A Letter from Jim and Jodi McGill, serving in Niger and South Sudan
Individuals: Give online to E200385 for Jim and Jodi McGill’s sending and support
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Dear friends and family,
When we lived in Malawi one of our favourite Easter celebrations was the village street pageant that began around 3 o’clock in the morning. In the pageant Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and finds it empty. The angels at the tomb pronounce, “Go and tell them, Christ is Risen,” at which point all the people at the pageant start processing around the area singing and shouting, “Go and tell them, Christ is Risen.” The procession stops at every house and is greeted by the inhabitants who step out to share in the singing and celebration. We have been able to participate in this celebration since we left Malawi in 2015 except now, we experience the celebration through WhatsApp messages. So, this Easter, Jim was receiving “Go and tell them, Christ is Risen” messages and then, it happened.
We all have experienced times of miscommunication and understand that communicating with anyone is complicated. It is fraught with possible misunderstandings due to assumptions, biases, and language barriers which may not even be recognized by those involved. Throw in technology and time differences and even more opportunities for confusion can happen. Yet, out of misunderstanding there can sometimes come unexpected and deeper messages. Take for example the following Easter WhatsApp text message conversation between Jim and Othow Okoti, a South Sudanese peacemaker with whom he works when he is in South Sudan.
(Pibor had terrible flooding last year, but this was a new and different problem.)
Jim responded: “How are you? What kind of water problems?”
Othow: “They drink from the river directly, and the water is too dirty, because people and cattle are bathing and drinking at the same place.”
Jim did not respond immediately so he could have time to focus on the issue with Mr. Okoti and gather more information. During the hiatus, Jim received messages from colleagues and friends in Malawi celebrating Christ’s resurrection and in the spirit of joy and fellowship he copied the same WhatsApp message to Mr. Okoti which he had sent to friends in Malawi.
Jim: “Go and tell them, ‘He is Risen!’ Have a very Blessed Easter!”
Othow thought Jim was responding to his message about people and cattle drinking together and responded: “OK, but if they ask, ‘Where can we go to get clean water, what shall be the answer?’”
This was an Easter morning example of how, for church partners, the message of Jesus’ gift of love is innately transformed into action, as is reflected in Matthew 25.
Prior to COVID-19, we had planned to spend time in the USA with as many of you as possible for our nine months of Interpretation Assignment. COVID changed that timing and the structure of the visits, but it did not change our mutual commitment to our partners and their holistic outreach ministries. Mr. Othow Okoti’s words reverberate as the Evangelical Church of the Republic of Niger, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, and you respond to needs within the communities they serve, regardless of their religious affiliation, if any. Yes, God is risen but after receiving the amazing grace of God’s love, “If they ask where can we go to get clean water, what shall be the answer?”
Niger is a unique and remarkable country and there are many images we think of when we are asked to share about Niger. For Jodi, the one foremost in her mind regarding the church and its deep faith is this example of a local church. It exemplifies the dedication and resilience of the Christians in Niger. It is not the simplicity of this structure that is striking but how their faith and devotion, and their desire to worship God together, lead them to build a place where they could assemble. It evokes the fortitude of the early believers who worshiped and struggled and sacrificed for the ability to gather together so they could share the message of truth and grace from Jesus.
Jim plans to return to Niger in the summer which he is relieved and eager to do. Mostly. He will return to Niger without Jodi or any of the children for a 4-year term. It has become apparent, that for family reasons, it is best for Jodi to remain in the USA. That means that after 20+ years of serving as a mission co-worker, Jodi will be retiring from PC(USA) effective at the end of May. It has certainly not been an easy decision to make, but education and young adult transitions this past year foreshadowed this separation. It is personally sad and disappointing for Jodi not to rejoin the nursing students, her colleagues, and her friends, especially since she had to leave so abruptly the end of April 2020 due to COVID. Yet, she is looking forward to adding to those who support the school through their partnership with PC(USA). Jodi knows with certainty that the school will move forward with the Nigerien staff and the support of the school and church leadership. She will continue helping at the free clinic in downtown Atlanta, while discerning her next professional position. Jim will be in the USA for 2 months of Interpretation Assignment in the middle of those four years.
We thank you for your prayers and financial support throughout these many years. We ask that you continue the partnership with the Niger nursing school, and your support for Jim. Also, please pray for us and our family as we embark on this new path of service.
Jodi and Jim
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Tags: COVID, Easter greetings, Malawi Easter pageant, Matthew 25, niger, Othow Okoti, PCOSS, peacemaker, Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, water problems in South Sudan
Tags: Jim McGill
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