Bishop Levi Marandulu, new Bishop of Yei, South Sudan, and his wife Mama Agnes have spent the last week in Connor Diocese. The two dioceses have been in partnership since 2007, although that will formally end next year.
The Bishop was consecrated and installed as the third Bishop of Yei on June 20 last year, in succession to Bishop Hilary Luate Abeda, and was in Ireland along with more than 30 world leaders from Africa, Asia and South America for the CMS Ireland/SAMS Ireland Kingdom Voices programme.
After their arrival from Canterbury, where they had been part of the Lambeth Conference, the guests spent time at the Tobar Mhuire Retreat and Conference Centre in Co Down, attended the Kingdom Voices Listening Together event in St Donard’s, Belfast, on August 10, and were in a packed Belfast Cathedral on the evening of August 12 for ‘Worshipping Together,’ a multi-cultural celebration.
On Saturday, August 13, Bishop Levi joined in a family fun day at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, organised as part of Kingdom Voices.
During the week, he met with the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev George Davison, and was hosted in Agherton Parish, which has a well-established link with Yei, having helped raise substantial funds for the building of a new school in Mongo village.
In Agherton, he enjoyed getting to know local parishioners on Thursday morning, before joining the rector of Agherton, the Rev Malcolm Ferry and parishioner Dr Frank Dobbs, who has visited Yei on many occasions, on the beach.
This was Bishop Levi’s first sight of the sea, and first experience of walking on the shifting sands of a beach. And because the sun was shining, he was unable to resist Malcolm’s invite to have a go at body boarding which – as our picture shows – he thoroughly enjoyed! He also visited some of the other north coast attractions including the Giant’s Causeway.
Malcolm said the link between Yei and Agherton remained strong, with plans for bringing someone from Yei to Agherton to work shadow for three months, before sending them back to Yei with new skills and three years’ worth of salary.
The Bishop also spent time at Lisburn Cathedral, where he met members of Cathedral teams which have travelled to both Yei and Uganda in the past. The most recent team (2018) stayed in Arua, Uganda, as the security situation in South Sudan was such that they could not visit Yei as they had planned.
Team members travelled into the Rhino Refugee Camp to meet refugees from Yei, share fellowship and worship with them, and run a clergy retreat within the camp. They also distributed items for young women under the Days for Girls initiative.
At a special breakfast with parishioners in the Cathedral on Saturday morning, Bishop Levi spoke about his path to becoming Bishop and reflected on his Consecration Service, prompting a few gasps when he revealed that Emmanuel Cathedral hadn’t been big enough to hold all those who attended, and so many of the 6,000 worshippers had to join in from the Cathedral grounds!
He outlined his priorities for the diocese of Yei, including establishing a diocesan-wide coffee growing enterprise to generate income for pastors and local people, evangelism and discipleship and improved training – he revealed that of the 110 teachers currently working in schools in Yei, only 13 are trained.
The Bishop also talked about the current situation in Yei town where refugees are returning home to find their homes destroyed, or occupied by someone else, and where one faction which did not sign up to a recent peace agreement still poses a threat to life.
We will hear more from Bishop Levi in the autumn issue of Connor Connections.