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Sadness and Blessings

A Letter from Jim McGill, serving in Niger and South Sudan

Winter 2023

Write to Jim McGill

Individuals: Give to E132192 in honor of Jim McGill’s ministry

Congregations: Give to D500115 in honor of Jim McGill’s ministry

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Dear family and friends,

On July 26, the presidential guard took the President of Niger hostage and declared themselves to be the new leaders of the country. I first received this news from Jodi via WhatsApp, as in Niamey, where the coup took place, everything had remained peaceful. Over the next week, the only changes that I experienced were more electrical blackouts and the closure of banks. ATMs only allowed withdrawals to the equivalent of about $15. Gratefully, while life has become more expensive, it has so far been a peaceful takeover.

Our family had experienced a couple of failed coup attempts during our time in Niger, and so it was difficult to realize that this event was indeed different from the previous ones. However, it became clear through the vast international coverage of this coup that Niger now has a different status within the international community. The West, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had seen the recent stability within Niger to be an opportunity to heavily invest in regional security basing within Niger. These investments have dramatically changed the importance of Niger within the international community.

The pastor of Gade with his family in front of the One Evangelist/One Well water distribution at his manse, which also serves as the church building for Gade.

An immediate result of the coup was a complete shutdown of all trade within and outside of the country through the closing of all borders and airspace. A major result of the coup was that ECOWAS, the U.S., and the EU, including France and other European countries, suspended development aid to Niger. Sanctions were implemented that both targeted individuals as well as the nation, with national measures intended to strangle the county’s economy. Nationwide sanctions may be effective over the long term, but these sanctions have an immediate effect on the people who are already the most vulnerable. The well-known African proverb. “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers” very appropriately describes the short-term effects of these sanctions.

After roughly a month of no trade and no aid, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council called for the sanctioning countries to “minimize [the sanctions’] disproportionate impact on the citizens of Niger.” The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs joined many other aid organizations in appealing for humanitarian exemptions to these blockades. While support for the most venerable has politically been determined to resume within Niger, the effects of this coup have dramatically made life more difficult for people.

Our partner church, the Evangelical Church of the Republic of Niger (EERN), has seen few changes related to the coup. The new junta government so far has not discriminated against Christians or Christianity, for which the EERN has been very grateful. A member of the EERN Church has been appointed to be a Minister within the new leadership, and it is believed that the ruling group will remain secular. Two months after the coup, schools, including those of the EERN, have reopened allowing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools programs to restart. However, contrary to the new regime’s promises, there has been increased jihadist activity within the country that has increased instability in some areas. One of the EERN’s One Evangelist/One Well villages saw the jihadists using the confusion from the coup to move into the village, so the EERN withdrew the pastor’s family to keep them safe. EERN WASH subsequently pulled out the pump, panels and storage tank from the village until stability returns.

The same manse after the pastor’s family was evacuated, and the EERN WASH had taken everything away for security reasons.

Personally, the transition of being called to return to the U.S., and leaving friends, peers and colleagues behind in such an unstable situation has been difficult. From a work perspective, many opportunities that were opening for the EERN WASH team are now on hold for an unknown period of time.

While there have been many worries and disruptions due to the coup, being back with family in the U.S. has been a blessing. I have been able to see our son John play soccer for his college in Milledgeville, Georgia, and have also been with our son Joseph as he transitions into new studies here in Atlanta. I have been able to celebrate family birthdays and attend two memorial services, to share in the celebration of the lives of two extraordinary people with our families and friends – all of which I would have otherwise not been able to be a part of.

This time back is also allowing me to learn of the latest research of colleagues working on WASH in Africa at the Centre of Global Safe WASH at Emory University’s Department of Public Health. PC(USA) is providing another Continuing Education Grant to attend the annual Water and Health Conference at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, which I haven’t been able to do for more than 10 years. This disrupted schedule is also allowing me time to attend to some medical issues that need to be taken care of soon.

So, while we celebrate time with family, we mourn as we pray for the people of Niger – the poorest, as always, being the ones to suffer the most. We ask for interceding for the people of Niger, we ask for continued prayers for the EERN, and for a quick return to security and normality for the people, so that the EERN can continue its work of lifting up the people of Niger.

Peace and blessings to all,


Please read this important message from Director of World Mission Rev. Mienda Uriarte

Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Matthew 25:34-36

Dear friends,

Great things are happening in World Mission! As you know from the letters you’ve been receiving, our mission co-workers are at the forefront of showing us what Matthew 25 looks like in the U.S. and in the wider world. They are addressing issues related to eradicating systemic poverty, building congregational vitality and dismantling structural racism. Together with our partners, mission co-workers are engaged in life-transforming ministries in 80 countries around the world. Here are just a few examples:

As an education consultant in the Democratic Republic of Congo, José Jones assists the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK) education department in the development, implementation and evaluation of strategic plans to strengthen the church’s primary and secondary education programs for more than 350 schools.

Based in Manila, Rev. Cathy Chang works closely with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and other partners in ministry to engage programs and networks across Asia that advocate for people vulnerable to forced migration and human trafficking.

Nadia Ayoub works alongside our Greek partners as they faithfully hold to the biblical call to welcome the stranger. Nadia serves with Perichoresis, a ministry of the Evangelical Church of Greece that provides housing and support to refugees; most of whom have come to Greece from Arabic-speaking countries.

Joseph Russ strengthens and supports a network of partners working in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to address migration issues in the Northern Triangle. Based on the needs people on the ground identify, Joseph empowers U.S. congregations to engage in advocacy related to Central America and immigration reform.

Revs. Drs. Noah Park and Esther Shin serve as professors at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC). ETSC graduates work toward revitalizing congregational ministries in Egypt and work with refugee and peace ministries in various countries in the Middle East.

Please consider giving an extra gift this year to support our mission co-workers as they walk alongside our partners and help shape a more life-giving, equitable and hopeful world!


Rev. Mienda Uriarte, Director of World Mission
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To give online, visit

Honorary gifts can be made by checking the box and writing the mission co-worker’s name in the comment field online.

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