers of our friends and supporters. Please pray for the eventuality of reconciliation and lasting peace. Please remember that there are many Christians in the country from African and subcontinent nationalities who are also caught up in the unrest and insecurity. Pray too for the safety of the staff as they travel to and from work, and for the church community as they have some distance to travel to meet with other believers. We think of them especially as they celebrate Easter.

May God continue to work in and through his people to reflect his righteousness and peace.

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

Yemen - Heartbreak and Hope by Peter Crooks

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