Connor META team set for July visit to Yei

Wednesday June 30th 2010

Some of the team members heading to Yei in July. Archdeacon Stephen Forde, one of the team leaders is to the right of the picture. The Rev Jennifer Bell, second from right, is no longer going on the META.A 10-strong team from Connor will travel to Yei in Southern Sudan early in July to undertake a variety of tasks in our link diocese and to officially open Mongo School.

The Mission Experience Team Abroad (META) will be lead by the Archdeacon of Dalriada, the Ven Stephen Forde, and former CMS Ireland Director Canon Cecil Wilson.  CMS Ireland is facilitating the trip.

Archdeacon Forde is chairman of Connor Council for Mission and has visited Yei on two occasions in the past, most recently with a small team in January when he laid the foundations for this META. Canon Wilson has also been a frequent visitor to African countries, including Yei.

Canon Cecil Wilson will lead the Connor META to Yei along with Archdeacon Stephen Forde.Other team members are: Fiona Forde (Larne); Ben Mallon (Stoneyford); the Rev Paddy McGlinchey; Barbara Wilson (Ballynahinch); David Henderson (Larne); Judith Hegan (Agherton); Rev Sam Wright (Lisburn Cathedral)  and Norma Nixon (Larne).

Southern Sudan is a country emerging from decades of civil war. The second civil war, which lasted 23 years and ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, left 1.9 million dead, while four million had to flee their homes.  These displaced people have been returned to find the entire infrastructure, including health services, education and roads, devastated. Rebuilding Southern Sudan is now underway. Elections passed off peacefully in April this year, but with a referendum on the futures of south and north Sudan due to take place in January next year, the future is still far from certain.

One of the key tasks for the META team will be the official opening of Mongo School on Saturday July 10. Unfortunately as a result of recent surgery, the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, will not be able to travel to Sudan with the team to perform this duty, but Canon Wilson and Archdeacon Forde will stand in.

Mongo Primary School.Mongo Primary School was built by parishes and individuals in Connor Diocese who donated more than £110,000. They were inspired to do so by Archdeacon Forde, who launched the Yei School Project at Diocesan Synod in 2007, telling delegates that education was one of the priorities of Bishop Hilary of Yei. Bishop Hilary himself visited Connor in March 2007 and again in March 2008 and his visits to parishes where he reflected on life in his home diocese gave added impetus to the fundraising efforts.

The school, in the rural village of Mongo, 16 miles from Yei along a rutted dust road, was completed last year, and the Connor team which travelled to Yei in January received a rapturous welcome when they stopped by for a visit.

Another key focus of the META is a two-day conference for Yei clergy, to be delivered by the visiting Connor clergy, on preaching, evangelism and discipleship.  The Connor guests plan to deliver two sessions on each topic over the two days. The sessions will include time for group discussion and for feedback from the Yei pastors. Preaching, evangelism and discipleship were identified by Bishop Hilary as areas where input from the Connor team would be most valued.

A street in Yei town.Archdeacon Forde and his wife Fiona will fly to Yei two days before the main team. This is to give Fiona, a nurse, extra time to spend with CMSI associate Poppy Spens, who runs the Martha Clinic and the new children’s ward in the diocese. Poppy and her husband John are due to return to England for a break mid-way through the Connor team visit.

With the contacts, established, Fiona will continue to help out in the clinic and children’s ward during the clergy conference.  It is hoped Norma, Ben and Judith will spend these days working in local schools while Barbara will be involved in counselling and support work with local women’s groups including the Mothers’ Union which is very strong in Yei.

The main body of the team will leave Belfast on Tuesday July 6, travelling to Yei via Entebbe in Uganda.

Looking forward to the trip, Canon Wilson said: “Our objective as a team is to lay the foundations for a deep, long-term relationship between Yei and Connor. We can only physically achieve so much in a week, but the relationship will be strengthened and built upon through the clergy conference , the opening of Mongo school and the other activities the team will be involved in.

He added: “On a personal level it has been five years since I was last in Yei and I am looking forward to seeing all the development that has gone on there. From what I have been told I will not recognise it!”

The team will be back in Belfast on Friday July 16.

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